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Author: Aleks Yakubson
Unquestionably, the events in that wonderful German town, which I had privilege to visit a decade ago during soccer world cup, and even taste its great local beer brand called Kohlsch, are lamentable, and added in the short run yet another ‘black eye’ to the ideas of globalization, migration, compassion to people from underdeveloped regions or even those suffering from outright warfare, on part of the citizens of the developed world, sometimes referred to as ‘the golden billion’. As have terror attacks in Paris, San Bernardino, Tel Aviv and many other places.
STILL: History, and recent one at that, teaches about healthy society’s ability to ‘digest’ even the toughest contingents of newcomers. Perhaps, vast majority of readers of this piece have seen the great movie "Scarface’, with equally great Al Pacino in lead role. It tells the story of a Cuban mobster, ‘dumped’ by Castro’s regime onto United States in 1980, along with scores of other such ‘undesirable elements’, sprinkled among thousands of refugees, during an economic crisis on the self-proclaimed ‘Isle of Liberty’ in 1980.
Yet, how did things end up in real life? Cuban Americans in general, including vast majority of those arriving with the ‘Scarface’ wave, turned out to be not just fine but some of the most loyal and passionate American citizens. And at this very moment, two of that community’s descendants are actually running for the nation’s presidency, both, curiously, on Republican side. True enough, both Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio are scions of families that emigrated into US in pre-Castro times, but their opposition to Castro regime is well known, as is that of majority of Cuban American community at large, and to an average person they are both ‘typical Cuban Americans’.
Or let’s step yet deeper back into history. By a century and a half. Back then, United States suddenly found itself ‘besieged’ by wave after wave of immigrants from such diverse but seemingly equally ‘heathen’ backgrounds, as Scandinavia, Germany, Italy, Ireland, Poland, Czech and Slovak lands, Yugoslavia and its precursors--Serbia and Austro-Hungarian crowns of Croatia and Dalmatia, Greece, Jews from just about everywhere in Europe, and also East Asians, mainly Japanese and Chinese. Some left behind their motherlands for economic reasons, some escaped nearly sure death(which of course also met material difficulties, to put it mildly), but the fact is that among all those groups there were quite numerous politically "unreliable" and at times openly hostile and subversive elements, be it political or purely criminal. Italian, Irish, Jewish mafia, also Italian anarchists, Jewish leftists, German- and Scandinavian-American Nazi sympathizers, as well as some elements in Japanese American community that at least were perceived as more loyal to their old country, which was increasingly on collision course with their new one. Collision course, which ultimately resulted in Pacific theater of World War 2.
Curiously, some of essential Nazi and fascist sympathizers back in 1930s and 1940s had put on robes of US ‘patriots’, and tried to sabotage the country’s position and essentially, if indirectly, aid Holocaust and other atrocities, under the very guise of ‘caring for America’ and ‘not wanting it to be enmeshed in a war it has no stake in’. History judged these ‘patriots’ unfavorably. That’s to put it mildly. Note also, that in vast majority of listed situations, the immigration in question was absolutely legal, yet it didn’t stop xenophobes and pseudo-patriots from opposing it, and calling out every possible wrongdoing committed by members of those questioned groups, whether real or merely ascribed one.
Similar problems have existed in other developed countries, be it Jewish, Polish or Greek enclaves in England, Chinese ones in Italy, Turkish, Kurdish, Arabic, African and other such in Germany and what not. To this day, you can find places where people don’t speak their country’s language, or speak it rather poorly. Same goes for some Italian or Jewish communities of USA, especially New York City. Many of these communities of immigrants haven’t fully ‘dissolved’ in their new societies yet, and there surely are many issues and obstacle in the way of that process. Yet, has any of this changed somehow the fabric of what we proudly call ‘free society’? HARDLY AT ALL. AND PROBBALY NEVER WILL.
Moreover, there are many indications and reasons to view migration as on the whole a heavily beneficial process. Many observers point out that without those at times ‘troublesome’ Turkish and Kurdish arrivals, who are known to on occasions even conflict with one another, Germany’s post-WW2 economic ‘miracle’ might not have been possible. An assertion perhaps debatable, but worth of taking to note.
