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The Tally Ho

Monday, May 10, 2004

It's Easy to Say

From an American perspective it is easy to say that the nation-state is an "outdated, flawed, basically racist concept." However, a key flaw in American thought is in the tendency not to remove ourselves from our own situation. The differences between nation-centric European thought and Nation-centric American thought lie, in my opinion, in history. America is the European Union of the 1800s-1900s. We are the "melting pot" that you always hear about. I, myself, am a European mutt. To call me anything but American would be a disgrace to my Italian, Irish, British, German, Polish, etc etc ancestry. While this melting pot concept is at the root of our history, it is a new page for Europeans. And, while The New World's 500+ years of history seem like quite a long time to us, it is mere days for Europeans. It is foolish to expect Europeans to disregard their histories and cultures. It is natural for them to be concerned about immigration--hell, Americans get upset about immigration and it is part of all of our pasts. But, Europeans live in cities built by their ancestors who built some of the world's greatest cultures and civilizations that have enriched billions of lives but they walk their streets without hearing their mother tongue, smell restaurants serving every kind of cuisine except French, German, Italian, etc, pay 50% income taxes to support the poor and starving immigrants that flock to their social systems designed to provide for domestic healthcare, jobs, etc(systems that most liberally-minded Americans would kill for), and wake up each day to a Europe that is becoming increasingly homogenous. I would personally love to have a culture like that to hold on to. Call the thinking antiquated or racist. But, it is rational. It is not an anti-immigration policy--Europe has embraced millions of immigrants from around the world--it is a concern for the preservation of heritage, history, and lifestyle in the face of globalization. This theology is not a Le Pen or a Hitler way of thinking. This isn't hostility and racism. This isn't about removing peoples and diversity. This is about retaining cultural identity in the face of growth and change. The eventuality of the EU relies on mutual respect. Immigrants must respect the culture they are moving in to and host countries must respect immigrants' origins. I once said that I'm not very American. A French friend responded that I am very American but, "you represent America in your own way." Europeans now have to learn to represent 25 countries in "their own way." If that is not reason for justified anxiety, then my perception of the place in which I live is misguided.

For another perspective on the future of the EU and concerns over the addition of poorer countries and immigrants, check out the International Edition of Newsweek for May 10, 2004. While Newsweek may not be the most scholarly of publications, it covers the story pretty well. Also, for other views, read any British, French, German, etc newspaper from the last two months.



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