I thought President Obama’s “too busy to attend” stance on the 20th Anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall had quite plumbed his ahistorical depths and fully explored the psyches of his advisers. I considered it the final word, the last polished insult. I thought his refusal to grace the proceedings, contrasted with his daytrip to Denmark to lobby for the Chicago Olympics and combined with his upcoming journey to arrogate a Nobel Peace Prize, had settled the matter of “what is important.” I was wrong.
The President did not think the message had been made quite clear enough. He appeared at the Berlin ceremony, larger than life, via a video. In the accompanying sound track he failed to mention Khrushchev, Gorbachev, Stalin, the Soviet Union or even East Germany. He made no mention of Presidents Truman or Reagan. He similarly neglected British Prime Minister Thatcher, Polish President Walesa and Pope John Paul.
In a speech on the occasion of the 20th Anniversary of a signature moment in the history of free men, the din of those omissions is hard to top; but he did manage it. Reflecting on world changing historical events, he said,
Few would have foreseen on that day that a united Germany would be led by a woman from Brandenburg or that their American ally would be led by a man of African descent. But human destiny is what human beings make of it.
Few could have envisaged an American President so self-regarding as to bring himself up in the same context as the fall of the Berlin Wall after 10 months in office on the basis of his melanin content. Besides which, the assumption of such general ignorance and prejudice in those “long ago” days is not credible. I’m quite certain that if you had asked 1000 random Americans and Germans whether a woman from Brandenburg might ever lead Germany or whether a man of African descent would ever lead the United States, more than half of them would have been able to see both. Almost every one of them would have predicted a united Germany. Hell, the WALL JUST CAME DOWN.
A more pertinent question would have been how many people could have imagined the fall of the Berlin Wall from the perspective of 1969. There you have a hook from which to mention the leaders who most contributed to that fall; should you want to acknowledge this achievement.
Or how about this question? If you had asked 1000 Americans on the day after the Berlin Wall fell whether an American President would refuse to show up in person at the 20th Anniversary, how many would have said “yes”?
P. S. “Human destiny is what human beings make of it.”
I like it. So did Obama. In a 3 minute speech he used the line twice. It’s nearly soaring, but its biggest advantage is that it’s clearly contentless. One could use it as an argument against Pelosicare and stimulus packages – or in favor of them.
The President neglects to specify which human beings are empowered to choose human destiny. On the evidence, he is not thinking of you or me. It’s Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid and Barack Obama.