Let’s be xenophobic! It’s really in this year
Let’s find a nasty, slimy, ugly alien to fear
There’s no more cutesy stories ‘bout E.T. phoning home
Let’s learn to love our neighbors, like the Christians learned in Rome!
We know we ought to hate ’em; they’re different, you see
We’ve seen they’re mean and ugly on movies and TV
The folks that ought to know have told us how it’s got to be
The gospel truth is found in scenes from Alien and V
Let’s wipe out any life-form that seems to be a threat
We’ll serve ’em up a genocide they never will forget
’Cause if we miss a couple, they’ll breed a couple more!
And soon we’ll all be hating twice as many as before
You see, aliens can never be as good as humankind
A more delightful race than us you’ll never, ever find
So step aside, you star slime, we’re ready for your worst!
We know you want to beat us, enslave us and defeat us
Oppress us and browbeat us, unless we get you first!
A tongue-in-cheek little ditty with a sobering message. Hate is the terrorism among us. It is more harmful and hurtful than any mass shooting, building-bombing or natural disaster. It has become part of us, residing in our minds and hearts, a framework for society, normalized by those in power. It is perpetual and enduring.
It is at the same time in-your-face and subtle. I remember before Obama was elected the first time, he was frequently described in the media as “very articulate.” All of the candidates were articulate, but not described as such. Pinning that adjective on him was essentially saying he sounded very white, so maybe, just maybe, he could be a credible candidate.
The KKK marches and police shootings of black men are in our faces. But it is the more subtle attitudes, the judgment disguised as compliment, that reflects the depth of xenophobic sentiment among us. It is the societal normalization of sexual harassment by men in power, of lower wages for women, of the glass ceiling, of moralistic condemnation of certain sexual preferences.
Remember “trickle down economics?” It didn’t work out too well for those of us who were supposed to be trickled upon. But Xenophobia? It trickles down. It is a waterfall. We are inundated by it. And it spreads — among us, inside us, through us.
Let no man pull you low enough to hate him.
The Ominous Power of Environmental Influence
The fact is, we can choose by whom and what to be influenced, alluded to by Martin Luther King, Jr. in the above quote. That’s why we warn our kids away from friends who are influencing them negatively. Anna Quindlen — author, journalist, and opinion columnist with a Pulitzer Prize — says this: “Our love of lockstep is our greatest curse, the source of all that bedevils us. It is the source of homophobia, xenophobia, racism, sexism, terrorism, bigotry of every variety and hue, because it tells us there is one right way to do things, to look, to behave, to feel, when the only right way is to feel your heart hammering inside you and to listen to what its timpani is saying.”
The lockstep environment of the 21st century is becoming one of hate, isolation, xenophobia, idealism, and unbridled ego. So we seek to understand why this is so. Massimo Pigliucci, Professor of Philosophy at CUNY, ends his essay on xenophia with this statement: “Modern xenophobia is the product of complex cultural phenomena; but at its roots it is a simple biological survival mechanism, and as such, probably very difficult to eradicate completely.”
Maybe so. Or maybe, as psychologist Dacher Keltner, director of the Berkeley Social Interaction Laboratory, believes, we are born to be good. He says: “’Born to be good’ for me means that our mammalian and hominid evolution have crafted a species — us — with remarkable tendencies toward kindness, play, generosity, reverence and self-sacrifice, which are vital to the classic tasks of evolution — survival, gene replication and smooth functioning groups.”
If we assume that both are so, it means that we have both within us — the fear and the goodness. What’s missing is balance. If we are dealing with “a simple biological survival mechanism,” an instinct that can’t be eradicated, how do we soften that tendency within us by awakening the goodness?
It’s An Inside Job, My Friends
There is no envy, jealousy, or hatred between the different colors of the rainbow. And no fear either. Because each one exists to make the others’ love more beautiful.
These are the words of Aberjhani in his book “Journey through the Power of the Rainbow.” It’s not being pulled down so low that we hate others, but a rising to a higher inner sensitivity, a deep connection with truth and kindness, a view from the top, so to speak.
Not moving with the herd is difficult. Not absorbing the energies of hate, racism, sexism, nationalism is almost impossible. But once these are inside us, there is a choice. How will I behave? What is my individual responsibility to the collective? Do I feed the beast, or do I humanize everyone? How do I project love toward humanity?
We can name many varieties of Xenophobia, but there is only one variety of goodness. It is that place inside that knows the beauty of the rainbow. It is the place that sees the necessity for love and connection among us. It is out of this place that we choose.
I found something interesting as I was surfing one day. The Dictionary.com word of the year for 2016 was Xenophobia. Their website says that the word of the year is one that “embodies a major theme resonating deeply in the cultural consciousness over the prior 12 months. This year, some of the most prominent news stories have centered around fear of the ‘other.’”
It’s a disconcerting commentary on our current societal state. Do we have the deep goodness, the courage, the intent to aim toward shifting the conversation?