Big, bad foreigners – who’s afraid of them (and why the hell are we)?

It’s human nature to be skeptical about things that are foreign to us.

Western ears traditionally approach the pentatonic scale as something “foreign,” but it’s not foreign to Eastern ears. A short skirt on a woman is highly offensive to someone in one country, but it’s a staple of one’s closet to another. A spicy curry makes my Indian friends reminisce about their family tables, but my Texas hot sauce made one of my Indian friends grab milk out of my fridge. It’s all relative and, sure, it’s all based on things being “foreign” to us, which is human nature.

What begins as human nature becomes something else entirely when we take it a step further.

The action of legislating, calling names, creating hate groups, or even inciting violence…why do we do it? Why do we take it that far? I think it’s because we are constrained by our own myopic sense of what our world is and we are intimidated by that which we do not know or understand. Our world is not white or black. It is not Jewish, Christian or Muslim. It is not East or West. It is not even native or foreigner. Not anymore. It’s global.

Pick any country…I mean, let’s look at the U.S. or Switzerland because both are currently struggling to manage the “foreigners” issue. What’s the real fear? These are spacious countries with majestic lands. Is the fear running out of resources or is the fear running out of “real Americans” or “real Swiss”? Are we really afraid foreigners will take over the United States or Switzerland with their…uh…what exactly? With their…diverse culture, rich history? Yuck. Who wants that? (Me.)

“Foreigners are taking our jobs,” it’s a common complaint. But, is it true? Many foreigners do jobs, in both countries, that “natives” do not want to or are not qualified to do. God willing, that will always be the case. What a shame if the world’s next Rachmaninoff didn’t want to go to the United States because he didn’t feel he was capable of securing a Visa. What a tragedy if the world’s next Einstein decided to stay away from Switzerland because he was concerned about the Quotas.

“Foreigners are bringing religions into this country that are against our country’s true religion.” Really? In general, I am not a huge fan of Leviticus (I actually find it borderline absurd for the most part), but I’ll go ahead and take a stab at interpreting this one…”You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.” Sorry Jews and Christians, that’s us because it’s in the Torah and the Old Testament. So, if you’re on your high horse about getting the foreigners out, I’m afraid you’ll have to dismount.

Think of it this way, as I’ve learned all too well – we are all foreign to someone. Imagine that some foreigners are not out to get you or your job or your house or your anything. Imagine that some foreigners are in your immediate vicinity to work hard, contribute to society, and be at peace. And, if they really love you, share a good recipe for yellow Thai curry (still hoping).

Seriously, though….maybe, you could help them integrate.

Instead of kicking them in the back.

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