Saturday, June 6, 2009
The icy vodka went down easy. Very sweet, very smooth. Stories were told. Photographs were studied. Questions asked. Imponderables thoughtfully discussed. History is in our hands. Not every detail, not every moment, but in ways large and small, we are the makers of our days and times. We are invited, challenged, urged to take up the tasks of changing and forging, of building and, sometimes, tearing down. Many friends emailed me with comments about the June 4 blog post. Again and again you wrote, "I had no idea." "Thanks for educating me." I've whined here about this story being lost in the other news of that day twenty years ago. But that's not the main point I hope to make. That main point is this, we can do something. We can do something important together. We can make change. We can change history. In fact, I'm pretty sure we did. The other comment I got from many of you was this, "if only the outcome for China had been so promising." The dangers in Poland and throughout Eastern Europe were serious in those days, perhaps less so by the last years of the 1980's, as the USSR was struggling under a staggering economic load and the "perestroika" and "glasnost" policies of Gorbachev were underway. But there were Soviet tanks on Polish soil the morning of that election and there had been Soviet tanks on the streets of Eastern European cities within the memory of most everyone alive. It wasn't nothing the people of Poland accomplished. It was a defiant and courageous act, built on the actions of thousands over a decade, the wisdom and patience of women and men who took time to carefully prepare for a new era. Providence and good fortune smiled. And June 4, 1989 was just the beginning.