Today marks the 32nd anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin Wall. On this special day for those who believe in freedom and democracy, I want to share a piece Colombe and I wrote two years ago to commemorate the three decades from that fateful day.
I found the piece as compelling today as it was two years ago, especially when reading the recent news of Polish authorities building a wall to keep out migrants from Belarus.
Walls are never the solution. Enjoy the read!
CELEBRATE THE FALL OF THE BERLIN WALL BY FIGHTING TO TEAR DOWN BARRIERS
By Colombe Cahen-Salvador & Andrea Venzon, November 9th, 2019
“My desire for the future is that there will continue to be people who stand up for walls to fall and not to be built”.
Floating above the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, Patrick Shearn’s art installation includes such messages for inclusion and unity. Indeed, this week marks the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin wall. Germany, Europe, and the world celebrate this historical event and discuss its significance and challenges in achieving unity. As part of those celebrations, world leaders will travel and vow to never go back to a world that was so divided. Actions speak louder than words, though.
What some might consider ghosts of a dark era are still sheer realities for many. Walls plague our world, are built by autocrats to win votes without solving any of the underlying critical problems that countries and the world are facing. Walls are used to stigmatize groups of people. Walls are used to fuel hate. Walls discriminate. Walls divide.
The fence between Melilla, Ceuta, and Morocco
Walls are built at external borders to keep people out, such as the infamous example of Trump’s unmatched obsession with making one between the United States and Mexico, at one point even considering building a moat over the border and filling it with alligators. Other examples include the wall outside of Melilla and Ceuta, cutting off the two Spanish autonomous cities from Morocco, with the same aim as Trump’s: to stop migrants, in this instance, from entering into Europe.
Walls are used to further divide people, discriminate, take away their rights, livelihoods, and homes, such as those between Israel and Palestine or between Morocco and Western Sahara.
The Wall of Shame in Lima, Peru
Walls are used to separate cities, whether along political allegiances or wealth divides: The Lima “Wall of Shame”: a six-mile-long, 10 foot tall, concrete structure dividing the city’s rich and poor. As Belen Desmaison, an architect researching Lima’s wall, explained, “It’s part of this global trend of a ‘wall,’ this trend of actually putting up this physical barrier between two social groups or ethnic groups.” Walls are used to create further divisions during wars, with Homs becoming a city “crisscrossed by walls, separating different neighborhoods according to their ethnic makeup and loyalty or hostility towards the regime” since the Syrian civil war.
Even within the Schengen area in Europe, which is supposed to allow for unrestricted movement within the area and is considered one of the greatest achievements of the EU, countries promoting liberal values and leaders promising to move towards a more open and free world for all have put back border controls. These might not always look like a wall, but make no mistake, they have the same effect. Austria, Denmark, France, Germany, Norway, and Sweden are guilty of such acts.
Remember: walls are not only symbols of oppression, but they divide and affect communities in real terms too. Comparison between the statistics of people living in Nogales, Arizona (US), and Nogales, Sonora (MX) are stunning. Divided by a fence, the average household income is about $30,000 on the American side and one-third of it on the Mexican one. A community divided by a wall is broken apart. Still today, the gap between East and West Germany is appalling and well described by a GDP per capita 20 percent lower in the former soviet satellite compared to the free Federal Republic of Germany.
The Wall in Homs, Syria
So while commemorating the fall of the Berlin Wall, the new era it started, let’s not forget all those left behind. While watching speeches from world leaders, let’s remember those building back barriers and walls, letting people die outside of their borders, taking away their rights, discriminating, and choosing division over unity. When voting on whether politicians such as Trump should continue to be in power with their divisive policies, let’s remember that Gorbachov — the last leader of the Soviet Union — did more to tear down walls 30 years ago by avoiding any intervention when the Wall was brought down, than the alleged Leader of the Free World is doing today.
Thirty years ago, the fall of the Berlin Wall marked the beginning of a new era of openness and international cooperation. Today, the shadows of nationalism and division are rising once more. As part of the new generation, we intend to mark this anniversary not only by vowing to never go back to such a time but ensuring that we move forward as one world. For any given dictator building a wall, there are millions of people dreaming of bridges instead.
To make such dreams a reality and tear down those symbols of oppression, we created Atlas, the global movement pushing for humanity to work as one to solve the biggest challenges of our time. Together, we can overcome global issues such as the climate crisis and related forced migration, which walls will only worsen. Only together can we prone unity and real solutions to the problems for which walls are built.
As Robert F. Kennedy famously said: “Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.” The time is now!
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📰 This piece was originally published in the author's medium accounts. You can find it here!