The Wall came tumblin' down

Walls were meant to be broken, scaled, breached.

Thus, when the Berlin Wall came crashing down a quarter-century ago today, it signaled an inevitable result.

The communists who ruled East Germany at the time built the wall in 1961 to keep people in, not necessarily to keep people out. Their strategy never really worked. People fought to break through the wall to find freedom in West Berlin, which still was surrounded by the rest of the communist country. Still, the people fled, often dying in the effort.

The Wall is history now. It came down. Berlin would be united. Germany would unite as well.

The Soviet Union? It hung on for two more years before it, too, disintegrated into oblivion.

One element about all of that stands out for me as I look back at that tumultuous time.

The president of the United States at the time didn’t do a touchdown dance. He didn’t crow aloud about how great we are and how evil the communists were. George H.W. Bush wasn’t one to spike the ball, as it were, in a moment of supreme triumph.

His immediate predecessor, Ronald Reagan — whom Bush served as vice president for eight years — didn’t do any shouting from the rooftop either. Both men, to their credit, chose to let the events play out, to allow the people to celebrate their freedom and for the world to draw its own conclusions about what was occurring in a great European city.

It’s helpful, though, to recall the abject failure of the wall. It symbolized only the tyranny of those who erected it and served to remind those who sought freedom of their own desire to breach the wall.

They succeeded. Good for them. Good for the rest of the world as well.

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