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Freedom is Never More than One Generation Away from Extinction

Disheartened Voters in Europe are frustrated and changing the tone across the continent.

As the Supreme Court weighs in on the Immigration Issue in Arizona, Europe faces droves of people turning away from mainstream politicians; because they feel let down. Immigration has been one of the issues changing the tone across the European landscape.

The European financial crisis is also attracting extremists on both the far right and far left. There had been worries about Nazi ideology returning to power with some extreme parties winning parliamentary seats and trying to push their views and policies, which often entail issues impacting immigrants.   

Greece

Golden Dawn – an anti-immigration political party in Greece. They did not believe that Hitler used gas chambers to kill Jews during the Holocaust.  They also said they would like to plant land-mines along the border with Turkey and get rid of immigrants. The party was in power for one day. 21 members of the Golden Dawn were sworn into Greece’s Parliament mid-May.  The election left no party with enough votes to form a government, forcing elections last week again.

Austria

The right-wing populist Freedom Party has become a force to be reckoned with in Austrian politics. The coalition government is made up of center-left Social Democratic Party of Austria (SPÖ) and the center-right Austrian People's Party (ÖVP).  Polls now place The Freedom Party consistently neck and neck with the two "old parties". Their leader, Strache is already telling people that if he comes into power, the country will no longer pay a cent for "bankrupt EU countries like Greece" because, for someone like him, "the red, white and red shirt" — a reference to the colors of the Austrian flag — "is tighter than the Brussels straitjacket."  The next national election is in 2013.

The Freedom Party now holds seats in parliament and due to their gains toughened asylum rules prevail.  It is now compulsory for immigrants to take
German courses. The party has been linked with the neo-Nazi fringe and have
made anti-Semitic remarks.  Their message has a tone of anti-immigrant, Euro-skeptic. The EU imposed sanctions against Austria. 

Denmark

In 2011, immigrants seeking shelter there was 5,000, down from 13,000 in 2001.  The anti-immigrant Danish People’s Party of Denmark’s is the third largest party and has pushed the country to adopt some of the toughest immigration laws.  It has also introduced a plan to reinstate custom checks at their borders with Germany and Sweden.  The EU (European Union) regards this as spiritless and hinders the idea of free trade of goods and people.

Italy

Gianfranco Fini’s National Alliance morphed from Mussolini’s Fascist party, into the Italian Social Movement in 1990’s.  They have moved into the mainstream, became a close ally to ex-Premier Berlusconi and has decried its hardline roots of anti-Semitism and Mussolinni’s racial laws.

France

France's left wing Socialist Party now dominates at every level of government, also holding most regions and the mayor's office in most major cities. New French President François Hollande and his Socialist Party scored surprisingly well recently. But Marine Le Pen from the National Front is bringing far-right voters back into the mainstream and fold.  She’s remained prominent in presidential elections and has a loyal following and softening party message of old.  Her father was the leader of the National Front until 1996 and was convicted and fined a few times for anti-Semitism and racism. 

Today the policies of the National Front are more moderate but their goals are economic protectionism, a zero tolerance approach to law and order issues, and a strong opposition to immigration. They want to deport illegals, criminal and unemployed immigrants.

Netherlands

The Freedom Party of anti-Islam law became the third largest bloc in the Dutch Parliament in 2010 elections with 24 seats. The Netherlands government was made up of a fragile liberal-conservative coalition government, which had no parliamentary majority. This coalition resulted in crackdowns in immigration and a ban on the Islamic veil, the burqa.  Geert Wilders from the Freedom Party successfully brought down the Prime Minister last month.  The Coalition fell apart when he refused to support an austerity package aimed at cutting the country’s budget deficit within the EU norm.

Hungary

Hungary’s far-right activists used to rally in the streets. Now they’re in parliament, where their party, Jobbik, is accused of stoking hatred of Jews and Roma and gays.  Some of the rhetoric calls a crackdown on ‘Gypsy crime‘.  These activities have been banned under the current center-right Prime Minister Orban.  Hungrary’s Jobbik party won nearly 17 percent of the national vote and is currently the second-largest opposition party, behind the Socialists.

“The ballot is stronger than the bullet." —Abraham Lincoln

Now, I know some folks will argue that the decisions by the Supreme Court allows for discrimination and harassment through its decision to uphold the racial profiling section.  I won’t even pretend to be that knowledgeable on the issue, but I do know many will say this will embrace discrimination, that this will be an instrument of public policy where the hand wringing begins about not diversifying America.

 In the 20+ years I’ve been here, flying back and forth to different places, I’m more than happy to be profiled.  England has done it many times -- way before you even had a reason to be concerned in America.  I embrace it; it has saved lives.  I hope we will get to a stage in the world where we do not have to do this anymore -- the world does not seem to be going in the directions where it is entirely safe. 

The “hard right” and the “hard left” in politics are more similar than different [be it social or fiscal]. The hard right supposedly finds a place for social hierarchy as it believes that some are just born as harder / smarter workers and you can never have complete equality. If Joe earns an “A”, why should he share with Stu that didn’t work very hard / wasn’t as ambitious, and earned a “C”? And thus, we have
nationalist movements that find social hierarchy blended with the occasional economic strains from a surge in immigration / illegal immigration. “If we were all just a bit more like the Greeks of old, we wouldn’t be in this mess!” The poor
immigrant utilizing state-funded entitlements is their bogey-man.

