Monday, September 18, 2017

On Being Politically Homeless

Editor's note: this blog post was originally written in January 2016 and never published. After realizing this I've edited it to update it for today.

I've been wanting to write a blog post for some time about the politics and attitudes surrounding liberalism, "regressive leftism," Islam, and immigration. I was inspired by the events back in January of 2016 in Cologne Germany where groups of men who appeared to be of Middle Eastern and North African decent sexually assaulted hundreds of women and raped at least two. Some of those who committed the assaults may have been recently arrived refugees, and predictably, there were many conservatives saying "I told you so."

What I face here is a very complicated and tricky situation, and navigating it is like walking over a dilapidated roped bridge over a raging river: every step must be carefully planned.

I am at heart a liberal. I believe in liberty and equality and fairness and tolerance, and I despise racism and bigotry of all sorts. But the situation today regarding Islam, immigration, and political correctness is really challenging my liberal identity. Some of the things I hear coming out of the aptly termed "regressive left" are making me nauseous — while at the same time I can understand where they're coming from as a liberal myself.

Many people on the Left are genuinely concerned about racism and bigotry towards people of Middle Eastern or Asian ethnicity, but their political correctness inhibits them from acknowledging and coming to terms with the reality of what we face with Islam.

I am concerned about the rise of right-wing fascist groups and political parties in Europe and in other Western counties. I definitely don't want to see Europe go down that path. But at the same time, I'm concerned about rising immigration of people from Muslim majority counties into Europe. Just as I don't want to see Europe go down the road of right-wing fascism, I also don't want to see Europe in 30 years looking like Egypt or Saudi Arabia.

As a liberal, I want Europe to remain open and tolerant, but tolerating views that oppose that very same tolerance is in the long run problematic. There is a huge cultural clash between the disturbingly conservative views that many of those from Muslim majority countries hold, with the liberal, secular, and open European cultures. And labeling anyone who says that Europe should consider limiting its immigration a xenophobe, a racist, or a bigot, is highly unproductive. What many on the Left do not have any tolerance for is anything against their tolerance for multiculturalism. But meanwhile, they'll tolerate the sexism and homophobia of brown skinned Muslims because they're an "oppressed" minority in the West.

This level of hypocrisy is madness.

So what's a liberal like me to do? I don't feel like I belong in the ranks of the Trump-loving right-wing fascists who want to keep Western countries "racially pure," nor do I feel like I belong in the ranks of most liberals who are so politically correct that they'll gleefully tolerate those who would destroy almost everything they stand for if they had the power. There must be some moderate middle ground I can take, but my options are limited.

There is a burgeoning "New Centre" movement that is critical of both the Far Right and Far Left elements. But many of them are too libertarian for me on economic issues, and so I only agree with them on some of the issues and face the same problem I do with Democrats and liberals.

I feel so politically homeless right now and it's not fun. I'm in a position where I agree with various different political movements on various different issues, but disagree with all of them on other major issues. On health care and economic issues, I'm on the Bernie Sanders Left. On free speech, I'm on the libertarian side and I disagree with many on the Left. And on immigration, I have my own position that agrees a bit with the Left, and a bit with the Right.

But here is a controversial position today according to many on the Left:

If multiculturalism has been an abysmal failure in Europe, as it appears to be the case, and if letting in millions of more immigrants is only going to make the current situation worse, then I support European countries limiting their immigration and the number of refugees. European countries should prioritize their immigration systems on what kind of skills they need and how well a person can assimilate to their culture. That might mean limiting the numbers of people from Muslim majority countries as well as low skilled migrants. The people from those countries who are the least religious should have priority, all other things being equal, and atheists from those countries should be given priority as refugees, as many of them execute atheists.

A liberal reading this might be appalled at my above suggestion. So be it. I can defend the claim with evidence. You can't have open borders and a generous social welfare system. You can't expect large numbers of conservative Muslims to assimilate easily into the most liberal and secular part of the world without conflict. And with the coming automation revolution and the immense numbers of jobs that'll be lost by it, having millions of low skilled laborers who also have a difficult time culturally assimilating into secular liberal Europe will end in a disaster.

I'm not at all suggesting European countries end all immigration or to refuse to take any refugees. They just need to be a bit more selective, and Western countries, including the United States, should pressure countries like Saudi Arabia to take refugees. They already apparently have the capacity for it. In fact, if I were at the negotiating table, every benefit Saudi Arabia would ever get in a deal would be contingent upon them taking large numbers of refugees. I'd even have the US and European allies fund money for keeping refugees on Middle Eastern soil.

So while I'm mostly on the Left, I have strong disagreements with what's bouncing around in left-wing echo chambers. I'm politically the same as Bernie Sanders according to an online test. And I'd vote for him if he ran again. I'm certainly going to vote Democratic next time around in the primary and presidential election because I agree much more with the Democrats than the Republicans. I just hope the Dems can get their act together and nominate someone with brains and charisma, preferably who isn't a corrupt neo-liberal.

And until then, and even after then, I will continue promoting and fighting for the views I support to hopefully carve out new territory.

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