by Brent Budowsky
From the barbaric terrorist murders in Paris to cruel austerity in Greece that has left that cradle of democracy with a jobless rate of nearly 25 percent, Europe is in crisis.
Europe faces dangers from within and from abroad. While a united Europe will ultimately survive and prosper, the very concept of a European Union is under attack from a backward-looking and small-minded politics that plagues democracies throughout the West.
Europe is threatened by a neo-fascist terrorism that defames true Islam and murders the innocent in pursuit of a demented vision, and by a neo-Soviet strongman in Russia who mourns the demise of the empire of Brezhnev and would destroy the borders of the continent.
Europe is threatened by bigotry against Muslims that is promoted by extremists from the right and given credence in some recent novels, and by bigotry against Jews reminiscent of the early days of the darkest hours of European history.
Europe is threatened by widespread economic inequality and social injustice, a bitterly divisive anti-immigrant jingoism from the far right, a European Central Bank that perpetually lags behind the economic curve, and policies of economic austerity that lessons of history tell us are disastrously unwise at times of low growth and punishing joblessness.
To defeat and destroy the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, which misnames itself an Islamic State, will require more aggressive military action from the U.S., Europe and the Arab League. But let’s remember, in the Paris terror attacks, one Muslim policeman was murdered, while another Muslim saved the lives of innocent Parisians.
As the title of this column suggests, I love Paris and I love Europe. Many high points in my life occurred in Paris, London and Vatican City, and in Warsaw and Berlin during the Cold War. I have lived, learned and loved in Europe and am more than halfway finished writing a historical fiction novel and screenplay that largely occurs during the liberation of Paris from the Nazis in August 1944, one of the most thrilling moments in the history of freedom with great relevance to events we witness today.
The millions of people recently marching on the streets of Paris and across France and Europe were declaring their liberation from terror, bigotry, hatred and fear. When they were joined in solidarity by actors and the Hollywood Foreign Press Association during the Golden Globe Awards, and marchers in Germany condemning bigotry and hate, they shared this spirit of liberation and hope that represents the highest values of humanity and the truest voice for the future of Europe.
It is no coincidence that a great voice for liberation from economic injustice and intolerance against peoples and faiths is a descendant of Italians who migrated to Argentina and now offers his calls to conscience from Europe as Pope Francis, or that a great spiritual voice for liberation from communist dictatorship was a man from Poland who became Pope John Paul II.
Nor is it a coincidence that the great scholarly voice for liberation from economic inequality is a Frenchman named Thomas Piketty; or that a great friend of France and freedom is Secretary of State John F. Kerry; or that the liberation of Paris in 1944 triumphed because shopkeepers and laborers risked their lives for the French resistance alongside literary lions Albert Camus, André Malraux, Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, Ernest Hemingway and J.D. Salinger.
All these things and more comprise the Paris I love, the France I love and the Europe I love, where vast multitudes of good people come together in common cause with noble and unyielding purpose, with a patriotism that begins with a nation and evolves to a continent and becomes a high calling that unites decent people everywhere.
As many around the world said to Americans in September 2001, we say to the men and women throughout Paris, France and Europe today: You are not alone. Our unity will ultimately triumph, and our cause will ultimately prevail.