I constantly hear when we Americans travel abroad that we are the “ugly americans.” However, I have encountered a number of Europeans lately who (and I do NOT want to generalize all Europeans this way) are some of the most misguided and pompous people I have met. They’ve accused us as being racist, conformist, misguided, etc. Meanwhile, while telling me we’re racist they scream about, “ARABS, ARABS, ARABS who want to take over!”
The issue that we discussed at length was the banning of religious symbols in French schools. I am a privately religious person who believes in the right of my fellow man to decide his own path. I try to live the cliche “I don’t agree with you but I will fight to the death to defend your right to believe that.”
So, I was told that children should “not be allowed” to wear turbans, burkhas, crosses, yarmulkes, etc. in schools because it promotes freedom for the individual. I have no idea how denying choice to the individual does so. It seems to me that allowing people to express their religion or thoughts in a public arena (without imposing those beliefs on others) is one of the cornerstones of a free society.
Personally, I believe that Europe is so obsessed with maintaining and protecting an antiquated European Cultural Ideal that they do not have room for other ideas. The U.S. is not perfect by any means, but at least our system is set up to protect the individual and their expression through law instead of forcing them to conform. It’s ironic though how the Europeans feel that our system forces conformity.
To be honest, I think they’re upset because they can’t waltz through our country whenever they want, are faced with views that they disagree with, and are presented with a multitude of cultures that carry the weight of nearly 300 million people. I would humbly suggest that they learn a thing or two about the right to free religion and expression. This is one area I know that we, as Americans, are light years ahead.