Thursday, 26 June 2014 08:13
Berlin Wall Anniversary memories from Louisiana
Written by 

jim-brown-hangoutTwenty-eight years ago this week, President Ronald Reagan traveled to West Berlin, and at the Brandenburg Gate admonished: “Mr.Gorbachev, take down that wall.” The Berlin Wall had been erected by the puppet Soviet state of East Germany. Unless you are over sixty-five or are a history buff, you may not understand the tensions that existed then had many observers feeling that we could be on the brink of war with the Soviet Union. 

 The wall was initially a 25-mile long barbed wire fence. In the months that followed, the “wire wall” became concrete with guards aloft who shot anyone trying to climb the wall, and make their way into West Berlin.  For the next 26 years, German citizens were not allowed to cross the wall. Americans could enter into East Berlin at “Checkpoint Charlie” only if they could establish some business purpose for crossing the border.

At the time, I was a politically naïve graduate student at Cambridge University in England.  I had the privilege of being a member of the U.S. Track Team competing in track meets throughout Europe. A meet promoter approached me to compete at a major competition in East Berlin. Since I had never been to East Germany, I figured if the promoter was willing to cover the expenses of a struggling student runner, why not go for it?

I would have to cross the Berlin Wall and compete at the Olympic stadium in East Berlin. America did not recognize East Germany as a legitimate country at the time. It was considered a Russian puppet state, and the U.S. maintained no diplomatic relations with the East Germans. Once I crossed to the other side of the wall, I would be on my own.

On the afternoon of the meet, I entered East Berlin at Checkpoint Charlie. It was an evening event, and I was scheduled to compete in the high hurdles against an East German who was world ranked. The East Germans had built up the competition as a grudge match between our two countries, and had made it a point of honor for their national pride.

The 100-meter dash was about to begin when my agent brought over an American who wanted to talk to me. He said he was with the American Embassy in West Germany and told me in strong terms that it would be completely unacceptable for me to run the high-hurdles race that was soon to start. As a member of the American team, he argued, I was a representative of my government. Since America did not recognize East Germany, I would be giving tacit recognition to a country that the United States regarded as illegitimate. He implied that by competing I could start an international incident, and if I had any patriotism, I would get my gear and head back across the border to West Berlin immediately.

What a dilemma for a twenty-one-year-old who was simply enjoying the opportunity to travel and who had no real understanding of the international consequences supposedly at stake. I wanted to compete, but I certainly wasn’t going to go against the wishes of my country.

As the announcement was being made that I would not compete, I headed for the locker rooms, located at the other end of the stadium, diagonally across the infield. Thousands of people in the stadium stood up and whistled loudly, which was their way of booing. I learned later that the announcer had told the crowd the American was afraid to compete against the East German. I was angry and disappointed, but I had enough common sense to change my clothes and get back across the border.

Many years later I would look back on this controversy as my first political act. I guess the possibility of starting an international incident qualifies as a baptism in politics.

Thirty-one years have gone by since the tearing down of the Berlin Wall, and we no longer fear one super power. Instead, there are brush fires worldwide that have overwhelmed America’s resources.  Let’s hope in the future, we will continue to argue about tearing down walls and not about destroying countries.

Peace and Justice

Jim Brown

Jim Brown’s syndicated column appears each week in numerous newspapers throughout the nation and on websites worldwide.  You can read all his past columns and see continuing updates at http://www.jimbrownusa.com.  You can also hear Jim’s nationally syndicated radio show each Sunday morning from 9 am till 11:00 am, central time, on the Genesis Radio Network, with a live stream at http://www.jimbrownusa.com.

Jim Brown

Jim Brown is a Louisiana legislator, Secretary of State and Insurance Commissioner.  

Website: JimBrownla.com
Login to post comments
Powered By JFBConnect
  • Cat Fights on the Hot Cement Confederate New Orleans statues
  • Ex-Saints, Bears, Bills, NFL Exec, Jim W. Miller discusses NFL Draft tomorrow
  • Trump's new plan; Curtains on tax returns release; 40% say Trump-Russia; Probing Obama admin
  • Watch Louisiana Governor Edwards talk about CAT Tax failure

catRarely, have I seen few issues that have generated as much raw heat, tension, and passion than the Confederate monuments controversy. 

Just as existed during the real civil war, where brothers battled brothers, social media is the battleground, particularly Facebook, pitting friend against friend.

On one side of the tense divide, there are those who are protecting the New Orleans civil war era monuments.  Burnt in effigy, forever, is the symbol of Mayor Mitch Landrieu for up-ending what the monument protectors consider to be the loving civil society of New Orleans.

Lately, events have turned somewhat militaristic.

Some protectors of the Confederate monuments have been staying vigilant, in person and online, even surveilling during the wee hours of the morning, waiting for the next Mayor Landrieu attack. On Sunday morning, with protections of snipers, masked workers and a dumbstruck audience, the worst of all of the monuments was cut and carried., the Liberty Monument. 

Read More

miller nfl live2 5It’s D-Day or Draft Day tomorrow in the NFL.

More specifically, Thursday represents the first day of the NFL draft 2017.

Read More

 

trump curtainsThe major President Trump news of the day focuses upon taxes, not only the tax cuts he is proposing but his own taxes, which he obviously, refuses to unveil.

 

Read More

edwards play money 1

At a press conference today, Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards said the CAT Tax did not pass the House Ways and Means Committee.  The Governor, in addressing the media said that "the fate of that bill was decided long before we unveiled it".

Read More

latter-blum2

Sen. Appel talks budget, economy

TRUMP TALK

Dead Pelican

Optimized-DeadPelican2 1 1