, 13 tweets, 3 min read Read on Twitter
(THREAD) A Cautionary Tale About Building Walls Along A Border

Let me tell you a story about walls. See, it turns out I have a personal experience with a wall. I went behind the Iron Curtain in 1983 at the peak of cold war tension. I was 12 years old. /1
My father was a professor and he took sabbatical so we could live in Europe for a few years. The US and Russia weren’t getting along: the US skipped the 1980 winter Olympics in Russia and Russia skipped the 1984 summer Olympics in Los Angeles to protest each other. /2
The TV movie-drama World War III premiered a year earlier about a Soviet invasion of the United States in response to a US embargo of grain exports. The movie Red Dawn, about a Soviet invasion of the United States was in production and would air the following year. /3
Americans felt like the future of the earth was at stake, and at the time, we weren’t sure if our worldview of peaceful freedom would prevail, or if the Soviet worldview of creating a bloc of countries with people trapped behind walls would prevail./4
Winston Churchill introduced the moniker “Iron Curtain” in a speech in Fulton, MO to describe how residents of the Soviet bloc were kept in the dark and not allowed to travel beyond their fortress of a national boundary, symbolized most visibly by the Berlin Wall./5
The year before, Pink Floyd released their famous album about tearing down a wall. In 1987 Ronald Reagan famously said in “tear down this wall.” Everyone agreed the wall was bad: it symbolized conflict, lack of peace, lack of freedom. Bad guys built walls, good guys didn’t./6
It was in this context that I went behind the Iron Curtain into Czechoslovakia (now split into two countries, the Czech Republic and Slovakia). I saw that wall as a wide-eyed 12-year old when my family traveled to Prague so my father could have some scientific meetings. /7
The experience was ethereal in some way. The entire country was wrapped with a fortress of a boundary with a wall topped with razor wire that encircled it and then another barrier further in with a space between that served as a no-mans land of sorts. /8
We were in that space as our papers were inspected. Men w/machine guns stared at us while we waited for permission to pass. My mother calmly said, pointing with her cigarette, don’t go over that line or that man there will shoot you. It was an impressive thought. I sat still./9
I asked my mother, “why do they have a wall around their country?”

She responded: “To trap the people in so they can’t leave.”

I asked, “How do leaders convince people to build a wall around themselves that will trap them?” /10
My mother, ever-insightful and without missing a beat: “That’s easy: you just tell them that the wall is to keep the other people out.”

That has hung with me ever since, and is ever-present in my mind today. /END
Please forgive the errors. I got the date of the Olympics in Russia wrong and we went on sabbatical for a few months not a few years. Oh well, that’s what I get for using this format for long form writing.
Missing some Tweet in this thread?
You can try to force a refresh.

Like this thread? Get email updates or save it to PDF!

Subscribe to Michael E. Webber
Profile picture

Get real-time email alerts when new unrolls are available from this author!

This content may be removed anytime!

Twitter may remove this content at anytime, convert it as a PDF, save and print for later use!

Try unrolling a thread yourself!

how to unroll video

1) Follow Thread Reader App on Twitter so you can easily mention us!

2) Go to a Twitter thread (series of Tweets by the same owner) and mention us with a keyword "unroll" @threadreaderapp unroll

You can practice here first or read more on our help page!

Did Thread Reader help you today?

Support us! We are indie developers!

This site is made by just three indie developers on a laptop doing marketing, support and development! Read more about the story.

Become a Premium Member and get exclusive features!

Premium member ($3.00/month or $30.00/year)

Too expensive? Make a small donation by buying us coffee ($5) or help with server cost ($10)

Donate via Paypal Become our Patreon

Thank you for your support!