Reunited Germany comes of age

It was 18 years ago, in the night from Nov. 9 to Nov. 10, 1989, that the Berlin Wall was opened. I remember hearing this Friday morning on my car radio that the Wall had come down. I remember shaking my head, not wanting to believe that this had actually happened.

Home from work in the late afternoon I turned on the TV while bouncing a screaming infant around. The pictures were so tremendous, that WiseMan and WiseWoman put our ancient baby carriage in our very old car and headed off the Lübeck, just an hour's drive and on the border between East and West Germany.

We walked through downtown Lübeck during the evening, the atmosphere was amazing. These strange East German cars were driving around, people were giving them chocolate and bananas and flowers. Everyone was smiling at strangers - something Germans seldom do - and in quite an euphoric state.

When we were given a banana I realized that in our ancient baby carriage we probably looked like East Germans. Whatever. It was such a great feeling to be part of all of this.

The feeling didn't last. The troubles of the reunification were soon on us, not the least of which is the special tax we pay in addition to our normal taxes for the "Aufbau-Ost", reconstruction of the East. I think that now that Germany has come of age, this tax should be rescinded.

Can you still tell the difference between East and West? I can. I live in the West and work in the East. There are still many subtle differences in mentality in the older generations. With my students - most of whom were not yet of school age when the wall came down - I usually cannot tell anymore if they were born in the East or West. Most live in the trendier parts of Berlin, which are in the former Eastern part of Berlin.

Germany is reunified. The voices that called for the reconstruction of the Wall - 10 meters higher - have dimmed. We are one nation now, for better or for worse. Germany has grown up.

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