(Nov. 9) The greatest climactic event of the 20th century occurred 30 years ago Saturday, Nov. 9, as thousands of Germans pushed through, climbed over, and began tearing down the Berlin Wall. Human freedom overcame human evil. Human potential was unleashed. Exuberantly but peaceably, the good guys won.

The story needs to be told again and again, because those too young to have lived through the Cold War have trouble feeling viscerally the stakes, the danger, and the drama. A new movie that ran nationwide for one night only this week, The Divine Plantells one important part of the history, laying out in fascinating detail how President Ronald Reagan and Pope John Paul II worked together, with far more contact than most people understood, to undermine Soviet communism. A Citizens United movie from a decade ago, Nine Days That Changed the World, also does a masterful job of bringing to life the role faith played in defeating tyranny.

With all due credit to Reagan and Karol Wojtyła, however, and to British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, it is worth recalling the much larger honor roll of brave men and women who refused to blink in the face of the most mightily armed repressive empire the world has ever known. Polish Solidarity leader Lech Walesa of course often and deservedly gets key billing, along with all the Polish workers and church officials who defied vicious crackdowns to keep their movement going.

But here’s a shout-out, too, to intellectuals who wouldn’t be silenced: Vaclav Havel, the Czech playwright and statesman; anti-Soviet dissidents Natan Sharansky, Andrei Sakharov, Yelena Bonner, and Alexander Solzhenitsyn; and British-American historian Robert Conquest chief among them.

The mujahedeen in Afghanistan — true patriots and even freedom fighters, most of them, rather than the precursors of Taliban and al Qaeda that mistaken history describes — bled the Soviet Union for a full decade. Congressmen such as Charlie Wilson and his colleagues helped keep them afloat. In Central America, the United States wisely provided both arms and humanitarian assistance, but it was the people of El Salvador and Nicaragua who fought back the communist menace, sometimes standing in lines to vote for hours as snipers fired at them….

[The full column, wtih plenty of other reasons to celebrate, is at this link.]


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