A to Z: Xenophobia

posted in: Social Issues | 4

This quote has no x words in it, but it carries the idea behind this post: xenophobia.

Uncertainty and fear and ignorance about immigrants, about people who are different, has a history as old as our Nation.
Luis Gutierrez

Few English words start with X—only 120 are in current use, according to Oxford Dictionaries; 400, if you include rare and obsolete words.   Defined by Merriam-Webster, this word refers to “fear or hatred of strangers or foreigners.”

In much of the Western world, who would actually admit now having this kind of fear or hatred? Maybe, one could with people he trusts. Or, perhaps in private thoughts.   It’s so uncool.  You would risk being feared or even hated yourself.

I once saw a documentary on Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s principal spokesperson and, possibly the source of many Nazi principles. Having watched enough movies and documentaries of Nazi atrocities, I wasn’t shocked that he was spouting so much hate rhetoric. Evil is fascinating and I am curious what motivates people to do evil things.

You're slipping, Doctor Goebbels, Wikimedia Commons
You’re slipping, Doctor Goebbels, Wikimedia Commons
What struck me about this particular film is how freely Goebbels could and did dispense with his ideas. He had great zeal, some flair, and passionate delivery.   Still.  To have swayed millions to his xenophobic ideas, he had to have a receptive audience to whom his message had profound meaning because it reflected their own feelings and wishes.

That mass xenophobia, shown in stark reality, is what shocked me. It is what has made the murder of a people possible.  I believe, behind the hate, is fear of a perceived threat or of the unknown. But understanding doesn’t diminish the shock. Nor the horror of the crime.

It chills me to the bone that a whole country could so hate a race/tribe/group as to annihilate them.  I live in a time and a place in which that kind of mass hatred is not allowed.  Woefully, it still exists in countries where, as recent as this century, they have carried out genocide.

I have had to cope with prejudice myself so I could also attest that it is not dead. Just not so widespread or openly expressed. In this age, prejudice goes both ways. One other thing is sure. Contrary to Mr. Guttierez’s assertion, prejudice is much older than this nation.


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4 Responses

  1. A very thought provoking post.

    Great post for X. I linked to your participation in the #AtoZChallenge on my post for X; Xenagogue That’s Me.

    • Thanks for the visit and the link. I’ll be sure to return the visit and check you out.

  2. We will wait and see how your upcoming novel treats some of these themes of the stranger among us and how differences are treated. How do you get such empathy for groups which are not native to you?

    • The “stranger among us” could be a title for a novel. Hmmmm!

      Empathy is easier if you’ve been on the same side of the fence.

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