Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The Death of Europe Has Been Greatly Exaggerated


It is quite fashionable to bash Europe right now. In the ongoing debate about the American budget crisis, my congressman (Paul Ryan) continues to warn about America becoming more and more “socialist” like Europe. How he continues to get away with this baffles me. The debt crisis of the “PIGS” (Portugal, Ireland, Greece and Spain) is said to be proof that the European model is not sustainable. The implication is supposed to be that Europe must become more like America. Given America’s own fiscal difficulties, this is almost humorous.

Recently, the financial crisis in Europe was averted as the “big boys(girls)” (France, Germany) gave assurances that Greece could not be allowed to default. The Norwegian tragedy and the death of Amy Winehouse stole the headlines from the bankers. Also, immigration returned to the discussion as it was first assumed that the shootings in Norway must have been done by an immigrant (probably a Muslim).

A crap newspaper in the Murdoch Empire bites the dust. Meanwhile, (in my opinion), at least three newspapers in London alone (Independent, Times, and Guardian) are still all superior to any American paper. The media in England may largely be losing money, but there are serious discussions going on in the public sphere as they try to survive.

In Heathrow, far more burqas were seen than normal. It was interesting to watch how the English border agents dealt with it. A female agent would handle the viewing. She would ask, “May I see your face?” The female would then quickly lift the material so the agent could identify her. It was all very humane. Newspapers explained that the burqa ban in France has led to an increase of tourism for families to take their excursions in Britain.

The point for me is that the death of Europe has been greatly exaggerated. The euro has survived this current crisis. The EU staggers along as federations often do. The tension between nationalism and internationalism endures. The United States urges the EU to spend more on defense, but the EU resists. Expansion slows down as the EU has to attend to current members’ woes before taking on more. None of this is surprising. There is a reason people continue to immigrate to Europe and the United States. There are bumps in the road for both, but the future is still bright. Paul Ryan needs to remember that there are many roads to peace and prosperity. The United States does not have a monopoly on the good life.

Chris Bryant
Trevor, Wisconsin

Chris Bryant is a social studies teacher at Lake Forest High School (Lale Forest, Illinois). He has participated in numerous curriculum development activities of the EU Center. Chris was in Cambridge for a Gilder Lehrman Institute on the Cold War. He also traveled to London to see the play, "Yes Prime Minister!" Chris has been going to England for over twenty years visiting friends in Penrith, Cumbria (Lake District). His favorite museums are the Imperial War Museum and the Churchill Museum.

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