A reader writes:
I found this statement from your dissenter mildly ironic:
Just like Europeans shouldn't extrapolate US views of people of color from things that happen in West Texas, please don't judge "Europe" based on what one country in it does. It's offensive and it obscures the much more nuanced truth.
As a Texan who has been all over Texas, I have to correct our Swedish friend and provide him with some "nuanced truth." West Texas is less racist than East Texas (think Jasper), and Texas as a whole is less racist than the Deep South. I have no idea why the guy went straight to West Texas to make his point. I know West Texas to be a very tolerant and easy-going place. Cowboys are that way - they live and let live, as long as you show common courtesy and mind your business.
It's funny - as soon as anyone tries to overlay a moral map on a place they know little about, they just ending up undermining their case and sounding like a fool. It's best to avoid even going there, whether it is Americans judging Europe, Swedes judging Texas, or Neocons making snap judgments about the Middle East. Your next e-mail will probably be from a Southerner who is up in arms about my views of the South.
As it happens, yesterday was the annual commemoration of 16th-century Swedish King Charles XII by skinheads in Sweden. Another reader amends the history lesson of the earlier reader:
I just snorted my diet coke through my nose when I read your reader talking about how hunky-dory religious freedom was in Poland thanks to the wonderful Warsaw Confederation of 1573.
In 1648 Bohdan Khmelnytsky massacred 100,000 Jews in the Khmelnytsky Uprising. While the Jewish population had the support of Poland's kings for a time, they were not liked by many of the lesser nobility and much of the peasantry; in time they lost even the support of Poland's kings. Through the sixteenth and seventeenth century Poland saw huge numbers of towns expel their resident Jewish populations, and merchants were in the vanguard of pogrom organization. Students regularly assaulted Jews in the major Polish cities, and police paid very little attention to these crimes.
So, I'd like your reader not to assume that because some document in the 1570s said something, that it meant a damn thing to the actual people who suffered violence, or to those people charged with enforcing that document against the vast anti-Semitism that characterized much of European society, and well, still does, but mainly in the form of a different Semitic people. It is, in your reader's own words, "offensive and it obscures the much more nuanced truth."
Go to the extensive Wiki entry to weigh the history for yourself.