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Sat

05

May

2007

Xenophobia: And the hatred that goes with it
Saturday, 05 May 2007 18:30
by Frank Pitz

Xenophobia is still alive and well in the United States.

It has always been easy for Americans to hate, it’s part of our culture and indeed not hating is an acquired trait. We hated the Natives, so we exterminated them as we began to build our nascent empire on the Eastern coast, then later in our westward expansion we continued the genocide.

We hated the Irish, but they were good enough to contribute to our western expansion by “working on the railroad.” We hated the Chinese, however they also were useful working on the railroad, coming from the western side. In 1868 two-thirds of the 4,000 workers who had built the transcontinental railroad over the Sierras were Chinese-Americans. After the driving of the “Golden Spike” we went back to hating both groups once again.

White America is culturally predisposed toward xenophobia and hatred. Taking our early history of burning “witches,” slavery and of course, genocide against Natives. These injustices were socially and intellectually acceptable. Things didn’t get much better through the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries either. Many immigrants were driven by shame and did not hold on to their cultural traditions, because of fear many among them changed their names.

We “interred” the Japanese and some Germans during World War II, the Italians and Eastern Europeans also came in for their share of bias directed against them. Today, the current climate of fear and hatred is directed towards Muslims, Arabs and as well, Latino immigrants. Americans have always viewed foreigners with suspicion, fear and hatred, even when they needed these immigrants they still looked upon them as something less than human, just think of our favored idiom for foreigners: “alien.”

In the opinion of this writer, I believe we must attribute this – pathological – hatred to the fact that, for the most part, the new wave of immigrants far from being ashamed of their culture, are holding on to it. Names are no longer being changed, music, culture and literature are being extolled within these groups. That angers people, they view these new immigrants as “not being American” enough. Indeed, most of the rhetoric surrounding the issue is always liberally sprinkled with phrases like; “my grandparents learned (or had to learn) to speak English to get by,” or “why do my tax dollars pay for bi-lingual signs, just learn the English language.” I won’t print some of the more objectionable rhetoric, but back in December 2006 I did an opinion piece entitled “Hate is US” which dovetails nicely with this article.

Since most xenophobes and racists have no sense of history they fail to grasp that the United States was always a multi-lingual country. In our early national history it was quite commonplace to hear more than 20 or 30 languages spoken in daily life. We had German, Dutch, French and Native languages. Our very first governing document, Articles of Confederation was written in both German and English and adopted by the Second Continental Congress on November 15, 1777.

History (in this case) does nothing but repeat itself, as it were. Language diversity was always tolerated (of course we may have tolerated the language even while being intolerant towards the speaker of the language) in early America until about the late 1800s, when we experienced a wave of Italian and Eastern European immigrants. The earlier Scandinavian and German immigrants were a OK as far as the xenophobic nativists were concerned and we see the same type of language used today, “they assimilated quickly.” If one peels away the bullshit the inescapable fact remains that the new immigrants were a few skin shades darker than those early Scandinavian and Germans.

A1911 Immigration Commission Report concluded, “Immigration from southern and eastern Europe posed ‘a serious threat to American society and culture’ and should therefore be greatly reduced.” This led to subsequent legislation meant to “Americanize” immigrants, especially those referred to as “lower classes” or “undesirables.” This legislation took the form of English literacy requirements for such things as employment, naturalization and suffrage. In New York the State Constitution was amended with the sole intent to disenfranchise over one million Yiddish-speaking citizens. California did the same thing relative to the Chinese to “protect the purity of the ballot box.” It should also be noted that at this time Native children were being taken from their families and forced to learn the English language, indeed punishment was meted out if they dared speak their own language. So we see, “the more things change…”

Then, as now, the common refrain was that “these people” were taking jobs away from “good Americans.” Whether it was the Chinese, Irish, Italians, Slavs, they were viewed as usurpers of the “American way of life.” Here in the beginnings of the twenty-first century the circle remains unbroken as we hear the same tired rhetoric, and we see the same crimes being committed by those who hate. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center there has been a rise in violence (and threats of violence) as well as an increase in the number of hate groups in the United States. Much of this rise in rhetoric and violence can be directly attributed to the immigration debate.

Just as the above mentioned Immigration Commission – made up of many familiar political names – our political leaders today fuel the fires of violence and hatred. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand that there is s direct correlation between the “politics of fear” as practiced by the Bush Administration and the upsurge in the numbers of hate groups as well as violence against immigrants and others perceived as “different.”

According to George Lakoff, a UC Berkeley University cognitive scientist and author of "Moral Politics" the anxiety-provoking anti-terrorism actions and messages of the Bush administration fall into the category of the “strict father” mode of communication.

This is the same mode of communication used by all dictators throughout history, be they ruthless or, seemingly – as in Bush’s case – benevolent. Reagan employed much of the same tactics – on a lesser scale – he might well have been referred to as a “strict grandfather,” his administration also saw an up tick in violence, much of it directed at the gay community.

