Why are politicians making a habit of treating citizens as “others?”
In his attempt to out-Trump Donald Trump’s demands “for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States,” Texas Senator and presidential candidate Ted Cruz has upped the ante by calling on national and local law enforcement agencies and other security forces “to patrol and secure Muslim neighborhoods before they become radicalized.”
Though Cruz did not fully address Constitutional issues nor ease concerns regarding the inflammatory and clearly discriminatory nature of this racial profiling, he defended his scheme saying that this strategy has proven effective in the past in reducing urban gang violence “to get the gang members off the street.”
But this anti-Muslim rhetoric is nothing new for Ted Cruz who has also asserted an alleged conspiracy in which some Muslims are attempting to impose Sharia law in our country. He proclaimed that “Sharia law is an enormous problem” in the U.S.
Maybe I am missing something here, but to compare street violence with someone who may possibly assemble incendiary devises in their basements seems erroneous at best. Also, the draconian measures of increasing patrols and surveillance on any specific demographic group for the actions of a very few reminds me of the massive inescapable telescreens in an Orwellian nightmare. And Ted, where in the U.S., other than in your own head, has Sharia law become an enormous problem?
I would ask, rather, where was the surveillance, the patrols, and the regulations on the primarily rich white men who brought our entire economy to its knees because of their unethical business practices during the last recession? And where are the large scale calls by the Republicans even now for such measures?
Poet, novelist, and anthropologist Nathaniel Mackey discusses the process of “othering,” which is something people do. Therefore, “to other” must be seen as a verb, an action. An “other” is someone or a group of someones acted upon. Likewise, to “minoritize” is also something people do through the methods of defining, stereotyping, and scapegoating them.
Quite clearly, Cruz (and Trump) manifest Islamophobia, defined as prejudice and discrimination toward the religion of Islam and Muslims who follow its teachings and practices. Like racism, sexism, and heterosexism, for example, Islamophobia is much more than a fear, for it is a taught and often learned attitude and behavior, and, therefore, falls under the category of oppression.
Unfortunately, Cruz has many role models, leaders from the United States and abroad, who have “othered” groups of people to justify the denial and confiscation of their rights and property.
During the early years of the new republic, with its increasing population and desire for land, political leaders, such as George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, advocated that Indian lands should be obtained through treaties and purchase. Later, however, when he inhabited the White House, Andrew Jackson argued that white “settlers” (actually, “land thieves”) had a “right” to appropriate Indian land. Though he proposed a combination of treaties and an exchange or trade of land, he maintained that whites had a right to claim any Indian lands that were not under cultivation. Jackson recognized as the only legitimate claims for Indian lands those on which they grew crops or made other “improvements.”
The Indian Removal Act of May 28, 1830 authorized President Jackson to confiscate Indian land east of the Mississippi River, “relocate” its former inhabitants, and substitute their land with territory west of the River. The infamous “Trail of Tears” during Jackson’s presidency attests to the forced evacuation and redeployment of entire Indian nations in which many died of cholera, exposure to the elements, contaminated food, and other hazards.
And reflecting the tenuous status of Japanese Americans, many who were born in the U.S., and stemming from the racism of the U.S. majority, following U.S. entry into World War II at the end of 1941, military officials under President Franklin Roosevelt’s Executive Order 9066, uprooted and transported approximately 110,000 Japanese Americans to Internment (Concentration) Camps within interior states far from the shores. The Supreme Court upheld the order two years later. Not until Ronald Reagan’s administration did the U.S. officially apologize to Japanese Americans and authorized the payment of reparations amounting to $20,000 to each survivor as part of the 1988 Civil Liberties Act. Unfortunately, some elected officials have called for similar detention facilities in the United States to incarcerate Muslims.
Listening to Cruz and other politicians on the not-so-fringe of the political Right, they seem to hold Israeli right-wing leaders, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in high esteem with theirreactions toward Palestinians in the occupied territories confiscated after the 1967 War. Israeli Military Order 101, issued in 1967, still prohibits 10 or more Palestinians from gathering “for a political purpose or for a matter that could be interpreted as political.” If convicted, violators face a fine and imprisonment up to 10 years. In addition, Israel demolishes homes of family members of Palestinians accused of committing violent crimes, but no such penalties are imposed on Jewish so-called “settlers” accused of similar crimes. Palestinians face trials in Israeli military courts, but “settlers” are tried in civilian courts. An estimated over one-half million Jewish land thieves live on occupied Palestinian lands today.
History and current events teach us that nothing radicalizes a given population more than finding itself under siege. Nothing radicalizes a given population more than feeling unwelcomed, disrespected, marginalized, and disenfranchised. Cruz and others who advocate replicating the failed policies of the past and currently enacted endanger the very countries they claim to protect.