Walls Can Be Built Out of Thoughts

Germany marked 50 years since the Berlin Wall was built. It’s hard to believe that it once stood for 28 years when you look at Germany now. The reunified country has become the leading economy in the Euro-Zone and the east-west division seems like a long ago event out of a history book.

There were certainly mixed reactions to all the ceremonies. The wall was not built by the east to keep the west out. It was built to keep the east contained. People from what was East Germany tried to climb the wall looking for freedom in West Germany. They don’t know for sure how many died trying to climb the wall. It could be the official 136 or the unofficial 700. The important thing to realize is that walls, visible or invisible, don’t work.

Keeping people in is much harder than keeping people out because the ones on the outside aren’t interested in going over to a side where they see turmoil, human rights violated, freedom of speech denied and physical freedom limited. However, political divisions really don’t need a brick wall. You can “build” a wall without a single brick or stone. The wall can be in the mind and hearts of people.

For example, the people still alive who once lived with the wall talk about how the wall still exists in the minds of some. There are Germans who built a wall in their mind, even as the stone wall stood, and have yet to tear it down. Ms. Heinrich remembers the wall and she said that some have never adjusted to a unified country. She was an East German and she said that many West Germans outside of Berlin are simply indifferent to the East Germans. In other words, the wall still exists in people’s minds, so they don’t mix or socialize.

Invisible walls exist around the world. There is an invisible wall between Pakistan and India, Columbia and Venezuela, the United States and Iran. Countries that decide to hate each other build walls made out of tariffs, speeches and regulations discouraging discussion. Walls are built out of military defence systems, spy satellites and computer hacking intended to bring down essential services. There are plenty of ways to build walls without picking up a single stone.

The United Nations knows that visible and invisible walls are wrong and that people should not be held in their country. Article 13 (2) in The Universal Declaration of Human Rights says, “Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.”

Perhaps the real lesson to be learned by the German’s 50th anniversary of the building of the Berlin Wall is found in the words of the American lawyer Clarence Darrow. He said, “You can protect your liberties in this world only by protecting the other man’s freedom.”  Protecting freedom has no need of any walls whether they are made of stone or thoughts because either can stop someone else from being free.

 

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