Voice of the Pride: What is the most important news event of your lifetime?
Seems like only yesterday that we were all home enjoying another winter break, spending time with family and friends, celebrating another New Year’s and grumbling about how another semester was just around the corner.
February is on us again — my 30th February, in fact.
As I mentioned in my first letter at the beginning of the semester, the Opinion section is going to experiment this month with some new features. Today, we debut the first of these.
This is Voice of the Pride.
Imagine fanfare or some awesome rock music playing in the background.
The traditional op-ed is, at its core, a one-sided argument. The writer develops an argument, and it gets published. Readers can respond with letters to the editor and comment online. Many times, those responses do not see the outside of an inbox or comment section.
The Opinion Desk wants to include more dialogue features alongside the usual monologues, and this week, it is your turn.
Voice of the Pride works like this: Monday I will post a topic and give my thoughts on the subject and encourage you to respond with your opinions. Students, faculty, staff, alumni — anyone — can chime in. On Thursday, the best responses will be repackaged and published in print and online. But before we get to this week’s topic, there are some ground rules to cover.
First, only thoughtful and respectful responses will be published. Name-calling and derogatory statements need to be kept at a minimum. The Opinion Desk wants you all to express your opinions but ask that you treat others as you would want to be treated.
Second, all responses need to be kept at a maximum of 500 words, although exceptions can be made for well-researched, well-thought responses.
Third, students need to include in their responses their full name, major and classification; faculty and staff must include their full name, title and department; alumni need to include their full name, major and graduation year. Also, title email responses in the subject line “Re: Voice,” and can be sent to [email protected].
Now, let’s move on to this week’s prompt.
What is the most important news event in your lifetime?
Because I turn 30 this week, I have been thinking about somemajor events during my life — two wars in Iraq, the Afghan War, 9/11, the election and re-election of America’s first African-American president, the Serbian War, the Arab Spring, the advent of Crystal Pepsi and New Coke, Hakeem the Dream and the Rockets winning two NBA titles in three trips to the NBA Finals, the Astros going to the World Series in 2005 and the election of the first African-American (Lee Brown) and the first openly-gay (Annise Parker) mayors in Houston history, to name a few.
However, no event in my life is more important than the fall of the Berlin Wall.
The year is 1989 — little Aaron, 6, has no idea what Communism is, what the Soviet Union is other than that it’s some other country that Americans are supposed to hate. He has no knowledge of the Warsaw Pact or the Soviet Bloc, has no clue why the Russians and Americans were at odds and does not know what nuclear weapons are.
All young Aaron knows about the Cold War, at that point, is that Ivan Drago killed Apollo Creed and tried to hurt Rocky, and so all Russians must be evil and have the strength of 10 men. He’s heard stories about this wall everyone keeps talking about, and a televised speech by the president, but he has no clue what it is and why people want it down.
“We welcome change and openness; for we believe that freedom and security go together, that the advance of human liberty can only strengthen the cause of world peace,” said former President Ronald Reagan on June 12, 1987 at the Brandenburg Gate to commemorate the 750th anniversary of Berlin.
“There is one sign the Soviets can make that would be unmistakable, that would advance dramatically the cause of freedom and peace. General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization, come here to this gate. Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate. Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”
Sure enough a few months later, the wall starts to come down, and what Aaron sees on TV blows his young mind.
Imagine for a moment that you live near the Houston Galleria and you have family and friends who live near Greenspoint. Two warring political factions have decided that only way to have peace is to build a wall the entire length of I-45, with heavily fortified defenses to keep you from going around the wall. Imagine the decades go by and you have no way to communicate with your family and old friends — you have no way of knowing what they are up to, how they are doing or if they are still alive. Imagine the separation, the worry, the misery and the bitterness you would feel at having your city scarred by such a wall.
Now imagine the day when everything comes down; imagine people scaling the wall, breaking through it to see and embrace people they have not seen in years; to finally cast aside the eye sore that is the wall and throw open roads long since closed; to finally start healing the scars.
Only years later did I truly understand what the fall of the wall meant — it was a world-changing, reality-altering moment in which Soviet oppression had fallen and freedom for all people began to flourish. It was a moment of pure, unadulterated joy, and it began a movement that spread all over Europe.
On Dec. 25, 1991, the Soviet flag was lowered in Moscow; six days later, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics officially dissolved. The Cold War was over.
For my parents and grandparents, the fall of the wall was the symbol of an undiscovered country, for they had lived through the fear and turmoil of the Cold War. For my generation, it was the dawn of a new era of peace and prosperity. Shadows of future conflicts lay ahead, for the most part, were distant from us and for adults to worry about. We did not have to go through what they went through. I could not imagine what life would be like today if the Cold War were still alive and well. This is why I think the fall of the Berlin Wall is the most important news event of my lifetime.
— Aaron Manuel, Opinion editor