Blog

Walls Won't Do : My Observations from Living in a City Surrounded by a Wall



So may I speak about my personal experience with walls and fear of "the other"? I lived in Berlin for nearly 3 years when the wall surrounded our lives. I was a 20 YO rebellious wild American who stood in shock the first time I had to drive on the "transitstrecke" between W. Germany and my home in Berlin. Men in high black boots and long trench coats with Kalishnakovs strapped to their backs and dogs sniffing cars at the border were no longer the stuff of movies but real and scary.  I turned to my friend and said , "they don't really shoot do they?". My answer came the first week of residence there as two people were shot and one killed as they tried to leap the wall from East Berlin to the west for freedom. There is an entire museum at "Checkpoint Charlie" dedicated to the stories of successful and failed escape attempts.
During my first year there I went once to the east out of curiosity and took visitors over to assuage theirs. It was somehow a completely different world than just on the other side. Dark and polluted from the Trabants and horrible coal smoke. Coffee with fake sugar not a piece of fruit in site and the constant smell of "don't make a wrong move" or else. Despite horrible living conditions people were so friendly and begged us to come back with albums, oranges and Levis. Same thing in the coffee shops on the transitstrecke where I needed to show my passport to go buy the good vodka and people who lived there could not even enter that store. The haves and have nots. Clearly defined.
The USSR who controlled that area said the wall was built to "keep western influence out". In the span of the building of the wall, families were separated from one another for decades and many were shot trying to flee the conditions of post WWII poverty and destruction that while rebuilt fairly quickly in the west, remained ever present even in East Berlin which was the "shining city" and one of the few places Westerners were allowed to visit.
There were viewing stands placed along portions of the wall where you could look and see. I very quickly found it utterly disdainful to peer at people on the other side like they were somehow on display. Also, you could (and I think you still can) ride through the old UBahn stations that were like ghost towns and utterly disturbing reminders of the war and the people being held prisoners on the other side. I remember those Sundays where pensioners were allowed brief visits with their families on the other side and the tearful departures when visitation times were over.

There is so much more but I will stop here for now.  Needless to say I am INCREDIBLY disturbed by the influence Russia is trying to have on our election and the support some have for allowing them to have power over our nation by disregarding history.  Politics is as ugly a story as there is in human existence, always has been but we cannot let irrational fear take over and forget RECENT history.  The world is surely different in many ways from those years (1980-1983) but that is no excuse for letting fear of the other make us bow to hatred of whole groups of people because of their religion or race.  We see and hear about everything instantly now but there was terrorism back then too (The Red Army etc..) and yet? The man who many conservatives revere was President when the wall finally fell. Even Ronald Reagan knew what a bad idea walls like that are.
I sat in my Costa Mesa hospital room the day after my eldest son Max was born and wept tears of joy all day long. First for the gift of his precious soul coming into my life then later seeing that on THAT day November 9 1989 the Berlin Wall fell.  I wrote in his baby book that despite the many challenges of the world he was born on a day of real hope.  Many times during the course of my residency in Berlin we discussed and agreed that the wall would not come down in our lifetimes. As with MANY things I was thrilled to be wrong. Sometimes being wrong is such a wonderful thing.

 

So please. Please. Look to history as a guide in your choices this November. Look away from and undo as much of your training to focus on personality and see what policy ideas are being put forth and who was willing to listen to their opponent and include them. Who wants ALL Americans to be treated equally and given the right to life liberty and pursuit of happiness and who wants to further divide us? This is NOT about our tender feelings or just how things affect us. Long after the next President's term is over what happens in November will linger and have formed our entire planet. Look at each party's PLATFORM..because that is what will guide local state and federal representatives. If you made it this far thanks for reading one American's take on things. I saw what COULD be our future and I had to at least try to share. Peace and love y'all. And DAYAM I need to get back to Berlin!!
Newsletter Signup
Join the email list!
Hear samples of each track by clicking below
Click Arrows next to Twitter to hear samples!
Connect!
La Paz Music Video