We are over a month out from our return, but I’m only just nearing the last days of our trip here on the blog. I guess life has a way of doing that; even with the best intentions, we get swept away and along the tide of constant to-do’s and too-much.
But, I digress. Because Berlin deserves some attention.
If you ask Mulch what era he would choose to live in from any point in history, the answer will always be the same: THE COLD WAR. I, too, love the history from this age, and we both enjoy films that focus on the US-Soviet relationship back in the fifties and sixties, along with the secret lives of spies and espionage.
It was quite the experience living for a few days in a city with so much of that reality–romanticized and real–interwoven into its past.
It was also timely visiting a place that used to house another wall that was eventually torn down.
If I had written this a few weeks ago, I may have skirted around my sentiments due to “not wanting to mess around with politics.” It’s exhausting. I was convicted after listening to the founder of Humans of New York discuss his opinion on the election, and how staying silent was no longer a political question, but a moral one.
So: here are my thoughts, as a moral reaction, fueled by the conviction that Jesus Christ came to reconcile and tear down walls.
I have a thing for studying the ways humans separate themselves. I know that the walls we cannot see are often the most impenetrable fortresses of fear, but real walls are the physical manifestations of these feelings. This interest, fascination, or perhaps, distressed reaction has led me to the wall that separates Israel and Palestine and the wall that separates Protestants from Catholics in Belfast. The Berlin wall was my third wall to visit, and perhaps the most iconic.
Walls are not neutral; they create hard lines of demarcation between physical spaces, and draw attention to the unseen, perhaps immoral, boundaries we draw between ourselves and others. They are cold, unfeeling, and loom between our imagined space of safety and fear. Because often the reality of a wall, shooting upward brick by brick, is to self-justify our hatred of those that don’t belong.
There is a self-obsessed political candidate who has built his campaign on ungracious, hateful, and narcissistic rhetoric, capitalizing on the unhappiness of the electorate at the expense of those they have decided to scapegoat. His preposterous plans to build a wall between Mexico and the United States are not driven by facts or necessity; they are driven by racism and hatred. It’s that simple. His arrogant claims surrounding the wall are devoid of any human compassion, understanding, or reasoning for true safety.
Because safety isn’t something that can be built with concrete and rebar. Safety is found in freedom from fear.
The Berlin Wall, like so many other barriers that have cut across neighborhoods and homes, was a crude, deadly instrument of a fear mongering and power hungry regime. Those who follow in their footsteps only justify a response to conflict where we are allowed to remain in our misunderstandings and hatred, rather than be forced to confront our often contorted, one-sided views of the world.
As much as these men in power want to show off their display of strength and otherness with big, grey slabs cutting off all those that “don’t belong,” they were only “successful” for a brief blip in history. My heart swelled seeing the art that now graced the Berlin Wall’s ruins; that people come from all over the world to marvel at its demise, to cluck their tongues and shake their heads; that children play games over a border that no longer is, and grass grows instead of emptiness in the no-man’s land in between. Walls can’t stay up forever.
Thanks, Berlin. You made a lasting impression on me, and I hope the rest of the world takes notice too.