Standing before the Siegessaule, the Victory Column that commemorates Prussia's triumphs over Denmark, Austria and France in the wars that birthed the Second Reich, Barack Obama declared himself a "citizen of the world" and spoke of "a world that stands as one."
Globalists rejoiced. And the election of this son of a white teenager from Kansas and a black academic from Kenya is said to have ushered us into the new "post-racial" age.
Are we deluding ourselves? Worldwide, the mightiest force of the 20th century, ethnonationalism — that creator and destroyer of nations and empires; that enduring drive of peoples for a nation-state where their faith and culture is dominant and their race or tribe is supreme — seems more manifest than ever.
"Vote Reflects Racial Divide" ran the banner in The Washington Times over Tuesday's story datelined, "Santa Cruz, Bolivia." It began: "The Bolivian vote to approve a new constitution backed by leftist President Evo Morales reflected racial divisions between the nation's Indian majority and those with European ancestry."
Provinces where mestizo and Europeans predominate voted down the constitution. But it carried with huge majorities the Indian tribes of the western highlands, for this constitution is about group rights.
In 2005, Morales came to office resolved to redistribute wealth and power away from Europeans to his own Aymara tribe and other "indigenous peoples" he contends were robbed by the Europeans who began to arrive 500 years ago, in the time of Columbus. Pizarro's victory over the Incan Empire is to be overturned.
According to Article 190 of the new constitution, Bolivia's 36 Indian areas are authorized to "exercise their jurisdictional functions through their own principles, values, culture, norms and procedures." Tribal law is to become provincial law, and national law.
Gov. Mario Cossio of Tarija, which voted no, says the new constitution will create a "totalitarian regime," controlled through an "ethnically based bureaucracy." To which Morales replies, "Original Bolivians who have been here for a thousand years are many but poor. Recently arrived Bolivians are few but rich."
Bolivia is Balkanizing, dividing up and being divided on the lines of tribe, race and class. And, hailed by Hugo Chavez, Morales' Bolivia is not the only place where the claims of ethnicity, tribe and race are conquering the forces of universalism and globalism.
After a disputed election in Kenya, the Kikyu were subjected to ethnic cleansing and massacres by Luo. In Zimbabwe, white farmers are being dispossessed due to their ancestry. In Sri Lanka, the Tamil rebellion against the ruling Sinhalese — to create a Tamil nation, a war that has cost tens of thousands of lives — appears lost, for now.
In Vladimir Putin's time, Russians have crushed Chechens, confronted Estonians over Russian military graves and war memorials, collided with Ukrainians over the Crimea and bloodied up the Georgians.
Beijing crushes the Uighurs who want their own East Turkestan and Tibetans who seek autonomy, flooding both lands with Han Chinese.
In Europe, populist anti-immigrant parties, alarmed at a loss of national identities, are striding toward respectability and power. The Vlaams Belang, seeking independence for Flanders, is the biggest party in the Belgian parliament. The Peoples Party and Freedom Party are now Austria's second and third most popular. The Swiss People's Party of Christoph Blocher is the largest in Bern. In France, the National Front humiliated the government this week, winning over half the vote in a suburb of Marseilles.
All are unabashedly ethnonationalist. Writes British diplomat Sir Christopher Meyer, "It is useless to say that nationalism and ethnic tribalism have no place in the international relations of the 21st century."
Meanwhile, global institutions, the United Nations, IMF and European Union, have lost their luster. Czechs -- whose president, Vaclav Klaus, regards the EU as a prison house of nations -- hold the EU presidency. When the financial crisis hit, Irish, Brits and Germans rushed to bail out their own banks, as did Americans, who rescued Ford, Chrysler and GM, leaving Toyota, Hyundai and Honda twisting in the wind. This is economic nationalism.
Inside Ehud Olmert's cabinet, a rising star is Avigdor Lieberman. What Lieberman's "merry men" advocate, writes the American Prospect, is "ethnic cleansing: As the creepy name (which translates into 'Our Home Is Israel') suggests, Yisrael Beiteinu believes the million-plus Arab citizens of Israel must be expelled."
Barack won the African-American vote 97 percent to 3 percent over John McCain, and 90 percent to 10 percent over Hillary Clinton in the later primaries. McCain ran stronger than George W. Bush only in Appalachia, the laager of the Scots-Irish.
In Jerry Z. Muller's "Us and Them: The Enduring Power of Ethnic Nationalism," in Foreign Affairs, his thesis is summarized: "Americans generally belittle the role of ethnic nationalism in politics. But ... it corresponds to some enduring propensities of the human spirit. It is galvanized by modernization, and ... it will drive global politics for generations to come. Once ethnic nationalism has captured the imagination of groups in a multiethnic society, ethnic disaggregation or partition is often the least bad answer."
Disaggregation or partition, the man said. Are we really in a post-racial America, or is our multicultural multiethnic America, too, destined for Balkanization and break-up?
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