ACHILLES HEEL

Posted in Rants on September 7th, 2015 by Ed

Veteran readers will find this first part familiar, but it is not without a certain irony that Americans bear the insults of our cousins in Europe. God knows there is plenty to insult and plenty of valid reasons to look at the United States with a mixture of disgust and condescension. Our society is violent beyond what Europeans can imagine outside of a civil war, and we have ridiculous levels of poverty despite our extensive wealth. Our social problems regarding race are embarrassing and heartbreaking. It's remarkably easy for a European to look at us and say, "There go the ignorant Americans again, shooting each other because they're afraid of anyone who's different." It's a fair point.

The irony, as I see it, comes from Europeans' overestimation of how well they deal with these same issues. Sure, income inequality is less severe and gun violence is only a fraction of what Americans live with. But when it comes to looking down their noses at us because of the way we fumble issues like race and immigration…maybe look in the mirror, friends. When the chips are down, there is a lot of evidence that Europeans really, really don't like immigrants. Especially immigrants who may be different than white Christian Europe's modal citizen. Especially if they're dark skinned and look as though they might worship a different god.

In reality the nations of the EU have handled the Syrian refugee flows pretty well, certainly compared to the pitiful response of the wealthier nations of the Middle East who have done nearly nothing. At the same time we see plenty of evidence that the old nationalist / xenophobic fears are not far beneath the surface. A shocking new poll shows that more than half of UK voters now favor leaving the EU solely over fears of immigration – and we're not talking about Polish Plumbers here. Further, while every EU nation has extended a welcome helping hand to the migrants initially, after only a trickle (and a few days) have been admitted there are already familiar hints that humanitarianism goes only so far. Well-placed leaks suggest that, "Austria and Germany warned they can't keep up with the influx of refugees and said (border agencies) must begin to slow the pace." That translates to, "When the media attention fades, close the gate."

America deals with a porous border that is crossed by hundreds of thousands of migrants each year. In most cases the migration is economic in nature: Mexicans and Central Americans want to come here to earn more in exchange for working like horses. Syrians, Afghans, and Iraqis are fleeing for their actual lives (although in the areas of Mexico most badly affected by the drug war, the same could likely be said). Contrary to what Republicans claim, our society chugs along just fine with our large amount of immigration; I would argue it actually makes us stronger. Would 200,000 immigrants, mostly families with children, really bring continental Europe to a grinding halt? I'm no expert but that seems highly unlikely. What seems far more likely is that they would melt into the 10-15 countries into which they could be admitted, joining the same underclass that people like them occupy throughout the western world.