Congressman Steve King

Representing the 4th District of Iowa

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The Day the Berlin Wall Came Crumbling Down

Nov 9, 2017
Column

The Day the Berlin Wall Came Crumbling Down

What were you watching on Thursday, November 9, 1989?

Twenty-eight years ago, Thursday nights were dominated by NBC’s “Must See TV” lineup of The Cosby Show, A Different World, and Cheers. I remember something else, though. For me, November 9, 1989 wasn’t about watching sit-coms I enjoyed. It was about watching the most significant political moment of my lifetime: the crashing down of the Iron Curtain and the fall of Russian Communism, on television from my home in rural Iowa.

History was being made. Like the wall of Jericho, the Berlin Wall was coming down! The “evil empire” of the Soviet Union was crumbling before our eyes! The freedom revolution was being televised, and Americans, who had brought about this moment by winning the Cold War under the leadership of men like Ronald Reagan, had a front row seat. Now this was “Must See TV!”

 A chiseled piece of the Berlin Wall on display in Congressman Steve King’s office.

I will never forget watching as free Berliners used crowbars and chisels to tear down a wall built under the Soviet Union’s hammer and sickle. As I watched, political commentators and journalists, people with names like Donaldson, Roberts, and Koppel, described the scene. They spoke of families reunified after decades of forced separation. They also spoke of the many killed throughout previous decades trying to flee from the Communist East to the Capitalist West.

But, as I watched, most commentators seemed unaware of, or unwilling to acknowledge, the larger point. What they missed, I saw clearly: the evil of Soviet Communism had fallen because people have an inherent desire for the preservation of their national and cultural identities.

In Europe, we saw this vividly as newly free Eastern Bloc nations emerged from under the thumb of their Moscow-backed puppet dictators. Some of these nations, such as the former Czechoslovakia, shed their established boundaries to split into smaller, more culturally distinct countries. Other nations, such as Ukraine or those in the Baltics, worked hard to establish their own, post-Soviet identity as fully recognized independent states. These nations were making it clear: they weren’t going back to the Warsaw Pact.

Contemporaneously, in Asia, we also saw people yearning to overthrow the oppressive yoke of Communism. I have stood and prayed on the spot in Tiananmen Square where a solitary Chinese man defiantly stared down a column of tanks sent to kill those demanding a more democratic form of government. As I stood there, I realized that while freedom efforts in China were not as successful as efforts in Europe, a lot could be learned by observing Beijing’s reaction to demands for freedom.

To preserve their totalitarian order the Chinese government launched a crackdown that continues to this day. This crackdown includes massive efforts to suppress Tibet’s unique cultural identity as well as regular military threats to Taiwan’s status as an independent nation. To keep their Great Communist Wall standing, Beijing must viciously attack culture and nationhood.

Communism, like most leftist ideologies, stands opposed to human nature, and its central tenets can only be artificially supported through vast suppression of traditional cultures and by squelching notions of nationhood. To protect and preserve the freedoms we in the West take for granted, we should not hesitate to use our unique cultural and national identities as both a shield and a spear against totalitarianism, whether that totalitarianism comes at us in the sheep’s clothing of Marxist-Leninist Socialist thought, or the wolf’s clothing of radical Islam.

I keep a piece of the original Berlin Wall in my office, so that I am always reminded of the important lessons we can learn from the freedom movement of the late 1980’s and the early 1990’s. If we are to remain free to exert our liberties and the rights bequeathed to us by God, Americans must never sacrifice the national and cultural identity that defines us as a unique and inherently exceptional people.

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This column was originally published in The Washington Times on Nov. 9, 2017. 

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