Berlin's wall and ours

What that signifier of the Cold War indicates about our unsettled historical moment

The Berlin Wall.
(Image credit: JOHN MACDOUGALL/AFP/Getty Images)

Where were you when the wall came down?

The question is prompted by the news that the Berlin Wall has now been down for longer than it had been up in the first place. A cruel and ugly signifier of the Cold War, an admission on the part of the German Democratic Republic that its version of socialism had become a literal prison, the wall was a boundary in time as well as space. You could deface it, decorate it, defy it, demand that it be torn down. But while it still stood, it defined the age.

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