While living in Italy, at least early on, I bristled at the European accusation that we, the U.S., were always minding other countries’ affairs. Meddling. Interfering. But it didn’t take long before I realized they had a point. The long and growing list of examples of America’s nosing into other people’s business includes our recent push to gain EU membership for Turkey. Just last month after a meeting with the President of Turkey, Bush argued, “It’s in the interest of peace that Turkey be admitted into the EU.”
I wonder how Europeans, more specifically Germans, feel about Bush’s hyperbolic assertion. I certainly know how many Italians feel about the growing Islamic influence in Europe. I wrote about it extensively in my book, The Absentee Ballot.
Speaking Tuesday before Turkish Parliament, Prime Minister Erdogan referred to Germany’s practice of assimilating Turkish immigrants into German society as a “crime against humanity,” after just last week proposing that Germany should begin creating Turkish language high-schools…in Germany.
Just three percent of the German population is of Turkish descent, yet the headscarf aficionado, with a straight face, is lobbying Germany for the creation of new high-schools, hiring teachers from Turkey and instructing students in Turkish. How outraged would we be if the Mexican President came to the United States and demanded Spanish only high-schools? Spanish speakers make up nine percent of the U.S. population. At least President Calderón, would have a better argument.
A journalist for the German newspaper Der Spiegel called the Turkish language high-school suggestion “a novel idea,” but I’m not sure the German population shares that multicultural outlook. Conservative politicians most certainly don’t. The governor of Bavaria Gunther Beckstein spoke to Germany’s N24 TV and had this to say (from Der Spiegel):
“The task (for Turks) is to be good citizens in Germany, to learn German, to speak German in their families.” Erdogan’s remarks are “nationalistic” and “highly displeasing.”
Conservative German newspaper Die Walt opined:
“This is the message that will stick: The Germans don’t want integration; they want to rob the Turks of their Turkishness, of their culture. That is grist for the mill of the not especially small number of Turks or Turkish descendants who aren’t very interested in integrating and who try to blame the Germans for that.”
“Integration also involves assimilation. A person who grows into another culture changes by doing so. He leaves much of the culture he descends from behind. He gives up the old to become someone new. It’s a beautiful, painful process. In the long run it makes no sense to refuse to accept that.”
Maybe it would be in America’s best interest for Turkey to gain EU membership, but would it really benefit our partners in NATO? Europeans, not Americans, are the ones forced to confront the radical change occurring within their societies. Setting cars ablaze, threatening newspapers, inciting hate at radical mosques and murdering artists don’t exactly reflect the enlightenment values of their adopted nations.
When Europeans tell us to mind our own beeswax, well, maybe we should.