Thursday, June 02, 2005

What Europe Can Learn From America

First the French said "non," then the oh-so-tolerant Dutch voted "nee." The EU constitution appears to be dead in the water.

There are many reasons for this defeat, but high on that list is Old Europe's traditional xenophobia. The French and the Dutch, not to mention the Germans and others, are afraid of having their "national identity" swamped in a flood of immigrants (and not just Muslim immigrants—Western Europe has always harbored a distaste for their Eastern European brethren).

Looking across the pond at some of the ugliness that pervades Europe causes me to reflect on one of the things that makes America a great country: anyone can become an American. We shouldn't take this for granted.

Take, for example, a Turk living in Germany. He will never be a German. His children and their children may live their entire lives in Berlin, speaking only German, and they will still be Turks living in Germany. America is perhaps the only country in the world where that is not true. If the same Turk became an American citizen, he'd be considered by most to be an American, and no one would question that his children would be.

This is not to say that we don't have major problems with racism and xenophobia of our own—we do—but we also have an expansive definition of what an American is. This definition has evolved over centuries of struggle and assimilation—an evolution that Europe is attempting to cram into a few decades.

As it stands now, Pat Buchanan would be a mainstream figure in much of Europe. Here he is seen for the marginalized bigot that he is. If that isn't a point in our favor, I don't know what is.
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