Many progressives fail to recognize – or verbalize - just how insidious this type of political tacit approval of hatred and violence has become. Instead they rally behind the platitudes of the “gatekeeper” mainstream Democrats who utter all of the correct sound bites while at the same time maintaining the status quo. This is evidenced in the Democrats’ say nothing, mean nothing, position on immigration reform as articulated by Howard Dean: “America needs comprehensive immigration reform that strengthens our borders, protects U.S. workers and their wages, and allows immigrants who pay taxes and obey the law to earn the opportunity to apply for the responsibilities of citizenship.” (Italics added).

Dean and the Democrats want to protect U.S. workers and their wages, in the context of immigration, but worry not one iota about U.S. workers and their wages in the context of the corporate bloodsuckers that have been suppressing wages for the past thirty-plus years. They refuse to talk about the 800 pound gorilla that has systematically worked to destroy unions by off shoring; they turn a continuing blind eye to the Walmartization of the American work force, and they “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil” when it comes to the 50 million Americans without health coverage.

But it’s okay to hate, damned infernal immigrants, taking our women and work. Those same people who are involved in the intensification of hate groups across this country, are those self-same folks that Howard Dean – “I still want to be the candidate for guys with Confederate flags in their pick up trucks…” – once wanted to suck up to. These “guys” and their Confederate flags, along with their Swastikas, are in the forefront of the xenophobic hatred now running rampant in this country. The Republicans love them and the Democrats – by virtue of their cowardly silence – embolden them.

The internment camps are in place, the Homeland/Fatherland enforcers have a wealth of information on everyone at their fingertips, when will the “roundups” begin? I had better clarify that, the roundups have been ongoing since September 11, 2001; when will they come for the rest of us? Remember Bush’s mantra, “with us or against us.”
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Truth Hurts said:

0
You Forgot to say "Illegal Immigrants"
You just don't get it. It is not that we "hate" or "fear" immigrants. It is the ILLEGAL immigrants that are the problem for the rest of us that are here legally. Until you get that you will not truly understand the problems that are going on out here in the real world.
 
May 07, 2007
Votes: +1

John Lamont said:

0
If we're so evil, racist etc....
Then explain Mr. Pitz, if we're so godawful evil, racist and bad, why millions upon millions have begged, borrowed, and stole to stream across the America's border for the past 300-400 years? Could it be that you've just mindlessly regurgitated the same baseless claptrap that affects the world's opinion of us far more than our actions? Also you have a rather narrow and nieve view of history.

1. Hatred toward natives. Yes we did terrible things, things which were generally preceeded by the massacre, rape and scalping of white settlers: men, women, and children.

2. Irish and Chinese. I'm not sure where this idea of endemic hatred comes from. We needed a railroad built, they were paid to do it. I'm sure they weren't treated well, but worse than a typical lower class immigrant of any country of the day?

3. The early history of burning witches. For a brief period Salem, Massachusettes suffered under mass hysteria. No one was burned. This can hardly be attributed to any generalization of America.

4. Slavery. Granted, a terrible thing. It's worth noting however that as an institution we had it because Britain started it (therefore not an inherently American institution), and even then to characterize the white feeling of their slaves as "hatred" is inaccurate. Hatred of minorities became much greater later on in American history.

You decry the call for immigrants to "assimilate" and compare the current attitude to the turn of the century. Regardless of the validity of this, the major difference in the times lies in the effort of the immigrants themselves to conform and Americanize. The issue with current anti-illegal immigration feelings lies at heart in the rejection of American culture. There is little desire to become American, and only a feeling of discontent brewed by propagandists telling the poor and disadvantaged that their rightful place (or land) in the world has been unfairly taken from them.
And being American, should there be any hesitation as living as such? We are a country based on freedom, and those freedoms have allowed the immigrants (legal and otherwise) the freedom to come here, and make a life for themselves as they will. Those same freedoms allow those people to leave the same way they came in. I don't mean this as a typical "If you don't like it, go back to ..." statement. But simply as a matter of fact. America is the way it is, and more or less always has been. If I don't like it myself, then I certainly have the freedom to emigrate back to Scotland.
Legally of course.

 
May 07, 2007
Votes: +2

Hazel said:

0
Comment on Comments
Mr. lamont displays all the classic symptoms of the prevailing meme.

Dear John,

You are truly ignorant aren't you? Your first point says it all.

 
May 07, 2007
Votes: +0

thembalethu said:

0
xenophobia
this isn't the way to solve issues if you say hatress how many people in america are illegal immigrants do you think they like it to be that way and on top of all you hate and fear illegal immigrants if you didin't you wouldn't say that htis act won't solve any but will create many.
 
February 17, 2010
Votes: +0

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