Sexism, Racism, Nationalism, Xenophobia, and the PTA
Posted by honestpoet on February 14, 2007
The objectification of women is just one example (albeit one of the worst) of the process of creating an Other which a person can then feel free to use, abuse, or simply hate. It’s for some reason part of human nature. Probably part of our Stone Age brain, evolved when tribes really did need to be wary of people outside of the tribe. But now it’s much less acceptable to hate people for being part of another “tribe” (read “race”). So it’s easier to make it about a person’s sex. I mean, there are some real differences between men and women, so it’s easy to justify the perception of otherness. But of course we’re all people. (The same regrettable process underlies the rampant hatred of homosexuals.)
In North America the native peoples, in their own languages, always referred to their own nation with a word that meant “The People.” (Of course, the names we’ve given the nations usually came from their enemies. “Navajo,” for example, is the Hopi word for “head basher,” because that’s how the Navajo killed the Hopi when they fought.) They recognized their own People-hood, but not that of outsiders.
Nationalism still seems to hold sway. The same sort of men who objectify women (and, in private, I’m sure, other races) have no trouble seeing the citizens of “enemy” nations (religions?) as less than human. One man littering Bloggernista’s blog with belligerent posts insists that we ought to be bombing Iran (he’s got a rooster as his avatar…you think he knows he’s a cock?). In case you’ve forgotten what bombing does to people, watch this video from Christmastime again, and please note two things: one, those Iraqi faces don’t look like evil terrorists to me; two, there’s grieving on plenty of American faces, too. (Do we really want to get involved in another war? Who in their right mind would say we ought to be bombing Iran?)
Of course terrorists have long been good at seeing enemy people as less than human. How else could they do what they do? But surely everyone knows that two wrongs do NOT make a right. An Israeli leader whose name I forget once said to the Palestinian terrorists, “I don’t hate you for what you’ve done to us. I hate you for what you’ve made us become.” I don’t want America to become (though I fear it’s too late) monstrous. I don’t want to be a bully on the global stage. I don’t know how to make our leaders understand that it breaks my heart (and makes me really angry) to have my tax-dollars spent to kill innocent people, or even to deny them their liberty. Yes, we do have a real enemy in the terrorists. But going around the globe bombing cities? How does this protect us? The only profit from this goes to the corporations that make the bombs and that rebuild afterward.
Sigh. Sometimes I get really sad for the world. It’s such an amazing place. And the role we play here could be one of responsible, loving community, community with our human and our non-human neighbors. I get juiced when I observe nature, when I share a cup of tea with a friend, when I stare into my husband’s eyes. But some people seem to get juiced when they watch planes drop bombs on our enemies, when they read headlines about atrocities, when they watch a flag wave over a pile of rubble. What has to happen to a boy to make a man turn out like that? That’s where we need to focus our attention, I think.
Before, dear reader, you imagine that I think this is only a male problem, let me freely acknowledge that there are some really messed up women, too. (Ann Coulter is a glaring example.) I’m a housewife with kids in elementary school, and I see women at school assemblies, and hear talk about them from those same friends over tea, who seem to thrive on conflict, though at a much smaller than national level. Same reason many marriages don’t make it. What makes someone feed on strife? Personally, it gives me indigestion.