by Randolph T. Holhut
American Reporter Correspondent
September 25, 2014
PEOPLE POWER REMAINS A POTENT FORCE FOR CHANGE
DUMMERSTON, Vt. -- The autumn of 1989 was an amazing time in the history of the world.
Think of what the world was like when that year began.
The Soviet Union was our moral rival.
The Iron Curtain that descended over Eastern Europe after the end of World War II was still in place.
Tens of thousands of U.S. forces were still in West Germany, and still kept watch to the East, eyes peeled for the thousands of Warsaw Pact tanks that were supposed to flood through the Fulda Gap in a Soviet invasion.
Berlin was still a divided city, and the wall that went up nearly four decades earlier still stood.
Yet over the course of a few weeks that fall, things we thought were permanent vanished.
Citizens in Poland, Czechoslavkia, Hungary and East Germany took history into their own hands. There was a mass realization the Iron Curtain was about to collapse, and one determined push could send everything tumbling down.
And that is exactly what happened. The repressive governments that had kept the nations of Eastern Europe in line were challenged, and one by one, they crumbled under the weight of their own lies.
The climax came on Nov. 9, 1989, on what still I consider the most miraculous night of our lifetimes. The citizens on both sides of the Berlin Wall showed up en masse, and the guards fled. The sledgehammers came out, and a hated symbol of tyranny began to be knocked down for good.
The events of the whirlwind autumn of 1989 - "Solidarity" rising again in Poland, the "Peaceful Revolution" in East Germany and the razing of the Berlin Wall, the "Velvet Revolution" in Czechoslovakia - were fueled by throngs of nonviolent protesters in streets and squares who risked everything to gain the chance to live in truth.
For me, that's what came to mind watching the scenes of the more than 300,000 people who participated in the People's Climate March in New York on Sept. 21, and of the millions more that participated in actions around the world.
It was the largest political protest since the global marches in February 2013 protesting the U.S. rush to wage war on Iraq.
The climate march is more than just a one day, feel-good event. It means something much larger.
As the electoral process has become nothing more than a cruel charade, we need to remember the words of the Rev. Daniel Berrigan: "There is only one place where those who care about justice need to be - in the streets. Only the power of nonviolent action will create the social and economic change we so desperately need."
From Mahatma Gandhi to Martin Luther King to Václav Havel, the men and women who, in Berrigan's words, "are willing to pay the price for being human" can ultimately remake the world.
The powerful people and institutions that are enabling climate change to happen will be as difficult to dislodge as the governments that ruled behind the Iron Curtain. But the moment has arrived when their lies are no longer credible.
Sure, there will be setbacks. What little media attention the marchers garnered was swept away the following day when U.S. forces started bombing Syria. But I believes the environmental issues addressed by the Climate March, and the solutions advocated by the marchers, are not going away.
Our planet's climate is drastically changing. The science says it is so. Our senses say it is so. And the window to do something about it is closing fast. The same power that tore down the Berlin Wall can tear down the wall of denial and inaction, and start building the future we need.
AR's Chief of Correspondents, Randolph T. Holhut, holds an M.P.A. from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University and is an award-winning journalist in New England for more than 30 years. He edited "The George Seldes Reader" (Barricade Books). He can be reached at email@example.com.