‘Score one for the good guys,’ 30 years af­ter Ber­lin Wall’s crack.

It was ‘score one for the good guys’ 30 years ago this week

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - By Suzanne Fields Suzanne Fields is a colum­nist for The Wash­ing­ton Times and is na­tion­ally syn­di­cated.

Thirty years ago this week Ron­ald Rea­gan stood up on a podium in what was then West Ber­lin, framed by the Bran­den­burg Gate be­hind him. Through a thick sheet of bul­let­proof glass, he gazed at the ugly con­crete sym­bol of the Cold War, the Ber­lin Wall, and ad­dressed the most fa­mous words of his pres­i­dency to Mikhail Gor­bachev, the leader of the Soviet em­pire: “Mr. Gor­bachev, tear down this wall.”

This was no mere rhetor­i­cal flour­ish. He was pas­sion­ately and morally of­fended by the “evil em­pire.”

To­day the Ber­lin Wall Mu­seum cel­e­brates the oc­ca­sion, with a film of the late pres­i­dent de­liv­er­ing his mem­o­rable line, and Ber­lin­ers and tourists stroll past tall poles to imag­ine where the wall once stood. It’s hard to con­jure up the ter­ror that once con­fronted those who sought free­dom on the other side of the 95-mile “death strip” that split the city be­tween 1961 to 1989, where 139 men and women, many of them in the bloom of youth, were killed or died try­ing to es­cape to free­dom.

Three years ago, first lady Michelle Obama vis­ited the wall with her daugh­ters Sasha and Malia, and placed red and yel­low roses on a me­mo­rial to those who died in those at­tempts. But the times, along with the pres­i­dents, have changed. A guide speak­ing to a group of Amer­i­can vis­i­tors to­day jokes that “Don­ald Trump has also taken an in­ter­est in our wall.” It draws a few chuck­les.

The Wall Mu­seum is near hip, pros­per­ous Pren­zlauer Berg, once a drab neigh­bor­hood be­hind the wall, now an­i­mated with cafes, gal­leries, shops and bak­eries with bagels and strudel, though Jewish cus­tomers are few. Young men and women, many of them push­ing strollers mark­ing a Ber­lin baby boom.New lux­ury apart­ment houses and ren­o­vated build­ings line the bor­der strip of what was once “no man’s land.”

Shortly be­fore Ron­ald Rea­gan’s visit, young peo­ple in East Ber­lin risked ar­rest, and worse, protest­ing the Com­mu­nist regime’s pre­vent­ing them from lis­ten­ing to a rock con­cert on the West­ern side of the wall. The Gip­per gave them a voice. To­day the chil­dren of that protest lis­ten to rock, techno and pop with he­do­nis­tic aban­don.

Not ev­ery­one in Mr. Rea­gan’s in­ner cir­cle 30 years ago wanted him to use strong lan­guage to re­buke the Soviet in­tran­si­gence. The U.S. State Depart­ment, the Na­tional Se­cu­rity Coun­cil and the Amer­i­can am­bas­sador in West Ger­many urged him to speak softly lest he arouse Mr. Gor­bachev and a big stick. They feared that tough rhetoric would raise the heat be­neath the diplo­matic burn­ers, and the Cold War would turn hot.

But the Gip­per stood tall, and re­tained the strong ex­hor­ta­tion be­cause “it was the right thing to do.” Over the next two years pro­test­ers be­hind the Iron Cur­tain turned up the heat in the streets of Leipzig, War­saw and Prague, march­ing against Soviet tyranny and ul­ti­mately broke through bor­ders that had locked them in. The Wall was soon his­tory.

Amer­i­can school kids don’t hear much his­tory of the Cold War or Mr. Rea­gan’s fa­mous speech. Peter Robinson, who was 30 when he drafted the speech for the pres­i­dent, is a fel­low at Stan­ford Univer­sity’s Hoover In­sti­tu­tion now, and laments that Amer­i­can high school stu­dents lack a con­text for Ron­ald Rea­gan’s re­marks.

“They don’t know how Viet­nam fits into it, or Korea,” he tells the Los An­ge­les Times. “They don’t even know who Gor­bachev was.” He bris­tles at com­par­isons of the Ber­lin Wall and the wall that Don­ald Trump wants to build along the U.S.-Mex­i­can bor­der. “There’s a ba­sic dis­tinc­tion be­tween a wall to keep peo­ple in,” he says, “and a wall to de­fend a bor­der that keeps peo­ple from en­ter­ing il­le­gally.”

Four decades of what Pres­i­dent Ge­orge H.W. Bush de­scribed as the strug­gle “for the soul of mankind” is ab­stract in the telling to­day, and no longer eas­ily en­gages the con­tem­po­rary imag­i­na­tion. In 1989, the day af­ter the Wall came down, West Ger­man Chan­cel­lor Hel­mut Kohl told the elder Pres­i­dent Bush that “with­out the United States this day would not have been pos­si­ble.” It was a mo­ment to in­dulge a fierce pride for Amer­i­cans, but it lacked the drama of ranks of Yanks (and South­ern­ers, too) re­turn­ing home to pa­rades in cities and small towns across Amer­ica. Ours is a vis­ual age where the medium is the mes­sage and the medium doesn’t eas­ily de­pict the ab­sence of pub­lic cel­e­bra­tion.

But when Ron­ald Rea­gan said good­bye to Wash­ing­ton, he left the world with­out the fierce hos­til­ity be­tween the su­per­pow­ers that scarred the pre­vi­ous half-cen­tury. The “evil em­pire” be­longed to an­other era. Thanks to the Gip­per’s doughty re­solve, the world could “score one for the good guys.”

In 1989, the day af­ter the Wall came down, West Ger­man Chan­cel­lor Hel­mut Kohl told the elder Pres­i­dent Bush that “with­out the United States this day would not have been pos­si­ble.”

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

On Nov. 11, 1989, East Ger­man bor­der guards are seen through a gap in the Ber­lin Wall af­ter demon­stra­tors pulled down a seg­ment of it at the Bran­den­burg Gate, Ber­lin.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.