BY: JOSE A. ZORRILLA
Ewald von Kleist Schmenzin was a German conservative who took part in the Stauffenberg plot to get rid of Hitler. While awaiting execution he left a kind of political last will that can be resumed as “we thought the Nazis were conservatives like us, but fact is they were a bunch of Barbarians intent on destroying their homeland and the world”. He was right. Then came V-Day and the wiping out of the dysfunctional authoritarian regimes, be it Nazis or fascists. It had been a war between two visions of the West. The liberal and tolerant, basically Anglo-British, and the totalitarian Italian-German. That posed a problem to the Catholic Church, for, while totalitarian Germany and Italian lasted, it backed both Mussolini and Hitler. Upon seeing the result of the war, the Vatican freed Dom Sturzo from his exile in the US, his only liberal asset, and set up the ring of a new political persuasion- the Christian Democracy, extant to this day. An exception was made with the Iberian world. Franco and Salazar in Europe and a bunch of Latin American dictators kept the flame of totalitarian Catholic polity alive. Finally, in 1962, the Vatican Council ended the transition and fully embraced liberal democracy as the system of reference.
One would have expected to see this kind of angle survive crises of all kinds. But it seems that this is not the case. Would anybody have imagined to see a US President lauded by the KKK? In other countries, say Hungary or England, to see the rise of xenophobia or illiberal thought is worrisome but hardly strategic. To see it happen in the US is a completely different story. Let’s begin at the beginning.
When some of the countries of Europe crossed the pond at the end of the Middle Ages, they founded new provinces and Viceroyalties under different principles. Some ruled that reducing the natives to slavery was legitimate. Others rejected such a logic. Some ploughed the land, others embarked on extractive activities etc. But all of them had a common founding rationale. Those were the King’s domains and to settle there you had to be a subject of his most gracious Majesty. Enter the US, whose approach was a complete novelty. The Founding Fathers proclaimed a universal call. “Come ye people of the Earth, come to the new Jerusalem. Thou shall thrive in this new Continent under the blessings of God”. Of course no law of immigration was even contemplated. Anybody wishing to settle in the US was welcome to do so. This bold breach with any known past was completed by a no less daring social contract. No ethnic marker whatsoever was the principle established to cement the Union. You could speak any language, have any skin color or worship any God.
Citizenship was a legal condition and no other property was to be bestowed upon you to have a stake in the country. To this day Americans do not pledge allegiance to any language or creed. Only to the Constitution. And however hard the pressure on the Houses, the US abides by the old principle of not establishing any official language. Well, allow me to bow. I wish we had something remotely similar here in Europe. Venerable Professor Jurgen Habermass has spent his long life trying to import the model to our shores. No way. We stick to our languages, food and original ethnic tastes to define the Continent. The results are for everybody to see. The worrisome problem is that a significant part of the US seems intent on reverting their original state of affairs and adopting the European model. This is not the rhetoric rant of a liberal. Read Steve Bannon, ex White House Mephisto. For him and his followers, many of them Trump supporters, America is white and Christian. Perhaps even Anglo centric. Well, if this persuasion spreads I am afraid I have to be pessimistic about the future of the Union. No other force could destroy a country based upon the ethnic neutrality of its institutions more easily. In the alt right and their cohorts lies the seed of destruction. Intent on preserving the “homeland” I admit they are. But their ways harbor the worst salvo of anti-Americanism ever. They would turn a model of social excellence into a domestic Balkans where neighbors and friends would begin to see each other as sworn enemies. As to the world at large, to offer such an example to the enemies of tolerance would lead us to strife and hostilities without end. One can but hope that the maturity of the American people (2020?) will send this alt right nightmare where it deserves to be.
Ambassador Jose A. Zorrilla is a career diplomat from Spain with postings in Milan (1989), Toronto (1993), Shanghai (2001), Moscow (2004), and Tbilisi (2009). He has published a book on the rise of China “China la primavera que llega” (China, the spring that arrives) and shot two documentary films (“Los Justos” (The Righteous) and “El desierto y las olas” (The Desert and the Waves)) and one full length film “El Arreglo” (The Deal) that won the Opera Prima Prize at the San Sebastian Film Festival in 1983. He has just published a novel “El espía en Saratov” (The Spy in Saratov) (De Librum Tremens) and “Historia fantástica de Europa” (An Imaginary History of Europe). He is a frequent contributor to El Mundo with articles focusing mostly on current affairs.
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