A lot of western Europe views itself superior to America in many ways; they’re more progressive, their countries have better social safety nets, the people are more cultured, et cetera. Of course the social safety net line is true. But I’ve always been struck how Europeans are aghast at America’s racist past and present while completely oblivious to the prejudice and bigotry that is prevalent throughout their own countries. Dissent Magazine’s Yashca Mounk captures this perfectly through use of the recent German debate surrounding the ban on circumcision:
So, while the court’s decision is written in impeccably liberal language, its not-so-coincidental effect is to disadvantage Germany’s minorities. If its reasoning were to be consistently applied, it would wreak havoc on the rights and customs of all Germans: Christian, Muslim, and Jewish alike. But it won’t be. After all, no German judge would ever think of restricting the right to Christian worship for the same flimsy reasons that apparently suffice to restrict the right to Muslim or Jewish worship.
Germany is hardly alone in undermining liberal rights by selectively misapplying superficially liberal principles. The same is happening all across Europe.
A favorite story of mine centers around a Rwandan woman I met once at a bar. Her family had fled the genocide and moved to Europe before eventually settling in America. I asked her which location she preferred: America, Europe or Rwanda? She, without hesitation, answered America. She told me of the corruption and poverty that ravished her beloved Rwanda and the racism and provincialism that engulfed Europe. But America, in her mind, was a place of vast opportunities. This story always reminds me of America’s great promise: a country that welcomes all peoples of all stripes with the dreams of building comfortable and prosperous lives. And though the U.S. has a sickening history of racism and oppression, America-like no other- has been and will remain a great beacon of hope for millions of people around the globe.