Monday, April 30, 2012

I came across this article in the LATimes today.  I sometimes have difficulty making an argument verbally; I'm much better at writing, where I can take my time and clearly organize my thoughts.  Therefore, sometimes when I get in a discussion or argument with someone, what usually happens is that I have all these half-formed ideas that I want to get across but I'm unable to do so.  And then an hour or so later, I think of all the things I should have said but couldn't.  When this happens, it's very frustrating, and I remember it for a long time. 

So this brings me to this time when I was in Italy in 2003 (yes, I remember being frustrated in an argument from almost 10 years ago!).  I was studying Italian in Perugia, and I was hanging out with some fellow American students in the program as well as a handsome Dutch friend we made in Perugia.  Let's call them Michelle and Daniel.  I think that Michelle was somewhat smitten with the handsome Dutchman, even though he wasn't interested in girls.  But his good looks and his distinguished foreigner status held some sort of sway over her.  Or she was just caught up in something that I feel is common among some liberal Americans:  the idea that Europe is somehow more liberal and enlightened than America.  That they are somehow more intellectually advanced than we are.  And unfortunately, I think some Europeans also think this way.  Daniel seemed to be among them.

Keep in mind that this was during the early years of the first Bush administration and at the start of a very unpopular war that brought ill will towards all Americans, whether we supported the war or not.  Basically, Daniel and Michelle were saying that Americans had slavery and racism and were anti-immigration and that Europeans didn't have a problem with these issues.  Coming from a DUTCH person.  What about Indonesia?  What about South Africa?  What about the ENORMOUS problems they've had with Muslim extremists and the integration of immigrants into the Netherlands?  Of course I couldn't think of any of these things at the time.  Almost every European country has had colonies and immigration problems, same as us. 

But what I really wanted to say was, people are essentially the same everywhere.  They will always be afraid of the different, the other, the foreign.  That fear and suspicion is part of our evolution and has enabled us to survive for thousands of years.  If we were openly trusting of everything new, we would put ourselves at great risk to those who actually DO mean us harm.  We HAVE to make generalizations.  If one of the tribe got killed by a tiger, and we were unable to make the connection that we should avoid large, orange-and-black-striped cats, and then simply welcomed the next tiger we saw (hello, kitty!), we would have been annihilated by tigers a long time ago.  So I guess what I'm saying is, that article about immigration fears in Europe just proves my point from all those years ago, that they are no different than we are; and that while obviously we shouldn't shun those different from us, their fears are deep-rooted and part of me can't really blame them for that. 

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