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Twenty Years Ago in Berlin, Seeing the Rally Against Reagan

Posted by GayPatriotWest at 3:58 pm - June 12, 2007.
Filed under: Liberals,Ronald Reagan

Today marks the twentieth anniversary of one of Ronald Reagan’s great speeches where he stood before the Berlin Wall at the Brandenburg gate and implored the then-leader of the then-Soviet Union to “Open this gate and] tear down this wall.” As other blogs and bloggers* have written on the significance of this speech — and its meaning today, I thought I’d offer for my own recollections of that day twenty years ago.

For, you see, I was in Berlin that day. Though I did not make it then to the Brandenburg gate. (I would see that gate a few days later from the other side where, in a drunken state (even under Communism, Germans got beer right), I challenged an East German border guard on the wall. Not to worry I did make it safely back to West Berlin without the intervention of the U.S. Embassy.)

Anyway, as the Gipper arrived in Berlin, I hiked up to the Kurfürstendamm, then the major boulevard in the free portions of the city. And I watched a rally that absolutely frightened me.

I saw hordes, tens of thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands of young Germans marching to protest Reagan’s visit. They accused the Gipper of being a fascist and warmonger and deplored his decision to deploy U.S missiles in Europe. Many carried signs attacking the US while others chanted hateful anti-American slogans or shouted out against the then-incumbent U.S. leader. Replace “Reagan” with “Bush” and the rally would seem similar to many witnessed in recent years in European cities. (This crowd, however, was larger than some recent European rallies.)

What struck me then was the virulence of the anti-American attitudes expressed by the marchers. As I watched, I had flashes of films I had seen of Nazis marching (perhaps on the same street) a half-century previously. Many of the protesters wore nearly identical black outfits (some did sport more colorful attire) and marched in lockstep. It almost seemed that this generation of Germans has replaced “Jews” with “Americans.” Their anger was palpable.

I was grateful for the cordon of German police officers standing shoulder to shoulder on the sidewalk, dividing the marchers from the onlookers and pedestrians. I fear that had the marchers learned my nationality, they made have made an example of me. That day, I noted the irony of a Jew appreciating the presence of uniformed German officers.

I never really understood the politics of hate. Yet, it seems that, in recent years, the left whips itself into a furor of frenzy every time a conservative (or, in the case of President Bush, a man perceived as conservative), particularly on foreign policy gets elected president. When a liberal wins election in the US, conservatives don’t rally regularly in rage. To be sure, there are a handful of conspiracy theorists on the right, offering their bile and bitterness, attempting to challenge the legitimacy of liberal leader.

But, these rageful rallies seem to be a defining feature of the left. As if they simply refuse to accept that someone with whom they so strongly disagree could govern with any legitimacy.

Today, we should celebrate the great speech the Gipper gave twenty years ago. Barely two years after he delivered his challenge, the wall was breached and later brought down. That speech was thus a defining moment in the successful struggle of freedom against communism. It showed the Gipper’s optimism and his vision of a free Europe, indeed, a free world, where the great example of the American experiment inspires those longing for liberty across the globe.

And yet in free societies, we have had always had those who rally against freedom’s defenders. While we celebrate Reagan’s speech, we should also recall what I witnessed twenty years ago. For we’re seeing it again today. And likely to see it again twenty years hence — the rage of the left against those who defend their very right to protest, even in resentful rage.

*These bloggers — & news articles — include this Powerline post with video and recollection by speechwriter Peter Robinson, this one at Pajamas, this from the Corner, Hugh Hewitt‘s thoughts and this article at U.S. News and World Report. And in his OpinionJournal piece yesterday, John Fund called the speech “prophetic.”



  1. Dan, marvelous thoughts and reflections of that historic day. I find it interesting that you saw more people protesting against Reagan than Gorbachev, especially in West Berlin of all places. So much for “the outpost of democracy.”

    And had I been in your shoes and fortified with liquid courage, I would have called out the East German border guards and Stasi as well! 😉
    How the heck did you get over the wall, anyway?

    Funny how everyone thinks that it is the conservative (or moderate) presidents that “everyone hates” in the world. When I was visiting relatives in Greece in 1999, right during the Balkan campaign, I saw “Clinton is Hitler” graffiti all over the place. I even saw a caricature of him and Gore in (shall we say) a not-too-flattering light.

    To top it off, I chatted up some locals in the taverns and when they discovered I was an American, the first question was always: “Why is your president so concerned about Serbia and Bosnia? Doesn’t he realize that the Serbians are Orthodox Christians and the Bosnians are Muslims who are trying to kill them? Is he that stupid?”

