Fear of “the Other”

Refugees

All this hysteria about building a border wall (well, President Trump’s hysteria, anyway) is mostly based on fear and hatred of “the other.” As you have probably noticed, this is something I find myself writing about repeatedly, because it never goes away, and in this “time of Trump” has been magnified out of all proportion.  All throughout our history, white America has battled its many “others”—Native Americans, African Americans (the Negroes, they were called in my day, of course), and now Hispanics are the people that a certain segment of white America seems to fear, and therefore hate, most.  I’m leaving out the Irish in the mid-nineteenth century, and the Jews in the early 20th.  Let’s see, is there anyone I’m missing?  The point is, regardless of whether we have increased border security—which we may achieve through any number of means without resorting to the ridiculous expense of building a wall—White America needs to recover from its hysterical, irrational fear of the other.

The problem is, I’m hard pressed to ask “What is it they’re so afraid?” The sad fact is, white America has good reason to fear retaliation from the “other” I speak of, because an even sadder fact is that the “other” is something they created.  Their ancestors slaughtered native Americans almost since the first settlers arrived, and the American Government broke almost every treaty it ever signed with them.  As for the blacks, they were held in bondage and forced to perform slave labor for the sole betterment of their white masters.  As an ashamed (vs. proud!) son of the Cotton Kingdom, I can attest to the fact that working in those fields in the summertime cost a lot of lives and was tantamount to an ongoing holocaust in the years between the invention of the cotton gin and the Emancipation Proclamation (well, when they were actually set free at war’s end, leastwise).  Despite what Confederate apologists will tell you about the slaves being happy and contented, in reality the slaveholders lived in constant fear of slave uprisings and the fear that they and their families would be murdered in their beds while they slept.  That’s why John Brown’s attack on the arsenal at Harpers Ferry made war between the states inevitable.  Even if his attempt to lead a slave insurrection failed miserably, he demonstrated that it was an ever-present threat on the part of the Abolitionists that could no longer be tolerated by the South.

A good deal of white America still lives in fear of that long-postponed insurrection and dreads every additional “other” who might cross the border and add to the ranks of what they perceive to be an ever-lurking enemy.  It’s high time that white America, or at least Trump’s core base of followers, lives up to the reality of its past and moves on.  But how can it, when we have a President who stokes its fear day in and day out?

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