Tear down this wall!

Advarsel: I sidste uge skrev jeg en post om Ronald Reagans “The Boys of Pointe du Hoc”-tale (1984), og allerede nu er jeg så i samme boldgade igen.

Men lad mig lige begynde et andet sted.  Jeg er som antydet forleden p.t. i Cambridge, og der stødte jeg forleden til en celeber middag på smukke Clare College aldeles uventet ind i min gamle, gode ven, Finn Ziegler (den piberygende økonom og liberalist og 180grader-skribent, ikke den engang cigarrygende, men nu afdøde violinist).  Finn har jeg kendt i knap 25 år, og hvad jeg i sin tid først lærte om public choice teori, lærte jeg ved at ryge pibe sammen med Finn og vores fælles mentor, Otto.

Nå, men henover college-portvinen gjorde Finn og jeg, hvad man så ofte gør, når man får tyndere hår og højere humør, nemlig at mindes “gode gamle dage”.  Og dér slog det mig pludselig: I disse dage for præcis 20 år siden befandt netop Finn og jeg os sammen, på vores første tur til Guds Eget Land, hvor vi var ovre sammen, for som studerende at deltage i et sommerseminar på Marymount College, arrangeret af Institute for Humane Studies.  Vi var ankommet til New York, hvor vi skulle spendere et par dage, inden turen videre til Washington og Virginia.  I den store by havde vi allerede første dag shoppet bøger i stor stil i den nu mere eller mindre hedengangne Laissez Faire Books, som dengang lå på Broadway.  Det var før internettet–før man kunne bestille bøger fra den anden side af verden med et klik på få sekunder, og før man med e-mail kunne lære alle mulige at kende uden nogensinde at møde dem.  Så nu var vi–med en upassende blandingsmetafor–i frihedens Mekka, hvor vi kunne se og købe flere interessante bøger, end vi troede eksisterede, og hvor vi kunne drikke kaffe og hyggesludre med alle mulige andre, der mente de samme gakkede ting som os selv–inkl. den navnkundige nestor blandt amerikanske libertarianere, Roy Childs.  Vi boede til med i en lejlighed på Upper West Side hos LFB’s medarbejder Charlie Fowler; hvordan vi lige præcis endte hos ham, husker jeg faktisk ikke, men jeg husker, at hans “casa” var vores “casa”, fordi han skulle ud og rejse, og at han inden da arrangerede store dele af vores besøg i Washington ved at ringe rundt til frihedsorienterede venner og bekendte.  (Som sagt, det var før internettet.  Det var også dengang før liberaliseringerne af flytrafikken, og jeg husker endnu, at den billigste returbillet kostede ca. 7.000 kr.) 

Anyway … Finn og jeg nød dagene i NYC, traskede byen tynd og stod på toppen af World Trade Center og blev fotograferet med Frihedsgudinden i baggrunden.  Vi var henholdsvis 22 og 20 og følte os ganske frie i frihedens eget land.  Det omfattede uvilkårligt også, at vi fik drukket nogle øl, og jeg husker klart, omend med smerte, den næste morgen.  Det var hamrende varmt, som næsten kun NYC kan være om sommeren, når solen bager ned i asfaltjunglen og blandes med de fugtige rester af den caribiske strøm sydfra–og så tømmermænd.  Jeg gik ind i stuen, hvor Finn havde sovet på en madras på gulvet, og hvor han nu sad og zappede på de 117 kanaler.  Ret mange af dem viste det samme, nemlig en live-reportage direkte fra Brandenburger Tor.  Og dér–i dag for 20 år siden, den 12. juni 1987–stod han, Ronnie-manden, “the Gipper”, og holdt talen:

“Behind me stands a wall that encircles the free sectors of this city, part of a vast system of barriers that divides the entire continent of Europe. From the Baltic, south, those barriers cut across Germany in a gash of barbed wire, concrete, dog runs, and guard towers. Farther south, there may be no visible, no obvious wall. But there remain armed guards and checkpoints all the same–still a restriction on the right to travel, still an instrument to impose upon ordinary men and women the will of a totalitarian state. Yet it is here in Berlin where the wall emerges most clearly; here, cutting across your city, where the news photo and the television screen have imprinted this brutal division of a continent upon the mind of the world. Standing before the Brandenburg Gate, every man is a German, separated from his fellow men. Every man is a Berliner, forced to look upon a scar. 

