One of the Internet’s marvels is that it has opened up news from the entire world to our eyes and ears.

Even if you only speak English, there are journals published in that language all over the globe, and even a nodding acquaintance with another tongue gives you even more sources of information.

One of the things we can learn is that other nations face the same issues we do and are responding to them in ways that can inform our debates.

However, our papers and broadcast news don’t often give those stories the play they get abroad, no matter how potentially interesting they might be to U.S. audiences.

There are tons of examples, with the debate over “global warming” being one of the most significant. Many in the U.S. media continue their increasingly futile attempt to tamp down the skepticism roiling other nations, particularly in Europe and Asia, over doubtful claims of impending doom.

Yet, only a brief survey of foreign papers shows the debate in full swing, with skeptics landing plenty of solid shots in response to warmist claims.

But that’s a subject for a future column: This one will focus instead on the huge debate (largely unknown here) raging in Europe over what’s been called “multikulti” in Germany and the more familiar “multiculturalism” in English-speaking lands.

Americans, with a strong history of absorbing immigrants into our wide and vivid national narrative via the “melting pot,” tend to define the term as meaning “inclusive” and “pluralistic,” seeing it expressed in regionalism and ethnicity in food, music, clothing and language patterns.

But Europeans have a different take on the topic.

It means something here to be from Maine as opposed to Mississippi, or to be black or white or Latino or Asian or Indian, but as citizens of a nation founded on an ideal of freedom, we are all, despite our differences, Americans together.

And where that paradigm has faltered, it has been the consistent cry of the alienated party that, “We deserve be treated like Americans!”

In Europe, borders delineate distinctive, long-established lines of language, culture and institutional differences that have not yet begun to be eliminated by the European Union.

There, the experts say, “multiculturalism” means “wanting to be separate, unwilling to be assimilated into the national ethos.” And in recent decades it has been applied most often to people from Muslim lands, who comprise the vast majority of immigrants in Europe.

The issue has simmered for decades. Germany’s primarily Turkish “Gastarbeiter” (“guest workers”), brought in after World War II decimated the nation’s working-age population, have created social tension with customs imported from their homelands.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, a conservative, told her party’s youth conference last October that at “the beginning of the ’60s our country called the foreign workers to come to Germany.”

She added: “We kidded ourselves a while, we said: ‘They won’t stay, sometime they will be gone’, but this isn’t reality. And of course, the approach (to build) a multicultural (society) and to live side-by-side and to enjoy each other has failed, utterly failed” due to the lack of assimilation. She quickly added, though, that Germany continued to desire immigrants who would assimilate.

France, which had long colonized Algeria, hosts many North African immigrants who have settled into tight communities and enforce imported social patterns within them.

Holland and Belgium also have struggled with immigrants, with the murder of a prominent film-maker who criticized the Koran and the current bias trial of Geert Wilder, a politician who did the same, dominating the news.

Swiss voters rejected new mosques in some locations, and England, where the date 7/7 commemorating Islamist bomb attacks on subways in July 2005 has the same resonance as 9/11 does here, has seen a number of English-educated native-born or naturalized citizens convert to Islamist dogmas and attempt terrorist acts either at home or in other nations.

That led British Prime Minister David Cameron to echo Merkel (and, for that matter, former PM Tony Blair) in announcing at a security conference last weekend in Munich (of all historically resonant places) that he, too, believes “multiculturalism has failed.”

He said groups opposed to the values of liberal democracies should be cut off from government support, and that schools should make a much stronger effort to teach those values and the historical facts and circumstances that make them vital to maintaining a free society.

True, liberal democracies always walk a tightrope. They must let people create their own futures within the broadest possible limits, enforcing respect for others’ rights but not imposing results by fiat.

Yet, a culture that neglects or has forgotten its historical story is wide open to ones imported from abroad that may be far less respectful of the freedoms the “national narrative” once supported.

And while peaceful members of any group should be welcomed with open arms, tolerating those who intend to destroy their hosts and establish authoritarian institutions (specifically including sharia law) is nothing short of suicidal.

Europeans seem to understand that better now. We should know more about what they have learned and how they plan to defend themselves.

M.D. Harmon is an editorial writer. He can be contacted at 791-6482 or at:

[email protected]