Theater of Cruelty

America is Europeanized

Question: How do you know that globalization is accelerating?


[immigration] Answer: Because it is not just America that is influencing European life. Europe is now exporting its attitudes to America – at least when it comes to immigration.

The US Congress is flirting with laws to keep out the same people the Statue of Liberty claims she wants: the poor and the weary. Historically, the United States has loved its miserable, starving newcomers. They have been the only ones who have been desperate enough to believe in the American dream. Because they have believed in it, it has also come true for many.

In 2006, however, these potential millionaires pose a political problem. They may be tired, but they still have the energy to spend twenty hours a day for little money. For America's inflated middle class, that's a threat. While the unions complain that immigrants are undermining their wage levels, those who are not unionized believe that immigrants steal jobs from "real Americans". The issue of ethnicity creeps into the economy and creates a fear of the future reminiscent of the European.

However, globalization tends to distribute power in several different directions. This means that many immigrants today are striking back. Whether they are Mexican or Moroccan, I hear them say defiantly: “You need us as much as we need you! When we get the right to work, we pay taxes and finance our own social assistance, hospital beds, pensions – everything you first world people need because you have such low birth rates, aging populations and expectations of material goods. In short, our contract with you is to keep the welfare state intact without losing ourselves. If you had recognized all that we have to contribute, then we would not need to express anger at a society that demonizes us. For their own sake, give us jobs instead of trouble. ”

Perhaps it is because I myself am a refugee to North America that I sympathize with this attitude. I have seen my own mother postpone the rewards and sweat for the next dollar to such an extent that my sisters and I spent the Christmas holidays alone because my mum, who was a body worker, received double pay during these "vacation" weeks. She enslaved and saved so we didn't have to do any of the parts. One of her daughters has grown up to become an internationally published author – exactly what host countries are proud to produce.

To be honest, I don't know if I could get where I am if I had grown up in Western Europe. Even in Scandinavia, which pushes the principle of equality to its breast, the reality is that family ties are more important than individual actions. Where you come from is more important than where you want to go. It is no wonder that countless Muslim workers who have lived in Western Europe for generations are still called immigrants, despite being legitimate citizens.

In North America, this is usually not the case. What makes you acceptable is not so much skin color or religion as the willingness to compete and perform. It sounds incredible in the era that has fostered the Patriot Act and Guantanamo Bay, but a dozen Muslims living in Western Europe have told me that they would rather live in the United States because of how the country handles social status. You do not have to be born with status – you can achieve it.

That is why the "Europeanization" of America is cutting me off. I would like to acknowledge that the United States has a lot to learn from its European relatives in terms of the environment and women's rights, but if Washington politicians now tell newcomers that it is not enough to work hard and be backed, then they should send America's most steadfast immigrant, The Statue of Liberty, back to where she came from. France may need her now.

Irshad Manji is a guest lecturer at Yale University and the author of What's Wrong with Islam? (Cappelen). Manji writes exclusively for New Time.

Translated by Gro Stueland Skorpen

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