Alphabet Series - X is for Xenophobia
Unfortunately, there seems to be a lot of xenophobia going around lately and I don't think there is much I can do about it. But I'm going to try. After all, I'm a believer in what Eldridge Cleaver said some years ago: "If you are not part of the solution you are part of the problem." And, I think it is safe to say we have a problem.
Let's start with the dictionary definition of xenophobia, "fear and hatred of strangers or foreigners or of anything that is strange or foreign." I imagine we all can relate and mostly understand the fear but not the hatred. As a therapist I spend a lot of time dealing with people’s fears and I've learned that all fears make sense to the person, even if they are not logical. Fear of the unknown is something we all face every day in numerous ways. We never really know what will happen, so it makes sense to have some level of fear. But why do some people hate?
Hating is not an emotion I know a lot about. I don’t actively hate anyone. I certainly don’t agree or dislike some people, but my feelings about them have not moved into hatred so perhaps I am not the best person to talk about hate. But, that won’t stop me.
I know when people are afraid they do not feel strong and often fear is a precursor to anger. Anger is empowering. Fear is more debilitating. I imagine most of us would choose to be empowered, but what causes people to take their anger and push it into hatred? What is the upside of hatred? I tend to think people behave in certain ways because it serves them. So, how does hatred serve people?
I know history shows us that if we have a common enemy it unites us. So certainly if we can agree to hate certain people it will help bring us together. So I can understand blaming others for our ills and if we just got rid of them things would be better. I can understand that thinking, I just don’t buy it. Conflict exists. It exists in families, in loving couples on teams we common goals. We will not agree all the time. That is the nature of life.
I don’t think the goal is to eliminate those who we believe cause us to be less fulfilled. Even if we could eliminate all foreigners or people we see as threatening to our well being, something else would appear to infringe on our life.
I don’t see hatred as a solution. I see it as a problem that can only be addressed by acknowledging what causes people to hate. If we can respect why people hate maybe we can help them find ways to be empowered that do not infringe on other’s freedom