Sunday, December 21, 2014

Xenophobia and Human Nature

This is from AWAD, "gentlemen's agreement," the week's best as of 12/21/2014.

Dear Mr. Stine:

The incidents you relate are unfortunate. In fairness, though, it is only human nature to be kind to our own kind, however defined. Xenophobia characterizes us as a species. You can see it in a baby's separation anxiety. How does the little one react when mom hands him over even to a friendly stranger?

Surely, the standoffishness and self-segregation you describe is not peculiar to white Protestant America. (Full disclosure: I am not a WASP.) I dare say it's fairly universal. Yet somehow, when it comes to welcoming outsiders, it is only the Christian West's failures that receive any publicity. Indeed, in many cases those failures are taken out of context and blown out of proportion. You'd almost think Western political, entertainment and media elites harbor a particular anti-Christian, anti-Western animus.

You may be interested to read the articles linked below. Insofar as victimhood confers status, I look forward to the day when brave Western journalists and Hollywood directors start publicizing accounts like these. (Full disclosure: I am a Christian and a Westerner.)


Tony Pivetta
Royal Oak, Michigan

From: Steven Stine (scstine1672

Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--gentleman’s agreement

Your article neglected to mention the sinister undertone to this seemingly benign expression. Not so many years ago, there was a gentleman’s agreement among the power elite to limit or even exclude access to the best colleges and jobs to women, people of color, Eastern & Southern Europeans, and non-Protestants. (I’ve probably left some out.)

In 1947, the year I was born, Gregory Peck starred in a movie titled A Gentleman’s Agreement about a journalist who had returned from World War II in Europe where he had been horrified by the Nazi atrocities against the Jews. Disclaimer: I am Jewish.

Peck’s character decided to pretend to be Jewish. His name was the conveniently ambiguous Green. He was deeply disturbed to discover that the same attitudes he had fought against in Europe were running rampant at home in America. It was a brave movie to produce at that time.

On a personal note (only one generation removed), when my father returned from his own World War II service in Europe, he and my mother went on an extended, long-overdue honeymoon by automobile. Much to their chagrin, but not surprise, many hotels politely but firmly turned them away, and refused to provide them shelter. The desk clerk would say something like, “I’m sorry, sir, but this hotel is restricted. There is a nice place down the road for your kind.”

If I have gone on too long, I apologize. However, seeing this figure of speech in “print” touched a nerve that ran far deeper than I could have anticipated.

Steven Stine, Highland Park, Illinois


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