A journal of political, social, and other important, possibly even somewhat related affairs, including but not limited to: Central European Society, The European Union, HC Kometa Brno, American Politics, Film, and Beer.

09 November 2009

The Ninth of November

Twenty years ago today, an ugly and menacing Mauer, designed to keep ideas out and keep human beings in, was brought down when that heady combination of ideas and human beings reached a critical mass. The pressure built up by those immortal ideas and their effect on mortal hearts on both sides of the prison finally outmatched their violent suppression.

The previous day, when a few misspoken words from a tired bureaucrat slipped out, the violent facade crumbled. Shortly thereafter, the Mauer itself was hammered to dust. It was a glorious day for courageous people. And they were courageous, those people on the east side of the Mauer. Liberty is an inherently courageous position. It offers few guarantees, and while the rewards can be achieved, they are never achieved without a little bit of risk. And sometimes, the risk is to life itself. For this reason, this day is rightly celebrated as a glorious day of freedom and opportunity for millions of people, and serves as a reminder that sometimes the kernel of freedom can grow even in the most hostile soil.

Of course, the sapling of freedom is still an extraordinary fragile thing, and requires constant attention from those who would cultivate it. They must be tenderly gentle to the sapling and determinedly hostile to those that would destroy it. On a different, earlier Ninth of November, a fragile plant was brutally stomped out by those whose ideas led them to the conclusion that the constructing of a violent facade was more pressing than the nurturing of a delicate sapling. They used the shards to slash that freedom, and the windows they smashed poisoned the earth in which the kernel grew.

The juxtaposition of the debasing savagery of smashed glass and the affirming dignity of smashed concrete serves as a reminder that our every step toward liberty is guided in part by the memory of liberty lost, and the memories of those who sacrifice to cultivate it. The Ninth of November is a day of joy and of sorrow; it is a day of victory and one of an earlier defeat; and we are wiser when we remind ourselves of both. But the victory has already been more permanent, and for that we should be grateful.

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