America's Fear of the Other
This country was created originally by religious extremists exiled from England. These extremists saw the indigenous population of this country as more “other” than them, so they murdered, displaced, and subjugated the indigenous humans that lived here for millennia prior to their arrival. Displacement firmly taking root, they began importing humans to further subjugate and exploit due to their “otherness,” as slaves.
For a country supposedly based on “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” this has only been a case for a select few. Time and technology have progressed to a point that those same select few, along with their progeny, believe that this is no longer the case. We are more connected as a species than ever before, which, rather than open us up to a golden age of equity and unity, have allowed us more opportunity to further subjugate, distance, and dehumanize one another.
The recent virulent and widespread passing of laws negating the humanity and bodily autonomy in this country of those who don’t fit the mold believed to be “ideal” is proof positive of where we are, right now, as a country. But why is this the case? Why spend so much time, money, and energy to prevent necessary and life saving medical and psychological treatment for so many?
The answer is fear. Fear of the other. As I’ve reiterated before, this is the underlying reasoning behind the many uncouth practices in the US legally and personally. Fear leads our collective lives masquerading as love and ending in our destruction.
Recognition of Othering
As a society built so strongly on a foundation of hyper-individuality, many of us are instilled, either intentionally or by proxy, with a pre-determined definition of the “other;” the homeless, the mentally ill, the criminal, many of these degrading to otherness of race and culture. When this otherness becomes looked down upon for commenting on, a differing definition of otherness must be created. Comparison being the basis and the generation of fear as it bleeds into and informs individual ideology.
Given this, the other can then become anything, the virtual taking the place of a perceived reality; those that look like you, but listen to different music, those that look different, those who believe differently; the need to feel better, more-than, exceptional, takes the place of any rationally grounded reason for action. Virtual otherness becomes the defining factor in our lives.
Belief is a personal story we connect with, the lense through which all things are filtered. When questions of bodily autonomy, self-identification, and existence of those who draw our own views of our beliefs into question, we are left with two choices (really the only true binary in existence). One, we can make it illegal to live a life that has no direct effect on yours but needs to be silenced to allow the bubble of belief to continue, unbroken. Two, we can realize that reality, and therefore people, don’t have to conform to our belief system, just as our belief system doesn’t have to conform to their reality; the difference being that this realization doesn’t afford the ability of control over other people, inhumane control being a concept that is both morally and ethically unsound in the best of times.
Whether conscious or not, this is a choice we all make as we’re fed our individualized pockets of media and ideals. Society, the survival of a species, can’t exist without a predisposition to the universality of the second choice. By choosing the former, we are victimizing ourselves to fear of the other.
Fear of loss of power, stemming from fear of lack of control, meaning we must remain in a constant state of where our beliefs stand, or we can only hope to act out of fear.
Sleeping with the lights on
The passing of anti-LGBTQA+ and anti-abortion laws based on nothing but fear of questioning beliefs is an indicator not only of the personal weakness of the lawmakers and public in this country, but of how easily public mindset can be swayed by fear. Fear of “lack of competition,” fear of “indoctrination,” fear of “ending of life,” fear of having to be globally accepting of those who do not fit into the ironclad mold of individual personal beliefs.
For example, I disagree with basically all religion. However, I can see the role that personal religious or spiritual belief can play in assuaging existential dread. A fallback of reassurance that is need to continue existing in this world. Now, numerous issues with how Christian religions are operated and accommodated aside, were I to gain corporate backing to pass legislation outlawing and criminally punishing the practice of personal religion, I would be morally and ethically in the wrong. I’m certain that most would agree that this is the case.
The key difference between the matter at hand and the example above is that matters of sexuality and personal health are generally not choices, such as belief in religion. Bodily autonomy and humanity are based in a perception of the self, acceptance of the self; circumstance may inform decisions based on this, but the root remains with the self.
The actualization of control based on fear of losing sense of self, based on unacceptance of difference, is all the proof needed to show the insidious nature of this fear.
The world is a frightening place when everything is going “well,” and when you are forced to confront the fact, not opinion or belief, that people other than you exist in a way that is not conducive to your belief system, people tend to revert to the most immature of emotional responses. They turn the lights of belief and control on to keep the darkness of difference at bay.
Once this has happened, as it continues to happen as the days roll on, the ability to assuage that fear becomes impossible to accomplish without taking away the freedom and humanity of those who threaten these unfounded beliefs. The need for power and control enacted on the national and world stage leads to the most disgusting and frightening behavior that our species is capable of.
Fear of the unknown
Fear of the unknown is one of the basest human emotions. It strives us to create, produce, feed, and breed. We are victims of being. Fear led to construction of systems of control, of our environment, of nature, and eventually of each other. Systems of control create power and once attained, fear of its loss ensures that the most heinous acts of violence will be enacted for its maintenance.
Maintenance of what, though? Is it the power structure itself? All that power helps to create is an environment where nothing has to be questioned or challenged. Most of all our beliefs about life and our place in it. A constant need to leave the existential light on, constantly changing and augmenting the bulb to get just the right light, leaves us blinded to the vast array of human and personal experience. So how, then, do we counteract those who insist on running up the power bill to pretend their fears don’t exist? How many times do we need to check the closet of reality to ensure the real boogeymen that a worse boogeyman doesn’t exist?
The most we can hope for is that the “other” they so fear isn’t going anywhere. Their acts of extraordinary violence enacted on those who they refuse to understand will continue unabated towards members of the LGBTQA+ community and those with uteruses until acceptance becomes their only option.
This battle for clarity doesn’t lay on the shoulders of those already over encumbered by the weight of existing placed on them by the current system. No, this battle needs to be fought by those who can fight in their stead, those who have not faced the oppression and atrocity placed upon their existence.
The fight is constant, their fear is cyclopean. The fight is hard, they are willing to kill rather than act as humans. The fight is the fight, because humanity doesn’t exist on a binary, everything is a spectrum and personal responsibility belongs to the person in question and the acceptance and the questioning of the majority personal belief system because of the “other” is too daunting a prospect for them to even consider.
The only option is to turn the lights off on the monsters and leave them no option but to accept the “darkness,” and begin acting as humans.
As the streets are hit again, and the righteous fury felt, please keep this in mind with the following questions…
1) What is the end goal of this protest/march and how will it, realistically, directly effect change?
2) What is the end goal of this petition I’m signing and will it, realistically, directly effect change?
3) Can change really happen by with your “vote”?
Fight, march, and rail at the gods, as is your wont, but bear in mind that this is what has always been done. And here we are. Pre-Roe had marches, petitions, that lasted long after it was passed. The fact is roughly 70% of the country doesn’t support the decision passed officially today. So, what does fighting within the confines of the prescribed system really change?
True, these are valid and necessary forms of demonstration for issues few know about. But this is known. This is human rights at its pinnacle. Human rights as a form of culture war. It’s already happening and the necropolitical gain is a cost the entirety of the political spectrum is ready to pay. Progressives and neoliberals alike are already in place, with basically the full power of government. And here we are. Codification is a pipe dream; it could have happened anytime prior to this. It didn’t. It will not. No matter who has the seats.
You can’t fix a functioning machine. A machine beholden to an archaic, white, Christian, document written by slave owners.
But it can be dismantled, just not with paper.