Tuesday, November 10, 2009

20 Years Ago: The Fall of the Berlin Wall

On November 9th, 2009, the world's leaders commemorated the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall (New York Times report; see also Wikipedia).

I was 15 years old then -- just old enough to grasp the significance of the occasion; youthful (and perhaps naive, in retrospect) enthusiasm captured in the popular Jesus Jones' MTV hit "Right Here, Right Now" a year later. How time flies!

  • "20 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall - Man and evil, Christ and redemption" Opening with an observation from Lech Walesa ("The victory over communism came thanks to the shipyards and thanks to the Holy Father. But now, nobody mentions the Holy Father"), Rorate Caeli draws our attention to some pertinent passages from Pope John Paul II's Centesimus Annus).

  • "Tear down this wall!" - Also drawing from Lech Walesa ("When talking about Ronald Reagan, I have to be personal. We in Poland took him so personally. Why? Because we owe him our liberty. ..."), American Catholic's Donald McClarey looks at the influence of President Ronald Reagan.

  • "Freedom’s Men" - While the exact nature of the relationship between President Reagan and Pope John Paul II has remained elusive, "clues to the answer may be found in formerly top-secret National Security Council files, now available at the Ronald Reagan Library in Simi Valley, California." Mark Reibling reports from the National Review (April 4, 2005).

  • The Berlin Wall, 20 Years Later - For Stephen Hayward, author of The Age of Reagan: The Conservative Counterrevolution: 1980-1989, "The fall of the Berlin Wall on this day 20 years ago was the most spectacular moment of the end of the Cold War, but in fact only represented the midpoint in the 'last sad chapter' of this bizarre story." A look at the broader sweep of events that surrounded this momentous event.

  • "Victory of the Cross", by Newt Gingrich, Callista Gingrich, and Vince Haley (Weekly Standard):
    The trumpet blasts that finally destroyed the Berlin Wall in a peaceful revolution and brought freedom to millions in Eastern Europe were political, economic, diplomatic, and military in character. But it became evident to us in working on our new documentary, Nine Days that Changed the World: Pope John Paul II's Pilgrimage to Poland, that spiritual factors were decisive, as Pope John Paul II and President Ronald Reagan rallied the West to a defense of freedom and human dignity.
The Final Revolution: The Resistance Church and the Collapse of Communism, by George Weigel (1992)

The collapse of communism in central and eastern Europe--the Revolution of 1989--was a singularly stunning event in a century already known for the unexpected. How did people divided for two generations by an Iron Curtain come so suddenly to dance together atop the Berlin Wall? Why did people who had once seemed resigned to their fate suddenly take their future into their own hands? Some analysts have explained the Revolution in economic terms, arguing that the Warsaw Pact countries could no longer compete with the West. But as George Weigel argues in this thought-provoking volume, people don't put their lives, and their children's futures, in harm's way simply for better cars, refrigerators, and TVs. Something else--something more--had to happen behind the iron curtain before the Wall came tumbling down.

In The Final Revolution, Weigel argues that that "something" was a revolution of conscience. The human turn to the good, to the truly human, and, ultimately, to God, was the key to the political Revolution of 1989. Weigel provides an in-depth exploration of how the Catholic Church shaped the moral revolution inside the political revolution. Drawing on extensive interviews with key leaders of the human rights and resistance movements, he opens a unique window into the soul of the Revolution and into the hearts and minds of those who shaped this stirring vindication of the human spirit.

Weigel also examines the central role played by Pope John Paul II in confronting what Vaclav Havel called communism's "culture of the lie," and he suggests what the future role of the Church might be in consolidating democracy in the countries of the old Warsaw Pact.

The "final revolution" is not the end of history, Weigel concludes. It is the human quest for a freedom that truly satisfies the deepest yearnings of the human heart. The Final Revolution illustrates how that quest changed the face of the twentieth century and redefined world politics in the year of miracles, 1989.

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