I had dinner with a couple of friends last night. Normal conversation, nice wine, etc. My 10 year old was along with us too. Bridget, host for the evening, is originally from Bulgaria. She grew up on the other side of the wall during the Cold War, and she has worked very hard to come to America. She had to give up on her excellent education and start over when she reached the US (her nursing credentials were not recognized). This woman delivered pizza and cleaned bedpans while she repeated her medical education here in the ‘States.
All of this is backstory though, as what happened last night was both shocking and illuminating. It was a true moment of stark reality, and I was very glad my son was able to see this kind of thing for real. Discussion at the dinner table turned to our present political and economic situation… We all share the same concern for the “meltdown” and the “implosion” or whatever meme will be assigned to this time in history. We are also all afraid that it might just come to pass that the evangelicals and the uninformed will go ahead and elect to extend the nightmare another four years. Are the Dem’s that weak? Are we just that powerless?
Bridget was very vocal, and was for some reason asking if we’d seen Good Morning America. I wouldn’t normally admit to watching television, but what she was after was striking. Apparently there was a segment on politics/economics that had some B-roll at Niagara Falls. What Bridget was after was the unintended message that came across in the video. Apparently the Canadian side of the falls is vibrant with nightlife, lights, clubs, activity. As the camera panned over to the US side, it was dark, with closed stores, no lights. With tears in her eyes she was suddenly re-living her experiences standing on the dark side of the Berlin Wall, looking West. She remembers in the 80’s visiting Berlin, on the Eastern side. She has vivid memories of seeing the West through a portal in the wall… all brightly lit, with every advantage out of reach. She has given up so much, and worked so hard to come here, and she is very afraid to see that our country is beginning to look like the dark side. With our economic woes, and every political decision reduced to sound bites and party politics it is beginning to blur the distinction between “us” and “them” back in the Cold War. Our constitutional freedoms have been restricted in the name of security, and it seems that oligarchy is having its way with us on Wall Street… Its not about apple pie and Chevrolet anymore… There almost isn’t any Chevrolet to speak of…
The cool part was that my son was curious, but of course in the dark as to where all this emotion was coming from. We took a moment and explained the Cold War as best we could- that the end of WWII had created a huge split, and that there were people on one side and another. Families were estranged, and communities torn in two. People risked everything to come to the West, and some paid a dear price to try. I really appreciated that he was able to see a first-hand account, and hear the raw emotion… Our world is so filtered now that experiences like that seem rare.
What worries me is that Bridget struck a chord. We are on the dark side in so many ways. Europe is thriving under the Euro, as we spin ever deeper into debt, and dependence on foreign resources. I feel more and more powerless as the news goes by.
We can’t let this happen for 4 more years people… We can’t afford it.. literally.
What is it going to take?