Words and Walls

The Berlin Wall serves as example and warning.

A number of years ago, when I was a boy visiting my grandmother in West Berlin, I escaped from the apartment. I loved my grandmother, but an eight-year-old can only stand so many hours of lace doilies and plumb cake. As I was exploring the cobbled streets of her quiet neighborhood, an elderly man stopped me to ask directions to a store. I answered that I didn’t know. He noted my accent.

“Where are you from?”

“America,” I said.

“What are you doing in Berlin?”

In my best pidgin German, I told him the story of how my father had served in the Air Force and married a German girl, and now I spent summers visiting my mother’s family in Berlin.

The man, in turn, told me how wonderful America was, how Americans are such great friends to Berliners. The conversation stirred in me a funny feeling of national pride over something I didn’t earn.

Read the whole post in Inside Higher Ed.

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