    Note to you libtards: I defended my country and the actions of the president that I didn’t vote for and heretofore despised. If you were faced in the same situation, I doubt you’d have the intestinal fortitude to do the same.

    Again, Dan – great piece on a truly prophetic moment.

    Peter H.

    Comment by Peter Hughes — June 12, 2007 @ 4:45 pm - June 12, 2007

  2. […] Original post by GayPatriotWest […]

    Pingback by Politics: 2008 HQ » Blog Archive » Twenty Years Ago in Berlin, Seeing the Rally Against Reagan — June 12, 2007 @ 6:01 pm - June 12, 2007

  3. You were there?!? I’m not jealous…I’m not jealous…I’m not jealous…

    I miss Ronnie.

    Comment by John — June 12, 2007 @ 6:31 pm - June 12, 2007

  4. C’mon, even some Republicans now admit that Ronnie was in the right place at the right time. The soviet system was failing miserablya nd the only way to survive was to open up to the west. Their brand of communism was a failure and most of the world knew it….That’s what brought the wall down, not some guy who was well on his way to senility.

    1) No, I wouldn’t defend him….I defend the country and the constitution, not the silver-spoon fed nitwit who has shaped intot he worst president we’ve ever had. In my international travels, most of these folks love our coutnry, but hate the current president. In case you hadn’t noticed, he went to Capitol Hill today begging the republicans to listen to him. can you say ame duck?

    Comment by Kevin — June 12, 2007 @ 7:08 pm - June 12, 2007

  5. Kudos for highlighting the (West) Germans’ deep and irrational anti-Americanism. Cutting and pasting clapboard Communist slogans about the “fascist” (or “incipient fascist”) class enemy is an ideological fast-track to terror.

    Comment by Jeremayakovka — June 12, 2007 @ 7:39 pm - June 12, 2007

  6. C’mon, even some Republicans now admit that Ronnie was in the right place at the right time

    Yes, RR was in the right place at the right time… his genius was to recoginize this fact.

    Comment by Robert — June 12, 2007 @ 8:30 pm - June 12, 2007

  7. #4 Good God, this business of Republican leaders being at the right place at the right time….Reagan was a great leader! He shaped events he didn’t sit by and wait for things to happen. A characteristic the current President has as well. Great leaders wade in and are righteous. They don’t tread water and hope for the best. Reagan and Pope JP II tipped a rotting dictatorship over. He out spent em and used his bully pulpit to badger their old and decrept leaders til they broke. It was a brilliant strategy. When so many around Reagan were saying, no missles in Europe, leave the Soviet nukes frozen, leave them be with their client states in asia, and central America. Reagan said no. He led. He had a vision. Like Lincoln, TR, Truman, and Bush 43, Reagan is even greater years after his fantastic administration. Those great Presidents were dispised and hammered during their time, but it took us many years to truly appreciate them. All in hindsite. Reagans diaries prove even on his way to make that Brandenburg speech, the state dept was trying to remove the plea to Gorby to “tear down this wall”. Reagan knew it was right. And he challenged the Soviets. History and free peoples across Europe and the former Soviet Union love him for it. The Albanians recent reaction to Bush 43 shows how former oppressed people view our leaders. They love the “idea” of a great America. Much more than some of our leftists.

    Comment by Gene in Pennsylvania — June 12, 2007 @ 9:48 pm - June 12, 2007

  8. Dan, Thanks for showing us another side of what was going on that day. We tend to view history through rose-tinted glasses. Only remembering the good, ignoring that bad that is always present alongside the good.

    On our side we have to remember, Reagan wasn’t loved then the way he is now. I’m not saying that GW Bush is another Reagan, far from it. But he is also a good man standing up to the forces of hatred. Thank goodness for Albania, that was too powerful a message of support for even the MSM to ignore.

    Comment by Leah — June 12, 2007 @ 10:56 pm - June 12, 2007

  9. While considering this latest contribution to St. Ronnie’s hagiography, it’s interesting to note that only one President in the last six decades has left office with a higher job approval rating than when he entered. And no, it isn’t the gipper.

    Comment by Ian S — June 12, 2007 @ 11:20 pm - June 12, 2007

  10. it’s interesting to note that only one President in the last six decades has left office with a higher job approval rating than when he entered.

    Six whole points. WOW. Well, when you don’t do anything besides bend over and grab your ankles, that can happen. Too bad he didn’t have 9/11 to ignore, eh?

    Comment by ThatGayConservative — June 13, 2007 @ 1:21 am - June 13, 2007

  11. Hey Dan!

    I call shenanigans. Everybody knows that the whole world loved us unconditionally until Bush came along.

