Is that what you heard?
The sound of freedom?
Waves of change brings you opportunities.
Where are you?
Are you scared?
Don’t fall asleep.
Is not what you want.
You don’t want to dream anymore…
you want to live.
As I lay there on my bed under freshly laundered sheets, I think to myself that true peace means different things to each one of us. What do you do to experience it? Can you ever truly find it?
We live in a world that wants to suffocate people who look like me. We’ve had enough. We’re exhausted. Enough of the tears, the begging, the fighting for the right to live. Leave us alone! Do yourselves a favour and take your toxic selves to another planet. You don’t deserve to be here, shadowing the beauty of this world with your damaged souls. Leave so that me and my people and those you oppress can live freely.
Late night thoughts.
Emi, July 2020.
Rihanna in ‘Guava Island’ (2019). Directed by Hiro Murai.
It’s a brisk December day in Berlin. The sky is grey, mirroring the group’s sentiment as we walk along what’s left of the city’s infamous wall. What once stood as an impossible barrier separating a bleak, controlled existence from one of vibrancy and freedom now serves as an outdoor exhibit.
Expansive murals cover the entirety of the concrete remains. I watch as tourists from all corners of the world photograph nearly every inch of the wall. Slowly walking alongside the repurposed barrier, I’m stopped by the sight of a small hole within it. No one dwells by this spot, but I’m transfixed by the empty space. How did it come to be? Did someone spend hours chipping away to create a porthole into another life? Perhaps they stood right here, in awe of the unfamiliar world that laid less than a foot ahead.
I make my way onwards until I approach a sudden buildup of bodies crowding a small section of the gallery. As my angle improves, I recognize a vaguely familiar image of two seemingly important men locking lips, eyes closed, heads tilted at just the right angle to express a kind of unwavering love. I attempt to take in the view over the bobbing heads, hands, and cameras of travelers and tourists alike.
The iconic mural replicates a photograph of German Erich Honecker and Russian Leonid Brezhnev, two prominent socialist politicians connecting at the 30th anniversary of Communist East Germany in 1979. This intimate embrace is one of the most popularized images of the socialist fraternal kiss, a formal protocol that bridges European culture with Communist party conduct. The image itself conveys the strength of the connection between East Germany and the Soviet Union, while exposing an intimate alliance between leaders who represent the people of the oppressed and the oppressor. The underlying force behind the art however lies within its symbolic location. This steadfast union placed upon the physical division of two worlds makes what the mural’s artist Dimitri Vrubel calls, “a perfect fit.” That impact continues to be felt by millions of gawking visitors each year, grounded in the mural’s title below:
“My God Help Me to Survive This Deadly Love.”
We board the coach bus once more, this time driving beyond the city center towards the Northern neighborhoods of Berlin. As we navigate through the quiet streets, my thoughts wander to a different time. I stare out the shaky bus window, immersed in the torrent of ideas derived from infusing the city’s divided history with my 21st century perspective. I descend the bus in a daze, approaching a memorial that tributes each East-Berliner who died seeking freedom in the city’s Western half. My group of fellow American students amble past the memorial at a respectful pace, but I find myself cemented in front of the long, portrait-ridden structure.
I submit myself to the monument’s somber allure as the group fades away, losing sight of the present, falling into the past. I read and reread the names of the 140 individuals who lost their lives in an attempt to reach West Berlin, some just a few feet away. I study the black and white faces of each lost soul with deep intensity. The eyes of teenagers, professors, mothers, and babies stare back at me, frozen in time. I wonder what motivated each individual to take action. I think about the many unique and intricate plans to maneuver past the militant border. I consider the fortitude required to pursue this unknown territory.
As I contemplate the people behind the bold pursuit for freedom, my thoughts drift to Bobi, my Czech grandmother who came impossibly close to the same bleak existence.
The woman who woke up every day with a radiant smile to express her thanks for life, proclaiming, “I can see, I can dance, I can sing!” The woman who infallibly brought boxes of linzer cookies with every visit, marking my youth, decidedly becoming bobi cookies. The woman whose extensive language repository, vibrant warmth, and unyielding empathy served to guide dozens of refugees towards peace and belonging in their newfound New York homes.
Witnessing her home country fall to insidious power twice, she knew that this desolate existence was not her own, and was not her only choice. At 20 years old, she left her life in Czechoslovakia behind in pursuit for one she deemed worth living for.
The lives and deaths of 140 strangers connected me further to a world I’ll never know. A world without color, where enduring constraints forbid thoughts of future, of possibility for more. A world of disquieted surveillance that controls every move. Of lives that cannot be considered one’s own.
Freedom had previously existed as a vague notion, one I mindlessly repeated in oaths of allegiance to my country. It wasn’t until I experienced a city split by this very ideal that I came to understand its presence in my own life, and its variable existence in the lives of other Americans.
The freedoms that I possess- to travel and move freely, to express myself with carefree gratification, to learn and think without constraint, just to name a few- are not universally experienced. These freedoms are founded upon privilege. Those who possess them must be compelled to ask what prerequisites accompany the American promise for “liberty and justice for all.”
The Berlin Wall fell on November 9th, 1989- a direct result of shifting government authority, awakened foreign allyship, and civic protest. Over time, these forces brought an end to both the physical barrier and the oppressive government that restricted the lives and freedoms of millions.
Though restrictions upon 21st century freedom may appear differently, the fight for them certainly isn’t new. Rather than combatting explicitly oppressive governing regimes within marked geographic boundaries, America faces the challenge of unveiling and dismantling institutional racism embedded within our nation’s structures. We educate each other about the insidious and often convert manifestations of modern racism. We challenge the systems that oppress millions of citizens to preserve the power and privilege of others. We debate the existence of monuments that hold historical and symbolic power of these oppressive forces. We demand that our governing officials combat these evils with collaborative and comprehensive legislation.
Without action, we choose to uphold the very oppressive barriers that our nation notoriously fights elsewhere. We choose to accept the contradictory foundations within “the land of the free.” Without action, we choose ignorance.
What is freedom ?
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07122020, 08:41 am ||
No one likes to be caged and not be able to do the things they want. But the world we live in and the society we deal with have established unwritten rules that leaves us with no choice but to live with it. It feels like that we are thriving just to survive - regardless of are we happy or not.
Tenho por meu desespero
Dentro de mim
Dentro de mim o castigo
Eu não te quero
Eu digo que não te quero
E de noite
De noite sonho contigo
Freedom of Speech is not Freedom from Consequences
Have you ever felt that you are watching your life through a window?!
I always feel that way that my soul caged in that body and I can’t free it
It’s scary….. emm Sometimes
I want my soul to be free , i want to catch feelings again no matter happiness , sadness or whatever
I am tired of being only Empty and Anxious .