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.
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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.
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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.

29 thoughts on “ACHILLES HEEL”

  • Europe does some thing better than us, mass transit for example. They do have their issues, however, and they can be every bit as racist and xenophobic as anyone else.

    Many of us at least remember our ancestors arriving here as refugees, even if we want to raise the drawbridge now that we're here.

  • I'd love to see our post-gives-any-fucks president just straight up and executive-order 100,000 or so Iraqi and Syrian refugees to be moved straight to the US.

    Thing is, we've actively fucked over the Iraqi and Afghan interpreters already, so I doubt it'll happen.

    As for placing them, I'm thinking the first few dozen could live on George W. Bush's ranch. He did manage to clear all that brush, after all.

  • It should be mentioned that Jordan is doing a very admirable job taking on an enormous number of refugees.

    America should be taking in more as well.

    But yeah, Europe is racist as hell.

    (Also, have you been seeing the idiots making sarcastic and hateful remarks because some of the refugees have *gasp* smartphones?)

  • UK resident and immigrant here.

    Ed makes some fair points about European xenophobia, but one thing to highlight:

    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.

    (Emphasis mine)

    That's a key problem. If these refugees were dark-skinned Roman Catholics, I'm sure they'd be getting a much warmer welcome. As it happens, they are overwhelmingly Muslim. Europe has its share of anti-Muslim paranoia. The UK, France, Spain, Germany have all lost lives to Muslim terrorist groups.

    Logically speaking, it makes no sense to fear all Muslims because of the actions of a few crazies, any more than all Irish people should be seen as dangerously violent because of the IRA; but this isn't about logic.

    If a hundred thousand Arab Muslims had just arrived on the shores of the USA, would Americans really be handling it any better? Or would proud Christian patriots be arming themselves to the teeth, and raving about the Islamic menace?

  • Breaking news: To Germany's enormous credit, they have just announced they can cope with 500,000 refugees per year for the next several years. That's one for every 160 Germans, every year. Even by American or Canadian standards, that's pretty impressive. (Sadly, other European nations are not being nearly so welcoming.)

  • Um, Germany is taking in 800,000 refugees this year. The US is on track to receive 1500. Fifteen hundred. Immigration and accepting refugees are two different (but related) topics, but conflating the existence of immigrants in the US, legal or otherwise, with accepting refugees is more than a bit apples to oranges.

    The US took in about 130,000 Vietnameses refugees after the fall of Saigon. Again, Germany will take in 800,000 refugees this year, and is a much, much smaller country geographically and in terms of population.

    And gee, why are there so many Iraqi and Syrian refugees? It is a mystery, I am sure the U.S. has nothing to do with it.

    Not sure the point of the dart in this post is aiming in the right direction.

  • I've been reading that Iceland–a country of 300,000–has had 10,000 people volunteer to take the refugees into their homes. That's pretty staggering. Meanwhile, here in Murkkkuh, not long ago some crazy bombed a Sikh temple because they were terrified of Muslims.

  • 'Not sure the point of the dart in this post is aiming in the right direction.'

    well said. I am not sure either….

  • Germany has a history of having non-white, non-christian immigrants, since they have a large Turkish population that has been around since the 50s or so. And ask them how "German" they feel.

    We forgot that European countries do not have birthright citizenship, and national identity does not extend to immigrants. While the countries are taking in refugees, they will not assimilate or be ever seen as a full citizen of the country that they settled in, even after a few generations. The culture in the US at least embraces everyone after a few generations. Imagine New York without Irish or Italian immigrants, and you get the idea.

    And while Germany is taking in a large number of refugees, Denmark is taking out ads in Lebanese papers saying, basically, don't come to Denmark. And how many refugees is Hungary or Poland or Sweden or Norway taking? Credit should go to the German government for stepping up and taking refugees, but shame on the rest of Europe for basically turning a blind eye. The US is also taking a shamefully low amount of refugees, and it is a big deal in Canada, since the government pledged to take 10,000 refugees, only to let in a few thousand.

    And a point of contention about "porous" borders. Pre-9/11 two-thirds of all "illegal" immigrants overstayed visas. The number now is about 40 to 50 percent. Most "illegal" immigrants do not run across the border, and even those that do, many of them only do so in search of work, not resettlement. If you want to reduce the number of undocumented immigrants in the US, simply enforce existing labor laws or give the law some teeth to go after employers. If the companies that benefit from low-wage undocumented workers were to feel the wrath of the US Justice system, the amount of people coming to America "illegally" would drop in a heartbeat. There is a reason that the rust belt, such as Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Youngstown, etc., have not had the same amount of influx of undocumented immigrants as the rest of the country, and it has nothing to do with geography. There are no jobs, and there are a lot of workers willing to do low-wage work and have been for a few decades now.

