From the Publisher
A word from Publisher Brian Rowland The Value of Freedom – And an Open Mind
By Brian Rowland
Last month, I was given the invitation and opportunity to travel to Berlin for a four-day weekend hosted by Germany’s tourism department. At first I asked myself why would I want to go to what I thought would be a depressing city inhabited by generations of people frozen in a vortex of poverty from the Great War through the Cold War.
I went to Berlin with a preconceived notion, only to sit here upon my return kicking myself for potentially missing such an educational and exceptional journey. I must say, I learned and understand more about what that city and country have endured for the past 70 years than any history
book could ever teach me. A couple of issues from now I will share the details in our travel
I sat one afternoon for several hours with a young lady named Nicole Roebel who worked for the tourism agency that sponsored the trip for six journalists. She was born and grew up in the eastern portion of the country, which was run by the strong arm of the German Democratic Republic (GDR). At the age of 22, she was liberated overnight when the Wall came down. I asked her question after question to get an understanding of what life was like behind the Iron Curtain.
To my surprise, she indicated that her childhood was quite normal. She had a horse, went to summer camp and had family
vacations. Nicole was educated with the three R’s of learning and felt whole and fulfilled with her childhood memories. But as I probed further, I found the dark underside of this way of controlled living.
Nicole shared an experience that forever will be etched in her mind. First, let’s put it into perspective. What I am about to relate is the real experience of a naïve, precocious second-grade girl.
Behind closed curtains, her family could receive TV signals
from the West and, despite the fear of persecution, her parents
wanted her to learn more than what was prescribed by the GDR. From this exposure to the television programming, she learned much about the forbidden American way of life and how her fellow countrymen lived and thought on the western side of the Berlin Wall. She learned a great deal;
unfortunately, one tidbit of knowledge almost led to the downfall of her entire family.
One day in second grade, her teacher asked who was the leader of government. “Helmut Kohl,” she said with her hand proudly raised. Wrong answer – Kohl was the chancellor
of West Germany. Within days, Nicole’s entire family was summoned to the city of Potsdam to stand as a group before a tribunal of judges. Hours of questions later, they were spared separation and confinement (her father convinced them of this innocent mistake) to return to a home placed under surveillance for years.
This crystallized for me what our freedoms mean and how important it is for our nation to ensure that nothing like this, or what happened before under the rule of Hitler, ever could or would happen to a population today and those of generations to come.
It also brings to the surface a fatal flaw of mankind as we know it – the imposition of one’s values on another, and how so many people’s lives can be affected by so few. I also am encouraged by the spirit of humans to resist
oppression in all walks of life and to make sacrifices to follow their hearts and attain their dreams. This quest, I hope, will lead us to a better future, knowing these cycles have always been there.
I hope you will choose to make one person’s life a little better at this special time of year. I also ask you to practice tolerance and acceptance and allow yourself and those you care for to experience all that life and other experiences have to offer with an open mind. We have it very good here in America, and the freedoms we enjoy never should be taken for granted.