Sunday, February 24, 2008

XENOPHOBIA: A word to know, an attitude to avoid, eschew, and combat

The "Xenophobia" part of my previous waaaaaaaay too long post



A word to know, an attitude to avoid: Xenophobia!

the definition & etymology from the wiktionary.

Etymology

From Greek ξένος (xénos, foreign) + φόβος (phobos, fear) + -ia.

Noun

Singular
xenophobia


Plural
xenophobias





I liked the responses and thought generated by my earlier post, but I'd like to introduce you to a word / concept which may help you see my point in comparing the treatment of the Japanese Americans in WWII to people of the Islamic faith or Middle Eastern descent today.

While Germany and the the Nazis were demonized during WWII, German-Americans were not (not generally.) The worst that happened to my Volk is that "sauerkraut" got renamed "liberty cabbage"- an appellation which stuck about as well as our renaming of "French fries" to "American Fries" now.

Why is that, when Germany had by far the superior military, and was routinely committing the worst of atrocities? Because the Germans looked and acted just like most other Americans, and indeed, made up a huge percentage of the populace. Even today, about 30% of Americans have some German ancestry, and if you limit it to just Caucasian Americans, the percentage is naturally much higher.

What happened to the Japanese and is sadly happening to people of Middle Eastern descent and the Islamic Faith in America can only happen when two conditions are met:
  1. They are a minority, preferably an economically insignificant one.
  2. The have physical or behavioral characteristics which are easily and readily identified.

If you look at the course of American history, you'll see that the most egregious acts of intolerance and hatred have occurred against groups which fit both these criteria.

Indeed, it is argued that sexual minorities (the "rainbow folk" as I call them, or the GLBTQ community ) are getting LESS harassment as their cultural distinction from the wider community is lessened both by people of those communities acting more "main stream" and by the wider community becoming gradually more explorative and imaginative in its own pursuits. (The vast "white bread" / "vanilla" world still has a long way to go though... give me a 7 grain or pumpernickel any day!)

Even so... in areas where GLBTQ people are not commonly "out", to be "out" is to put oneself at personal physical risk. And those groups within that community... especially the leather folk and the gender benders/blenders- whose visual appearance and behavior still and of necessity sticks out- are still subject to immense approbation and are often victims of hate crimes. (I heard once the percentage of out "T-folk" who had been physically attacked, beaten, etc... its some astoundingly high percentage.)
So our word of the day:
XENOPHOBIA-
the fear of the other, the stranger.
It is reasonable to identify evil behaviors and evil men and attack them. You'll notice I'm not taking issue with the anti-Nazi propaganda because... the Nazis had it coming, and more so.

But the Japanese Americans then, as the Islamic Americans now, did not "have it coming," did not deserve the blow back, and our treatment of these groups was/is abominable and is as much a desecration of our constitution as if were to use it for toilet paper.

This isn't fighting the enemy, its fearing the stranger, and making him the source of all your problems. Demagogues and propagandists have done this for time immemorial.
  • Cats got the rap for the plague
  • Hitler blamed the Jews for... everything
  • America followed Hitler's example in far too many respects in our treatment of Japanese Americans.
  • Televangelists have blamed everything from hurricanes to Carrot Top on GLBTQ behavior.
  • And now... its "towel head" time. I (and probably a lot of you "Granville Girls" know a Palestinian American shopkeeper. His family fled the fighting over there in the 60s. Not that it matters or should, but they're even Christian. Doesn't matter in how they're treated here though... they look the look, and have names which sound suspicious. They're the modern day "Nips" of whom everything is suspected and on whom everything is blamed.
If you haven't gotten my point yet, here's the definition & etymology from the wiktionary.

Etymology

From Greek ξένος (xénos, foreign) + φόβος (phobos, fear) + -ia.

Noun

Singular
xenophobia


Plural
xenophobias

xenophobia (plural xenophobias)

  1. A pathological fear or hatred of strangers or foreigners.

So now that you know the word and the concept... what do you think of our treatment of...
  • The Japanese Americans in WWII
  • Sexual minorities
  • Middle Eastern-Americans and people of the Islamic faith?

And how can this [Xenophobia how ever it is expressed] be anything but an offense against both our beloved Constitution and basic human dignity?

3 comments:

SnarkAngel said...

Pardon me, but I'm feeling a bit xenophobic today . . . toward the Saudis. I read that they're not so oppressive after all . . . the king actually "pardoned" the rape victim who was sentenced to 200 lashings and prison time. His good buddy, Dubya, had put up a little stinkie about it, previously. Gee, they must be so proud of themselves for behaving so "civilized" . . . now forgive me while I hurl . . .

The Rug Goth said...

Our middle eastern policy is such a charade! I hope whom ever the next president is will have some people around who actually know Arabic and the history and culture of the region... so we can realize what little hope we have of solving in a few years conflicts which have been festering for hundreds or even over a thousand years.

I have no problem being horrified by abusive men and their deeds. I'm

SnarkAngel said...

Hey! You cut yourself off! LOL