    Comment by ThatGayConservative — June 13, 2007 @ 1:22 am - June 13, 2007

  12. Replace “Jew” with “leftist” and….well…..

    Comment by sean — June 13, 2007 @ 2:43 am - June 13, 2007

  13. Yeah, so great, with Iran-Contra and the 200+ marines blown to bits in Lebanon followed by the quintessential cut and run. It’s nice to swim in your fantasies, like stepping into a warm bath, so relaxing and safe and comfortable. Only it’s bullshit. The USSR had been rotting from the inside for half a century. Reagan was in the right place at the right time, much the way Clinton was for the great economy of the late 90s. So let’s not get carried away. The Gipper was senile and clueless by the time he gave his excellent speech (and it was truly excellent, great speechwriting), and it’s what he’ll be remembered for, a soundbite. That and the mushrooming deficits and the fiasco of Iran-contra, which I just know none of you wants to look at. Maybe if we shut our eyes and clap our hands it’ll go away…only it won’t. Neither will the remains of the dead marines in Lebanon. Keep up with the fantasies, but remember, you’re only fooling yourselves.

    Comment by richard — June 13, 2007 @ 5:03 am - June 13, 2007

  14. I´ve always felt those demonstrations were part of the vast left wing conspiracy. Peter, is it possible that Clinton wasn´t far enough to the left for them? Generally, I don´t remember protests against Clinton or Carter.

    Comment by Roberto — June 13, 2007 @ 10:57 am - June 13, 2007

  15. #14 – Roberto, I can recall in 1979 during the Iran hostage crisis that Greek newspaper editorial cartoons mocked Carter as an ignorant hayseed dullard who didn’t listen to anyone else and took his own stupid advice.

    I think those cartoonists are now working for the New York Times editorial page, but I could be wrong. Certainly the left (non)intelligencia seems to use “stupid,” “country” and “conservative” as their template.

    Peter H.

    Comment by Peter Hughes — June 13, 2007 @ 12:11 pm - June 13, 2007

  16. And all the libtrolls who claim to “love their country” who would not defend a foreign tirade against the President – no matter who sat in the Oval Office – thank you for making my point.

    So much for “politics stop at the water’s edge.” No wonder the terrorists feel emboldened with naysayers such as yourselves. You have only yourselves to blame.

    Peter H.

    Comment by Peter Hughes — June 13, 2007 @ 12:12 pm - June 13, 2007

  17. Dan, if you don’t mind, I’d like to add these two links to stories I read/heard yesterday:

    Time Magazinze Online

    NPR Audio

    I only caught a snippet of the NPR commentary. I realize both links come from liberal media sources, but I thought they might be of interest.

    Comment by Mike — June 13, 2007 @ 12:22 pm - June 13, 2007

  18. #9 ian, I’ll do this once again. It is easy to have high approval ratings during and after a Presidency when you don’t attempt to do any great things. You don’t piss anyone off by accomplishing S Security reform or Medicare reform. Or gays in the military. Clinton just tred water. Real quick now, list 4 great things Mr and Mrs Clinton did during their eight years in office. There were two of them so they should have accomplished twice as many great things but just give us 4………
    Two other points. How many Presidents scored 49 state landslides? How many times did Mr Clinton receive more than 50% of the popular vote?

    Comment by Gene in Pennsylvania — June 13, 2007 @ 9:33 pm - June 13, 2007

  19. I lived in Germany, Frankfurt, actually, during the Clinton presidency. Both my neighbor, who was a lovely Croatian lady who regularly rescued relatives from Bosnia, and the equally lovely Serbian lady who sold me bread every day regularly upbraided me because President Clinton did not intervene to fix the Yugoslavian problems for them. Deus ex machina was all that was expected of him, even as he was abused for being the embodiment of all the stereotypical American failings.

    That same list of American failings, of character, ability, action/inaction, history, was frequently enumerated to me by a variety of friends and acquaintances from all over the world, *always* followed with, “Oh, but not you, trailing wife. Why, one would never even guess you were American if you hadn’t said!” Sadly, Jean-Francois Revel’s _Anti-Americanism_ was not published until a number of years after we moved back Stateside; it would have greatly helped me to understand why people insisted on their imaginary image of America and Americans even in the face of personal experience… and why otherwise exquisitely polite people felt free to be so bloody rude about it! I’ve heard similar stories from friends who lived in Europe in previous decades, which confirms, at least anecdotally, that this hatred of all things American is entirely independent of outside reality like individual presidents or national actions.

    Comment by trailing wife — June 15, 2007 @ 10:05 pm - June 15, 2007

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