I had a beer and played an ancient billiards machine in a small pub in Dunkirk run by a man born in 1945. I spoke to Brits and American ex-pats from various parts of England and came away with a variety of opinions on Brexit, America, and President Trump.
Europeans are very much into discussing Trump, and generally trolling any American who doesn’t display sufficient venom and hatred of him. I’ve been criticized by American liberals in the same way, and of course by Trump Kool-Aid drinkers who think I must have carried a Hillary sign because I recognized the factual negatives of a Trump presidency.
But, short of a nuclear war, which is only barely more perceptible inside the realm of fathomability, Trump represents little more than a blip on the slope produced by the American political equation. But someone like Marine Le Pen represents a much greater threat to Europe than Trump does to America.
It’s not just Le Pen. Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, leader of the Syriza (officially “Coalition of the Radical Left”) party; Dutch nationalist Geert Wilders, whose PVV party controls 13 percent of the Dutch House of Representatives and 12 percent of the Dutch Senate; Turkish President-cum-dictator Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, and Britain’s Brexit vote all represent a swing toward European nationalism.
With the possible exception of Turkey, European nations are governed by a secular humanist worldview, one in which quality of life, fairness, and cultural distinctions are central to their thinking. In social liberalism, all the EU nations (Turkey having stalled their joining) share the same cultural liberalism and moral relativism. The term “conservative” in Europe has quite a different meaning than it does in America.
What we’re seeing in Europe is actually dangerous. I’m no fan of one-world government globalism, or some utopian panacea to produce Liberté, Equalité, Fraternité forever. But forgive me for pointing out that Europeans, untethered from the requirements of entwined interests, tend to pursue extremely self-interested courses, regardless of the political philosophy or structure of state government applied to each nation.
In other words, Napoleon, Mussolini, Kaiser Wilhelm, Tsar Nicholas II, Stalin, and Hitler were all woven from the same loom, if not cut from the same cloth. Nationalism, socialism, national socialism, communism, monarchy, or the Jacobins–take your pick. They all inexorably fell to the same result: war, death, conquest, and the conquered.
The British have the advantage of an island mentality, never having fully bought into the continental mindset. They also have a functioning, if vestigial, monarchy, heading both the Church and State–a moral anchor of sorts in times of extreme distress. Reference King George VI’s 1939 speech, calling his people to a moral cause that many found politically distasteful.
It is a principle which permits a state, in the selfish pursuit of power, to disregard its treaties and its solemn pledges, which sanctions the use of force or threat of force against the sovereignty and independence of other states.
Such a principle, stripped of all disguise, is surely the mere primitive doctrine that might is right, and if this principle were established through the world, the freedom of our own country and of the whole British Commonwealth of nations would be in danger.
The alignments, royal intermarriages, and mutual defense treaties formed before the last world war have now been replaced by economic alliances and the bureaucratic monstrosity of the EU. But the results have not been what was promised to the little guys who run bars in Dunkirk, or clubs in Paris.
While American conservatives worry about losing the war on marriage, religious freedom, pro-life, and gun rights, Europeans struggle with the dark pull of true xenophobia, racism, blood and soil. And while there’s a small contingent of “alt-right” idiots in America, joined by a fringe of outright bigots who wish to redefine “American” in their own tenebrous guise, in Europe there is a cultural core in danger of losing its own identity.
America is by nature a pluralistic, multi-cultural society linked by shared values. European nations, by nature, are homogenous and culturally linked by history and ancestral claims. It is much more likely that a Europe transformed by nationalist forces will succumb to a domino effect, collapsing much of what the EU–as ghastly as it is–prevented. It prevented the next conquerer from arising and wrecking havoc upon the world.
With England all but out, this leaves the continentals to themselves, and that is the singular reason England probably should have stayed in–for its own long-term good. The seeds of nationalism have been planted for years, and now we’re seeing the stems break ground. Seeds always dig roots first when they germinate.
This year, Geert Wilders and PVV lost in the Netherlands. Marine Le Pen has stepped aside from the far-right National Front (FN) party to distance herself from the image of neo-Nazis. Polls still show her trailing badly behind “centrist” Emmanuel Macron for the May 7 runoff. (In France, a “centrist” is equivalent to a far-left Democrat in the U.S.) Greece is a non-issue unless it defaults on repeated bailouts for its near-bankrupt and unemployed economy.
The tilt toward European nationalism, spurred on by immigrant Muslim communities (which between France and Germany represent nearly 10 million population, or between 5 and 7 percent) that refuse to integrate, and breed violence, will only increase.
America, despite what liberals tell you, eventually becomes the melting pot. We go through spasms of “America first,” populist, anti-immigrant rants, then settle down again. Americanism and the trash it hauls in its wake may be very distasteful, and the stuff of bad jokes and sneering in Europe, but it’s not going to be a danger in terms of conquest. Since President James K. Polk sent Gen. Winfield Scott to siege Chapultepec and conquer Mexico City (assisted by his aide, Captain Robert E. Lee), the United States has been pretty quiet about making war to win resources and territory.
Europe, on the other hand, is crowded and diverse, rooted in history, culture, and claims to land. Should Le Pen win, all eyes will be on France to see if the purges begin. Even with Macron, it’s likely the country will face some crisis to deal with Muslim encroachment on its culture. The same with Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium, Greece, Austria, and Denmark.
When the nationalist seed keeps producing shoots in Europe, eventually, one of those is going to bud. Brexit is the beginning. The end will be when one continental nation decides to forcibly expel its nonconformists, leading to a skirmish with a country like Turkey. It could go down like the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand. Or it could go like the Munich Agreement of 1938.
While sophisticate Europeans call Trump supporters “Nazis,” they foolishly cry “peace in our time,” ignoring the very seeds of actual Nazis growing under their own noses. I’ll take Americanism over European nationalism every time.