Monday, November 09, 2009
The Not-So-Great Wall
Like many a student before me, I assume, one of my social studies assignments in September of 1989 was to take a map of Europe and color all of the Soviet bloc countries in red. Unlike my predecessors, by the time the school year was over, the map that I colored at the beginning of the term was mostly obsolete. By the time the Berlin Wall fell in November, I knew enough to understand why it was important, but the whirlwind nature of my cold war education left a lot of gaps in my knowledge. When your social studies class happens to be in sync with the most important news story in a generation (if not more), it makes the material more engaging, but being a witness to history can give you a false sense of understanding. It wasn't until I visited Berlin several years later that I started to understand the events leading up to that night 20 years ago. Former Newsweek correspondent Michael Meyer has a new book called The Year that Changed the World: The Untold Story Behind the Fall of the Berlin Wall. I haven't read the book, but I heard him discuss it on On Point a few weeks ago and it brought back a lot of memories from both my social studies class and my trip to Berlin.