Tuesday, May 09, 2006

A Heroine for Our Times

While much of the world's press focuses on the Middle East in the struggle between secularism and radical relgiousity, Christopher Hitchens reminds us of the personal cost paid by the bravest and most vulnerable advocates for human rights. In this case, Dutch parlimentarian Ayaan Hirsi Ali.

One of the problems I have with European liberalism is that while they often boast about having model societies , there appears to be a strong undercurrent of tribalism and racism embedded in them. True liberalism requires a civic nationalism rather than an ethnic nationalism. Once fear sets in, an old sense of tribal/racial identity appears to reassert itself among native Europeans, who often refuse to see immigrants as authentic members of their nations. In a recent Newsweek article, "To Become an American," Fareed Zakaria talks about a German plan to recruit Indian high tech workers to help improve Germany's economy:

I told the German official at the time that I was sure the initiative would fail. It's not that I had any particular expertise in immigration policy, but I understood something about green cards, because I had one (the American version). The German Green Card was misnamed, I argued, because it never, under any circumstances, translated into German citizenship. The U.S. green card, by contrast, is an almost automatic path to becoming American (after five years and a clean record). The official dismissed my objection, saying that there was no way Germany was going to offer these people citizenship. "We need young tech workers," he said. "That's what this program is all about." So Germany was asking bright young professionals to leave their country, culture and families, move thousands of miles away, learn a new language and work in a strange land—but without any prospect of ever being part of their new home. Germany was sending a signal, one that was accurately received in India and other countries, and also by Germany's own immigrant community.

The idea of that "volk"--the heriditary members of a nation--have primacy is antithetical to the ideal of the polyglot democracy which is highest political ideal of our century. Let's hope we all find our way to a solution before this century comes to a close.

"There is no such thing as the State/And no one exists alone;/Hunger allows no choice/To the citizen or the police;/We must love one another or die." - W.H. Auden

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