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Poland is having its own troubles with a turn toward intolerance and the reassertion of a monoethnic Polish–and Catholic–norm. It parallels trends in numerous countries, including my own, against immigrants, Muslims, Syrian refugees, and minorities. I’m proud to say my friends and colleagues in the Institute of Ethnology and Cultural Anthropology at Adam Mickiewicz Univeristy in Poznan are organizing in support of multiculturalism and migration. An article in Gazeta Wyborcza, Anthropologists against Racism in Discussions about Refugees, begins:
“Different terms have become politicized. The word patriotism begins to be identified with aggressive nationalism, culture becomes an instrument of exclusion,” assert anthropologists. They are convening a special meeting in which they want to oppose racism and the appropriation of concepts by radicals and xenophobes.”

The original text in Polish reads- Różne terminy zostały upolitycznione. Słowo patriotyzm zaczyna być utożsamiane z agresywnym nacjonalizmem, kultura staje się narzędziem wykluczenia – twierdzą antropolodzy. Zwołują nadzwyczajny zjazd, na którym chcą się sprzeciwić rasizmowi i zawłaszczaniu pojęć przez radykałów i ksenofobów.

In Poland’s election in 2014, the Law and Justice Party, riding a wave of populist frustration with the status quo, won in a surprise victory over then-President Komorowski. They have since won a plurality in the parliament and are more powerful than ever. Joanna Kakissis examined this in her report Populist Party Campaigns on Making Poland Great Again on All Things Considered today.

I’m fearful about what will happen next in Poland, and in the US. Already last summer, some heritage workers in Poland said they are confronting more road blocks against raising money for projects. Some people in government are also trying to limit free speech by making it a crime to speak out against the Polish nation. Scholars and journalists who investigate historic events and uncover evidence of crimes Poles committed against Jews feel threatened they might be accused of treason; it doesn’t seem to matter whether they are reporting the truth or not. What matters to some is that they may besmirch Poland’s good name; Nothing should challenge the national mythology that Poles were heroes who were themselves victims of Nazi oppression. There is no room for ambiguity, for dealing with cases where victims were also perpetrators. After our own election, I worry that the need for a simple collective narrative about American exceptionalism will now challenge free speech in the US. I already see hints of it in the anger some have expressed toward the people who are protesting the election results.

Something is definitely shifting all over the world. I believe it is a reaction to globalization and the failed promises of neoliberalism. I fear, though, it is easier to look for a scapegoat than it is to fix these fundamental institutional problems.