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There is a popular word which it seems to me doesn’t quite cover it. In the debate over immigration, some people have made some very extreme statements which have moved these statements into mainstream. We who disagree with the statements and want to express another side call the statements and their speakers xenophobic. I don’t think it works.


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I was on a “Christian” discussion board on which in a discussion on immigration someone expressed that as a pro-life Christian he is also pro-rule-of-law and so to him the pro-life Christian position on immigration was “Send him back the second time with a bullet in his head.” This comment – in all its obscene glory - was left on the board while my response was deleted.

In an ad, the recent Alabama candidate for Agriculture Commissioner looked into the camera while petting both his horse and his gun and said to immigrants for whom a drivers license test in their language is far, far too much to ask from The World’s Greatest Country, “We speak English here. You should learn.” Because once you foreigners get here, there is no reason for you to have an ID or be able to drive, like to a job or something, until you know English well enough to take a test.

Besides, there is nothing Americans hate more than going to their job and have co-workers who, though they do their job well, speak to each other in another language. What are they hiding? Recently, a co-worker, who is from the Middle East, was on the phone talking to somebody in Arabic. One of my other co-workers expressed that when he heard that, he wondered if he was telling somebody where to bomb next. Really??? I told him that was racist and he looked at me with an incredibly patronizing look and told me he preferred to be aware of things and not have his head in the sand. I imagined the Pogo strip where Simple J. Malarkey (a character based on Senator Joseph McCarthy, soon to be dusted off for Texas Senator Ted Cruz. If only Kelly were around …) is on a stump screaming “It’s what we don’t understand that’s dangerous!”

Perhaps that last example in the context of the Okefenokee Swamp qualifies as xenophobia, which means “fear of strangers” but the first two examples, along with a major party’s major message on immigration (and Senator Joseph McCarthy), a far more accurately descriptive word should be used. I would like to suggest Misoxeny.

Misoxeny is the hatred of strangers. "Fear" does not begin to describe the contempt expressed. "Fear" does not begin to describe the eliminationist rhetoric and the cynical playing off of xenophobia to whip up non-thinking tribal grouping and violence in the face of people who differ (and a President, who is Black).

In some ways, misoxenos would be a fighting word. Uncompromising and, while more accurate, may not be conducive to uplifting discourse. I guess I would answer that reading the rhetoric which would be described by it could hardly be described as uplifting discourse and they aren’t changing it. As I said earlier, this bigoted, non-uplifting discourse has been mainstreamed by the political rhetoric and their stenographers in the media. They do not fear; they are playing off fear leading to contempt, hatred and elimination. This is not the vision I have for the country.

Misoxeny could quickly become a fad word rushing even more quickly into ineffectual cliché status, like homophobe, misogyny, and - yes - xenophobe. I’m not sure what to do about that. People use language to express their ideas and I think this idea has validity. It may not work; it may run into over-use; it may be roundly mocked by Bill O’Reilly. Perhaps a “fifteen minutes of fame” also works for words and moves on to further, more effectual, ways of expression.

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Originally posted to xulon on Sun Mar 17, 2013 at 09:16 AM PDT.

Also republished by Political Language and Messaging and Logic and Rhetoric at Daily Kos.

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