President von Weizsacker has said, “The German question is open as long as the Brandenburg Gate is closed.” Today I say: As long as the gate is closed, as long as this scar of a wall is permitted to stand, it is not the German question alone that remains open, but the question of freedom for all mankind.

… In the 1950s, Khrushchev predicted: “We will bury you.” But in the West today, we see a free world that has achieved a level of prosperity and well-being unprecedented in all human history. In the Communist world, we see failure, technological backwardness, declining standards of health, even want of the most basic kind–too little food. Even today, the Soviet Union still cannot feed itself. After these four decades, then, there stands before the entire world one great and inescapable conclusion: Freedom leads to prosperity. Freedom replaces the ancient hatreds among the nations with comity and peace. Freedom is the victor.

And now the Soviets themselves may, in a limited way, be coming to understand the importance of freedom. We hear much from Moscow about a new policy of reform and openness. Some political prisoners have been released. Certain foreign news broadcasts are no longer being jammed. Some economic enterprises have been permitted to operate with greater freedom from state control.

Are these the beginnings of profound changes in the Soviet state? Or are they token gestures, intended to raise false hopes in the West, or to strengthen the Soviet system without changing it? We welcome change and openness; for we believe that freedom and security go together, that the advance of human liberty can only strengthen the cause of world peace. There is one sign the Soviets can make that would be unmistakable, that would advance dramatically the cause of freedom and peace.

General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization: Come here to this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”

Whoa! Og, som man siger, “the rest is history …”

Update: John Fund skrev tirsdag om årsdagen i Wall Street Journal, og ovennævnte Finn Ziegler onsdag aften i en klumme på 180grader.dk.

5 Comments

  1. Put Ron on the Rock:Der er pt fire præsidenter på Mount Rushmore. Washington og Jefferson som nationens skabere, Lincoln, der holdt den sammen i dens sværeste stund og så Teddy Roosevelt, der skød udrydningstruede dyr.Der bør være fem: Ronald Wilson Reagan har sin naturlige plads blandt disse.

  2. Orla Schantz

    12. juni 2007 at 08:05

    Det var faktisk en nu næsten ukendt speech-writer Peter Robinson, der stod bag Reagans tale og sætningen “Tear down this wall”, og ikke den navnkundige Peggy Noonan. Det fremgår af Christopher Buckleys anmeldelse (in The Washington Monthly) af Peter Robinsons bog It’s My Party: A Republican’s Messy Love Affair with the GOP’Her er et lille udsnit af Christopher Buckleys anmeldelse,Until now, Peter Robinson has been one of the lesser-known of George Bush’s and Ronald Reagan’s speech writers, but with this sprightly and amusing book, that may change. He has an honest, uncomplicated, almost naive prose style and appears not to have a mean bone in his body, which really ought to disqualify him from writing about politics.Robinson also has some piquant anecdotes to relate about his time at the White House.In 1987 he traveled to Berlin with the White House advance party, having been assigned the speech that President Reagan would give in front of the Berlin Wall. He interviewed the ranking U.S. diplomat in Berlin to get his ideas about what Reagan should say. The diplomat, who could barely be bothered to see him, tried to brush him off with some State Department tapioca about how there should be more air routes into Berlin and what a jolly good idea it was that Berlin should host the Olympics. Above all, the dip cautioned, the President must not mention the Wall, since “[t]he people of Berlin had long ago gotten used to it.”Robinson then did something unusual, namely seek out some actual Berliners. He asked them if they’d gotten used to the wall. They nearly choked on their sausages and told him, in no uncertain terms, about the anguish of their divided families. It seemed that they had not “gotten used” to the Berlin Wall.Robinson wrote into the speech the line, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.” This is, you will recognize, one of Ronald Reagan’s most quoted lines. But back to 1987. You’ll already have anticipated what happened: the Berlin diplomat, the State Department, the National Security Council, the White House staff all went bananas. Was Peter Robinson crazy? Take it out! Out, out! But he would not take it out. Among other reasons, the Leader of the Free World kind of liked the line. The incident escalated, with 30-year-old Robinson going toe-to-toe with, among others, National Security Council Director Colin Powell. (It was disappointing to read this.) Finally, Reagan had to say to his chief of staff, Kenneth Duberstein, with a trace of Reaganesque irony, Look here, old shoe, who’s President here? Even skilled White House-hand Duberstein had to back down. Reagan went on to deliver the line. The rest is history.

  3. Institute for Humane Studies – er det ikke en del af Koch-familien, ligesom Cato Institute?

  4. Lidt afhængig af hvordan man definerer det … jo. “The Kochtopus” …

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