1 July 1979 (Sunday): Day 15
Copenhagen, Denmark – West Berlin
JOURNAL: Rose at 5:45 am then on to breakfast. Left Copenhagen at 7:20. . . . A note about the countryside here (and in France)—gently rolling and very green and now and then the blowing fields are broken by beautifully laid out sections of bright yellow flowers—a beautiful combination. . . . This morning is a little blue, a little rainy, and there was a rainbow. . . . Here we are on the two-hour cruise to East Germany. It is with really mixed feelings that I enter this Communist land; so far everywhere we’ve been has been free. There is a slight element of fear crossing this Baltic Sea. . . . Gulls seem to just hang above me on a string. . . . There’s a dark storm off the bow (starboard) and it’s misting rain a bit here. . . . We made the East German side and finally got the OK to go ahead. The EG countryside very pretty green and rolling but no one seems to live there. About 15 km from West Berlin we got first shock: cobblestone streets through a small German town. The shock—maybe 4 people on the streets, buildings are war torn and in ill repair, seemingly untouched since the war. After we passed through, for the last 5-7 miles to the border of WB, both sides of the road were covered by a massive Russian military camp housing thousands. It also seemed unrepaired from the war. In fact, the whole trip down here was dotted here and there with monuments of red and the red star. The first billboards we saw when we entered the country read “Praise to our Russian Brothers” and “Long Live Socialism.” Along the last 5 miles at odd intervals stood caped Russian soldiers, trying to look inconspicuous while watching the road. There were also a few towers of watch. . . . Another long wait at the border to WB. At least we don’t have to go through what the cars do: seats taken out, headlights, etc. . . . We finally came to the hotel. I’m in room #26 with Gary, Mike, Greg, and Allen. We had a great supper at some soccer-crazy place. Then we hit the disco and I danced all night. It is easy to tell that Michael cares little for East Germany. He always complains about “shitty” cars and roads and people lying! Shaved off beard. . . .
NOTES: 165 k of wall [?]; 16,000 guards
Many of the DDR border guards don’t like what they are forced to do by the Russians. The Russos take away all of DDR industry to help support their other children—DDR knows what it’s like in the West, but Russia has them down for now
1 July (Saturday): Day 2 of Reunion Celebration of 38th Year
San Diego, California
BLOG: In the morning, I walked on the Martin Luther King, Jr., Promenade. I hoped to breakfast at Richard Walker’s Pancake House, but it was too popular. A line of at least fifty folks extended down the block, so I went across the street to Skybound Coffee & Dessert Lounge for an Everything bagel and cream cheese. Then I stopped by Ralph’s, a grocery store in the Kroger family, and picked up three apples for Leesa. Later in the morning the 616ers met in the lobby and caravanned to Torrey Pines State Reserve, where we hiked in the amazing hills above the ocean, walked along the sand below the escarpment (inside joke), and eventually bought lunch from a Japanese food truck and ate on the beach. We went back to the Hilton Gaslamp around 3:00 and got ready for an early supper at Coasterra, a terrific restaurant in a spectacular location at the end of Harbor Island (which, I’m sorry, isn’t an island but a peninsula). We enjoyed after-dinner beverages and bowling at Tavern+Bowl East Village before going back to the hotel. Shaved off beard. . . .
That is a lie.
San Diego is a marvel! But a haunting echo reverberates between the Berlin of thirty-eight years ago, with its infamous and detested Wall, and being here in southern California, just a handful of miles away from what I assume is either the beginning or ending point of Trump’s proposed wall. While many might say that the Border Wall is different from the Berlin Wall, the two walls are essentially the same. Both stand for a shortsighted, even barbaric nationalism that is meant to divide humanity and keep it weak—to separate us from them, separate our souls from ideological systems, hearts and hands from pocketbooks, the forward-thinkers from the meat puppets who holler for dollars.
When we 616ers stood at that wall or passed through the legendary Checkpoint Charlie, we hurt for humanity. But the hope that the wall would one day come down—as it did ten years later, in 1989—and the idea that we might imagine ourselves as one world lived in us and in the stories of those we met at the Wall or on the other side of it.
It might have happened. It almost happened. But it didn’t happen.
Here, in San Diego, as we 616ers stand less than twenty miles from Trump’s wall (will he put his name on it, every 500 meters, in towering gold letters?), we hurt for humanity, knowing that the idea of one world over separate and warring nations will not come to pass, not in our lifetimes at least. And this holds true, I believe, even if the Border Wall is never built. The commitment to the idea of a wall is enough.
[Many of my Christian friends and family will say that we are in this situation because the world has forgotten Christ and thus can do no better than we’re doing. While that might be, it might also be that we have never known Christ. A significant disconnect exists between our supposed faith and the Christ we’re supposed to have faith in. The world need not be judged for having turned from God and Christ; judging is not our job. If we take Christ at his word, we’re to love God with all we are and all we have, and we are to love our neighbors as ourselves. Most of us aren’t good at either of these acts of love. The old song by The Teddy Bears, from 1958, the year I was born, says, “To know, know, know him / Is to love, love, love him.” I’m afraid we don’t “know him,” and that is why we don’t “love him”—he is our God and our neighbor. (See Luke 10:25-37 for the official definition of neighbor.]