Last year on this date, I posted a seven-part series on the fall of the Berlin Wall, commemorating the 20th anniversary of that watershed event. Today, I reread the posts and was struck by what I wrote in the introduction, in light of recent events in the US. 

In spite of obvious physical and historical barriers between the two opposing political systems, one overran the other, almost overnight. The changeover was swift and bloodless.

I wrote:
As television viewers, we all know how easy it is to sway large groups of people, but still, it’s stunning how easily East German authorities convinced people that walls and borders were there to protect them from the immoral and dangerous influences of the West.

In spite of all the available firepower, attack dogs, machine guns, landmines, barbed wire, Stasi and whatever else they threatened people with, not one single shot was fired on the night of November 9, 1989. 

Not long after der Berliner Mauerfall, citizens of Leipzig, Dresden and other eastern cities tested the waters and got the same response. Guards were either ambivalent about what to do, overwhelmed by the crowds or unwilling to stop them. 

In the case of the Berlin Wall, we join most of the world in applauding the coup, but we should never assume progressive movements will always be the ones that prevail.

I repost these excerpts with some hesitation, but urge you to revisit the series as a reminder (and warning!) of how easily the tide can change, even when the odds are against it, even in a democracy, even in this day and age:

I may be a bit short on blog items in the next few days, but that’s because I’m putting together two special sections to post over the next two weeks.

Continuing to look backward in order to make sense of where we are and where we’re going, I will shift our focus to two watershed events that changed the course of our lives, and still resonate in the lives of our children and grandchildren. 

First, the fall of the Soviet Union, as exemplified by the fall of the Berlin Wall. 

November 9 is the 20th anniversary of the breach of the Wall, and I will be posting photos, memorabilia, comments from those who lived there before or after, as well as my own observations of East Germany during reunification efforts, based on a three-week visit. If you would like to contribute your own thoughts, photos, links, or whatever on the fall of the Wall, please send what you have to me now so I can include it in the mix. 

Second, the 46th anniversary of the assassination of John F. Kennedy.

As many of us have done before, we’ll stop for a moment to recall where we were when we heard (or saw) the news, and how life changed afterward. The Birds blog has some people with close ties to this event among its readership, so don’t miss this collection of compelling comments beginning around November 15. Again, if you’d like to contribute, send your emails this week, please.