  • c u n d gulag says:

    These immigrants are moving as a result of war.
    And there are a lot of them.
    Nothing unusual about either of those.

    During WWII, my parents went from Russia and Ukraine, through all of the countries in between before finally getting to Germany to provide labor for the Nazi's.

    And then, finally, thankfully, to America.
    That was an even bigger migration that this one – large and horrible as it seems.

    But this is just – excuse the expression – a drop in the bucket compared to what'll be happening in the near future as global warming causes more severe and longer droughts, floods, hurricanes, typhoons, tornado's, etc…

    Also, there will be major 'Water Wars" between nations, causing still more migration.

    All of the nations need to be preparing for that.
    But they aren't – which will make those horrible situations even worse.

  • Sweden has been taking in some middle eastern immigrants for several years. Not many but some. What a culture shock that must be.

    Nothing exciting will happen here until after the election, if then. Makes one proud.

  • Belgium is taking in 250 refugees a day, at the moment. Not bad. Could be better. Although 5 % of our population is muslim, there are not many Islam-lovers. And yes, racism is an issue. As it is almost everywhere.

  • It's not all altruism on Germany's part. They are prospering financially, but they are in the midst of declining birth rates. There are hundreds of thousands of jobs going begging in Germany. They need workers. Many of the refugees coming into Germany are middle class, educated, and Christian. So, of course, they're welcoming them with open arms.

    Gulag mentioned the waves of refugees (or more precisely mass migrations) due to climate change. We'll see how long the gates of Germany remain open when the asylum seekers are poor, poorly educated Muslims from Bangladesh.

  • Leading Edge Boomer says:

    According to this BBC item:
    Germany's population will decrease from 81M to 71M by 2060, while Britain's will increase from 64M to 80M. So Germany is willing to accept around 0.5M immigrants per year for the next several years:
    in order to stabilize its population and avoid the social welfare problems of an aging citizenry. OTOH, Britain is not so keen on accepting new immigrants, having already been through that phase.

    This is long-term thinking about what's best for each country.

  • This issue is difficult to discuss because there are so many categories: asylum seeker, legal immigrant, illegal immigrant, foreign-born, etc. The EU is taking in way more "asylum seekers" than the US, as Kathy points out.

    But if you look at "foreign-born population", the US has roughly 14% (41 million) foreign-born vs. only 7% (33 million) for the EU. And the US admits 0.3% of it's population yearly as legal immigrants compared to 0.2% for the EU (both correspond to about a million people per year).

  • @Westcasements: "I'd love to see our post-gives-any-fucks president just straight up and executive-order 100,000 or so Iraqi and Syrian refugees to be moved straight to the US."

    I'm more than willing to be corrected by someone that knows for sure but I believe the level of legal immigration is dictated by laws passed by Congress. While I agree with the sentiment you express I do not believe Obama can just do it.

  • ConcernedCitizen says:


    Is it true that more UK Muslims have emigrated to the new caliphate than have served in the armed forces?

    Also, is it paranoid to fear credible death threats, as anyone who publicly denigrates Islam in Europe must?

    Just some questions.

    P.S. Islam is not a race. Islam is not a race. Islam is not a race.

  • Just want to address the universality of xenophobia aside from diverse causes and issues of forced migration from war, climate change and general desperation.
    There's the largely neglected story of the Muslim Rohingya in Myanmar being expelled in part because, aside from "otherness", they are seen as taking work and money from the natives. So recently they drifted in boats, turned away from landing by Aussies, Cambodians and others just as the US refused entrance to Jews fleeing pogroms, turning a boat away in sight of Miami. (We got Palestinian occupation and other modern ongoing horrors from that episode.)
    In South Africa Nigerian shop keepers and other emigres get mob beaten and immolated with burning tires while the cops watch because, you know, they're different and they're taking our jobs. And those are people of the same continent and skin color. (Ah, tribalism.)
    This meat hook Trumpist immigration stuff has its unique US carny beat to it that appeals to the rubes and rabble, and please pardon any condescending perceived tone to that statement. So those spics, wet backs, beaners, what have you, they're the cause of woe so stomp em down and send em back along with them Mooslims. Just the US style.

    Oh, yeah, and as far as European snobbery goes, sure, they gots themselves some culture and they are better educated in general with a greater grasp of history, but are hardly shining examples of compassion and tolerance, two qualities sadly lacking in larger discourse wherever one may reside.

    OK. Ed's post merits more than a few dinky words and in closing I would like to note that c u n d gulag's and Skipper's comments are pithy truths. We have just begun. Fore.

  • The Oberamtmann says:

    Yeah Europe did great at being peaceful and multicultural in those decades after they'd murdered or expelled all their minorities. Those places where they hadn't done that became the former Yugoslavia. Ah, the good times.

