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Roger L. Simon

Right and Left upside down: Geert Wilders and the Tea Party Movement

February 24th, 2010 - 9:21 am

Over the decades I was a Leftist, I lived under the evidently misguided belief that my side was for freedom and democracy and the other was rigid, old farts willing to do anything to preserve the ancien régime.

Well, nowhere have I been proven more wrong than Holland where the history of the last decade – from the 2002 assassination of Pim Fortuyn to the 2005 murder of Theo Van Gogh to the current controversy surrounding the trial (and political candidacy) of Geert Wilders – makes clear the we indeed live in a world upside down.

As a reminder, Wilders is the Dutch politician now on trial for “hate-speech” in the Netherlands. Among other things he has produced the film Fitna, accusing Islam of being a violent ideology, and called for the banning of the Koran in Holland in similar manner to the banning of Mein Kampf in that country. Many leftist, multi-culturalists have come down heavily on Wilders for this but the Netherlands is a complicated place and others see Wilders as a paragon of free speech and honesty. Needless to say, Wilders’ positions are defensible, even if his methods may have been excessive to our eyes.

Furthermore, many Dutch citizens are apparently on Wilders’ side because, in the midst of his trial, an election is being held and the standard bearer of the Freedom Party is enjoying tremendous popularity. From Reuters:

A Dutch Labour politician’s call to keep far-right leader Geert Wilders out of a new government has stirred anger among other parties who consider the move undemocratic and likely to drive voters towards him.

Wilders and his Freedom Party have been a focus of debate since the Dutch cabinet collapsed on Saturday, as the election which could be held as early as May will be a key opportunity for the anti-immigration group to increase its influence after a stunning success at European elections last year.

Frans Timmermans, a member of the Labour party and minister for European affairs, said on Monday that Labour would refuse to govern in coalition with Wilders’ party, and he called on other parties to consider a similar approach.

“The Labour party stands for a completely different Holland than the party of Wilders, and for that reason we cannot be in a government with him,” a spokeswoman for the Labour party said.

“He (Timmermans) dared other parties to think the same thing. Do they want to be in a government that segregates people by race and religion?”

Wilders has described the call as an “arrogant” attempt to ringfence his Freedom Party (PVV) and said it was an insult to the democratic system, telling Dutch media “the voter will seek punishment for this”.

Members of other parties have also described the move as undemocratic and warned that it could push voters into the arms of Wilders, considered a maverick among the political elite.

What can the Tea Party Movement learn from Wilders? Two things, I think. The first is courage. We are dealing with big issues. Don’t be afraid. Go for them. The public will reward you.

The second is to think globally (to use an old leftist phrase). America is an exceptional country, but the tendency among certain elements of the Tea Party Movement (not just Ron Paulites, but them especially) to use this exceptionalism as an excuse to roll up the plank and act is if the rest of the world does not exist is not only impossible, it’s absurd. Technology has made our globe the size of a peanut. Unwinding the global economy at this point is ridiculous and impoverishing to all. Pretending that ideologies, such as the one Wilders opposes, are not out to destroy our civilization is being willfully ignorant and self-destructive. Learn from Chairman Geert!

Okay, I’m being cute with that last phrase, but there is something to be learned here. Courage is global. Our values are global and wue should ally with those who espouse them. Here’s another example. And for an update on the Wilders Trial go here.

UPDATE: There has been some discussion on here about the matter of book-banning as it reflects on the Wilders case. As an author, it should go without saying that I unequivocally oppose book-banning. Regarding Wilders, I had the pleasure of meeting the man at a party in Los Angeles last year and spent thirty minutes or so talking with him, often one-on-one. He is extremely well-spoken and personable. I raised the issue of book-banning with him and he acknowledged that it was problematic in anglo-saxon society and also indicated that he personally opposed it, but he raised the question of banning the Koran in Holland because that country (and Germany) had already banned Mein Kampf. (MK is available only to scholars in restricted libraries.) He indicated this banning was a kind of publicity stunt aimed at a form of consciousness raising. I believe he was being honest with me. After all, the aim of his short film Fitna was to publish portions of the Koran that he deemed racist and violent in intent – essentially to publicize them.

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