Today, the world commemorates the symbolic victory in the Cold War against Soviet Communism. It is telling about the nature of humanity how that oppressive regime, despite having occasional military advantages, collapsed under its own weight.
There is no shortage of excellent intellectual commentary about what the Berlin Wall meant – and means. But sometimes it is the mundane or non-intellectual items which put the development in the best perspective.
When the news of the wall falling broke, my fifth grade history teacher told me that it was one of the most significant events of my lifetime. Still, it was hard for a ten-year-old to grasp history. A few years later, I heard an Elton John song from the mid-80s with the line “The reputation / of the woman you’re datin’ / Is ’bout as nasty as the Berlin Wall.” As poetry goes, it wasn’t Bernie Taupin’s best effort. But the fact that the Berlin Wall was such an easy simile puts the wall itself in perspective. It wasn’t just a dividing line – it was a kill zone for anyone seeking the fundamental human right of freedom. Nasty indeed.
The relief the world felt after the wall unofficially ended a half-century of nuclear brinkmanship was also chronicled by songs that actually made it to the top 40 charts. Trite? Maybe. There are millions people unshackled from Soviet slavery who could offer poignant, personal testimonials about what the fall of the Wall meant to them. But what better way to see the broad impact of an event than to examine how it seeps into society’s personal time – such as art and pop culture?