CO-EXIST, folks. What’s the alternative?

~a column by Colleen O’Brien

There is so much consternation from one of our wanna-be-presidential contenders planning to build walls against the Latinas/Latinos (or make them build the walls against themselves), and also wanting to refuse immigrants from Muslim countries. The candidate is a raging xenophobe — afraid of and possibly hating foreigners.

How anyone in this country could be a xenophobe is denying one’s own origins. We are all foreigners, including the natives who were here when the Europeans came. The original inhabitants came from the area that is now Russia, jumping from island to island across the Bering Strait, which means they too were immigrants; the first immigrants.

The really sad thing about America, the home of the brave and the huddled masses, etc., is that this xenophobia has been going on for just about as long as this supposedly free, benign, egalitarian, freedom-of-speech country wrote its own constitution against the greedy British who wanted to tax their tea. A few pilgrims came here in early days, dissed the Indians as savages and then savaged the Indians. Each succeeding wave of interlopers said to those pouring in behind them (Africans, Irish, Scandinavians, Italians, Bohemians, Jews, Germans, Asians, Puerto Ricans and so on), “Hey, I’m here, there’s no room for you, so Go Away or I’ll kill you because I can, or I’ll put you in chains because you are of a different color, or I’ll make you work as an indentured servant because your English is horrible, or I’ll jail you for breathing garlic, or I’ll round you up on a reservation because why should you live free when you don’t even wear shoes?”

The human race is so annoyingly, pathetically xenophobic it’s a miracle there has been any cross-breeding of nationalities, races, religious groups – ever. That we all started in Africa and ended up here – wherever we are – hating and fearing those who look and act different to our eyes, unaware that what’s inside us is the very same DNA as what’s inside them . . . well, we’ve spent 200,000 years or so killing our relatives and we’re still at it.

In 1855 Abe Lincoln wrote in a letter to a friend, “As a nation, we began by declaring that ‘all men are created equal.’ We now practically read it ‘all men are created equal except Negroes.’ When the Know-Nothings [a political party of Lincoln’s era that despised the Irish and the Catholic Church] get control, it will read ‘all men are created equal except Negroes, and foreigners, and Catholics.'”

In 1967, Martin Luther King said, “…our loyalties must transcend our race, our tribe, our class and our nation; and this means we must develop a world perspective.”

He wasn’t talking just to us, his country folks; he was talking to the planet. “If we don’t have good will toward men in this world, we will destroy ourselves by the misuse of our own instruments and our own power. I would like to suggest that modern man really go all out to study the meaning of nonviolence, its philosophy and its strategy.”

In 2016, just last week, President Obama speaking about Angela Merkel, chancellor of Germany, who in a year has harbored a million refugees from the Middle East, said, “She is on the right side of history….” even as an overwhelming sentiment in the U.S. prohibits a few thousand refugees from finding refuge here.

The fear of strangers, that xenophobia of politicians who suck up to people who can’t think for themselves, is really our national heritage, but it is a world heritage also, our homo sapien history.

Europeans right now are schizophrenic about the millions pouring out of the Middle East and the Far East. Seventy-five years ago Europeans were refugees on their own continent, wandering here and there to find a place to live, work, rear their children; now they are building walls to keep out other refugees.

Some commentarian named the reaction to people fleeing for their lives “fence fever.” This is apt for Hungary, which has a fence against the Serbians, and Bulgaria which erected one against the Turks, and now the Austrians who want one across their Italian border to stop the fleeing hordes. Not to forget the wall builder who wants to be our president.

Really, folks, get a grip. If we don’t learn it now and grasp it with our hearts and minds wholeheartedly, there is no hope for the race called ‘uman (as some folks in the news pronounce it). We are all the same people; we all started in Africa; now we all live here and there around the globe.

I like MLK’s idea of modern man studying nonviolence: what can we do in the Middle East to prevent such bloodthirsty behavior that makes natives flee for their lives?

Can we just live? When will we . . . as the bumper sticker says, as my daughter says to her backyard dog annoyed by squirrels who don’t even know what the dog is upset about . . . just coexist?

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