Monday, November 9, 2009

how soon we forget: November 1989 as "the most liberating month in arguably the most liberating year in human history"

From Matt Welch in Reason...

On August 23, 1989, officials from the newly reformed and soon-to-be-renamed Communist Party of Hungary ceased policing the country’s militarized border with Austria. Some 13,000 East Germans...fled across the frontier to the free world...the largest breach of the Iron Curtain...kicked off a remarkable chain of events that ended...with the...citizen dismantling of the Berlin Wall.

Twenty years later, the anniversary of that historic border crossing was noted in exactly four American newspapers, according to the Nexis database, and all four mentions were in reprints of a single syndicated column. August anniversaries receiving more media play in the U.S. included the 400th anniversary of Galileo building his telescope, the 150th anniversary of the first oil well, and the 25th anniversary of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. A Google News search of “anniversary” and “freedom” on August 23, 2009, turned up scores of Woodstock references before the first mention of Hungary.

Get used to it, if you haven’t already. November 1989 was the most liberating month of arguably the most liberating year in human history, yet two decades later the country that led the Cold War coalition against communism seems less interested than ever in commemorating, let alone processing the lessons from, the collapse of its longtime foe. At a time that fairly cries out for historical perspective about the follies of central planning, Americans are ignoring the fundamental conflict of the postwar world, and instead leapfrogging back to what Steve Forbes describes in this issue as the “Jurassic Park statism” of the 1930s...

I also like this quote from "the preeminent modern Central European historian" Timothy Garton Ash: "By comparison, ’68 was a molehill.”


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