I was eleven when the Berlin Wall came down. I was fifteen when the demolition was finally complete. I was born in 1978, so my life, up until when I was in high school, was steeped in the stark reality of the Cold War. Since the end of World War II, and the development of the atomic bomb, the world felt itself on the brink of World War III, the next and final holocaust, the end of the world. I remember the evening news on most nights, covering the negotiations between Reagan and Gorbachev, as to whether or not to engage in nuclear war. Luckily, this ended in a peaceful agreement to begin to disarm short-range and mid-range ballistic missiles. But this didn't bring the situation to an end.
The Berlin Wall was built in 1961, by the German Democratic Republic, the East German Regime. The motivation for building the wall was supposedly, like Trump's proposal for a wall between the US and Mexico, for protection. Protection, ironically, from imposing threats of fascism from socialist West Germany, and the NATO countries to the west. But this viewpoint, on behalf of the GDR, was their own form of propaganda.
But Trump isn't the first president to build the wall. Obama also proposed it too, and actually completed a border fence along all 1,900 miles of the US southern border. It was also a hot topic during the Clinton administration.
Like 11.7 million other immigrants in the US, I was also born south of the border. My mother, a US citizen born in Philadelphia, met my dad while on teacher's sabbatical in Baja California. They got married in the US, and my dad, and I, became naturalized citizens. On my mother's side, I am also the descendant of immigrants; my Jewish heritage comes from Bavaria and Russia. My mother was born in 1937, right in the middle of the holocaust (1933–1945). My grandmother forbade my grandfather to join the service, as she was pregnant with my mother. Instead he joined the coast guard, and worked in the naval yard at Marcus Hook building ships.
Growing up in the eighties also meant being surrounded by the post-punk, post-war culture of the eighties. I grew up listening to Bauhaus, The Smiths, Joy Division (whose name makes reference to the Holocaust), and Pink Floyd. It was Pink Floyd in particular, that made a lot of very direct statements about the aftermath of World War II, and the "post-war dream," including The Wall, but also an album that was originally intended as the soundtrack for that film, called The Final Cut. Last year, Roger Waters played a concert at the Zócalo, in Mexico City, taking a critical stand against both the government of Mexico and the United States.
With a new regime in our country, all of these Cold War memories, and post-war culture flooded my mind. Will Mexico become like East Berlin? Could we? The question, in light of America, land of the free, home of the brave, seems preposterous. But maybe such a possibility is not so far off. I think it's important to realize that these divisions, these conflicts, are caused, in comparison to a country's population, by only a handful of people. If we don't participate in their plans, don't head in the same direction, or simply disengage from their leadership, their words are just words. They have no effect. If politicians hold a rally, and nobody shows up, they'll eventually just go home. If they want a war, they can fight it themselves.
On the other hand, if we participate in the midst of these conflicts, to help one another, and as Pope Francis recently said, to welcome refugees from other countries and religions, we can effectively counteract this separation, and this senseless division.