Darryl Campbell in The Bygone Bureau:
After all, almost no one in the under-30 set — certainly no one under twenty — can remember what it was like to grow up under the shadow of the Soviet Union. We Millennials grew up fearing nuclear power plants more than ballistic missiles; we’ve drawn our political battle lines around legalized abortion and gay marriage, not Marxism and its derivatives. And however we understand our nation’s role in the world, whatever present or future threats we might see in China, Russia, or the Islamic world, we know that we are far removed from the East-versus-West world of the Cold War. Soviet-style Communism has gone, in the words of Leon Trotsky, into the dustbin of history.
In a 1989 essay, Francis Fukuyama argued that the collapse of the Soviet Union showed that there were no viable alternatives to Western-style liberal democracy. We’d arrived, in other words, at the “end of history.” I don’t know if his thesis is true or even provable — Fukuyama himself later backed away from it in his 2002 book Our Posthuman Future — but it seems to me that he’s at least got something right about our relationship to the past.
Those of us who grew up after the Wall fell may never completely understand what it was like before November 9th, 1989.