I feel indebted to my parents for the life they gave me. Growing up in Germany taught me a lot (though I was defiant and resistant, and blasted the Beach Boys at all hours, and had “Santa Cruz” stickers on all my stuff, and wore sunglasses in the dead of winter…)
I visited a friend who lived in Berlin, and we went over to east Berlin while it was still a completely walled off, controlled country. It was one of the most terrifying experiences of my young life at the time, when they pretended they’d lost my passport, then said they had no such thing, my receipt was a forgery and I wasn’t allowed to leave.I stared at my friend who had already crossed through the narrow wooden tunnel. I remember shaking. I remember thinking I would never get out. I wanted to run, my body was poised and trembling, and I knew I would be shot if I ran.
Then I remembered what I had been taught, and told them to call the East German Polizei, who would then call the Russian police, who would then call the American military police. I mentioned my father worked for the american government. They somehow “found” my passport. A little blue scrap, clutched in my sweaty hands, so fragile a thing, to let me out. out. out walking freely, breathing freely, a girl who would never take her safety for granted again. I saw checkpoint Charlie taken away by a crane. I chipped off a part of that wall myself, with my own two hands wielding a mallet. It was a symbolic thing for young me to do, and it’s still what I stand for…
Breaking through walls of imprisonment is in my blood and in my family line (another story, for another time, it deserves its own story, because it is glorious.)…I still have the piece of that wall somewhere. It horrifies me to hold it, though, so I’ve never known what to do with it.
If people experienced these things, I feel like they would understand how fragile our social structure is.
I feel like some might vote differently, if they realized what it’s like to live without checks and balances.
Even one day behind a wall changed me for life. Even a few weeks in Berlin had me in fight-or-flight the entire time.
If you could see what the true horror of being owned looks like -They had facades of buildings along a main route, and that wide, main route was the only place they’d allow foreign governments to see and visit. Behind the facades was devastation. Despair. Crumbling hovels.
I still have a bag I bought from a seller there, sitting cross legged on the ground. I was standing and I felt far too tall. He smiled at me and cheerily, quietly said “help me,” as we completed our transaction. I can’t forget these things. I can’t forget these people. They infuse my vote. I cast my vote for all of them. In memory of the trapped man who smiled and whispered “help.”