By: Martina I.
2016 has been marked by one of the most prominent uprisings in extreme nationalism in modern times. From Donald Trump’s highly controversial campaign and election, to Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, it has caused many moderate and historically-learned individuals to tremble in the face of the threat of where these events might lead. Will other influential nation’s follow the US’ lead in electing highly nationalistic leaders? Will other EU members hold referendums on membership in the union and perhaps decide to leave it? These are the questions which we have heard ceaselessly repeated on news broadcasts by pale-faced commentators. An answer to both of these questions, or at least a partial answer, has been announced this Sunday (7th of May 2017) when France elected its new president. The two candidates in question: Marine Le Pen and Emmanuel Macron, have often been suggested to represent extreme nationalism, and a more moderate approach to politics respectively. Therefore, election on 7th of May 2017 may have been seen as a metaphor for the fight between this rapidly developing threat and those wishing to contain it.
Nationalism in itself isn’t necessarily dangerous or negative. There are no reasons why loyal citizens shouldn’t be openly proud of their country and their national pride. The threat emerges when pride in one’s nations develops into apathy towards all others and their citizens, leading to the failure of the system of international collaboration as we know it. This can be extremely catastrophic considering the multiple outstanding threats which we currently faced which cannot in any way be tackled by a single nation, or even a coalition of different nations without the support of every single country which is significant in the international spectrum of power. As an example, take climate change, and imagine the consequences if every single nation, mindless of the well-being of the international community, caring for nothing other than its own interests, decided to cut all regulations on CO2 emissions in order to benefit its economy and advantage its businesses. Similarly, an overly nationalistic government might decide to pay no attention to the current stream of refugees pouring out of Syria, putting all its fellow nations, and the thousands of defenceless refugees, in extreme difficulty, based on that particular nation’s international influence. I’m sorry to say, both of these examples are based on real events. Trump has repeatedly pledged to eliminate climate change regulations, and his words have become actions with the defunding of the Environmental Protection Agency. Furthermore, the signing of executive orders intended to create American coal-mining jobs above tackling climate change, seems to be an intriguingly idiotic move considering the imminent and rapidly approaching downfall of the coal industry which has been predicted by countless economists. Likewise, Marine Le Pen has attracted a disturbing amount of support from French citizens by pledging to drastically reduce the admittance of immigrants and refugees into France, stating that “these people have no reason to stay in France.”
Marine Le Pen’s nationalism spreads far beyond her foreign policy, causing her to intimidate and in some regards threaten undocumented immigrants and their children who are already in the country: “If you come to our country, don’t expect to be taken care of, to be looked after, that your children will be educated without charge,” she stated, as part of her proposal to end free education for the children of such immigrants, after which she declared: “playtime is over,” perhaps a remark addressed to the children themselves. Extreme nationalism can also lead to a profound hatred for cultures and religions associated with foreign nations, hence Le Pen’s apparent islamophobia. Specifically, not only has she repeatedly linked immigration with militant Islamism, when there is no evidence to support that connection, considering that all recent terrorist attacks against France have been perpetrated by individuals already on European soil, often legal French citizens, she has gone so far as to propose that all Muslim French citizens show “extreme” views, a term which she has yet to define concretely, should be stripped of their citizenship. On a more threatening note, she has repeatedly expressed her desire for a “Frexit,” or France’s exit from the EU. That a politician with basic knowledge of Europe’s turbulent past should fail to see the security and peace provided by an institution such as the EU is concerning. Either Le Pen favors complete sovereignty over the good of the international community and the obviation of a third major European war, or, like Trump, who has recently remarked in regard to the American Civil War “why was there the war?” Le Pen is ignorant of the reasons that led to the two world wars, namely, European disunity, and what could have prevented them.
Macron, on the other hand, has been praised for his moderate and considerate views. A strong vocal supporter of the EU, he has pledged to strengthen France’s position within the union, and recognized its key role in maintaining world peace. Furthermore, his proposals include creating a European headquarter for security in co-operation with NATO, a much more agreeable alternative for eradicating terrorism than calling for an end to an issue in no one related to this security threat, except in his own distorted mind (*cough* Le Pen *cough*). As for domestic policy, Macron’s ideas would be just as beneficial to the French population as his foreign policy, if put into action. Specifically, he has laid out a comprehensive plan to invest €50 billion into job training, farming, transport, infrastructure and healthcare. He is also a believer in climate change, in other words, he is mentally sane, and wishes to tackle the issue by moving from coal-based energy production to renewable energy sources, a wonderful way of perpetuating the positive change that is currently occurring in many EU nations. Moreover, he does not wish to deprive innocent children of an education because of their parent’s nationality and crime of illegal immigration (*cough* Le Pen *cough*).
Thankfully, Macron is currently leading in most polls with upwards of 60% of the vote. Nevertheless, the threat is too great and the polls are too fallible to relax until after May 7th. Therefore, at the time of writing (May 6), all that’s left is to hope that the polls will not let us down as they did with the US election. One thing is for sure, regardless of how interested you are in politics or foreign affairs, reader, the consequences of (at the time of writing) tomorrow’s vote will be far too great for you to ignore, and if you don’t want to be left ignorant of the situation and capable of remarking nothing better than “very interesting election currently taking place in France,” like Donald Trump, you better pay attention.
UPDATE: May 11th, the election is over and Macron has triumphed over the extremist Le Penn by conquering with an incredible 66% of the vote. Unlike the United States, it seems that in France the strategy of uniting all moderate parties against the common enemy has been successful. Now that the ultranationalist threat in Europe has been contained, and the threat of a “Frexit” seems to have disappeared, Europeans and progressive international community can now breathe a sigh of relief. Likewise, migrants and asylum-seekers can hold on to their hopes of being hosted by France, and therefore, collaboration on the immigration crisis will continue as normal. This is a great victory for the modern world, which, especially after Trump and “Brexit”, seems to have sent the message that regardless of certain isolated events, the world is not marching towards a disaster.