RUSS DEAN - “We’ll never get to the future looking back. We’ll never get there hating The Other.”
I just read a frightening piece about the “rebranding” of the far right in Germany. Apparently the new fear-mongers there think the neo-Nazis are old school. Like our own, sad white nationalists, dressed in khakis, not white hoods, and carrying tiki torches, Germany’s better dressed, better educated Nazis think they can make their message legitimate by edging it into the nation’s conservative politics. (Sadly, there, and in the US, they are having some success.)
As much as there is hatred enmeshed in racial nationalism, there is also a visceral rejection of all-things-liberal (which is hard to distinguish from the hate). The “New York Times” quotes a young Austrian named Martin Sellner: “The utopia of multiculturalism was an experiment, but it has failed. Like communism, cosmopolitanism has failed.”
Sellner has unfortunate comrades around the globe, and their unfortunate “us only first” ideology is stirring trouble into global melting pots the world over. You can almost feel the sneering derision, with words like “utopia,” “experiment,” and “failed” all carrying the weight of his disdain for all-things-not-just-like-us.
But to what utopia, exactly, does he want us to return? And how could we ever go back to that? Globalism (hence, multiculturalism) is not a leftist plot. It’s just a result.
The “cosmopolitanism” Mr. Sellner so detests is not a liberal agenda designed by elitist, vegetarian, ivory-tower academics. The influx of the people of the world into “our” nation (whatever that is) is just a byproduct – just a consequence of all the good that comes to us in the amazing world that is our home. Incredible technology, seamlessly-interconnected travel, and the forces of the invisible hand of the market (the push and pull of supply and demand) drive the global immigration and the mixing of peoples, cultures, and religions that are being felt all around the world.
How would we ever go back to a world without that? Why would we want to?
Those market forces aren’t going away any time soon, in any of the world’s current economic systems, so people will continue to cross borders. And technology and travel will only make it increasingly easy for them to do so, physically as well as electronically. So, we need to help Mr. Sellner rethink his basic position, not to mention his hatred.
The only future that is not global, multicultural, cosmopolitan, is a future that takes us to some form of a tribal past, which is obviously no future at all. Short some global nuclear apocalypse, we are never going back. Let me say that again, in social media speak:
We. Are. Never. Going. Back.
The movement white nationalists fear (as do regular-old-nationalists), is actually at the heart of the American “experiment” in freedom and democracy. “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free…” Learning to be enthusiastic about the benefits of multiculturalism ought to be easy, especially in the US.
All human existence can be thought of as an “experiment.” When we do Parent/Child Dedication services in our church, our litany includes the words, “By this act of dedication, we welcome you to a journey that will take your whole life. This is the beginning of God's experiment with your life…”
No experiments fail. Ever. We learn and grow by changing (if we are willing to learn at all).
At this stage in God’s experiment in the life of our world, and at this turn of a New Year, I’m praying forward. We’ll never get to the future looking back. We’ll never get there hating The Other. We’ll never get there us-only-first.
My prayer for a New Year is that we’ll see the danger (and the impossibility) of the nationalist dream, and be big enough to recognize the future that is already with us includes “us” and “them.” And let’s trust God enough to embrace the future – with enthusiasm.
(Dr. Russ Dean is a graduate of Clinton High School. He and his wife, Rev. Amy Jacks Dean, also a CHS graduate, are co-pastors of Park Road Baptist Church in Charlotte.)