X is for Xenophobia

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.


A Line from Child 44, by Tom Rob Smith

It is one of those lines I wish I had written. There is a saying, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” In this case, 22 words can conjure up many mental pictures.

“Their moral compass had been neglected for so long that it spun out of control:  north was south and east was west.” That is a memorable line from Child 44, by Tom Rob Smith. (Incidentally, I wrote about my general impressions of Child 44 in my October 4, 2016 blog post, What I read in September.)

The 2016 US Presidential Election

That line from Child 44 was written about two fictional Russian characters in 1953, but they could have just as easily been penned about the 2016 US Presidential election. Truth became a casualty of this race a long 16 months ago. The election will be over in a few days. The fallout from the divisive campaign rhetoric will not quietly go away. But I digress.

Clever writing

A moral compass that has lost its bearings and is spinning out of control is a great visual. I had an inexpensive compass to play with when I was child. I would try to confuse it by turning it so when pointing to magnetic north it would point toward the “S” but I could never trick that compass. No matter what I did to it, I could not make it spin out of control. I could not make it settle on any direction but magnetic north.

One’s moral compass is more fragile and less dependable than a magnetic north compass. We have all heard of people who have lost their moral compass and committed violent crimes. The use of abusive language and mean-spirited lies (such as we have been subjected to in this year’s US Presidential election) also fall into this category. It is a sad and frightening thing to be exposed to a person who has lost his or her way.

“Their moral compass had been neglected for so long that it spun out of control:  north was south and east was west.” Sentences like that don’t happen in literature by happenstance. As an aspiring novelist, I look for such sentences when I read. Writers are taught not to write a sentence that will take the reader out of the story, but I can’t help but notice and appreciate certain phrases and sentences crafted by other writers.

Until my next blog post, I hope you have a good book to read. If you are a writer, I hope you have quality writing time. And if you are so inclined, please share my blog by clicking on one of the social media icons below.


J.D. Vance – Notes from an Author’s Interview

Charlie Rose is my favorite interviewer. He welcomes people from all walks of life to his PBS program, “Charlie Rose,” and once in a while he interviews an author.

On October 18, 2016, Charlie Rose interviewed J.D. Vance, author of Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis. Born in Kentucky, Vance grew up in the culture of Appalachia. When he went to Yale Law School, he was possibly the only middle class white guy there. He said nothing was ever personally directed toward him, but he felt like there was a feeling of disdain for Appalachia among the people at Yale.

Vance talked about the destructive  attitude that people in Appalachia acquire from their communities. As a teenager, he started sensing that the people were cynical and frustrated. They were distrustful of the people who represented them in government.

At the age of 14, Vance started living with his grandmother. She instilled in him the importance of hard work and study. She worked to overcome the negative influences that she knew would try to pull him down.

Vance talked about the cultural divide in the United States and how the 2016 Presidential election has hit a nerve with many of the people of Appalachia. He said, “Their pride is disappearing because their jobs are disappearing.” (I think I got that quote right. The interview moved along faster than I could take notes.)

He said there’s not enough dialogue between the people of Appalachia and the people from other parts of the country. He thinks more communication would go a long way toward erasing some of the misconceptions outsiders have about Appalachia and its people.

Charlie Rose did not ask Vance anything about the craft of writing or how he goes about writing. That is what I most look for when I hear or read an interview with an author, but I guess such questions are reserved for fiction writers. The point of Mr. Rose having J.D. Vance on his program was to discuss the cultural divide and to get Vance’s firsthand assessment of it.

Until I blog again in a few days, I hope you have a good book to read. If you’re a writer, I hope you have quality writing time.


Thoughts on the US Constitution

As a political science major in college, I was required to take at least one Constitutional Law course. Intimidated by the prospect of taking a law class, I put off taking Constitutional Law until my last quarter before graduation. Much to my surprise, I thoroughly enjoyed the class (except for the copious amount of reading it required) and 41 years later I still remember some of the Supreme Court cases we studied. That class, more than any other, opened my eyes to the nuances of how the US Constitution governs everything from voting rights to the classification of tomatoes as a fruit or as a vegetable in light of the Tariff Act of 1883.The current US election season and, more specifically, the present civil unrest here in Charlotte have brought the Constitution and certain our constitutional rights to mind.

First page of the US Constitution

2016 US Presidential Election

The US Presidential campaigns this year have made me uneasy about the interpretation of the US Constitution. One political party has taken fear mongering to a new level. We in “battleground states” are bombarded by endless TV ads telling us if the other major party’s candidate is elected, she will abolish the Second Amendment. In a nutshell, that amendment assures our right to “keep and bear arms.”

US Constitution,  First Amendment

The same political party dealing in the fear mongering over the Second Amendment holds the First Amendment in contempt. The First Amendment is near and dear to my heart. It guarantees freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom to peaceably assemble, and freedom to  redress of grievances. The 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote in 1919, runs a very close second!)

US Constitution, Second Amendment

The Second Amendment gives the US Government the right to establish a military and confirms the right of a citizen to “bear arms.” I understand and appreciate the thinking behind the Second Amendment, but I believe one side of the 2016 Presidential campaign has championed it to the exclusion of the other amendments. The baseless fear mongering that, if elected, the other major party’s candidate will “take away all your guns” has reached a fever pitch. Personally, I’m more concerned that the candidate championing the Second Amendment does not see the value of the First Amendment. I believe it is the First Amendment that makes America, America. It is our rights guaranteed by the First Amendment for which citizens of many other countries envy Americans.

Protests this week in Charlotte

The riots that took place in Charlotte on Tuesday and Wednesday nights and the peaceful protests last night prompt me to reflect on the First Amendment. Rioting and destruction of property cannot be tolerated, but the right of citizens to peacefully assemble and protest must be protected. Peaceful protests can shine a spotlight on an issue and bring it to the forefront of public discussion. The prime example that comes to mind is the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s led by the late Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King.

The protests this week in Charlotte were the result of the death of a man at the hands of the police. The protests in Charlotte have resulted in a national discussion of race relations, the inordinate number of African-American men who have been shot by police in our country, and the distrust of police held by people of color. If any good can come out of what has transpired in Charlotte this week, perhaps it will be a more open and honest conversation in America about the racial prejudices and biases most people in our country hold to varying degrees. It is through frank public discourse that we will better understand and respect one another. I pray that something good will come out of this violent, angry, and sad week. In the meantime, I anxiously await what the darkness of tonight will bring to the streets of Charlotte.

In conclusion

The US Constitution is a living, breathing document. It has been amended 27 times as our society continually reinvents itself. It is the bedrock of our government and is constantly up for debate by citizens and, ultimately, by the US Supreme Court.

The primary purpose of my blog is to shed light on my life as a writer, and I have avoided political content until today. Inasmuch as the 2016 federal and state elections just might be the most important elections of my life, I felt compelled today to post my thoughts about certain aspects of the US Constitution.

Until my next blog post in a few days, I hope you have a good book to read and productive writing time.