So I watched the segment above on the PBS NewsHour last night with some interest. (By the way, "nationalist populism" sounds a lot like "national socialism," doesn't it? In Germany, "Nazi" was an abbreviation for the National Socialist German Workers' Party.)
As anyone would know from reading this blog for the last eight and a half years, I'm a libertarian-turned-Democrat who greatly admires Barack Obama. I'm not a fan of Donald Trump, I'm pro-immigrant (full disclosure: all of my ancestors were immigrants), and I like to think of myself as an optimist not given to prejudice or fear of the Other. I live in a very diverse neighborhood of the city (the most diverse I have ever seen, largely due to the University of Illinois at Chicago nearby), and my wife and I have often commented to each other that this is what the future of America looks like -- literally -- and we both approve. My ideal vision for the future of America is a true melting pot where, if one of my descendants is asked a hundred years from now, "What kind of a name is Tracy?" the response would be, "I think it's Irish, but I'm really not sure." Also, in my perfect vision of the future everyone would be secular:
"Why do you guys have -- what did you call it? -- an Easter egg hunt?"
"I don't know; it's a family tradition. My ancestors were Catholic."
Now having said all that, when I watched that segment last night I found myself seeing the Netherlands through -- gulp -- the eyes of Geert Wilders' supporters. Who's Geert Wilders? Well, for starters, the segment says:
"If Wilders gets his way, every mosque will be closed down, the Koran will be banned, as will Islamic scarves in public places."
I would never support someone like that. My expectation is that everyone will eventually drift away from the religion of their ancestors and become secular like me. That's my expectation. Like ancient Rome, when people have immigrated to America they've always strived hard to be Americans. My Irish ancestors, for example, already spoke the language but at some point enthusiastically embraced the Fourth of July, Thanksgiving, etc. (And now, in that not-so-proud American tradition, some of my relatives don't particularly care for today's immigrants.)
But as I said, that's my expectation. What if -- what if -- some Europeans (and even American liberals like Bill Maher) are right and Muslim immigrants don't assimilate. What if they do want to impose Sharia law on everyone else? (And, no, I don't own a tinfoil hat.) As I've opined many times, anti-Islam is the new anti-Semitism -- and even, like anti-Semitism once was, quietly "respectable" in some circles.
I don't think this will really happen. Like every other generation, I expect today's immigrants -- even Muslims -- to eventually piss off their parents by wearing jeans, smoking pot and watching The Bachelor. In other words, to become Americans.
(I once asked my son if the stereotype of overachieving Asian kids was true at his high school. His response was something like, "If they have a clearly Asian-sounding first name, yeah, they're generally at the top of the class. But if they have a first name like 'Freddie' they're slackers just like the rest of us." In other words, assimilators gonna assimilate.)
But what's true in America may not be true in Europe. We've all read how Muslims in various western European countries tend not to assimilate -- and are not particularly welcomed by the indigenous people. But Europe has a long history of excluding "outsiders" -- I don't think I have to go into the whole saga of anti-Semitism in Europe.
(In Japan, by the way, I've read that those of Korean ancestry -- even those whose families have been in the country for three hundred years -- have to always carry papers identifying themselves as "Korean." So Europe doesn't have a corner on this.)
Last night's segment also noted:
"According to a recent survey, most Dutch people estimated that 20 percent of the 17 million population were Muslim; the true figure is six percent."
And this gets at another "problem": the EU birth rate is only 1.6, less than the 2.1 required for "replacement." So are the Dutch in danger of being replaced in their own country? I don't know, but I get how some Dutch might think so.
The whole segment made me think of my grammar school history lessons about the Moors in Spain. I tried reading up on it in Wikipedia but there's too much there. Suffice it to say, the Spanish did indeed expel the descendants of the Moors in 1609 (who were by then Christians -- I told you it was complicated) after they had invaded Spain beginning in the eighth century.
The bottom line for me is this: Is what is happening in the Netherlands and the rest of western Europe nothing less than a modern-day, slow-motion invasion by Muslims, not unlike the one in medieval Spain? Or is this just another migration of peoples which has been happening since the beginning of time? (The name "Tracy," I once read, was originally Norman. And remember, all of our ancestors probably originated in south-central Africa.)
So are the Dutch justified in their fear? And are we justified to look down on them for being afraid?
Personally, I hope Wilders loses today and the Muslims in the Netherlands and the rest of Europe ultimately assimilate and become secular and everyone lives happily ever after. But I feel like I understand things a little better after watching that segment.