Today is the twenty-fifth anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. Today is also two days before Remembrance Day, which recalls the signing of the World War I armistice, and Veterans Day, honoring all military men and women who have served our country.
Remembering these soldiers and these wars, recalling our defense of freedom and defeat of tyranny reminds us of the fragility of peace. Evil flies in planes across our borders, bombing our cities. It creeps through the jungle into our civilized world. But it is also deep within each of us, lying dormant, or not so dormant, asleep or not so asleep. A wall runs through each heart, a wall not so unlike the one that divided Berlin. On one side, the bestial; on the other, the celestial. One side is self-preserving and tyrannical; the other is self-sacrificing and honorable. Most of us do not see the border, for we are used to it and the territories merge. It is a smudged line at best, and we ignore it.
Similar blurry lines run through cultures. Parts are barbaric and others civil. One side recognizes the law of the jungle, might makes right; the other upholds the law God gave to man, life is precious, love one another, the common good is good. In some countries the boundary is clear, a geographical periphery bordering the nation, defined by democratic institutions. In some communities it is hazy and lazy, as law-abiding neighborhoods slip into law-breaking ones. Inner cities, once “gentrified,” blur into crime-ridden communities, where politically correct policies encourage the criminals.
Other lines are more clear. We can see clearly the border between the Trade Center Towers and the terrorists who destroyed them. We see the border between the peaceful shoppers in a mall and the terrorist who beheaded the coworker. We can see also the border between the innocent runners in a marathon and the terrorists who maimed them.
We fought two World Wars so that free peoples could live freely and peacefully. How ironic and tragic that we must go to war to ensure peace. It seems to be the way of man, that one side of his heart must triumph over the other in order to protect the good from the evil. The free must triumph over those who seek to enslave them. This is a just war.
The Berlin wall was hugely symbolic and terribly effective. Many lives were lost in attempts to flee Eastern Germany and the shackles of the Communist Soviet Union, to the safety of the West. But even with the wall finally down, and even with our rejoicing in its fall, we know there are still five countries imprisoned by Communism. For them the wall has not fallen; they do not remember victory on this day or any day; they mourn for the daily victims.
Hong Kong, back under Communist China’s control since 1997, recently witnessed thousands of protesters demanding the right to vote in honest elections. The protest was quelled by tear gas, pepper spray, beatings, jailings, in an echo of the Tienanmen Square massacre twenty-five years ago. In Laos, the Lao People’s Revolutionary Party, the only party allowed, denies free speech, religious freedom, and property ownership. Like its neighbor Communist Vietnam, the government tortures and imprisons those who disagree. Cuba follows the Communist playbook as well, keeping a tight grip on thought, speech, and freedom. The border between Communist North Korea and Democratic South Korea is a clear geographical boundary, a four-hundred-mile demilitarized zone, separating a people with common language and history. The Communist North tortures and starves its citizens, denies freedom of religion, thought, travel. As Mr. Marion Smith, Executive Director of the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation, wrote recently in the Wall Street Journal:
“To tear down that wall will require the same moral clarity that brought down the concrete and barbed-wire barrier that divided Berlin 25 years ago. The Cold War may be over, but the battle on behalf of human freedom is still being waged every day. The triumph of liberty we celebrate on this anniversary of the Berlin Wall’s destruction must not be allowed to turn to complacency in the 21st century.”
And so remembrance inspires us to rededicate and re-shore our beliefs, our courage, and yes, our military strength as a free nation in a world of shackled peoples. Recent midterm elections recognized this. I hope we will see more clearly the wall dividing freedom and tyranny, so that we may preserve our own scattered communities of peace.
And we give humble thanks to the brave men and women who have kept us free, fighting and dying for our freedoms. Thank you, thank you, thank you!