Heterodox Views on Politics and Public Policy from Michael Blaine

Monday, December 17, 2007

Minnesota's Own Version of "Verjudung," or How Somali Refugees Threaten Christmas In The Upper Midwest

Germany's Pro-Christian, Anti-Semitic Adolf Stoecker:
Would He Win Votes in Present-Day Minnesota?

A substantial number of Minnesotans have developed an hysterical fear of Muslims. The main Minneapolis newspaper regularly reports on the purported social infractions engaged in by the local Somali community, who arrived in the city in the early 1990's as refugees fleeing civil war in their home country. The latest outrage to rile the native population involves the creation by a local community college of a designated place for Somali-origin students to observe their daily prayer ritual.

In a blog discussion about the prayer site, one participant asserted the following:

“This is just another step in the Islamification of our country. This will be the civil war of our lifetime. America vs. internal and home-grown Muslims.”
Apart from evincing paranoia, the commentary -- not at all unique in the blogosphere, or in the nation's capital-- is also reminiscent of a sinister belief from Germany's past: Verjudung.

Verjudung held that 19th century German culture was being corrupted by the newly-emancipated Jews. One of its foremost proponents was Adolf Stoecker, who -- according to Wikipedia -- was "upset with the dislocating social effects brought on by rapid industrialization" and so "called for German society to rededicate itself to Christian faith and return to Germanic rule in law and business." Stoecker founded the Christian Social Party, designed at once to beat back socialism and deprive Jews of their civil rights. The CSP found that the more it attacked German Jewry, the greater its success at the ballot box.

Along with increasing xenophobia in Minnesota, directed not only at Somali Muslims but also at Mexican immigrants, the US Congress has swung into action to revive explicitly a principal part of the CSP philosophy, last week passing House Resolution 847: "Recognizing the importance of Christmas and the Christian faith." While the Iraq situation festers and a global financial crisis unfolds, our House of "Representatives" found time to assert officially by a vote of 372-9 that "on December 25 of each calendar year, American Christians observe Christmas, the holiday celebrating the birth of their savior, Jesus Christ." Stoecker would have been proud.

Another major piece of the context that helped spawn the German CSP also is on the rise in present-day America: economic anxiety. The subprime mortgage crisis threatens not only to throw millions of people out of their homes and cause the US economy to contract, but also to provoke a worldwide financial meltdown. The blame for this, according to Martin Wolf of "The Financial Times," ultimately falls on the shoulders of the financiers of London and New York who are guilty of poisoning international markets with a "mixture of crony capitalism and gross incompetence." Even so, substitute "liberal" for "socialist" and "Muslim/Mexican" for "Jew" and my money is on our nation's latter-day Adolf Stoeckers to continue diverting anger from worthy targets onto bogeymen.


Richard Cretan said...

Great comment, Michael.

How little Minnesota changes! Perhaps the Klan should start recruiting at the Mall of America.

The current ugliness also recalls the NIMBY complaints, in the 80s, against resettlement there of Hmong refugees. I believe it was then-Sen. Dave Durenberger who led the nativists.

He was followed, a few years later, by Bud Grant leading his merry sportsmen against Native Americans.

Nativism is an old tool for exciting the rubes and it is no surprise, as you note, seeing it revived once more just as Bushism is coming to a bad end.

Michael Blaine said...

Yes, it's not easy to watch Minnesotans lash out at or cower in fear from some kids at Normandale Community College, kids who just happen to be from a different culture.

Instead, one might hope that US citizens would demand reform of a financial system that engaged in systematic fraud throughout the years of the housing boom.


Om said...

It would be really sad to see Minnesota-niceness turned into an ugly xenophobia by a few inherently hateful individuals. As you noted correctly, every "new" immigrant goes through this time-honored nativist/racist attacks. It happened to the Irish, the Italians...and as Richard notes, at least in MN, the Hmong community has gone through this. So I'm not surprised to see the Somali community scape-goated by a corrupt, power-hungry politicians seeking votes using the tool that ALWAYS works - FEAR!

...I really hate to see Minnesota-niceness into hate and xenophobia.

Michael Blaine said...

Thank you for the post, OM.

One heartening aspect of the Minneapolis StarTribune's demonizing of the Somali refugees is how many people have objected to it!


Om said...

People in MN are truly nice ppl...whenever I'm asked abt my time in MN, I always tell them I miss the ppl, but not the weather. I lived in a small town (Waseca) for abt 3 yrs. and I never felt threatened, discriminated, or mistreated...and that is something no one can say abt any other state in the union.

I remember that jackass Glen Beck on Corrupt Noise Network insulting Congressmen Keith Ellison and the people of Minnesota by insinuating that Mr. Ellison maybe on the side of the "terrorist," hence the ppl of MN are not on America's side. It is all part of the fear-mongering/hate machine, but I know that the ppl of Minnesota are better than that and will never fall for what these media/politician half-wits are trying to do. But then again, fear and scar tactics have been proven to be very effective...I would be really sad to see the day Minnesota-nice is no longer taken for granted:(

Kepha said...

Well, how should Minnesotans feel when Muslim cabbies refuse to take blind people with seeing eye dogs? What of harassment of "immodestly" (i.e., no hijab) clad women on the street in heavily Muslim areas?