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Nationalist Protesters Take To The Streets of Poland
On Saturday, Poland’s annual Independence Day became a frightening celebration of racism and ultra-right nationalism. According to news reports, tens of thousands of Poles, mostly young men, marched through Warsaw with signs bearing statements like “clean blood,” “white Europe,” and “pray for an Islamic holocaust.”
This is the same Poland where a brave resistance movement led the Warsaw Uprising against German occupation in 1944. More than 1.9 million non-Jewish citizens and an estimated 3 million Jewish citizens of Poland died at the hands of Germany, according to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. And this is the same Poland whose pro-democracy Solidarity Movement labored to defeat Communism—and won. The irony that a group of Poles should wish this kind of brutality on their country again should not be lost on anyone.
These sentiments are not only felt in the streets of Poland, but across Europe where support for polarizing candidates of the left and right has grown. In May 2017, one-third of French voters cast their ballots for Marine Le Pen, a pro-Russian, anti-Semitic, anti-EU political candidate. Political decisions are also separating what once was a unified Europe. The United Kingdom’s Brexit vote is an example of this solidarity shattering. Read more in Spirit of Liberty: At Home, In The World report.
These very serious and concerning ideas are not restricted “across the pond.” The United States has seen an emboldening of racists and nativists, with some media and politicians only encouraging confrontation. Protests by white supremacists like the one in Charlottesville this year, that turned racism into violence and a social media movement, are only gaining traction.
As President George W. Bush said in New York at a national forum called “The Spirit of Liberty: At Home, In the World,” “Bigotry seems emboldened. Our politics seems more vulnerable to conspiracy theories and outright fabrication.”
So it begs the question, will the world stand by and allow another Holocaust, as those in Poland were advocating? Will we as Americans stand up against racism and the ideologies of hate right here at home?
There’s serious work to do to reaffirm the values of freedom, to strengthen the institutions that secure these values at home, and to build a new consensus that it is in America’s interest to lead in their strengthening worldwide. George W. Bush Institute fellows have created a series of recommendations that provide a road map for where to start. Government and private sector. Individuals and institutions. There is something each of us can do to strengthen our democracy at home and remain an example and beacon for all who seek freedom globally.
As President Bush said, “Our identity as a nation – unlike many other nations – is not determined by geography or ethnicity, by soil or blood. This means that people of every race, religion, and ethnicity can be fully and equally American. It means that bigotry or white supremacy in any form is blasphemy against the American creed.”
Amanda Schnetzer is Director of Global Initiatives at the George W. Bush Institute in Dallas, Texas. In this role, she is responsible for developing innovative research, programmatic, and policy efforts to advance societies rooted in political and economic freedom and to empower women to lead in their communities and countries. Previously she served as the Bush Institute’s founding director of the Human Freedom Initiative.
Amanda has twenty years of experience in the international arena and a background in public policy research and analysis, public affairs, and management of diverse, high-level stakeholders. As senior fellow and director of studies at Freedom House in New York, Amanda guided research for the organization’s definitive studies of freedom. She began her career at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, DC, supporting research on U.S. foreign policy and international politics. Amanda is a published writer and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. She holds degrees from Georgetown University and Southern Methodist University, where she graduated Phi Beta Kappa.