Europeans should look in the mirror

Posted: Jan 11, 2001 12:00 AM
America-bashing is all the rage in Europe. So writes Martin Kettle of Britain's Guardian newspaper in The Washington Post. "The phenomenon," as he explains, "was already beginning to make itself felt well before the election, over three issues in particular: the death penalty, global warming and national missile defense." The election of Gov. George W. Bush from Texas -- an oil state that doesn't shy away from capital punishment -- has set more Europeans to look down on gauche America. Beltway types shrivel at the prospect of Euro sophisticates sneering at us colonists. They take it as a matter of faith that Europeans are better than we are. They cringe in shame when Continentals draw heavily on a Gauloise and denounce America's role in global warming. Since the Euros charge Champagne prices for gasoline, Europhiles argue America should gouge drivers. Most European countries eschew the death penalty, so capital punishment is for hicks. Don't expect this Yank to be cowed. If continental snoots want to compare values, let the game begin. Start with Holland, where de facto legalized assisted suicide has allowed doctors to kill disabled babies. According to the Lancet medical journal, 8 percent of all babies who died were administered lethal drugs. While the Dutch system was supposed to allow for doctors to help patients who want to die, a 1992 government study found that Dutch doctors annually kill more than 1,000 sick adults who don't ask to be killed. The Dutch shouldn't scoff at Texas, not when they have a death penalty for sick and disabled people. In France last month, Emile Louis, a convicted sex offender, confessed to killing seven mentally impaired women between 1977 and 1979. Why did he confess? Why not? Justice-loving France has a 10-year statute of limitations for murder. In 1997, a French court refused to extradite an American who had been convicted in absentia for killing his girlfriend in Philadelphia more than two decades ago. The court feared Ira Einhorn would receive less justice than one finds in France, the implication being that there was more justice in Einhorn living with his Swedish girlfriend in a converted windmill in Champagne-Mouton. (The French Supreme Court ruled that Einhorn could be extradited in 1999, but the wheels of justice grind slowly and Einhorn remains in France.) The French government refused to use a U.S.-developed test that detected HIV in blood in 1985. It waited until a French company developed a test. The result: 300 people contracted HIV from contaminated blood. So let the French sneer at the death penalty for murderers. Germany's "blood laws" deny citizenship to residents who cannot prove German ancestry. Children of immigrants born in Germany do not automatically become citizens. These are hardly people to preach progressiveness and enlightenment. And let's not forget that when genocide was occurring in their own continent, the Euros needed brutish American troops to help them out. Truth is, I'm not that down on justice in Europe -- as long as I'm not in a Dutch hospital. But I've actually heard Americans cite European disdain as a reason to get rid of the death penalty in America. It would be ridiculous for this country -- founded because early Americans didn't want to kowtow to mother country highbrows -- to bow to Europe in the justice department. Better to understand that it is in the nature of Europeans to sneer at Americans. Hey, they're jealous. And it should be a natural for Americans to laugh it off, not cringe if we lack European approval.