By Madison McHugh
In 2016, it seems the work of globalization, peace, and communication are taking a back seat to the rhetoric of superiority and fear of the “other.”
In a series of what appear as historic low-points for compassion and negotiation, we have witnessed the United Kingdom’s decision to exit the European Union as well as the rise of the xenophobic United States’ Republican candidate Donald Trump.
What is the common thread in these occurrences? Each are encountering a short-sighted population of civilians whose focus on nationalism and projection of intrastate problems at the interstate level are obstructing diplomatic and humane processes.
The United Kingdom’s “Brexit” came as a surprise to the world. The vote resulted in 52% in favor to 48% against, with many in favor citing their frustrations with EU immigration and the fear of Turkey’s imminent membership resulting in an influx of migrants, according to the Washington Post.
Throughout the campaign leading up to the referendum, the Labour Party had first attempted to focus on convincing its people of the benefits of independence and sovereignty, but it did not stick. “Nobody is going to rush to the polls to vote on sovereignty,” said pro-Brexiter Frank Field, “But they do understand what it means in a day-to-day sense, control over borders… It has to be on an issue which everybody can understand, and that issue had to be immigration.”
Not only is immigration an issue that everyone understands – it is a prominent fear. The campaign of fear, that every refugee could be a terrorist, has the world shutting its borders to innocent peoples whose war-torn countries cannot protect them. The European Union has been an international organization to promote peace, unity, and joint prosperity among its member countries. Yet fear of outside forces and lack of control drove the UK into much larger problems, like its rapidly depreciating currency, according to CNN.
The United States is approaching a similar decision based on the positions of its two prominent candidates. On the one hand, Hillary Clinton’s 30-year career in politics reflects the most common positions in the Democratic Party and international relations abroad – openness and involvement are common themes at both the domestic and foreign levels. But the most surprising and frustrating aspect of the campaign is the Republican candidate to rise against her: a brand-name businessman whose lack of political experience baffles and awes its voters.
Donald Trump’s rise to candidacy without a political background has been one based in the rhetoric of fear, especially fear of nonwhites abroad and at home. Mexican immigrants, American Muslims, and Chinese businessmen are the reason our country is failing. As discussed by Huffington Post writer Richard Patterson, “It seems fair to conclude that Trump harbors a deep antagonism toward certain minority groups. One thing is certain: he is running for president by attacking our most precious, and sometimes most fragile, societal commitment: to treat all people with equity and dignity.”
Will the United States follow the Republican nominee into an age of isolation and intimidation? Will Britain’s severance from the European Union make them stronger by going alone?
With the deep complications of the international terrain, it is understandable that populations are attempting to cope with its fear of war and plight at home. But by putting foreigners or minorities in the frame of the “other,” people sever their compassion for those who are already suffering from the very plights they are attempting to prevent.