The hard left supposedly find no place for social hierarchy; but instead, a centralized government takes full / partial control of business / the market, to ensure an equal distribution of wealth. Ideally, both Joe and Stu will work their hardest and be rewarded with the same pay. Unfortunately, what most workers from Eastern bloc countries comment upon was that if Vlad gets paid 5 apples to work fast or 5 apples towork slow; Vlad will work slow. But now, the hierarchy is simply that those within the centralized government are gifted with privilege as the wealthy entrepreneur [similar to the immigrant above] is the bogey-man and the anonymous bad guy. Sometimes the difference between Hitler-“fascism” and Stalin-“socialism” is just the head and tail of the same coin.

As an emigrant from Ireland, I know the unwritten rule - work harder than my American counterparts.  I’m in your country; I abide by your rules. When I lived in Germany, I abided by German rules, taxes and laws and I worked as hard as I could; realizing it would not be easy as a new arrival. I didn’t enter Germany and expect all Germans to speak Gaelic, follow the sport of hurling, serve Guinness or understand, “What was the craic in the pub like last night?”

Sometimes it seems that nationalism and its, only partially logical, mistrust of the “other” is only a razor’s edge away from socialism and its, only thinly substantiated, mistrust of the wealthy.

I suppose that I embrace true multiculturalism: learn and appreciate all cultures [especially the one you just moved into] – and work your backside off as a newcomer; not expecting anything – not even a fair shake initially. Human nature will not be perfected overnight for my convenience. I cannot expect to move to Brazil and immediately be on equal footing in the job market with natives. But I, conversely, should not become a burden on the State of Brazil or single it out for immigration simply because of some generous social welfare system it provides… should I?

If I were someone great, I would simply say, “smile often, work hard, and personally give to others!"

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Donald Lee August 23, 2012 at 05:28 PM
It is wonderful to have your perspective in the patch. I am fascinated by the changes going on in Europe, partly because of the effects on the US, but also because it is so valuable to study the mistakes of others to avoid them yourself. Socially, politically, and economically, Europe is a laboratory of experimentation that we do well to watch carefully. As you point out, human nature is the same no matter where you go, and in all these fields, incentives matter - a lot. I take a slightly different view of the extremist parties. They all have something in common in that they offer simple answers to complex questions. They all pick one or more "bad guys" and load up all the blame on the chosen evil-doer(s). In Europe, as in the US, the reality is that the "right answer" is working harder, being tolerant but not indifferent, orderly but not rigid. Politicians do what voters want, but voters have to engage and take responsibility for their politicians. No voter wants to hear that! The cry from those seeking power has often been: "Give me the power, and I'll fix all your problems!" is as old as time, and a huge temptation - everywhere. I wish you good readership, lots of comments, and happy travels.
Margaret Wachholz August 28, 2012 at 01:57 PM
Donald, I’ve been out of town, sorry for not responding sooner. I appreciate your comments very much. As well as watching Europe, it has been an education living, watching & experiencing what is going on in Puerto Rico. Being a commonwealth of the US, Puerto Ricans are US citizens & enjoy all the benefits of citizenship; save one-they cannot vote for the US President in the general election. 50% of the drugs that make it to the mainland come through the Caribbean so US interest in homeland security is massive. PR has been described as Americas ‘Greece’ and ‘Detroit’ with reports of up to $20 billion in supplemental economic aid coming from US tax payers. It has a great history, they are a great people; I want them to succeed badly but there are no quick and easy solutions.Unfortunately it cannot be ignored as this is your money! We see post-industry wasteland,poverty & rapidly aging population. Not that I know much-I have to dig for information but the current Gov. Luis Fortuno seems to have implemented deep cuts, slashed public jobs & salaries, he is cleaning up corruption and massive tax evasion. He has succeeded so far from having the country fall off the cliff. There is 17% unemployment(perhaps higher)& between 45-50% of citizens are on food stamps. I hope and pray he can make some great changes to this wonderful island so we can see it thriving again, so it can fend for itself, have pride in itself, & the burden on the US is alleviated.
Donald Lee September 03, 2012 at 03:04 AM
PR seems to be suffering from many years of a sort of soul destroying dependency on federal largesse. The question is how to end it. PR's value as a military target seems to be complicating matters. Franklin Roosevelt, State of the Union address in 1935: "A large proportion of these unemployed and their dependents have been forced on the relief rolls. The burden on the Federal Government has grown with great rapidity. We have here a human as well as an economic problem. When humane considerations are concerned, Americans give them precedence. The lessons of history, confirmed by the evidence immediately before me, show conclusively that continued dependence upon relief induces a spiritual disintegration fundamentally destructive to the national fiber. To dole our relief in this way is to administer a narcotic, a subtle destroyer of the human spirit. It is inimical to the dictates of a sound policy. It is in violation of the traditions of America. Work must be found for able-bodied but destitute workers. The Federal Government must and shall quit this business of relief." I would love to hear more about PR in your blog. First hand information is always better than the vague impressions I get from my random readings.

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