Monday, November 23, 2009


Wall it down again, Sam!
On November 9, former President George H.W. Bush, ex-Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev, and former West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl gathered in front of nearly 2,000 dignitaries in Berlin last week to celebrate their role in terminating  the Cold War. Commemoration of the collapse of the Berlin Wall 20 years ago has refreshed memories of “bankrupt” communism and affluent capitalism.
President Obama previously acknowledged the anniversary of the fall of the wall last week during his meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who grew up in East Germany, but he was “too busy” to attend the anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. Coincidentally, the President was scheduled to deal with other walls in Asia. During his  three-day visit to China—with the attributive “communist” silently dropped-- Obama has attempted to wall down some economic political issues between China and the US while negotiating other issues of global concern.
Wearing traditional Chinese outfit as a sign of friendship, Obama echoed Kennedy’s “Ich Bin en Berliner!”  He has firmly reassured that China and the US are not “adversaries.” Chinese merchants took the opportunity to crank out “Oba Mao” T-shirts, which indicates that Chinese are today as dexterous, if adscititious, marketeers as “New York capitalists” whose ingenuity turned pieces of the Berlin Wall into commodity in 1989.
China is now the biggest foreign lender to the United States, and Obama seems to have no desire to convert China to Western capitalism! What is more, his visit has concurred with cynical qualms voiced in the conservative circles at home that the President intends “to indoctrinate America's children to his socialist agenda" due to his unflinching insistence on the health care reform bill. Walling down wishful thinking at home will be tougher for Obama than tackling great walls overseas. 
 Obama’s visit to China is in some ways reminiscent of former President Reagan’s to Germany in 1987. Reagan visited the Berlin Wall on June 12, 1987 to fortify oppressed populations across Eastern Europe of the Cold War Era, who struggled for freedom. In the speech he gave, Reagan acknowledged democratic reforms in the Soviet Union that was underway at the time. However, he demanded even more from Gorbachev: “General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace ... come here to this gate. Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”
Indeed, two and a half years later, men and women on both sides took sledgehammers to the Berlin Wall to raze it. Communism came to a crushing defeat, and the Cold War ended. Crowds of East Germans climbed onto and crossed the wall, joined by West Germans on the “other” side in a celebratory atmosphere. Over the next few weeks, parts of the wall were chipped away by a euphoric public and by souvenir hunters.
From its construction in 1961 to its destruction in 1989, the Berlin Wall pitted the GDR against West Germany. Perennial propaganda machinery on both sides managed to dehumanize, and demonize the people on the “other” side of the wall. Demarcated by mutually hostile ideologies, which the Berlin Wall epitomized, Germany was a living sermon of how blind adherence to ideologies might divide the people across the world. Ideologies might substantiate their self-justified vision of reality, but are often marred by the very nature of their antithetical and close-minded ontogenesis.
As far President Obama’s visit goes, there seems to be walls within walls to take care of. In an effort to solidify the ties with China, the visit will certainly wall up some of the crevices that have emerged in recent years in the China-Us relations such as democracy, human rights, and global warming issues. There is none of the hectoring Bush in Obama’s speeches, nor the arrogant tone of the imperial president in his manners.
Obama does things with a style; he speaks, acts, negotiates, agrees, or disagrees softly. His “soft” diplomacy does not necessarily deter him from what he would say. Economic hardships the US have been facing is not a dissuader for him. Once he decides, he does homologate the decision.  Overall, Obama does not seem to believe that “good fences” do not necessarily make “good neighbors.” Avowed Obama critics will still be looking for a calf under an ox.  Still, as he keeps knocking down walls of bias, color, ethnicity, religion, inequality, and blind ideology, Obama will have achieved more than he has promised.  Yes, he can!


Post a Comment