The one who thinks differently

A segment of the Berlin Wall on display at the Reagan Library in Simi Valley, California, 2004

A segment of the Berlin Wall on display at the Reagan Library in Simi Valley, California, 2004

“Freedom only for the supporters of the government, only for the members of one party – however numerous they may be – is no freedom at all. Freedom is always and exclusively freedom for the one who thinks differently. Not because of any fanatical concept of “justice” but because all that is instructive, wholesome and purifying in political freedom depends on this essential characteristic, and its effectiveness vanishes when ‘freedom’ becomes a special privilege.”Rosa Luxemburg

It is more than a little ironic that this quote from a German Marxist (who died in 1919) would seem such appropriate words for this photograph of a section of the Berlin Wall, one of the most prominent symbols of oppression of our generation.  On this day 109 years ago, eight years before Rosa Luxemburg died, a person was born who would change the course of world history in his single-minded determination to defeat despair.  His name was Ronald Reagan, and even those who opposed his politics generally agree that his unflinching resolve helped to bring down the Berlin Wall.

The plaque at the base of this segment of the wall reads: “An authentic section of the Berlin Wall, donated in April 1990 by the Berlin Wall Commemorative Group to President Reagan for his unwavering dedication to humanitarianism and freedom over communism throughout his presidency.  This segment measures 3.5 feet by 10 feet, and weighs approximately 6000 pounds.”

Universal freedom sounds good in abstract terms, but is exceedingly difficult in practice.  It can be crushed outright by obvious tyrants, but more often it is negotiated away, little by little, as oppression creeps in to silence unpopular viewpoints and controversial debates.  Yet heroes throughout history have shown us that even those who are denied physical or political freedom can remain free in spirit, indomitable in the face of intimidation or imprisonment.

This post was originally published seven years ago today. You can view the original with comments here.


  1. Amen to that. 🙂

    • Thanks, I’m glad you agree.

  2. Susan

    What a great post for the day, Julia! We went to the dedication of the Reagan Library, which has a segment of the Berlin wall. Such an amazing time in history.

    • Yes, I’ve been to the Reagan Library twice, and loved it both times. It had expanded greatly (seemed like almost doubled) when I went back there in 2011. The Nixon Library in Yorba Linda is also fascinating. So much history, and much of it took place in my childhood, so it was very interesting to re-visit it from a 50-year-old perspective.

      • Susan

        I’m hoping to get back to the Reagan Library and to the Nixon Library. We’ve been to both the Bush 41 and Bush 43 libraries. And I’ve also been to the Calvin Coolidge Museum in Vermont, while my husband has been to the Herbert Hoover Library in Iowa! The Bush 41 museum is especially extensive because he had such a long public service career. You’re right, they do trigger memories of particular times in our lives.

        • Susan, I would love to visit all of those libraries. The only other Presidential Library I’ve seen is at the Carter Center in my home town of Atlanta. It is a lovely place and it too brings back many memories. Carter’s presidency was an eventful time for me in many ways. During those four years I graduated from college, married Jeff and moved with him to Memphis. I remember double-digit inflation during that time, and how people would camp out all night for the chance to buy a home at the “low” rate of 14% interest! I had a certificate of the deposit that paid 22% interest!! How quickly we forget such things after decades of very low interest and mortgage rates. But as Raynard might say, I digress…

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