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A Belgian Academic in America: American Citizenship= "Show Me The Money"?
[Recently by Paul Belien: Anti-Immigration Party Banned In Belgium]
Bart Geerts is a compatriot of mine. He is a Belgian, a Fleming to be more precise, who has been living in the U.S. for 18 years. Mr. Geerts is a professor at the University of Wyoming and lives in Laramie.
I envy him for that. I was in Laramie this summer, visiting a friend, and I liked the place. I liked Wyoming.
I went there in the footsteps of another Fleming, Father Peter-John De Smet, a.k.a. "Blackrobe," who was a missionary amongst the Indians of the Rocky Mountains in the 19th century and was the first Roman Catholic priest to say Mass in Wyoming.
This happened during the great Rendezvous of the mountain men at the Green River, near present-day Pinedale, in 1840. Kit Carson was there. He wrote in his diary about "old Father de Smitt," whom, he said, "never feared danger when duty required his presence among the savages."
I was proud to discover this nation has not forgotten him. When looking in the (large) bookstore of the Buffalo Bill Historical Center in Cody for a book about De Smet, I asked the shop assistant whether she had ever heard of him. "Oh yes," she said, "everybody in Wyoming knows Father De Smet."
Sadly, Mr. Geerts does not like America. On November 8, he wrote an op-ed piece in De Standaard, the leading Flemish intellectual newspaper, saying that America makes him "shiver." [Texas zet de trend, pay archive, in Flemish]
The professor is saddened by the elections because the result proves that the U.S. is changing "from a pluralist country where Blacks and Whites, Lutherans, Catholics and Jews were neighbors and had freedom of speech" into "an ever more conservative and narrow-minded country."
The elections showed, he laments, that "moral values were decisive."
"This makes us shiver," he continues. "By 'us' I mean the people who have already travelled abroad. People who are a bit more educated. People who have expatriates among their friends. People who care a great deal about nature, justice and other ideas."
To these illuminati, Prof. Geerts opposes the nincompoops "whose social life is centered around the church." He writes that the reelection of Dubya "is a tragedy for America and the world" and writes that
"…for many of my friends emigrating to Canada has become an option. This is certainly the case for people who were not born in America, people with a broader perspective, people who had hoped to contribute to the frontier of enterprise, science and technology.
"The flight of America's creativity, the narrow-mindedness of the new majority, the over-confidence of the Bush administration: these are the beginning of the end for America as a world leader."
Is Bart Geerts talking of himself when he refers to intellectuals willing to flee America?
Earlier this year, my wife, who is a member of the Belgian House of Representatives, received an e-mail from Professor Geerts [send him email]. He asked her and her legislative colleagues to change Belgium's nationality rules.
Professor Geerts wrote that, in the U.S., he needed to be an American citizen in order to qualify for government subsidies for some of his scientific projects. But a Belgian who becomes a foreign national loses his Belgian nationality. So could the Belgian legislators please change the law—so that Mr. Geerts could have dual nationality?
Professor Geerts explained that he would rather remain a Belgian, but he wished to become an American, too, in order to apply for American subsidies.
The Belgian law, he complained, discriminated him because his American colleagues could get U.S. government funding, while he could not.
So far, Belgium has not changed its nationality law. I hope it does not. Dual nationality is a contradiction in terms. It is divided loyalty, which is no loyalty at all. People cannot be loyal to two countries. Can you imagine Prof. Geerts taking the oath of allegiance to the U.S., while the only thing really on his mind is: Give me the money?
Unlike Father De Smet, two centuries ago, they do not want to share the "dangers" of their new homeland "when duty requires them to."
Let them all leave for Canada—if it wants them.