I’ve had five or six weeks to come up with a word beginning with the letter “X” that has something to do with writing. This is Day 24 in the 26-Day 2017 A to Z Blog Challenge. Hence, the letter “X.”
Not finding an X-word that has anything to do with the craft of writing, I decided to write about xenophobia. It has been a topic of conversation in the United States during and since the 2016 presidential election season.
Xenophobia is not a pleasant topic to write about and, in choosing it as today’s topic, I wasn’t sure what I was going to say.
The Tenth Edition of Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary defines xenophobia as follows:
“fear and hatred of strangers or foreigners or of anything that is strange or foreign.”
The word’s origins
The word first came into usage in 1903, according to Merriam-Webster’s. I couldn’t help but wonder about the word’s etymology. It comes from xen or xeno. It has its origins in the Greek, xenos, which means stranger. A second meaning the dictionary gives for xen or xeno is “strange” or “foreign” with the example being “xenolith.”
That led me to look up the word “xenolith.” Xenolith came into usage in 1894 and is defined by Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary as
“a fragment of rock included in another rock.”
I probably should have remembered that from the year of geology classes I took as a college freshman 46 years ago, but geology is like a foreign language. If you don’t use it, you lose it.
As far as I could find, xenolith was the first word used in the United States that had “xen” or “xeno” as its root. A decade later, xenophobia was first in common usage.
Getting back to the 2016 US Election
Xenophobia reared its ugly head during the 2016 US Presidential campaign. The nominee of the Republican Party was outspoken about foreigners. His rhetoric brought out the worst in a lot of people. When someone in that position freely spews hatred and fear of another group of people, it emboldens other citizens to express their fears, distrust, and hatred of groups of people different from themselves either in terms of race, ethnicity, religion, or country of origin.
Is the USA still a melting pot?
I naively thought Americans were a tolerant people, so I was blindsided by the xenophobia that last year’s election exposed. We are taught in school at an early age that the United States of America is a “melting pot.” People have come here from all over the world and have been accepted and assimilated into American society.
“Give me your tired, your poor”
The words on a plaque on the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty in New York famously say,
“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me: I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”
I type those words from memory. I learned them in elementary school. We even learned a song composed by Irving Berlin that included those last words of a sonnet, New Colossus, written by Emma Lazarus.
Many times when there is an influx of people from another country, they are looked down upon and are slow to be accepted. I have never understood this. People generally come to America seeking a better life. I’m sure that’s why my ancestors came here from Scotland in the mid-1700s.
Few people come here wanting to do us harm, but the rhetoric of the Presidential campaign last year made many people think that everyone coming from certain Middle Eastern countries were terrorists. I’m afraid we will reap the results of that rhetoric and the fear it incited for many years to come.
Call me naïve, but, as a Christian, I just don’t understand other Christians who are xenophobic.
Until my next blog post
I need to find “Y” and “Z” words to write about for my blog on Saturday and Sunday, and I don’t apologize for “stepping on the toes” of any of my readers in today’s post.
I hope you have a good book to read. If you’re a writer, I hope you have productive writing time.