Years ago, more or less at the height of France bashing in the United States, I remember Americans blasting "the French" because some idiots had either carved or painted swastikas on Jewish gravestones. The news, portrayed it, essentially, as "the French" are at it again.
In what apparently was a much smaller story, some locals in northern New Jersey had pretty much done the same thing, although the vandals had not been caught. Probably, it was just some dumb kids.
Yet, there was no sense of outrage that "the Americans" had committed an act of anti-Semitism, even though this crime clearly had been on American soil.
When I read irresponsible headlines like the one that I have a link to below, I get a bit of mixed reaction here. The title of this article suggests that history is repeating once again, that the outcome is a foregone conclusion, and that "Old Europe" simply never changes. That Europeans are somehow stuck in their old way of thinking, while enlightened Americans can and should feel entitled to shake their heads in disapproval.
While it is true that anti-Semitism is a huge historical problem in Europe specifically, and that it continues to plague numerous European nations right to this day, the fact that Americans are pointing this out smacks of self-serving hypocrisy. While I cannot say with certainty that anti-Semitism in the United States is as high as it is in Europe, what is clear is that racism still clearly is a huge problem in the United States.
I remember shortly after Obama was elected to the White House, there were two older, white gentlemen (they did not know one another) that I knew who both separately said that racism was clearly no longer a problem in the United States, as it had elected a black president.
Yet, since this time last year, we have seen systematic cases of abuse by police officers against blacks become major headline news, we have seen race riots in Ferguson and Baltimore, we have seen a mass shooting by a declared white supremacist in a black church (he claimed that he was trying to start another Civil War), then bombings of several black churches in the South, and the debate over the Confederate flag issue flared up.
Yes, it is safe to say that racism is still a big problem here in the United States. Even all of this stuff that I just mentioned aside, we still clearly have some huge problems with racism. Witness one of the leading GOP candidates, Donald Trump, and his recent, sweeping judgement of Hispanics as rapists and thieves, then patronizingly suggesting that Hispanics love him, even though polls strongly suggest otherwise. Trump is a smug jackass anyway, as we all know. But the fact that he seems to have such strong poll numbers among one of the two major parties after such assertions have been made certainly would suggest that a measure of racism still is a problem here. Why was he not roundly and loudly condemned for these racist sentiments, and watched helplessly as his presidential hopes extinguished immediately? He is in hotter water now for attacking the war record of another prominent Republican, John McCain (who happens to be white), then he ever was with that whole Hispanic thing. Go figure.
So, while I find it alarming as a French citizen myself that anti-Semitism has been on the rise in France and Europe as a whole in recent years (although the news article below suggests that leaders have been effective in stepping up to discredit anti-Semitism, and that anti-Semitic activities and sentiments in Europe have gone down a bit in recent months), I also acknowledge as an American that we have plenty of our own problems with a long and well-documented history of personal prejudices here as well. There certainly is no shortage of issues of this nature for Americans to come to terms with, not least of which would be a certain Americentrism and sense of superiority (it has been given the name of "American exceptionalism" here in the United States, but it should be noted that this moniker is still seen as a good thing by most politicians and citizens, thus underscoring the inherent prejudice and lack of objectivity behind such sentiments).
Yes, Americans feel so entitled regarding their sense of superiority, and I personally believe that this is yet another form of personal prejudices that Americans (and Americans of all races often seem to feel this way) too often subscribe to, and see no problems with. This is so true, that they still apparently feel that they can simply go to preemptive war with an enemy of their choosing. Witness major GOP candidate Scott Walker's assertion that he would go to war on Iraq right from the first day that he assumes the Oval Office. Between that, his union busting, and his desire to eliminate weekends, that guy seems to hail from a bygone century in terms of his political thinking - and I am not referring even to the 20th century here. American exceptionalism has led to the belief (or in some cases, a passive acceptance) that Americans could and should go to war wherever the hell we want to, and do whatever the hell we like, and enjoy a distinct impunity with all of our actions in the process, just because we are Americans. We can never be charged with war crimes or anything, because our superior national status essentially exempts us. How do you think other countries feel when they watch an entire nation act in such a haughty manner?
Not all that long ago, right around the time of the whole French bashing thing, all of the crimes committed by Saddam Hussein were reported on by major American media sources, even though there were some exaggerations (that is putting it mildly) about his capabilities. Yet, the supposedly responsible major media ignored the excesses of their own administration here at home in pursuing that unjustifiable war, and the media never really investigated it's own failure during that time period in any serious manner. Oh, and by the way, how about the whole French bashing thing itself as a sign that prejudicial attitudes are still very prevalent among far too many Americans?
At any rate, one thing encouraging about this article is that European leaders seem to be fighting this wave of anti-Semitism head on. It is not hard to imagine that they are doing a better job of it than leaders in the 1930's did. They could hardly do a worse job, at any rate.
So, yes, by all means, let us be on guard against anti-Semitism in Europe. Let us Americans just not forget that we have our own very long, drawn out, disturbing history of racial prejudices and violence, and that we clearly have not overcome these as much as we might have once believed or hoped. We all have plenty of work to do towards creating a society more accepting of minorities, and curbing the excesses of prejudice and hatred towards "the others."
Here is the link to the article that got me on this topic to begin with:
Rising Anti-Semitism in Europe: History Repeating Once Again by Abraham H. Foxman, 07/20/2015: