Twenty years ago today I sat and watched on live television as people from East and West Berlin began to tear down a wall that had divided the city for nearly 3 decades. It was almost surreal, because who would have thought it possible? This event was just the first of many events that transformed the former Soviet Block. Regime after regime fell, and the Soviets didn't respond. Soon the Soviet Union itself imploded into a number of states.
Of course these past 20 years have not been easy ones. Reunification of Germany has had its fits and starts, and it is still an ongoing process. Many in Eastern Europe have had unrealized hopes for their countries. A goodly number look back fondly to the Soviet era. Things may not have been good, but they were predictable.
From a Western perspective, having had it drummed into our heads that the Soviets were the primary menace in the world, we figured that the fall of the Soviets would bring with it world peace and freedom for everyone. It hasn't turned out quite as we expected either. Things have simply gotten more complicated!
And yet, that day in November 20 years ago, as the walls fell, we watched as people shared in joyous reunions. That day the people involved didn't know what the future would bring -- all they knew was that the walls that divided were coming down. A nation could become one again. Families might be reunited. Old wounds might be healed. And hostilities overcome. That was and is a day to celebrate.