On the train to New York last week, I had the displeasure of sitting in front of a rather loud, abrasive woman who, apropos of nothing, lectured/harangued her unfortunate seatmate—a pleasant and soft-spoken Nigerian businessman—about her country's hideous history of bigotry and genocide. America was full of misinformed rubes entranced by American Idol, we are congenitally, irredeemably racist, blah, blah. It was rather obvious, she argued, that Americans wouldn't ever pull the lever for Barack Obama, and for this she profusely apologized. (She actually apologized.) The Nigerian smiled politely. (Actually, in the latest Pew Global Attitudes poll shows that, just behind the Japanese, the Nigerians were most positive towards America.) Then came the rather predictable speech on America's damaged reputation and her deep embarrassment in disclosing her nationality when travelling in Europe, a continent, she sighed, that was light years ahead of us on issues like race, immigration, and various social issues like gay rights and the death penalty.
Well, no. Sure, places like Sweden, Holland, and Norway are to the left of America on many social issues, and many are far more supportive of gay marriage and civil unions than Americans. But there are vast differences in European attitudes on such questions, as evidenced by the much more socially conservative views held by Poles, Italians, Greeks, and Portuguese. Progressive Europe, of course, is only progressive in those progressive enclaves, mostly in Northern and Western Europe. In December 2006, for instance, a Eurobarometer poll reported that "only 32% of Europeans feel that homosexual couples should be allowed to adopt children throughout Europe" and "44% of EU citizens agree that such marriages should be allowed throughout Europe." In Greece, that number was only 15 percent, in Italy 31 percent.
So the day after the train lecture on why "Europe" will be disappointed by our inevitable anti-Obama racism, I saw this tale of superior European progressivism in The Guardian:
Sixty-eight per cent of Italians, fuelled by often inflammatory attacks by the new rightwing government, want to see all of the country's 150,000 Gypsies, many of them Italian citizens, expelled, according to an opinion poll.
The survey, published as mobs in Naples burned down Gypsy camps this week, revealed that the majority also wanted all Gypsy camps in Italy to be demolished.