Monday, August 13, 2012

Bitter Anniversary

It was on this date in 1961 that soldiers of the East German National People's Army began stringing barbed wire barricades around and through the city of Berlin - the first moves in the construction of what the East German government called the "Anti-Fascist Protective Rampart" and the rest of the world came to know as "The Berlin Wall." The wire was gradually replaced by a six-foot wall of concrete blocks, which eventually evolved into an ugly ten-foot concrete slab wall topped with barbed wire or concrete pipe and punctuated with guard towers to prevent East German citizens from escaping.

It didn't work, at least completely ... even the East German army wasn't immune to the lure of a better life in the West ...

Over the years, many people managed to escape to freedom in the West by going over the wall - often in a hail of gunfire - or through it, hidden in the trunks of cars or concealed in other ways. When I listen to the partisans of the American right today complaining about how terribly oppressive our government is, I think back to the two years (August of 1980 through December of 1982) I spent stationed in Berlin in the shadow of a wall that a really oppressive government had to build to keep its unwilling citizens in. Sorry, people - but you are just clueless ass clowns with no sense of history or reality.

The Berlin Wall started to come down in 1989, and most of it had been destroyed by 1991. Today, parts of it still exist as exhibits in museums, and a large chunk of concrete and twisted, rusted barbed wire salvaged for me by my friend and former Berlin comrade-in-arms Dave sits on a shelf in my study as a reminder of the things I believe are worth protecting ... and to give perspective to my complaints about my own government.

You can read an interactive history of the Berlin Wall on the city of Berlin's website here.

Have a good day. Think about what it means to live under a government that has to build a wall to keep you in ... and was willing to shoot you if you tried to escape. And then get real when you complain about the shortcomings of the United States.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.


P.S. - Here's a photo of my father and my sons Jason and Matt at the Berlin border, about 1981 ...


Duckbutt said...

I remember those days when the wall was in place, and Checkpoint Charlie.

eViL pOp TaRt said...

Those were perilous times, Bilbo. It would have been awful to live under a government like that. Thank you for being one of those that didn't let it happen.

This is a solid example of why we must be mindful of our obligations of citizenship as well as our rights.

Mike said...

I'd forgotten that there was a time lapse after WWII before the barriers started going up.

Big Sky Heidi said...

I's so glad those days are over, and the likelihood of an atomic war is less. The guys who served back then deserve our eternal gratitude.