Obama, America, & the fear of the ‘Other’

It is the most repetitive game played in human history and has a special ability to exploit fear, initiate war and produce narrow minds. This game is called ‘fear of the other’ and it is played as much as anywhere else in American politics, with America proudly leading the charge.

This ‘other’ was once the  ‘ barbaric Red Indian’, later the ‘commie ‘, and now the ‘terrorist’. Black people on the other hand have always found themselves targeted by this fear of the ‘other’ in the American psyche. Whether it was the propagated image of ‘the black rapist’ after the Civil War in order to justify lynching, to the modern day fear of the black male in a hoodie as a no-good criminal. What a way of repaying those whose labor built America’s infastrcture?

The physical attributes of this modern day ‘other’ are now currently those, which resemble my own personal appearance. Brown skin, beard, Pakistani-born and Muslim heritage. Lady luck must surely like me…

Do individuals exist that wish to harm the West? Yes. Are they capable of doing it at every given turn? Questionable. Forgive me for my cynicism but it is a writer’s passion to question.

Barack-Obama3_1Nonetheless, in 2008 when an eloquent, well-spoken State Senator was sworn in to be president of the United States not much seemed far from the norm in terms of his route to power. Except that fact that his father was black and his middle name was Hussein. It was at this point, and thereafter, that the American psyche had to confront its fear of the ‘other’ – how could they not? The ‘other’ was now in their face.

In 2008, at the height of admiration for Obama, 10% of Americans still believed the president to be a Muslim. Fast-forward to after Obama’s ‘honeymoon period’ (a prolonged honeymoon thanks to the work of a Southern cowboy) and another public expression of the American fear of the ‘other’ took place before the watching world.

While driven by the right-wing, a more general ‘fear of the other’ was evoked when, in 2011, the president felt pushed to produce a paper copy of his birth certificate as proof of his American citizenship. This event was not only embarrassing for the ‘leader of the free world’ but also reminiscent of a confused child having its prejudices further inflamed by a cunning adolescent.

What struck me as significant in this fiasco was the fact that the situation turned from a mere conspiracy theory to a full-blown ‘Birther Movement’

Imagine you are being chased and eventually find yourself at a dead end, with the assailant hot on your tail. Your fight-or-flight response kicks in for self-preservation. This is what the ‘Birther Movement’ signifies and reminded me of when I imagine that scenario. Here, suspicion regarding the President’s ‘otherness’ was so severe that at the first given chance some citizens jumped into action and created a movement.

At the same time this form of xenophobia indirectly promoted the ignorant idea that Muslims could never be authentic enough citizens to be worthy of elected roles. They are not ‘one of us’ surely.

This rather broad fear of the ‘other’ works much like a domino effect. For if Obama is an ‘undercover’ Muslim then he surely must be taking America towards Socialism, another of America’s great fears since the Cold War era. The fear became so overt at one point that in 2011 the right wing called for a boycott on one of Obama’s speeches after it was considered to be spreading ‘socialist ideology’. Now it would be common to blame the right-wing for this incident. However, would they be able to create such a circus if, along with general fear-mongering, they couldn’t also tap in to a longstanding apprehension of the ‘other’?

Those of us aware of the President’s actions recognise that Obama is not a Muslim (at least not one who devoutly sympathises with Muslim states), for otherwise he would not drone civilians in Muslim states. Neither is he a socialist for he has furthered the grips of capitalism through his fervent support of big business. Most importantly Obama’s foreign policy promotes terror through the use of terror. Such irony it is for Obama to be called a socialist and a Muslim. The question now is what accusation from the American paranoia surface against Obama next?


-Taimour Fazlani