Us vs. Them

Us vs. Them

Edward E. Curtis IV brought up many great points regarding the causes and effects of Islamophobia. His most compelling argument for me came when he briefly discussed American’s seemingly never-ending desire for conflict. This us vs. them mentality has been embedded in American’s heads, by our government, and elites, since our inception. This is the root cause of Islamophobia, not something Donald Trump said.

Americans have always had to have an enemy: the two most recent being communism, and then Islam. American leadership has often driven citizens towards hated of large, and vague groups in order to get populous behind a foreign conflict. Americans would not have sent their sons to Vietnam, if the Government hadn’t convinced them that Communism was a dire threat to the American way of life. Americans would not have send their sons, and daughters to Iraq, if the Government hadn’t convinced them that Islam, and Islamist nations, were a threat to the American way of life. Mainstream media today plays the narrative for the powers that be, and Americans do not hesitate to point their fingers wherever they are directed to do so.

Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery shows how easily a majority can be manipulated into doing something terrible. The people of the village do not know why they participate in the lottery, or why it still exists. Yet, they still participate in it willingly. Old Man Warner even goes as far as calling young people crazy for thinking they can get by without it: to him, they’ve been doing it for years, and it’s only fair if they keep doing it. The only reason the village stones Tessie Hutchinson is because they have always done it, and to some extent, they enjoy doing it.

U.S. foreign policy is essentially The Lottery on a much larger scale. The American populous has been manipulated in this way time, and time again. Americans are often eager to jump into conflicts if they are told it is pertinent to maintaining their way of life: even if they do not know exactly why they are doing it. Convincing American’s to fear of Islam is what allowed Bush to take Americans to war in Iraq and Afghanistan. It is why Americans are not upset about Obama, and Hillary Clinton partaking in the destabilization, and destruction, of the sovereign nations of Libya, and Syria.

This is why I do not blame the under educated American for being afraid of Islam; most of them probably have friends, or family, that were either killed, or severely injured fighting wars for the gain politicians, and elites, against Islamist nations. It is a problem that needs to be tackled at the root, not the surface. American leadership must discontinue its assault on Islam abroad before we can deal with Islamophobia at home. It is a problem that I fear will not be solved by education alone.

We must start with leadership that respects the lives Muslims across the world; not one that preaches tolerance at home, and drone strikes abroad.

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4 Responses to Us vs. Them

  1. Really great post! I completely agree with your points on both how and where Islamophobia stems from, and additionally, why it has become such an issue. In the past, the U.S. has gotten away with creating an invisible “other” as a way of advancing their state and political interests; nevertheless, advancements made in technology and weaponry have made this political technique a dangerous one to mess with. I think there is much more to the underlying story than just what the government and the media advocate is the primary problem, especially in the message they provide in regards to the complications playing out in the Middle East. Gerald Seymour once said “One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter.” This example plays right into the notion of Islamophobia. However, the constructions for which Islamophobia is built upon do not accurately match up with the terror and level of threat we associate to religion and people of Islam. Instead, I think what lies in place of the motivations of the U.S. to dissolve and disorient the identity of the people of the Middle East are deeply rooted in the geopolitical aspects that involve the United State’s desire to remain influential factors within the political and economical progressions of the Middle East.

    • cckremer says:

      I think it is important to note how “Americans have always had to have an enemy” and how you don’t blame the undereducated American for having these kinds of views. However, I think it is important to keep in mind the effect of these conflicts on the American public. Not only does it maintain the “American way of life”, as you descibe, but it serves to reinforce the ideals and group aspect of the community. The average American gets the ability to more closely unify with one another, and this solidarity helps in motivating all aspects of the American public : the soldiers who are motivated upon leaving their country, the men and women at home supporting them through a larger set of companies and corportaions, and the democracy that knows they have the support to make the key decisions. However, as you described, this doesn’t always turn out well; this (naturally) has the described affect of making the targeted group at risk while at home. I think it is important to note that this effect is not merely negative, there is a benefit to the larger in-group that we have not described in detail. However, there is still the largely negative effect of ostracizing an outer group that comes with this phenomena.

  2. pinkfreud96 says:

    I agree with you on all counts! When Edward E. Curtis IV discussed our foreign policy as it relates to Muslims, I perked up right away. Our foreign policy is incredibly Islamophobic, and even more so Islamodestructive. The two examples you listed–Syria and Libya–are perfect illustrations of our pernicious foreign policy and its concurrent failure at combatting terrorism. Due to our destabilization of those two Muslim-majority nations, through Colonel Gaddafi’s overthrow (and execution) and Assad’s attempted overthrow, ISIS has expanded bigly (to quote Trump). We armed and supported rebels in these countries while also bombing the formal governments and their forces. As a result, a massive power vacuum was created–and ISIS has subsequently filled that vacuum. They have grown substantially in the last 5 years, from insignificant–the “JV team” as President Obama put it–to a dangerous threat with a worldwide presence (in 32 countries). We’ve all seen the horror of The Bataclan Theater slaughter, the Brussels Airport bombing, the Pulse Nightclub massacre–the last of which was committed by a homegrown American radical Islamic terrorist. These episodes sow fear among the population, and our sensationalized, profit-driven media helps give these incidents the exposure that ISIS so desires. It’s no wonder then that Americans are afraid of Islam and Muslims and general.

