Thursday, September 03, 2015

Now That It's Been Established That Trump's Appeal Is Fascist, Is It Also Xenophobic?


I had a very high draft lottery number. There was no way I would be drafted after college. However, it made me sick to see what my country was doing to Vietnam, and it made me sick to imagine that my tax dollars were somehow paying for that. So l wound up living overseas for the duration of the war. I learned a lot-- and I recommend the experience to anyone contemplating any such thing, for myriad reasons that have absolutely nothing to do with this post. 

What inspired me to think back about my years living abroad was an interview Trump did with an extreme right-wing site. In reacting to Jeb having spoken to a crowd in Miami about Trump, where he said, "El hombre no es conservador," Trump went right to his Know-Nothing base about Jeb: "He’s a nice man. But he should really set the example by speaking English while in the United States."

Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-FL): Trump's anti-Spanish 
language comments are "modern day fascism."
Why is this such a devastating zinger, which damages Jeb so profoundly? I first started picking up on it in 1969 when I was driving across Asia-- Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India. I was on the hippie trail, and so were several hundred, maybe a thousand, other Westerners-- primarily Europeans, with a handful of Canadians, Australians, Japanese and a tiny number of Americans. Overland across Asia was a tough haul, and not for the faint of heart. There was basically only one road-- around 4,000 miles-- and everyone stopped in the same places to rest: the Sultan Ahmet district of Istanbul, Tabriz, Tehran, Meshed, Herat, Kandahar, Kabul, Lahore. So by the time you got to where you were closing in on India, you had basically met and shared experiences with almost everyone on the road that season.

English was the lingua franca. If there were people from Sweden, Brazil, Japan, Italy and Holland sitting around a campfire, there was only one way anyone would assume they could have a discussion: in English. Was I ever lucky! But occasionally-- very infrequently-- you'd be in a group of people, maybe a bunch of Frenchmen and some Canadians and someone from Senegal, say, and they'd be speaking French. Or some people from Mexico, Chile, Argentina and Spain  would be speaking Spanish. You could also find yourself sitting around with a bunch of Afs speaking Farsi or Pashtun. Well, no one minded-- except Americans.

I started figuring it out pretty quickly. Americans, but not Brits or Aussies or Canadians, would get terribly uptight if another language was being spoken. And since there was usually a lot of hash going around, they would also get terribly paranoid. Americans seemed to always think that if two or more people were conversing in not-English, they were either making fun of them or plotting against them. It came to me gradually, and then I thought it was funny-- and sad.

A few years later I was back in Europe from India and working at de Kosmos, a youth center owned by the city of Amsterdam which was based on meditation and Eastern philosophies. It was always packed with young travelers and tourists babbling in every language under the sun. Again, English was the lingua franca-- even over Dutch-- but there were always enough Germans or French or any linguistic group so that there would be conversations going on in those languages. And again, when people were speaking not-English, I noticed the uptightness-- exclusively of Americans.

Years later, back in the States, it was easy to detect that some Americans get uptight when people in restaurants or in stores or in their workplaces speak Spanish. Here in Los Angeles that's over with now, but farther inland it isn't. It's just an awkward and backward part of being part of Fortress America, long associated with the kind of isolationism that breeds nationalism, and hostility towards outsiders (xenophobia), or even toward new ideas. 

Trump knows his audience.

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At 12:07 PM, Blogger orangelion03 said...

Excellent post! Though been in the US most of my life, I am from Argentina and speak fluent Spanish. I notice several times that I get some strange glances from Yanquis when I speak Spanish with Latinos.

I think that xenophobia is one of the tools fascists (or any totalitarian form of government) use to control the population. Trump is actually scaring me a little more than Cruz right now...I really didnt think that many folks were THAT ignorant to fall for this crap.

At 12:25 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love and welcome people from all countries. I am, however, xenuphobic, meaning I experience intense or irrational dislike or fear of Scientologists.

At 3:43 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is interesting. I think if you happen to live in a bigger, multicultural city, that some if this fear/prejudice goes away, and can even be replaced by curiosity about, and enjoyment of the differences between people. And, if you don't happen to live in one of those cities, you can encourage those qualities in yourself anyway. The internet, for example.


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