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With even the New York Times noting it’s widespread appeal Saturday night’s Eurovision Song Contest 2012 provided viewers around the world (some 125 million of them) more of a continuing, and hopeful trend. It not only offered flamboyant relief from bad economic news, discontent over state repression, and racialist rumblings among immigrant rich countries, it showcased a visionary, mixed race selection belying the ostensible Euro-resistance to multiculturalism.
In 2010, when Angela Merkel dismissed the efforts at “multikulti,” as having “utterly failed,” she touched off a firestorm of indignation and liberal hand-wringing at having said openly what many Germans, and other Europeans, have long felt. Yet “Europe” (and being “European”) itself is, and despite all claims to the contrary, always has been, a rather flexible concept.
The very fact that Shia Muslim Azerbaijan is included in a “European” contest is indication enough of the growing flexibility in definition, and an obvious statement that more and more countries want “in” on Europe, whatever that now means. (It used to be equated with “Christendom.”) But culturally “Europe,” as we all know, means many things to many different peoples. Jewish Israel, is part of the Eurovision “Europe,” yet so is Sunni Muslim Turkey. (Turkey, part of “Asia Minor” when I was growing up, won in 2003.) Ukraine is in there and Cyprus and Malta (two island nations in the Mediterranean), as well Iceland, so geography is stretched too.
The entertainers in the Eurovision contest have increasingly included this blending of cultures. When Norway won a few years back, its winning entry was the terminally catchy “Fairytale,” sung by the terminally cute Alexader Rybak, from Belarus.
This year’s entries were a splendid example of this kind of this continuing cultural intermingling: Ukraine sending a half-Congolese woman, France an Indonesian Muslim woman, the UK with a 76 year old half-Indian man, Norway an Iranian man, and the eventual winner from Sweden, Loreen, a 28-year old Moroccan-Berber woman. One can be forgiven for assuming that, while the musical corruption represented by Eurovision has long been decried among the more snobbish types, in front, right out there on the stage, is the present future–a truly “multi-kulti” Europe.
So I’ll admit to the political machinations which result in repressive measures in order to produce this annual spectacle. And I’ll share whatever reports and images come my way to others concerned about human rights abuses wherever they occur, as well as critique the wasteful extravagance used to promote this show in times of economic adversity. But my children (Puertorican-Icelandic) and I will also enthusiastically watch ever year, with popcorn on our laps and joy on our faces, this crazy, ever-more culturally diverse musical event, and root for the home team.
Rev. JOSÉ M. TIRADO is a poet, priest and writer finishing a PhD in psychology while living in Iceland.