Twenty-five years ago today, grateful citizens of Berlin tore down a gun-lined, concrete-and-barbed-wire barrier that had long divided their country into openly democratic West Germany and totalitarian communist East German. This fall of the Berlin Wall has been celebrated ever since as symbolizing the end of “the Cold War.” [photo: Steve Eason/Hulton Archive]
You’ve likely been told this fact in the past. You’ve also likely not cared enough to find out what a Cold War is anyway. Now, minus the heat of social studies class or a politically-inflamed history professor, COED is here to lay out the facts of frigid combat–cooly.
Following World War II, the United States and the Soviet Union (it’s fine; you can just say “Russia”) emerged as the world’s two reigning superpowers. Both sides kept nuclear weapons permanently locked and loaded, thereby keeping their stalemate plenty tense (just consult with any hardcore punk lyrics of the era for proper commentary).
Rather than replicate the two previous world wars, however, America and the Soviets duked it out strategically—mostly. Between strategic alliances with other countries and technological showdowns like the space race, each side indirectly battled one another the horrible old-fashioned way in places such as Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Latin America. That war was plenty “hot” for anybody caught in the crossfire.
By the end of the 1980s, the Soviet Union proved to be bankrupt and global-scaled communism began collapsing everywhere except China (which, yes, is a very big “except”). The joyful obliteration of the Berlin Wall nicely captures the positive aspects of human freedom, but it also put a rubble-strewn kibosh on a half-century’s worth of some extremely entertaining Cold War propaganda. And now Berlin is a great place to study abroad.
While the Russkies painted us as “imperialist dogs,” Hollywood portrayed our enemies as mindless brutes out to enslave the world. Never did that notion kick more ass than in the 1984 action classic Red Dawn, but never was it more campy and hilarious than in Red Nightmare–a 1962 short starring Dragnet‘s demigod of deadpan, Jack Webb.
So let’s celebrate the end of the Cold War by giving ourselves a nightmare… a real Red Nightmare!