Almost all the way through the alphabet now – just two more days left after this in the A-Z Blogging Challenge. So for today, the letter “X”: xenophiles and xenophobes, two sides of one coin, or perhaps more literally two sides of a gaping chasm.
Those who know me IRL will be able to tell you which side of the gap my feet are firmly planted on: I think they’d say I’m a certified (or perhaps “certifiable”…) xenophile. Yup, I do love me some foreign stuff. Foods, drinks, fillums, books and the places they come from – oh, and the people in those places too.
Not that there’s anything wrong with the stuff closer to home – plenty of things to love here too. But you can carry that a bit too far… and end up on the other side of the Great Divide, over in xenophobia land.
Now, I’m not talking about just being disinterested in that stuff over yonder, but full blown mistrust and hatred of foreign things, people and their cultures. It’s just not right. And it doesn’t even need to cross a border to show its ugly face – as a person of mixed race parentage (i.e. part of a visible minority), I can assure you I’ve experienced it often enough throughout my life even in the country I was born and raised in (that would be Canada, eh?).
Xenophobes are fearful of anything not like themselves – foreign countries, their peoples and cultures are all targets of their irrational prejudices, but so too is anyone or any group that doesn’t conform to the xenophobe’s image of “just like me”.
In some respects, things have improved over the course of my life – the advent of the Interwebs and the WWW for example, have opened new horizons and peoples’ eyes to what lays beyond the edge of their metaphorical garden; at the very least the exposure will help desensitize them to foreign things and perhaps understand them better with the resulting realization that they’re not really threatening after all. But there’s still lots of progress to be made, and as the song by the band War says “Why Can’t We Be Friends?“