“Who gets to define a nation?,” journalist Anne Applebaum asks in a piece she wrote for the latest edition of The Atlantic magazine. “And who, therefore, gets to rule a nation?
For a long time, we have imagined that these questions were settled — but why should they ever be?”
Newspaper, magazine and broadcast reports attempting to explain the moves toward nationalist-tinged political populism in a host of European nations, and certainly the United States as well, have become a journalistic staple, which makes sense given the subject’s importance.
Here’s one recent example worth reading produced by New York Times columnist Ross Douthat that looks at the issue in light of the recent Swedish national election. His focus is whether the political center can continue to hold, and for how long?
So why single out this magazine essay by Applebaum, who is also a columnist for The Washington Post?
Because it’s a good example of how a writer’s deep personal experience of living within a culture for many years can produce an understanding that’s difficult to find in copy produced by the average correspondent who, at best, spends a few years in a region before moving on to a new assignment.
Granted, the American-born Applebaum has the advantage of being married to a Polish politician and writer. She herself has become a dual citizen of the U.S. and Poland, and is raising her children in Poland.
As a Jew, however, she retains her outsider status in Polish society. It's from this vantage point that she conveys how Poland’s shift toward right-wing populism has impacted the nation, and her. (Her piece is one of several published by The Atlantic grouped together under the ominous rubric, “Is Democracy Dying?”)
If it is dying, at least in the short run, she argues that in large measure it’s due to the sweeping demographic changes in Europe triggered by the large number of Muslim refugees and immigrants fleeing war, poverty and general chaos in Syria, Iraq, North Africa and elsewhere who have moved there.