The European Union's dream of a nearly borderless region spanning most of Europe and dissolving national sovereignties, is tumbling before the surge of refugees from Syria, Iraq, Africa and other places outside the EU.
One can hardly blame the refugees for seeking a better life — heck, just a halfway decent life — away from the war and destruction in Syria or the lawlessness and poverty of North Africa. One can hardly blame the European nations' concerns that their fragile economies will be unable to sustain their native citizens and the hordes of refugees desperately trekking across international borders.
We may be witnessing a fundamental migration on a near-global scale. History has seen this before. Early in the 20th century, southern and eastern Europeans left their poorer, undemocratic countries for the United States. In the 17th and 18th century, Europeans fled crowded conditions and lack of opportunity for the New World. In those same centuries, Africans were coerced into migrating to America as unpaid labor in the vast agricultural economy. Centuries before had witnessed migrations across Asia, Europe, Australia and the Pacific islands, stretching back to the original migration when mankind's predecessors migrated out of Africa to populate the world.
Each of these migrations altered the places they left and the places they settled. This current migration will change the EU. For decades, Europe has been shifting toward a less Christian, more secular, more religiously diverse culture. This 21st century migration will make that shift more abrupt, and it might wipe away the high-minded open-borders philosophy of the European Union.