    I often tell students that America is one of the best nations when it comes to multiculturalism. That's not a compliment. Everyone else just sucks worse.

  • "And how many refugees is Hungary or Poland or Sweden or Norway taking?"

    I don't know about Poland, Sweden or Norway, but for Hungary, the answer is Zero.

  • @ConcernedCitizen

    Is it true that more UK Muslims have emigrated to the new caliphate than have served in the armed forces?

    Interesting question. The numbers appear to be pretty similar. The British Armed Forces Muslim Association says 650 Muslims are currently serving. The BBC estimates 700 British people have gone to fight with or "support" jihadist organisations in Iraq or Syria, of whom about 50 have died and 350 returned to the UK.

    Given that there are about 2.7 million Muslims in the UK, and 180,000 people in the British armed forces, it's clear Muslims have not been eager to join up. The reasons for this are many and varied, but it certainly doesn't help that the UK has been continuously fighting Muslims since 2001.

    Also, is it paranoid to fear credible death threats, as anyone who publicly denigrates Islam in Europe must?

    No, it is not paranoid to fear death threats. The question is whether it is paranoid to fear Muslims. I would argue the answer is yes.

    As previously noted, the UK has 2.7 million Muslim residents, but only a handful of incidents of Islamist terrorism in the last 15 years (some of them staggeringly inept). Obviously, any terrorist attacks are too many. But proportionally speaking, Irish terrorism killed a lot more British people during the Troubles. The solution is not to fear and exclude all Irish people.

    Taking another analogy: There are parts of the USA where doctors who perform abortions have to fear credible death threats from so-called Christians. This doesn't mean all Christians should be feared and shunned, let alone that Christians in desperate need of help should be turned away.

  • ConcernedCitizen says:


    Thanks for that measured response. I can't dispute that the vast majority of Muslim immigrants are peaceful, nor that treating all Muslims as potential terrorists makes little (really, no) sense.

    What I did want to dispute was the conflation between honest concern over Islamist influence in Europe, and run-of-the-mill bigotry/xenophobia. If I imagine myself as the head of some office of immigration, responsible for scrutinizing groups of newcomers, it seems perfectly reasonable that my reservations should scale with how seriously they take a book written by a 7th century Arabian warlord.

    To be sure, most of them don't take it that seriously. But poll results (and recent events) prove that a not-insignificant percentage of them do. Almost all Muslims condemn the violence carried out by their co-religionists, but many less will unequivocally come down on the side of Enlightenment values, such as secularism and free speech.

    The Muslim insistence (whether explicit or tacit) that non-Muslim Europeans abide by their blasphemy laws and refrain from depicting their prophet is simply theocratic, and they must give it up if they want to live in Western nations.

  • My dad came over here not as a refugee, but as a migrant. His family immigrated over here in the mid 50s. My dad was around 8 years old. It really amazes me, in a bad way, that his number 1 pick for president is currently Donald Trump.

  • I don't think the loudest of us would react favorably to a large Syrian immigration over here, even though I wish that wasn't true.

    Most of these displaced refugees are super skilled middle class Syrians.

  • @ConcernedCitizen: On the off chance you're still watching this thread…

    I don't think Islam is necessarily more problematic than other religions. Following the teachings of Mohammed is not inherently less rational or more dangerous than following those of Jesus. As I said, there are plenty of self-proclaimed Christians who do criminal or bigoted things in the name of religion. (Just have a look at this week's headlines from Northern Ireland.)

    The problem is a particular interpretation of Islam, which enjoins its followers to go out and murder anyone who is deemed disrespectful to their religion. I entirely agree this is a menace which must be fought; but it constitutes a tiny, tiny percentage of Muslims worldwide.

    Also, Syrian and Iraqi refugees have risked their lives to get away from places where militant Islam rules. Pretty much by definition, they don't think Muslim extremists are doing a really great job.

  • From what I've read, the USA would have a declining population without current levels of immigration. That would not be good for the economy as currently constituted.

    The flood of refugees out of Syria appears to be largely those who can afford to get out, which will not be good for that country's recovery after their civil war ends (assuming it ever does). One of the reasons why Germany murdered their Jewish population instead of expelling them was because they would have taken assets out of Germany; the regime was having a hard enough time economically as it was. Very few countries can absorb large numbers of penniless immigrants without serious consequences. A recent article at details the experiences of Syrian refugees, and a recurring theme is the way in which they are ruthlessly fleeced by opportunistic bastards while en route. If your choices are paying thousands of Euros for a space in a leaky, overcrowded boat or returning to a war zone, many will choose the boat.

    I think many Americans don't realize how insulated we've been from this kind of horror. The last time we had this degree of carnage on our own soil, we were fighting each other. And nobody was dropping barrel bombs from helicopters.

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