Brian Fry: Let’s turn walls of separation into bridges for unity |

Brian Fry: Let’s turn walls of separation into bridges for unity

Berliners sing and dance on top of the Berlin Wall to celebrate the opening of East-West German borders on Nov. 10, 1989. In the background is the Brandenburg Gate.
AP Photo/Thomas Kienzle | AP


WHAT: November 9 Day of Action for a World Without Walls

WHEN: 4:30 p.m. Thursday at Broad Street bridge in Nevada City; and 5:30 p.m. at Nevada City Methodist Church

WHY: To build bridges of understanding among people

WHO: Event is co-sponsored by several local peace and justice organizations

Twenty-eight years ago, the people in East Berlin, encouraged by their allies in the West and around the world, decided they had enough of an imposing wall separating them from loved ones on the other side.

The wall took away their freedom of movement, their opportunity for financial development, their interaction with people and cultures beyond their borders.

Of course, the stones and barbed wire of the Berlin Wall itself could only accomplish part of those separations. It was backed up by a whole system of oppression including propaganda, travel restrictions, imprisonment, and machine guns killing those trying break over the wall.

More and more people gradually succeeded in illegally getting over, around, or under the wall, and finally stood on top, smashing it with their hammers and hands. It was a huge symbolic step towards dismantling their oppression. That event had the potential to bring the whole world closer together, ushering in an end of the Cold War. There was much talk of a “peace dividend” that would enable countries to spend more of their imagination and resources on helping their citizens, rather than defending them from “enemies.”

Instead of “border security,” the goal should be “human security” on all sides of any border.

Over the next generation, much of the world seems to have given up on that peace dividend and returned its attention to defining and locking-in “enemies,” choosing to spend colossal resources on building more walls. Israel’s apartheid wall built into Palestinian land, the U.S. expanded “beautiful” border wall with Mexico, and the mass incarceration of immigrants, the poor, and people of color in for-profit prison walls are three examples for which the United States bears great responsibility.

The national and global organizations organizing a “November 9 Day of Action for a World Without Walls” note that in Europe and around the world, 70 nations have constructed, expanded, or fortified walls on and within their borders.

If people are truly concerned for security for themselves and their families, bridges of understanding among people and nations and ethnic groups will be much more effective than any walls, deportations, or travel bans can ever be. Instead of “border security,” the goal should be “human security” on all sides of any border.

The Berlin Wall may have been breached on one night and day. But that event was preceded by years of effort by many people seeking to meet each other and learn of better ways to struggle against oppression. They organized, cooperated, educated, spoke up, demonstrated, and resisted. That same kind of persistent effort against oppressive walls is required here and now. A local opportunity to peacefully join that effort is coming to Nevada City and Grass Valley Thursday, Nov. 9.

Symbolically, the event will be held on a bridge. Join this transformation at 4:30 p.m. at the Broad Street bridge!

Brian Fry lives in Grass Valley.

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