I’ve been struggling all day to write this post, but I haven’t been able to find the proper words. I just don’t understand people and their fear of the Other, which, as a wise Muppet once noted, leads to anger, leads to hate, leads to suffering.
Anthropologically, it makes sense. We fear the Other because it is not like us – we recoil from things that are different. Doubtless it saved our collective human skins when we were growing our brains in the wilderness. “That thing doesn’t look like us, and it just ate Jack. Okay, everyone: Avoid that furry thing with the big teeth.” But not in today’s society. We’re supposed to be evolved, more sentient, ‘higher’ beings, and thus be able to ignore our crocodile brains, the ones that tell us, “Danger! Danger! This person is different – this person is enemy! Crush! Kill! Destroy!”
Apparently not. The fear and vitriolic hatred of the Other is alive and well in human society, and it’s even taken on new and exciting forms. Racism. Xenophobia. Xeno-theophobia. Homophobia. Heterophobia. Fear of the opposite gender. Even fear (yes, fear) of different ideas. Ever wonder why the rhetoric from the far left and the far right is so hateful? Fear. Fear for others, fear for themselves, the undercurrent of enemies enemies enemies that pervades their brains when confronted with an idea with which they do not agree. It’s happened to me before – it’s probably happened to you. We cannot destroy it; all we can do is recognize it for what it is, and use our higher thinking processes to overcome it. It’s paranoia, folks, and it’s bad for you.
Yesterday, that fear-turned-hatred, the hatred of different races and religions, fed by fear-inspired propaganda, led an 88-year-old white supremacist to shoot and kill a 39-year-old black security guard, who, mistaking his killer for an elderly man simply in need of help, opened the door for him to the Holocaust Memorial Museum. An act of kindness on the guard’s part led to his own death. Fear wins; decency loses. Unless we can control that fear and recognize the Other as human beings with lives, and families, and pets, and secrets, and goals, and dreams, and skills, we will never break the cycle of violence and hatred and death.
For even if there are but two people left on this earth, each will still be Other.