Fall Of The Wall

Today is the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall — an event which marked the beginning of the end of the Iron Curtain, the Cold War, and the divisions between Eastern and Western Europe.  Germany commemorated the day with a tremendous celebration attended by the heads of state of Germany, Russia, France, and Great Britain and thousands of German citizens.  The United States was represented at the event by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and a videotaped address from President Obama.

The fall of the Berlin Wall is an extraordinarily memorable historical milestone.  Anyone who grew up during the Cold War, as I did, recognized the Wall as an iconic physical symbol of the fundamental differences between democracy and communism, freedom and repression.  The Wall was a ready, irrefutable response whenever the supposed accomplishments of the Soviet Union were touted.  There was no more powerful evidence of the grim reality of the failed Soviet system than a wall built by a government not to keep others out, but to keep its own citizens in.

Still, the barrier of ugly grey concrete, marred by graffiti, harshly lit by spotlights and patrolled by armed soldiers and dogs, seemed permanent — until the day it wasn’t.  The scenes of Germans East and West scrambling up the Wall and over it, dancing, shouting, weeping with joy, besotted with the heady taste of freedom after so many years of separation, are unforgettable to anyone who witnessed them.  It was a day that deserves to be remembered and celebrated — as the many attendees at today’s festivities in Berlin, including the head of the Russian government, clearly recognized.

pod_11-10-09_reading_PS-0175I also stand by what I wrote several weeks ago:  I think President Obama exercised poor judgment by not attending in person.  I found myself wondering what he is doing instead of joining in the ceremonies, and found his daily schedule for today here.  The White House website has a “photo of the day” that shows the President sitting alone, reading, in the Rose Garden.  (I’ve attached the photo to this posting.)  Was he really doing something so important that he could not leave Washington, D.C.?  Would it really have been so difficult for him to travel to Berlin on such an auspicious occasion, which was brought about in significant part by America’s steadfast support for freedom, and opposition to Soviet tyranny, over a period of four decades?

Ring Around The Moon

This morning’s 5 a.m. walk featured a cool phenomenon: a ring around the moon. A china white half moon was high in the sky, and the ghostly, translucent, but clearly visible ring was a considerable distance out from the moon itself. The effect was liked a giant, lidded eye in the sky.

An example of a moon ring

According to this website, moon rings are caused by refraction of moonlight from ice crystals in the upper atmosphere. They are associated with high altitude, cirrus clouds, which may explain why the stars looked somewhat indistinct this morning.

Folklore holds that a moon ring means that storms will be coming, and that the number of stars within the moon ring equal the number of days until the storm will arrive. I didn’t count the stars within the ring, however, so I won’t be able to put that folklore to the test.