Monday, October 22, 2007

Immigration, Assimilation, and Identity in Geopolitics

Two very different developments occurred this weekend. Bobby Jindal won the election to become governor of Louisiana and the Swiss People's Party won more seats to continue its dominance in the ruling coalition of Switzerland. Both these elections have to deal with immigration, assimilation, and identity.

Jindal first ran for governor in 2003 and nearly won. However, reliably conservative areas of northern Louisiana voted the center-left Kathleen Blanco rather than the conservative Jindal. Both candidates were Catholic so religion did not play a role (which it usually does in mixed Louisiana). The main factor in the voting switch was Jindal being of Indian-descent. Political pundits pointed out how even though Jindal was born and raised and Baton Rouge he was still seen as a foriegner to some.

Things changed in 2007. With many other side factors like Hurricane Katrina, the inability of the state's Democratic Party to handle the disaster; the important factor was Jindal having a proven record in congress and thus proving himself a strong champion of his home state. He captured the northern parishes in a hard fought battle with his opponents constantly launching racist attacks against him. Jindal's key to shoring up his landslide victory was proving himself as an American and Louisianan. Jindal proved that even though his parents were not native to America; he was fully assimilated into the American mainstream.

Meanwhile in Switzerland a more nativist view has taken the day. Europe has a much larger and noticeable immigrant population for a reason. Europeans do not want the immigrants to assimilate. The social isolation has become a self-feeding cycle where the non-adapted immigrant population walls itself off my the popular culture and in many cases turns to multiple levels of violence. This feeds into anti-immigration backlash once only seen on the "far right" and now is common in center-right and even in some center-left parities. Many "native" Europeans are tired of what they see as troublesome foreigners disproportionately taking advantage of the welfare state (though these "foreigners" do the jobs Europeans will not do). But above all else the "foreigners" are different. They are not the secular cultural Christians found throughout much of the central and western parts of the continent but tend to be more devout Catholic/Orthodox/or Muslims. They stay among their own and try to assert themselves on the landscape. The "native" culture feels threatened and like any animal that is threaten; it will defend itself from real and perceived threats by any means possible. The lack of assimilation on both sides has created a brewing political firestorm.

Earlier this year immigration and assimilation reached fever pitch in the United States with President Bush deeply damaging himself with his conservative base over the issue of amnesty. The large increase in Hispanos with an extremely vocal minority of them being overtly aggressive in non-assimilation is starting to make "native" Americans feel threatened. Hopefully assimilation can succeed in the United States and the problems of Europe be avoided.

It is said that America's political and cultural landscape is fifteen years behind Europe. Tonight Amsterdam is on fire...


Anonymous said...

The statements below are not about race, religion, or national origin. The problem is economic in nature. Many "natives" do not want to work a job paying $5 euros (or less) an hour - not a living wage. Many immigrants are willing to work such jobs.

>>Many "native" Europeans are tired of what they see as troublesome foreigners disproportionately taking advantage of the welfare state (though these "foreigners" do the jobs Europeans will not do).<<

Catholicgauze said...

But race does come into play as I wrote in the blog. Just look at the anti-immigrant backlash going on in countries. Many of the movements (like in Belgium) have overtly racist/Nazi elements.