    However, in light of all this information and narrative, it must be stated unequivocally: being afraid of Muslims (and Islam) because “they might be terrorists” is really, really irrational. Particularly in the United States, where Muslims make up only 1% of the population, this fear is absurd. Though a suicide bomber in today’s world will likely be a Muslim (though historically this has not been the case), a Muslim in today’s world has an infinitesimal probability of being a suicide bomber. There are 1.6 billion Muslims worldwide, and not a great many adhere to ISIS’s principles. ISIS takes inspiration from a branch of Islam called Wahhabism (Salafism, if you use their preferred terminology), which is among the most repressive, conservative, puritanical strains of Islam. It’s the same one promulgated by our great ally Saudi Arabia, and is also shared among terrorist groups like Al-Nusra and Boko Haram. That very same ally of ours which beheads all apostates, amputates hands for theft, executes gays, and represses women in countless ways shares ideological roots with the world’s most reviled terrorist organization. In spite of this, only a fraction of Saudis approve of ISIS and obviously far, far fewer promote or participate in their jihad. It boils down simply: most Muslims aren’t terrorists and don’t condone terrorism. Even among the most conservative Islamic ideologues, most Muslims aren’t terrorists and don’t condone terrorism. All this fear is predicated on the most extreme and crazy members of a subsection of a subsection of a worldwide faith. It’d be the same thing as fearing all Christians because a handful of them over the years have firebombed offices and assassinated abortion providers. Would you really be scared of 70% of our country’s population and think them all terrorists? Then why be scared of 90% of other nations’ populations and accuse them of the same? That is the question I would pose to those fearful of Muslims.

    Being scared of terrorists is a distinct fear from being scared of becoming a victim of terrorism. No matter though, both concerns are ridiculous. Statistically speaking, car crashes (by many magnitudes), lightning strikes, and even errant lawnmowers are more likely to kill you than an Islamic terrorist is. Getting shot and killed by your fellow American is a more likely scenario than all of those except for car crashes–yet the same alarmists who scream from the hilltops about the dangers of ISIS are often enough the same who are adamantly against improved gun control, in spite of how many lives it could save. As a numbers game alone, the priorities are completely inverted. But fear rules all, including policy.

    Our government acts as though ISIS is an existential threat to the United States and so we react accordingly. Take away the propagandistic, fear-mongering spin, and ISIS is basically 30,000-70,000 lunatics running drills in the middle of the African desert (and taking land and cities that we ourselves made vulnerable). The point is that ISIS is a gnat compared to the U.S. when it comes to military strength. Our nation, as a state, is not in any remote danger even though individual citizens potentially could be, as we are all acutely aware. That’s where the fear comes in. It’s interesting to note how terrified Americans are of ISIS when in fact, other Muslims are their primary victims by a huge margin. I pulled those three examples above because we’re all intimately familiar with them–how couldn’t you be, with the rising death tolls, clips running on repeat 24/7, and “breaking news” every fifteen minutes about them? But look to Tunisia, Iraq, Turkey, Bangladesh, Pakistan, or Yemen, where mainstream Western news coverage is slim to nil for a mere sampling of places where Islamic terrorists have struck and claimed hundreds or thousands of lives more than they have here.

    Then again, forget about all that. Facts don’t do a great deal to overpower the primal fear that has consumed millions of Americans post-9/11. People have to feel safe in order to believe that they’re safe, which is certainly a challenge in a world saturated with constant Fox News Alerts. As our speaker noted, the best (and perhaps only) way to cure this ignorance is through education. I personally believe that the most effective education would be for non-Muslims to meet an average Muslim and simply interact with them. Much of the apprehension Americans feel toward Muslims comes simply from a fear of the unknown. Make it known, so that people can differentiate and understand the distinctions between the unique branches of Islam, and much of the fear will dissipate overnight. Illustrate clearly that most Muslims are like most people everywhere, and our collective understanding and compassion will grow accordingly. I’ll conclude by invoking our nation’s 32nd President during his first inaugural address:

    “The only thing we have to fear, is fear itself.”


  3. tibblebits says:

    Great post! You’re 100% correct that the American foreign policy elite abuse the “us vs. them” mentality to create the environment necessary to allow mothers and fathers to send their children to war. Especially with respect to Islamophobia, Samual Huntington wrote “The Clash of Civilizations” in the early 1990s, which posits that in the post-communism foreign policy environment the only true “enemy” of Western civilization is Islamic civilization. I encourage anyone interested in foreign policy and international relations to read the essay. It is well-written and logical, but, of course, it feeds into the narrative that Islam is out to undermine Western Civilization vis-a-vis culture, ethics, and economics. Further, Islamophobia breeds terror in that fear of Muslims and Islamophobic practices translates to propaganda for terrorist groups to paint the US and the West as hateful towards their religion. It is truly a self-fulfilling prophecy. We must work towards mutual understanding and common ground with our fellow Muslim citizens, and work together to create a cohesive international project that respects all religions for without such a project this cycle of fear and terror will unfortunately never subsist.

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