I’ve wanted to say so much about this incident in Berlin. God knows, I love that city. I grew up there. Spent my entire high school years and an additional one bombastically promenading down the darker streets, high chinning into underground clubs, dancing with such a boastful pretentiousness that people were sure I’d one day be a cult hero….with my teased mohawk, stark eye make up. I’m smiling. Good times.
At once and forever, many will shout to recite the usual rhetoric that befalls tragedy. Prevention. Dismissal of certain person. An immediate need to blame you while you blame me. Signs will be posted that shout, “We will not be divided,” and “We stand together.” Fists will be raised in solidarity. Facebook profiles will probably be shaded with the hint of the German flag. Hashtags will scream a word or two that says we are all one. People in the modern world do what they can to show compassion, nothing short of what used to be something as simple as lighting a prayer candle. I don’t want to remark on the tragedy. I want to tell you about Berliners.
I know that city very well. My perceptions of resilience were cultivated there. I can attest that much of what I might say could be generational, and some of the younger ones may not understand that Berliner’s are a decidedly resilient people. Berlin is a unique place that has, historically, had a huge group of artistically wonderful people that recognize and capture a fundamental truth about life: it can be hard. You will lose people, you will see death, you will weather strong winds that can destroy some, but strengthen Berliners. They’ve been showing an unusual solidarity for years that most of the world doesn’t quite understand.
Berliners celebrate life quicker and better post destruction that many people can. They’ve been doing it for years. Because you see, being a Berliner is much like being a “concept” rather a caption of citizenship; it’s a state of mind, not a piece of paperwork. And it was resiliently built like this during the Cold War, when the city was split smack in half by a wall that demonstrated freedom and totalitarianism. I lived there while the Wall was up, and when the Wall was destroyed. And I have to confess that brilliance that is uniquely Berlin was cultivated when the Wall was up. It showed the totalitarians on the other side, “This is what freedom looks like.” Berlin was a solid place where everything goes, nothing stops us, we resist, and we always win, because we have truth and freedom on our side. You cannot stop a Berliner, they will always outlast you, because there is always more to see, more to do, more to experience, more to feel in a city that has been blessed with a citizenry of strong, optimistic, hopeful people despite what they have already been through. They keep going. They show those on the other side of freedom that you cannot dismiss, nor disrupt a Berliner. Life will move on, we’ll carry on. Your desire to hurt and kill is but a dent in the history of a very solid people.
If I may, and I hope it doesn’t sound crass, I’d like to share a comment made during the first Gulf War. Berlin was under threat of attack. A disco had already been bombed. And when asking a friend, “Wow. Things are getting serious, what are you going to do?”
He said, “I’m going to the Linientreu to go dancing….you coming?”
I smiled, knowing that certain particular that is Berlin and said, “Absolutely.”