For all that American pseudo-sophisticates enjoy pretending that they are more European than American, usually on the basis of the biennial 10-day vacations to London, Paris or Florence, they neither know much about Europe nor do they pay any attention to what is actually happening there. This is particularly true of the American media elite.
For example, it is currently en vogue to insist that European anti-Americanism is at an all-time high, thanks to the manifest evils of the Bush administration. While it pains me to defend this fraudulent and disgusting White House, this is one charge that cannot be reasonably laid to its door. Bush is personally unpopular, true, and the futility of the Iraqi occupation is widely recognized, but the vast majority of Europeans are not particularly interested in the details of whatever madness the Americans have gotten themselves into now.
And it’s not as if President Bush is particularly popular here in the United States, either.
This is not to say that Europe’s political and media elite are not somewhat anti-American, at least in their public pontifications. But the opinions of Jacques Chirac, Angela Merkel, Romano Prodi and Tony Blair are becoming increasingly irrelevant, to Americans and Europeans alike, as they represent the last gasp of the European transnationalists, a generation whose constitution has been rejected, whose euro is an economic disaster and whose bureaucratic mandarins have proven to be as corrupt as they are unpopular.
The common people of Europe have bigger concerns striking much closer to home. In Italy, the Juventus scandal and an unexpected victory in the World Cup have occupied everyone’s minds, when they are not contemplating the idea of escaping the rigors of the euro in favor of a return to the cheerful chaos of the lira and an Italian-run central bank. Prodi once told the Danes that ”the euro is forever”, and yet the currency may not survive its second decade intact.
The French are more concerned with the burning of their inner cities and the marital vicissitudes of S?gol?ne Royal and Fran?ois Hollande than which side America is currently supporting in the Sunni-Shiite struggle. The British are far less anti-American than anti-Polish, anti-Romanian and anti-Bulgarian these days, mostly because six hundred thousand unemployed Americans have not immigrated to Great Britain in the last two years. While the American invasion of Iraq has commanded more headlines and engendered more lethal violence, it is significantly smaller in scale than the New European invasion of Britain, so it should come as no surprise if Iraq is not foremost in the thoughts of the junior partner in the Coalition of the Willing.
But even the European invasion is not the greatest matter for concern in Great Britain these days, because for the first time since the Blitz and Operation Sea Lion, the very survival of Great Britain is in question. In 1999, after an abeyance of 292 years, a Scottish Parliament was seated for the first time, and a 2006 poll by the Scotsman newspaper indicated that 51 percent of Scots favored full independence. Intriguingly, 59 percent of Englishmen declared themselves to be in agreement, for once, with the Scots.
This move toward Scottish independence is naturally opposed by the traditional political powers, especially the British Labour Party, which relies heavily upon the left-leaning Scots for its current electoral majority and only granted the partial step of ”devolution” as a means of harmlessly blowing off the pro-independence pressure building in Scotland. The move appears likely to backfire, and badly at that, because the Scottish National Party has been making its gains at Labour’s expense and is expected to win the election scheduled this May. And if the SNP takes power, no doubt one of its first acts will be to pass a referendum allowing the Scots to decide if they wish to continue to abide by the Act of Union, or to fulfill Braveheart’s dream instead.
Such an act will have profound reverberations throughout Europe and may even have an impact on U.S. foreign policy. It will be very difficult for the President to explain how Iraqi freedom and democracy is worth billions of dollars and thousands of American lives, but Scottish freedom and democracy must be denied. And this dichotomy would be even more difficult for Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and David Cameron to explain away.
It seems clear that as the political and media elite grow ever more transnational in outlook, they are inspiring increasingly more powerful nationalist reactions among the voters. This means that either the elite will have to become less responsive to the democratically expressed will of the people – and therefore more authoritarian – or abandon their goals.
Unfortunately, the Bundeskanzlerin has already indicated that the former is the strong preference of the European elite, while President Bush’s insistence on continuing both the ironic war for Iraqi democracy and the mass importation of Mexicans indicates that he and the new Democratic Congress will stand shoulder-to-shoulder against the American people until the time when we, too, are blessed with a Bundesf?hrette we can call our own and no longer need trouble our pretty little heads with such lofty concerns.
One wonders why one never reads of the looming Scottish secession in the American media, despite its breathless, front-page enthusiasm for the Ukrainian Orange Revolution and the Purple Fingers of Iraq. I suppose maybe because seeing freedom in the West might give Americans the terrible idea that they, too, possess the right to self-determination.