A year ago last week was the anniversary of the Charlottesville riot. In thinking of what to possibly say a year later I didn’t have to go very far. I wrote the bulk of the following post back in early July in response to new elections in Italy and other events. Europe has witnessed the rise of right wing, populist, and anti-immigrant governments across the continent. Italy saw the 5 Star Movement combine with the League party to form a government that promised to deport immigrants, and which questions the value of their membership in the European Union and use of the Euro. The Czech Republic openly broke with Germany’s leader and said that immigration policy should be decided by individual states. Hungary has such tight border security the LA Times said it makes Trump’s America look lenient. Germany’s right wing party gained enough support in recent elections to become the third biggest party and forced a new coalition government upon Angela Merkel. The support for Merkel’s party is at record lows. Polish right wing politicians continue to rule, and there are often protests in their streets calling for additional border security and scrutiny of immigrants.
All of these developments have led to the usual hand wringing from politicians worried about xenophobia, hatred, violence, and “far” right policies. But in reality, these movements are simply a reaction to the disdain from elitists that ignored their serious concerns. In short, the European leaders only have themselves to blame for the rise of new governments and political parties.
Unfortunately, as Americans witnessed in Charlottesville, there is a strain of violent and hate filled rhetoric that targets immigrants. But the media often conflates sincere, legitimate, and nonviolent economic and security concerns with right nationalists and neo Nazis. For example, Sweden, Germany, France, and England all report higher levels of violence, sexual assault, and crime among their immigrant populations. Germany found that immigrants are responsibly for as much as 90%! of the rise in crime in the province studied. (As usual, the BBC tried to explain away the data by claiming that all youth of that age commit more crime so it doesn’t really mean immigrants cause more crime.) And this is before we get to terrorism, which the official UK website says is “very likely” in France. This is just a small sampling of the articles from a wide spectrum of sources describing the violence, sexual assaults, and terrorism around Europe and often associated with the immigrant community. In fact, on the day of this writing Britain experienced another terror attack from a Sudanese refugee and Muslim who claimed asylum AND FBI agents arrested an ISIS agent who came to America as a refugee claiming asylum AND a former Yadizi sex slave had to leave Germany after her abuser, who is in Germany as a refugee, confronted her in a Stuttgart market. In story after story the average Pole, Eastern European, or struggling worker has on the ground experience with no go zones, relatives that are victims of violence, and an elite class of politicians that is quick to call them racist if they complain about those serious concerns.
On top of violence, there are economic concerns. The migrant crisis has affected Eastern European countries more than their Western counterparts as countries like Italy regularly receive far larger numbers of immigrants. These governments then have to spend money on temporary refugee facilities, processing facilities, and medical coverage and relatively lavish social benefits. Despite the legitimate concerns about cost, the amounts of refugees they take are often dictated by the EU bureaucrats in Brussels who often seem unconcerned with the impact on local economics.
These benefits vary by country but they often include housing and food allowances plus medical coverage. The taxpayers of the countries have to provide these benefits, even as many of them, particularly Italy and Greece, are also undergoing austerity measures forced on them by the European Union that feature a cut in their benefits. (Granted, these benefits are extremely generous to begin with, but being squeezed to pay for the benefits of others do seem ridiculous.) Finally, some places like Italy are facing a recession. Even after the painful cuts the squeezed citizens aren’t seeing the desired budgetary benefits.
The end result is that the average European citizen is sick of being ignored, marginalized, and having their tax money go to immigrants, where often become associated with welfare fraud. The average European like their counterparts in the Rust Belt of America, have seen globalization shut down their local factories. They see their political class, often from their own party, lecture them on compassion and often accuse them of racism, while those same politicians lavish support and praise on immigrants, even as those immigrants spark legitimate concerns about security and violence.
So what can I say about the year anniversary of racism and the rise of a Mormon racist like Wife With a Purpose? The racists and white nationalists are a pathetic minority unworthy of comment. The legitimate concerns I described above are far different than pagan spiritualism, Nordic sunrises, home birth, and white culture that dominates Wife’s social media feeds. Even then, there is a difference between the inchoate ramblings of a pathetic person and the substantive points she alludes to. For example, as a graduate of an old fashioned Liberal Arts College, I’m a strong defender and proponent of general education courses on Western Civilization. I also went to school down the road from Washington and Lee University and passed Lee’s museum on the way to the library six days a week, so I really don’t think supporting Lee or remembering his birthday is racist. (In fact, I told the kooks and the cranks last year that they aren’t helping.)
But these caveats defending classics of Western Civilization and warning of economic and security concerns show how far the elites and conversation has moved, and how likely some people are to accuse anything slightly to the right of open borders, unlimited immigration and erase the past as racist. In the realm of ideas these tactics condemning border security are a horrible election strategy. If one side calls you deplorable while turning the volume up to 11, and the other side at least pretends to care about your problems, the average voter will naturally vote for the side that isn’t calling them names and dismissing their concerns. And that is before you consider the pain and unmet needs of the unemployed steel worker, the white opioid addict whose life expectancy is declining but still manages to get lectured by elites on their “privilege,” the nurse at a bankrupt hospital on the Southern border, the German female groped on the way to the train station by large groups of immigrants, the French citizens who see people with refugee pass ports commit terrorism, or the Italian retiree that is having his pension cut and house broken into.
The solution to these problems start with a serious discussion of how policy can show reasonable humanitarian concern for immigrants and refugees, while also safeguarding their country’s economic and security concerns. But that can’t happen when one side finds too much value equating everybody with the KKK. So yes, we should remember to condemn the 50 Nazis that rallied at the capital last week and Wife With a Purpose, but more importantly, many of the same people need to stop conflating the fringes with the valid concerns of those across various countries that elected Trump and the Five Star Movement.