In 1989, ten years after I studied Cold War policy and politics in East and West Europe while living in Germany, citizens on both sides of the Berlin Wall used hammers and small chisels to destroy this symbol of communist oppression that had stood for 28 long and heartbreaking years.
I snapped this photo from my dorm room in 1979 using a Kodak Instamatic—a far cry from today’s digital cameras.
The wall didn’t just physically divide a city—it was a chasm of political philosophies, where personal freedoms like free elections, religious choice, and basic human rights were oppressed.
The wall fell on November 9, 1989, and Germans still pause on this day each year to celebrate the democratic freedoms all of them now enjoy.
This week, while Germany was honoring the anniversary of the Berlin Wall destruction, the United States of America was practicing democracy in another way—the American election.
Candidates engaged in races at all levels of government across the country, from school boards and city councils to state houses. Then, in the early hours of November 9, winners were announced.
Now that votes are tallied, we’re seeing people express their attitudes and opinions about the outcomes in uniquely American post-election celebrations and protests.
After personally witnessing a city physically divided and then reunited, I have grown to believe this free expression of ideals is actually the cornerstone of democracy.
Even though we may be divided by political perspectives, the world watched as defeated candidates conceded their races and newly-elected officeholders almost immediately shrugged off the slings and arrows of difficult campaigns and began to unite behind what is best for their constituencies.
This magnanimous transfer of power is the envy of the world. While our campaigns have become too negative, personal, expensive, and lengthy, the final analysis is something to celebrate.
After her defeat in the race for the highest elected office in America, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton explained this perspective best in a gracious concession speech.
She told her supporters, “I count my blessings every single day that I am an American, and I still believe as deeply as I ever have that if we stand together and work together with respect for our differences, strength in our convictions, and love for this nation, our best days are still ahead of us. Because, you know, I believe we are stronger together, and we will go forward together. And you should never, ever regret fighting for that.”
If your candidate of choice didn’t win on November 8, use this opportunity to stay engaged in the political process.
And join me in being thankful that the only dividing line we have to face is philosophical.
Mark Lehman is vice president of Governmental Affairs for the Texas Association of REALTORS®.
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