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I’ll never forget the day the Wall came down. I was living in a big group house, actually a collection of six or seven group flats in a sprawling house on the edge of a small town on the German border. Our major arguments were about:

  • The new organic hens in the garden that meant we’d have no place for our table
  • The new goldfish in the pond that were eating up the frog eggs, which would cause the mosquitos to multiply
  • The neighbor not allowing us to collect the chestnuts that fell on our property.
  • Oh, and Bourdieu, Foucault, Derrida, Lacan, Habermas, Luhman, Luckmann, Goffman (and man or men in general) and other sources for late-night, wine-driven discourse.

So when the pictures of the East Germans standing on the Berlin Wall flickered across the screen, my flatmates were less than excited.

“I don’t want those squares over here!” they said. “All they want is bananas! They get all excited when they go through the aisles at Aldi!”

We had a serious disconnect.

We read and loved East German literature, but were totally clueless about the people in the Trabis.

I’d lived in West Berlin for a few years (1983-5) and had visited a friend in East Berlin repeatedly during that time. After the Wall came down we had a little trouble meeting anew and reconnecting on unfamiliar ground in West Germany. I had also worked for the museum at Checkpoint Charlie. But most importantly, I’d grown up right behind the US Capitol during the Cold War. So perhaps I had a slightly different perspective. The wall that was coming down – or rather was starting to come down – wasn’t just the one between East and West Germany. It was the wall around Germany as a whole. And it would take time.