Tourists in Berlin can buy a little chunk of the concrete wall that once separated east from west during the Cold War.
Some of these souvenirs even contain a splash of spray paint. The German capital attracts more than 13 million tourists a year, so it’s unclear how many are actual pieces of the 27-mile wall that came tumbling down 30 years ago today.
It’s hard to believe the the Berlin Wall has been dismantled for longer than it stood as a dismal reminder of the physical divide between oppressive communist states and dynamic and free western democracies. An entire generation has no direct recollection of what the wall stood for or the sense of wonder when Berliners took hammers to it on Nov. 9, 1989. It was like seeing a man walking on the moon.
The fall of the Berlin Wall ushered in a triumphant era for advocates of free markets and free societies. One could say that this sense of optimism lasted until 8:46 a.m. on Sept. 11, 2001, when the first plane hit the Twin Towers.
It wasn’t an immediate change, but since then both elected leaders and citizens have embraced a more pessimistic view of America and the values that helped lead to the wall’s demise.
Today, millennials might feel more personal connection to a historical event that came nearly two decades after the wall came down. The economic crisis of 2008 led to unemployment and home foreclosures at a time when many young people were entering the job market.
As a result, 70 percent of millennials are likely to vote socialist and 36 percent have a favorable view of communism, according to a survey from the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation. These young people have experienced the flaws of capitalism, but they haven’t witnessed the dehumanization and government coercion, not the mention the empty shelves, that results from central planning.
At least they’re too young to know better. These socialist-loving millennials share a few things in common with a man they loath: President Donald Trump.
He’s no socialist, but in spirit the president lives in a world surrounded by threats, just like those he derides as snowflakes. Where young, left-leaning voters fear markets and businesses that dare to seek profits, for Trump, free trade and immigration serve as the boogeymen.
The politics are worlds apart, but both worldviews imply a desire to use the power of government to protect citizens from sinister, outside forces.
It’s in stark contrast to the spirit on Nov. 9, 1989, when the only sinister force was that of the teetering totalitarian regimes. It was a time to celebrate the freedom of the individual, the flow of people and the sharing of ideas across borders.
We should all try to get back to that outlook.