Rise of Nationalism and Human Displacement: Things We Should Know and Why We Should Care

Important Terms

  1. Nationalism: extreme form of patriotism
  2. Xenophobia: intense and/or irrational fear of people from other countries (or "others" more generally)

The election of Donald Trump took many by surprised, and tons of Americans found themselves disgusted by the overt presence of xenophobia and rising Nationalism in the U.S. It felt like the end all be all: The United States succumbing to such intense feelings hatred. It's important to know, however, that this is not unique to the United States and it is not new. 

Currently, we are in the middle of a huge refugee crisis. This is something that you may have heard about: the war in Syria specifically has gained a lot of coverage in the media and the wars have resulted in tons of people displaced. You may ask: where do they go? Good question. Those who are "lucky" enough to escape find themselves living in brutal conditions in refugee camps in a variety of different countries. Turkey and Greece have received many refugees as they are geographically closer to the wars than some of the Western European countries. While people like our current president make it seem as if refugees can easily penetrate our borders (or French and British borders), applying for asylum in any of these Western Countries is exeedingly difficult and often takes excessive amounts of time and paperwork. The narrative fed to many Americans and Western Europeans is one in which hoards of unchecked and potentially dangerous peoples are to flood our borders. This is simply not the case. Not only are refugees not dangerous criminals but people in need of decent food, housing and healthcare, but borders to Western countries are incredibly secure especially for people who lack the resources to get around the bureaucracy.

Refugees aren't a threat to the daily fabric of our lives.

What is threatening to our lives and theres is the way that alternative narratives poison our minds. In a Greek refugee camp in Chios, locals have invaded and attacked the refugees. This phenomenon is build on intense fear of the "other". It is built on an anxiety cemented by the idea that accepting "otherness" threatens safety. The larger the need for safe places for displaced people, the stronger and further hateful narratives seem to spread. People across the U.S. and Europe find themselves scared of terrorism and of harm and are told that if the borders are opened for people to find refuge, they will bring with them this violence. The fear is real, the reality is not. This result is seen in the rise of anti-immigrant/anti-refugee policies. This result is seen in the rise in support for nationalist candidates that promise to protect their countries by closing the borders. The irony is that the longer the borders are closed, the longer refugees will be stuck in inhumane camps with little to no resources or shelter. If there's ever a recipe for hatred or violence, it's in the deprivation of humanity. In other words, the xenophobic and nationalized populations (you and me) are giving potential validity to their own fears: we are creating the hate, we are creating the violence. Out of fear of violence, we are acting violently. This is us. It's not just seen in the election of Donald Trump. It's seen in the rise of Nationalism all over Western Europe as well (take the souring populatity of Le Pen in France for example). 

This needs to be acknowledged by everyone. We are on the brink of something really dangerous, not just for the peoples currently in immediate danger, but for all of us. Even the cozy liberals sitting at home listening from a distance on NPR (I'm including myself in this) have a place in this. 

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