Monday, September 16, 2013

Where Have the Days of Velvet Revolutions Gone? (Not a Political Dissertation)

In light of what is happening in Syria, I cannot help but reflect a little bit of the world outside my little suburban bubble.  I’ve never been a true activist, but I try not to disengage myself from the global issues of true consequence.  Pop radio bores the hell out of me and for me, driving in the car is the most opportune time to lap up public radio.  I also happen to time my lunches at the hour when BBC is on.  I don’t care what you think, but I am in staunch belief that interest in things larger than oneself is sexy. 

I have an upcoming trip to Europe and one of the places I will find myself in is Berlin.  To be honest, Germany is not in my top places to visit in Europe and that is because if I will be completely honest, I find Germans somber and cold.  On the other hand, if I put my history geek hat on, there would probably be no richer place in Europe for a sense of history that impacted the world that I know than Germany.  Yes, I like traveling to happy places for art, culture, and food, but there is a prism of travel that touches something deeper, something more meaningful, something larger, and that is the shaping of a society post-war and tragedy. 

I have known no other world than one of democracy and liberty, thanks to the heroism of those that came before me so I can have human dignity and have no concept of the opposite.  It is harrowing when I listen to a man tell his story about immediately coming out of the communist regime in Prague that he was lost.  Lost.  As in not knowing what to do with freedom.  He did not have any dreams because he simply did not know how.

While it is beautiful that a country is fighting to break itself free from the tight grip of dictatorship, it is gut-wrenching to watch hundreds of thousands of people, women and children unspared, for the heavy price of liberty.  Why does it have to come to that?  Whose fight is it really?  Is it solely Syria’s alone?  Or is it humanity’s to own?        
Someday, I will make it to Eastern Europe – the Czech Republic, Prague - the milieu of the Velvet Revolution, where the communist regime was taken down by sheer, non-violent people power in a matter of days.  The Berlin Wall that separated west Germany from east (Communist) Germany came down a few days before and I have not studied yet how that gave the Czechs the courage to stand up and be heard.  It is a very poignant moment in history and I am still wrapping my head that THIS happened in MY lifetime (I was ten years old). 

It also hit me that my own homeland had a Velvet Revolution of its own, the People Power Revolution in EDSA to overthrow the dictator of two decades, Ferdinand Marcos.  I was seven years old at that time, not fully capable of comprehending the history that was being made.  I remember that my Mom, who I have never known to be an activist hurried to the rallies, and I had the instinct to fear for her.  I watched the coverage on TV, not really to demonstrate solidarity with the rest of the country, but to search the sea of faces for my Mom, needing that reassurance that she did not get shot by the soldiers or run over by the tanks.  

In preparation for my upcoming trip to Berlin, I have watched a couple of short documentaries on communism in east Germany and I will admit that it often reduced me in sobs.  My puny brain could not comprehend segregation of that degree. And although I have no concept of what Berlin would be like yet, I hope it would be a reminder how precious liberty is beyond words with a prayer that Syria would soon cradle it soon.   

When one travels, art and yes, in my world, food binds people.  But I also believe that history - no matter how dark and atrocious it is - offers deep and powerful insights into who we are, collectively, as humans as well.

The Dutch lived in Berlin for two years and this is one of the postcards he has that has a piece of the fallen Berlin Wall.  I framed it as a sign of solidarity with humanity in the fight for democracy and freedom.  

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