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The American Fear Of ‘The Outsider’

October 4, 2015

For weeks my heart has gone out to the ones who are fleeing the ravages of war in Syria.  The small children who trek the long miles day after day alongside their parents with the look of such sadness in their eyes when filmed for newscasts has touched my heart.  The world effort to make a change in their lives by relocating them to nations that can provide safety and economic gain is surely a good thing.  A moral thing that should call us to action.

So it was with utter dismay when I read Saturday that Donald Trump while running for Republican presidential party nominee stated “This could be one of the great military coups of all time if they send them to our country — young, strong people and they turn out to be ISIS.”

Trump’s vision of America and my vision about who we are and what this place is all about are very different perspectives.  Very different.

The Trump way of looking at the influx of immigrants who might speak a different language or eat with different spices or connect with God in their own way is not knew.  That however does not make his statement any less sad regarding the current folks who need our help.  But it is worth reminding ourselves that xenophobia has always been a part of our history.  It is also most important to note that it has also been shown to be severely misguided.

In 1789 there was a massive national angst about French people when the fear of war with our former ally during the revolution spun out of control.  People then there calling for the expulsion of the French immigrants and even calling into question restaurants at the time who served French food.  It was simply absurd.

In World War 1 the great fear were the Germans who had come to this nation to make a better life and were called into question about their loyalty.  In the second World War it would be the Japanese who would be rounded up and sent to camps.

In the recent past children from Central America were treated horribly while trying to find a place to shelter when in California.  It was shocking to see that bus of kids surrounded by angry and loud white protesters.

There have always been those who seek to place national angst on the outsider and try to damage the human spirit of those who for whatever reason are slightly apart in custom or religion than the majority of the residents of the nation.  How pathetic and sad it has been for our nation to have to then read our history about the ways so many have had to deal with prejudice and endure the undermining of their attempts to make life work and live out dreams.

We are better as a nation when we hold firm to the guiding principles that this nation was founded on and move forward in the human spirit that binds us all one to another.  Our history confirms that fact.  Our inner compass tells us that to true.

Let us end the war on ‘the outsider’ and work to make this nation better for all.

3 Comments
  1. tom permalink
    October 7, 2015 8:36 AM

    I don’t dispute that America has some fear of the outsider; I simply note that EVERY COUNTRY does. I would contend that America is more welcoming than most countries.

    You mention the Germans who have done a great job with the Syrians. I think the story has a happy start and hope it continues to go well. But how many refugees did Germany accept from Mexico this summer, last summer, or any of the years before–because refugees or not, they have been streaming over our boarder like the Syrians into Europe for decades? Or during the Cuban refugee crisis? When you look at this experience as a whole, the number of incidents like the bus are infinitely tiny. You could note the positive relationship we have with the other, but you rather embrace the negative.

    My other point was not to suggest that the people of some affluent neighborhoods are not welcoming and friendly to students attending graduate school in Madison. I imagine your table is very open and that you are the type of person who seeks interesting conversation and genuinely loves the diverse stories people can tell. My point is that refugees are not relocated to affluent neighborhoods; they go to neighborhoods where the value of housing in below the community average. My point is that in communities already stressed, the influx of new competition is unwelcome, especially if new-comers are unwilling to assimilate and wish to live apart.

  2. October 6, 2015 10:29 PM

    As I pointed out America does have a fear of the outsider. I am not making this up as history shows this to be the case. As to other countries not taking Syrian refugees–well that is wrong for the most part. There could be 800,000 applications for asylum in Germany this year, and the country could take 500,000 refugees annually for several years. As the WSJ noted several weeks back this will work well for the economy that is need of young smart workers. Sweden has taken over 64,000. The list goes on and with other nations. Then in the U.S.——About 1,500 Syrian refugees have been admitted to the United States since the start of the conflict in 2011, the vast majority of them this fiscal year. Here’s a breakdown: 23 in 2011, 41 in 2012, 45 in 2013, 249 in 2014 and 1,199 so far this fiscal year, which ends September 30, according to the State Department. About 300 more refugees are expected to be admitted by the end of this fiscal year. This equates to a grand total of about 1,800 refugees from Syria’s four-year civil war being admitted to the United States by October 1, according to U.S. officials. Meanwhile in Canada more than 2,370 Syrian refugees have resettled in Canada since January 2014, and the government promised in January to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees over a three-year period.

    Now to my neighborhood–you can not be serious about what you said or really know anything about the folks who live here to make the comment you did. This is a diverse area and have people from all over the world who call this place home. From China to Africa and Central America this is a very global type community. One reason are the grad students who come here to study and often live in this area as it is often quiet and good for studying and writing and also scenic. But to say this community is not welcoming or inclusive is simply not true. At our dinner table we had friends who studied here from Pakistan and Turkey, among other places. Some in our area go home and some stay but all add to the great mix of ideas. We have a far greater global connection than most other places and we love it.

  3. tom permalink
    October 6, 2015 8:19 PM

    Americans do not fear the outsider–people do. I think that when you look honestly at the numbers regarding refugees–where they go and who pays for them–America, as usual, is doing far more than the rest of the world. To suggest Americans have a more adverse reaction to the “outsider” than people of other cultures is very silly. After all, there were few offers from Europe or Asia to take any of those who flooded across our southern boarder this Summer. And anywhere the “other” has been beset by disaster, Americans have done far more than anyone else to help.

    You like to selectively cite the emotional peaks because it somehow makes you feel good, or right, or caring to then tut, tut at the troglodytes who are so much less enlightened. But we know well that no refugees of any color or creed are likely to show up in the comely and cloistered Marquette neighborhood in any numbers where they might disturb a carriage-stoop. If they did, I’m pretty sure we would quickly see some nervous activity from those who sought–rightfully–to maintain the standards of the community they bought into and cared for. So musing about “the other” is really irrelevant from a position of safety. Maybe one kicks in a few dollars or posts about how the taxpayer should foot this new bill–and then its done. The refugees and any real problems will be in West Allis or Milwaukee. My point is that the “inner compass” is unrealistic and unreliable in the real world.

    I can’t speak for all conservatives, but I believe it is wiser to ask what works rather than what pleases that emotional ‘inner compass.” While I believe we have some obligation to help refugees, I do not think this automatically means they need to come here and live here forever. I would only accept those who are committed to assimilation into the general culture. That is the melting pot ideal of De Crevocoeur. Large and sudden influxes of refugees of any sort are less likely to work out well and lead to the type of isolation and despair which afflicts some communities of France, for example. Careful consideration of the number of refugees, their cultural origin, their fiscal and emotional needs–and those of potential host communities–is not fear of the “other.” It is common sense.

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