the European in protest

Berlin, near the Humboldt University

After the History Museum, from the Church onwards, toward the Humboldt University and then until the Brandenberg Gate beyond it, Berlin has taken on the feel and majesty of classical Rome. I walked a good length on the Eastern side, where the now-historical run of the fallen wall is still seen, but as a great long stone line on the ground, and a part of the wall is left to stand lest anyone forget. I walked over to the spot where Hitler is said to have shot himself beneath it, and then I returned to the History Museum and went over the Bridge. It had gotten dark, and a procession had taken the street at the end of the bridge.

Two policemen came up and I turned to them. "Ten minutes," they answered my inquiring eyes, wanting me to wait until the long march had passed. But I saw the policemen were being extra cautious for a foreign man, because very soon I could go stand on the pavement and take pictures, all of which came out dark, even if they were marching with torches. I cursed my incompetence with the camera.

Then, in Frankfurt, I was admiring the Alte Opera which is really a new opera, but an exact, expensive repetition of what it was before its destruction. Its side was covered in hoardings advertising the English-language production of Evita which is coming up in December.

Suddenly, green police cars appeared on the cobblestone, and in moments the reason came over the air: a steady beat of drums. Soon, the procession came marching to the drums and disappeared, and the police cars followed them. The marchers were intensely focused, their aspect grave and cerebral, and the issue for the march seemed terribly important. I thought of home, and the hollow noisy ring in the way we shout our slogans—and I admired the dignity in the European protest.

Then I remembered the passion and the ferocity that European processions have assumed, and the fury of their revolutions, and the lynchings which far exceed ours in number and in organization, and I remembered that some of them happened not too distant from now. And, the wall the Europeans brought down was built also by Europeans, the same men with another-colored ideology.

Watching Danton's Death in the National Theater in London, my mind wandered to other places and other times, like Cambodia, and 1975, and to the men who led the last revolution there, and who took their lessons while they were students in Paris. That is how I viewed the Europeans this last three-week trip in October, with colored eyes, but I cannot ever lose my respect for those serious, reticent, thoughtful people.

A protest march in Berlin