At Slate this week, in an article titled “White Fright,” Christopher Hitchens doesn’t call the Tea Partiers Herderians (as I have this past month), but his description of them matches European Herderian politics perfectly. In fact, Christopher Hitchens makes the link between European ethnic politics and the American Tea Partiers directly:
In a rather curious and confused way, some white people are starting almost to think like a minority, even like a persecuted one. What does it take to believe that Christianity is an endangered religion in America or that the name of Jesus is insufficiently spoken or appreciated? Who wakes up believing that there is no appreciation for our veterans and our armed forces and that without a noisy speech from Sarah Palin, their sacrifice would be scorned? It’s not unfair to say that such grievances are purely and simply imaginary, which in turn leads one to ask what the real ones can be. The clue, surely, is furnished by the remainder of the speeches, which deny racial feeling so monotonously and vehemently as to draw attention. . . . More recently, almost every European country has seen the emergence of populist parties that call upon nativism and give vent to the idea that the majority population now feels itself unwelcome in its own country. The ugliness of Islamic fundamentalism in particular has given energy and direction to such movements. It will be astonishing if the United States is not faced, in the very near future, with a similar phenomenon.
In other words, Herderian politics is on the rise again in Europe, and it gains its energy by fueling fear of immigrants, and Muslims in particular. And the same dynamic is in play in the United States:
One crucial element of the American subconscious is about to become salient and explicit and highly volatile. It is the realization that white America is within thinkable distance of a moment when it will no longer be the majority. . . . This summer, then, has been the perfect register of the new anxiety, beginning with the fracas over Arizona’s immigration law, gaining in intensity with the proposal by some Republicans to amend the 14th Amendment so as to de-naturalize “anchor babies,” cresting with the continuing row over the so-called “Ground Zero” mosque, and culminating, at least symbolically, with a quasi-educated Mormon broadcaster calling for a Christian religious revival from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.
Notice the ethnic and religious register surrounding each of the issues that Christopher Hitchens lists: immigration, Mexican “anchor babies,” the ground zero mosque, and Christian religious revival. These are not Jeffersonian, Enlightenment, or libertarian concerns; these are Herderite concerns; that is, ethnic and religious nationalist concerns, plain and simple.
What we are witnessing is the extension of multiculturalism as farce to whites: BET and Barack Obama for blacks; FOX and Glenn Beck for whites. And how you look at Muslim Americans (as citizen individuals or as collectively guilty for 9/11) becomes the fulcrum on which your vision for America is discerned.
Can we live together? Can we live apart?