Wednesday, August 02, 2006
The (non) shot heard around the world
In October 1978 John Paul II was elected pope, and in June of the next year he returned to Poland. He was there for nine days and saw millions of people. It is generally credited that this journey was the turning point that led to the strike in Gdansk and the formation of Solidarity a couple of years later.
It's very plausible to suppose that the return of John Paul to Poland was the most important event in world history after the end of World War II and before 9/11. But consider the other possible candidates; Suez, the Reagan-Gorbachev Rejkjavik summit in 1986, the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Kennedy assassination, Gulf of Tonkin, etc. What is interesting to me is that the pope's trip is the only one of these that had no "objective" impact at all. Essentially the pope's trip consisted of several Masses and religious ceremonies, and speeches that he gave. Nothing changed except in the hearts of Poles who were there and those who heard of it secondhand. But that was quite a bit nonetheless.