The small constitutional monarchy of Belgium is located in northwestern Europe, encompassing 11,850 square miles for its 11.5 million residents. Dutch or Flemish and French are the two main languages of its inhabitants.
To Western ears, the term Belgian Congo generally comes to mind as the nation was, at one time, a significant commercial trader and colonizing entity. Between 1888 and 1908, under King Leopold II, Belgium enslaved and later massacred a large segment of the indigenous population to dominate commerce in the rubber and ivory trade. At the time, the Congo was part of Leopold’s monarchical estate and not yet a colony.
Mixed-race relationships, as in most colonial empires, were strictly forbidden and enforced by oppressive rules. Metis is the French word for mixed race children, a likely event for colonial masters in a foreign country. “No remedy was radical enough to avoid the creation of metis” was a principal guide.
Children of mixed parentage were taken from mothers and sent to religious institutions, mostly Catholic, and some were sent to Belgium. It was not until 2019 that the Belgian government apologized for the systematic, forced kidnapping and deportations. Five present-day survivors have sued for reparations and damages. A trial alleging crimes against humanity is underway.
Earlier this year, Australia, after a lawsuit had been filed, announced a plan of reparations for similar conduct in the 1900s to 1970s involving indigenous children. Canada has established a national commission to review the separation of thousands of indigenous children between 1883 and 1996 forced into residential institutions. Accountability is finally spreading across the globe.
Under the former president, international trade was an oft-cited interest, one wherein the term “reciprocal” received attention. It has become clear in recent years that nationalism has emerged among many nations as a response to outside influences, most particularly in Europe toward immigrant movements.
In Brazil, political conflict has arisen that is shaking the government led by Jair Bolsonaro, which has prompted him to question the legitimacy of next year’s elections. Sound familiar? It should.
The suspicion of electoral results has become an export product of the Trump administration. As reported in Forbes (Sep. 7, 2021), a team of allies conducted a conference in Brasilia recently and was described by the magazine this way:
The conference hall was packed, with a crowd of more than 1,000 cheering attacks on the press, the liberals and the politically correct. There was Donald Trump Jr., warning that the Chinese could meddle in the election, a Tennessee congressman who voted against certifying the 2020 vote, and the president complaining about voter fraud.
In many ways, the September gathering looked like just another CPAC, the annual conservative political conference. But it was happening in Brazil, most of it was in Portuguese, and the president at the lectern was Jair Bolsonaro, the country’s right-wing leader.
In August, a Brazilian congressional panel recommended charges against Bolsonaro for crimes against humanity for intentionally allowing the coronavirus to sweep the country on a theory of creating herd immunity, leading to thousands of deaths. Not unlike Trump, the Brazilian president is ardently supported by a son who often engages with operatives from Trump world. One is Jason Miller, a former Trump spokesperson and newly subpoenaed witness to the January 6th Committee, who is chief executive of Gettr, a social media platform similar to Twitter, launched last July and now functioning in Brazil. The son has also invited principals of Project Veritas, such as James O’Keefe, another right-wing operative.
The export of US extremism to other nations will continue to undermine our foreign policy initiatives while offering little other than comfort to a few malcontents.
The specter of “Polexit” now rumbles in Poland as a result of rising extreme nationalism, creating a clash of values complicated by the country’s deeply Catholic religiosity. The emerging chasms are reminiscent of those in the United States.
The secular values embraced by the European Union are under challenge by rising nationalist fervor in a number of European nations, including Hungary, Lithuania, and Austria. England’s Brexit has not been fully finalized, as issues involving the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland continue to vex the separation.
On the continent, the scene is similar as EU member nations have become integrated into a regional economy where business development and civil projects rely upon EU financing. Brexit brought no immediate benefits to the British Empire and other threats to decouple from the EU are not likely to add to the independence of continental nations.
Of course, the same was true of the Civil War in the US. Some political satisfaction may be gained from exiting the EU but the cost to an individual nation’s citizens may far outweigh that achievement.