Let us also not forget, that the problems similar to what happened on New Year’s night in Cologne and some other places (Stockholm etc.), are absolutely not limited to migrants or illegals. As recently as 15 years ago in our very city we had a Puerto Rican day parade sexual assault scandal, with main culprits being either ‘pure Americans’ or Puerto Ricans, whose status is unique (although the island has voted decidedly to become next US state, and to be honest, the author of this article hopes this will become a fact sometime soon). All those guilty of assaults and harassment were found out and duly punished. Thankfully, there was no anti-Puerto Rican or any other such kind of campaign, on that occasion.
Speaking of campaigns and coverage, some of my contacts in Germany claim that the scandals are simultaneously played down by mainstream media, and blown out of proportion by ‘yellow’ segment of information sphere. With truth, as is often the case, being somewhere in the middle.
Also of note is the fact, that in Germany’s case, xenophobic moods are much more prevalent in the country’s still developmentally lagging East, where the amount of migrants, especially of those from ‘third world’, is by far smaller than in the West part of the country. In other words, people somewhere in Leipzig have less chance to experience something similar to Cologne, yet have more fear of it. Honestly, in this case it’s difficult to explain this attitude with anything other than pre-developed hostility to strangers as such. Perhaps, also ‘aided’ by solid dose of Communist-time paranoia.
Finally, let us consider tackling the problem’s very cause. The author is a firm believer that in such things as politics, geopolitics, economy, human rights and so on, the best defense is offense. In the case of current migrant crisis stemming from Middle East and Africa, it means not to abstain and be ‘cautious’, as some people, including current GOP frontrunner, essentially advocate, but actually to be more proactive. It is impossible to deny that after US not only won World War 2 but committed to Europe’s and East Asia’s rebuilding, both the nature of those societies and the nature of immigration from them to US and other developed nations, radically changed.
Sure, in case of Middle East, Africa or even Latin America, this may seem much harder and even next to impossible. There are great many mental, religious, cultural and other differences, grudges and so on. Yet, there are many examples of progress even in troubled regions like Sub-Saharan Africa, which for all its ‘poor’ reputation, has made steady economic progress in recent decades, and now boasts middle class of roughly 40%. In order to stem flow of migrants seeking better life in Western nations, and upsetting the fragile balance of those societies, there’s no better remedy that to actively aid those regions and peoples in getting to better life IN THEIR OWN HOME. And if the need be, with armed force.
Critics (including aforementioned Republican frontrunner) will try to point at Iraq as one such attempt which supposedly ended in ‘miserable failure’. Not so, says the author of this article. First of, we have not nearly seen as much problems with Iraq immigration, even after the rise of ISIS, as we have with Syrian, Libyan, Somali and other ones. Second, not only amount of refugees but amount of deaths caused by now 5-yr old Syrian civil war, which until a year ago had no US or other Western participation in it, is greater than amount of refugees and victims of US-led Iraq war which lasted more than twice as long. Thirdly, for all its problems, Iraq has returned to international community, economic world system, and has a chance to painstakingly crawl out to ‘solid ground’. Syria, for as long as Mr Assad, who lost his chance at being acceptable leader several times, first suppressing the ‘Syrian spring’ of 2001, then refusing to sign peace with Israel, and now bludgeoning his people, has no such chance. And we haven’t even touched upon the role played by some international players supporting the current Damascus regimes, such as those in Moscow, Beijing and Tehran--support, without which this whole Syrian exodus would not even have happened. But this, perhaps, is a subject for a whole different piece.
But be as it may, the ‘buriers’ of the West and detractors of ‘plague of tolerance’ should perhaps just take a chill pill. Staying calm is always a good idea, and now especially. Those migrants guilty of rape, terror, theft and so on, will be found and punished; the rest will finely adapt to their new society, be they three times Syrian and four times Somali. And it’s also never a bad idea to remember a famous proverb about throwing rocks into neighbor’s window, while living in a glass house oneself.
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