Xenophobia: n., an unreasonable fear or hatred of foreigners or strangers, or of that which is foreign or strange
I recently read an article called “20 Things I’ve Learned From Traveling Around the World” by a young man from the U.S. that spent an entire year traveling. What shocked me the most was that the author’s first point in the story was that “most of the world’s people are friendly and decent.”
I’m not shocked that most of the world’s people are friendly and decent. To the contrary, Deena and I believe that nearly everyone everywhere is in fact, not only decent and friendly, but downright open, warm and loving. What shocks me is that this young man didn’t already know that. What disturbed me is that this was the first or most important lesson learned. It’s a very sad commentary on the citizens of the United States that the first thing a young traveler learns is that people around the world are actually not monsters; that people around the world can be approached with a smile, not fear.
Coincidentally, we just happened to watch the documentary Control Room a few days later. This is a documentary about the arabic al-Jazeerah news station and it’s coverage of the Iraqi war. Al-Jazeerah tried to be everything that Fox News falsely claims to be – fair and balanced. The al-Jazeerah coverage of the Iraqi war was so fair that it aliented both the U.S. and some Arabic governments. Neither side wanted the media to air the truth, or dissenting opinions.
Al-Jazeerah’s position aside, the documentary goes a long way toward explaining this xenophobia of U.S. citizens. Everyday, we are brainwashed by the media and the politicians. Every day, if we watch our own TV news, we are bombarded by propaganda that foreigners are monsters to be feared. To me, that movie clearly explains why a young man growing up in this country would be surprised that people all over the world are actually decent and friendly. He watched TV.
The truth is that governments are the monsters in the room. Slightly less than 3000 people died in the attack on the Twin Towers. President Bush sent 4500 more U.S. citizens to their death in retaliation. American news media was blocked from seeing the dead soldiers brought home. The U.S. directed a bombing attack on al-Jazeerah offices, killing a journalist and wounding another staff, because the news station wouldn’t publish U.S. propaganda. Killing a journalist.1 This from a country that supposedly respects free speech and condemns violence against innocent people.
Nearly 1.5 million Iraqis died because of the U.S. invasion. I’m pretty sure most of those people would be decent and friendly in different circumstances. I would like to think that, as a race, we’ve evolved above petty, tribal warfare. I would like to think that, but I don’t see it yet.
“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.” (Mark Twain)