The news had been more and more exciting in recent weeks. As a FEXer (foreign extemporaneous speaking) in high school speech competition, I had been reading and watching everything I could. Of course ever since Mikhail Gorbachev had announced glasnost, the developments from Eastern and Central Europe had been increasingly interesting.
That morning I woke up like any day and wandered into the den and turned the television on. I watched the Today Show faithfully in 1989 (they actually covered news back then). And as the image filled the television screen it was of Tom Brokaw standing before the Berlin Wall, except that instead of the normal dismal gray images, it was overrun by people.
I started yelling and my mother came running. And when she grasped what I was saying and what was on the tv, we held each other, jumped up and down, and cried tears of joy. This long nightmare of the Cold War, which had dominated life since her childhood, was coming to an end. This moment we all dreamed of but had not imagined would happen so soon was actually happening.
I don't think one can overstate the importance and significan of Nov. 9, 1989.
It was the beginning of months of exciting moments as one after another of the Eastern Bloc countries collapsed and democracy and human rights triumphed. This culminated in the moment after Christmas in 1991 when sitting with my family around the television we watched Mikhail Gorbachev's final speech as President of the USSR as that nation dissolved into memory.
It was the triumph of the open society over competing ideologies. This was the meaning of Francis Fukuyama's infamous statement about the "end of history." Though I think he overstated his case, there is some truth to the idea that the human race seems to have decided that the open, liberal, democratic society is the best arrangement in which to live (caveats in a moment).
If you read George Orwell or other writers particularly from between the two world wars, you realize that even in Western Europe there was ideological debate about the best form of human society. Various forms of fascism and communism competed for allegiance, and not of the fringe of society, but of influential, prominent members.
It seems that in 2009 there may be a threat to this open society from religious fundamentalism (of both the Christian and Islam varieties). But I don't think it is an ideological threat commanding the allegiance of the educated elite like communism and fascism once did. It seems to be a threat of force and violent take over.
Maybe there is an ideological challenge from the sort of Confucian society exhibited in China? But I hold to the faith that even this will not last against the human drive to the liberal, open society which will come to China someday (I still hold that Tiannemann is a sign of that).
In this triumph of the open society, Nov. 9, 1989 was the fulfillment of July 4, 1776, as the form of society we established as an actuality triumphed in a worldwide people's democratic revolution (my twenty-year-old term for what happened in the late 80's and early 90's).
Finally, Nov. 9, 1989 and the collapse of the Berlin Wall was a further sign to me as a person of faith, that the universe does in fact bend toward justice and that the reign of God continues to slowly dawn upon creation.