Friday, August 12, 2011

50 Years Ago the Communists Began Construction of the Berlin Wall

If you want to read a moving personal account of something now seen as ancient history in our modern world of rapid change, go to Uwe Siemon-Netto's blog and read his story.  As a child who watched the building of the wall, who lived within the tensions created during the Cold War, and who practiced the drill of hiding under your desk in case of nuclear attack, this hardly seems ancient.  Yet when I look out at the world and read the headlines of today, it reflects an era long gone.  Communists have given way to capitalists and the major threat to us is not one finger on a button set for world destruction but thousands of terrorists hidden throughout the world.  The reunification has changed Germany and there are not as many who remember the days when families, cities, farms, and a culture were arbitrarily divided and fenced off by a wall.  The vibrant Lutheran congregations in which the movement that led to this reunification, to freedom, and to the tearing down of the wall have been moved to the margins as East Germany got swallowed up in the growing consumerism and secularism of the West.  Now the hot button issues of German culture and life revolve around the Turks imported to prop up the labor force and the clash of religion and culture that has accompanied it.  I have no wisdom here.  Only the memories of childhood in which the homeland of half my family was separated by an artificial and yet threatening border and my own security caught up in the fray.  Only the memories of Presidents speaking to a wall until the will of a people removed it and the communist reality crumpled under the weight of its broken promises and failed dreams.  I have no personal connection to the wall but certainly to the culture of fear, intimidation, and division that it fostered within Germany and throughout the world.  Now that is all history.  What has replaced it is different, in some ways better and in some ways worse.  At least when I grew up we knew who the enemy was.  Now we are not so sure.  


Anonymous said...

Turks propping up the labor force? Huh?!?!? That statement does not make any sense. Do the Mexicans prop up the labor force in the USA? Hardly.

Anonymous said...

But that's very true. When I was last in Germany most of the "Gastarbeiter" were from the regions of what was then Yugoslavia or Italy. Now they are indeed mainly from Turkey.

Germany is a much smaller country than the U.S. and because of the generally low birth rate in Europe labor has to be imported. The once generous social services that Germans could count on in retirement are no longer there.

As for the Mexicans (or more properly Latin Americans, not all ar Mexican) I recently read that the City of Houston would crumble if the immigrant labor force was dismantled.

It is a complex situation. Part of the problem is that the U.S. guarantees citizenship to any child born on U.S. soil which is not helpful in addressing illegal immigration.