The word foreigner is in the news these days more than it should be. When Donald Trump called president Obama a foreigner, it aroused a sense of fear inside a decent percentage of Americans, a feeling that maybe foreigners were taking over our government. Trump’s fear-mongering expanded to include Mexicans and people of Islamic faith. But where is the fear of others in Trump supporters when it comes to Russia?
Most US citizens consider Russia as a hostile foreign power, and its very suspicious that Russians are not touted as foreigners by Donald Trump. It seems, if Trump can make a buck with a foreigner he thinks they should be OK with all of us. I don’t get that. Most don’t get it. But so far, Trump supporters, including his GOP stooges, seem mostly okay if Russia influences our elections, policies and decisions here. And frankly, our fallen soldiers fought for freedom and the rule of law. They would be turning over in their graves if they knew what Donald Trump was doing – and so would our founding fathers.
I like to use word history (etymology) to see if it can inform us in our daily lives. So today I ask, what was the first meaning of the word foreign?
The way I figure foreign out is by dissecting foreign into its two basic parts. (fo+reign) The word reign should jump out of you. Reign is a regal/ruler kind of word. That leaves fo- as a prefix syllable, which refers to foe. Enemy of the king is clearly what a foreigner first described. Foreign was not a geographical word but a political word! Interesting right there.
Notice how foreigner does not describe a foe of the people, but an enemy of the king or ruler, the one who reigns. And this is what is so dangerous about this word foreigner. There are now over 200 countries on planet earth. If rulers continue to sell the idea that folks from other countries are enemies, we could have 200 countries with 7 billion people who consider the vast majority of the people on earth outside of their own nation, to be their enemies. Couple that with the kind of weapons we have today, and you have a recipe for the end of civilization as we know it.
This is particularly sad because before 911, the world was trending towards a spirit of tolerance and understanding of others. The global celebration at Y2K certainly allowed a sense of global citizenry to peek its way onto the stage of the foreseeable future. But it was a false Messiah. The unity never really happened and then the banking crisis of 2008 exaggerated the general income gap between rich and poor. And that felt nothing like a brotherhood of man. Corporate greed was and is still in control on planet earth.
Comparing the distrust level between nations in the WW2 era to 2001, there is no doubt that we had been trending towards more trust between peoples of “foreign” nations. That became more apparent during the Arab Spring and Occupy Wall Street movements. And yes, Obama shut that down.
But Donald Trump has already set much of the progress towards brotherhood back in time, and he aims to continue that reversal because if he loses in 2018, he knows he may end up behind bars. He knows can only unify a base with hate. He started with hate, he cannot switch trains. But nationalism, coupled with an impulsive ruler who is also a life-long criminal looking for a way to skirt justice for his crimes, is a downright irresponsible recipe for disaster, a speedy train on a path towards Armageddon.
Shame on his supporters. Granted, many of them just don’t know better. Like Trump said,“We love the poorly educated”. But much more shame on the GOP establishment. They are not poorly educated. They are in it for themselves – for personal greed.
We may all be foreigners to those who were born in other nations. But we are born naked and innocent. We must learn or be taught to be enemies to others. The smarter path is one towards brotherhood, not otherhood. We certainly don’t need rulers here or anywhere else that actively promote lack of respect and empathy for others. No country can claim the sole right to nationalism – so this can spread, as it did during the 30’s and 40’s.
The Danger of the Foreigner Meme
I am no longer religious, but one story from the Bible which I find very informative is the Tower of Babel tale. The lesson of Babel is that if we can’t communicate openly with each other, if we consider others to be our enemies, then we can not build our proverbial towers, which is a metaphor for progress. And there is so much progress we will need to make if we are to survive. Is that not challenge enough people? Do you really have anything better to do? A sense that other people are enemies was bad before we had nuclear and biological weapons; but it’s much more dangerous now.
People who live in different countries are not our born enemies. They are trained to be our enemies of course. And Trump is doing his best to just do that. The word foreigner was created by the ruling class, for the ruling class and its enforcement arm the militia to lure citizens into battle. Hitler said it about Jews. Foreigner. It decodes as “enemy of the king”. – And it is the kings, prime ministers, presidents, and dictators of the world that still promote that hateful concept. It’s time for the global citizens of the world to rise up and lose the meme that others are enemies. It only serves the weapon makers, industrialists and undertakers.
I prefer to latch onto the more salient of the biblical teachings. You know, the ones that are about the brotherhood of man.
Note: Post-writing, I found The OED finds that FOREIGN may have been related to old words for door, the OR referring to light, because there is light outdoors. It also says :
English spelling altered 17c., perhaps by influence of reign, sovereign. Sense of “alien to one’s nature, not connected with, extraneous” attested late 14c. Meaning “pertaining to another country” (as in foreign policy) is from 1610s.
I’m sticking with that 17th century meaning, but accenting the foe part of the word.