A European Tolerance Gap

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

A European Tolerance Gap

Excuse me, Arnold, for invading your terrain, but I stumbled upon this story about a recent diplomatic row between Estonia and the Netherlands. Jeroen Bult, a freelance journalist who lives in Estonia, has written this commentary explaining what it’s about:
It all started on June 6, when a personal letter written by Hans Glaubitz, Queen Beatrix' ambassador to Estonia, turned up in the Dutch press. In the letter, the ambassador complained about widespread racism and homophobia in Estonian society — Glaubitz' (male) partner, black Cuban model and dancer Raúl García Lao has repeatedly fallen prey to verbal attacks.

"We had to ascertain that living in this lily-white society is extremely uncomfortable for Raul …. It is not very pleasant to be called 'nigger' by drunken skinheads regularly and to be gaped at by everyone as if one has just got out of a UFO," the ambassador wrote
Obviously, Glaubitz was pretty pissed off when he wrote this letter. Bult has a point when he writes that Glaubitz could have chosen language with more “nuance.”

Yet Bult seems too willing to make excuses for anti-gay bigotry. Bult writes:
For many Estonians, including politicians, homosexuality is still a major taboo. Some of them will undoubtedly even interpret the presence of a gay-ambassador as an "insult."
They can interpret as they wish, but their interpretations should not give them license to harass or threaten a diplomat or his same-sex husband.

Bult needs to be reminded that Estonia freely chose to enter the EU, whose member nations have adopted a code that requires tolerance for people of different races, ethnicities, sexual orientations, etc.

The fact that the excerpts from Glaubitz’s letter did not contain “concrete evidence,” writes Bult, “will create the impression that the ambassador has intentionally exaggerated the whole affair.” Unless Bult is a mind reader, he appears to be using this phrase as a roundabout way to say, “I think he exaggerated the whole affair.”

Maybe Glaubitz did. I don’t know, and neither does Bult. But instead of simply urging Glaubitz to provide more details about the extent of the discriminatory behavior, Bult impugns Glaubitz’s integrity.

Is this the same Bult who claims to value “nuance”?

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