Aegean to Appleton: On Xenophobia

As an international student from Greece, I come from a country plagued by political mismanagement and disillusionment. In the most recent national elections, the Greek populace showed tremendous support for Golden Dawn, a far-right, nationalistic political party. It is deeply saddening to see that their political agenda, mostly consisting of xenophobic and racist ideologies, has become quite prevalent in Greek society today. Over the past few months, I have been following the events leading up to this year’s U.S. presidential election. With Republican candidate Donald Trump being at the forefront of the race for the nomination, I have had numerous familiar and utterly surreal feelings reemerge.

Throughout his campaign, Donald Trump has made countless controversial statements, ranging from his rather unorthodox plan to erect a wall on the southern border of the U.S. as a means of “keeping out the Mexicans,” to waterboarding and its benefits in the fight against ISIS. With such a vast agenda of contentious remarks, it is no wonder why he receives such extensive media attention. Whilst many people laugh at his proposed policies and ideologies, it feels as if I am reliving the events that lead to the dramatically successful campaign of the nationalistic political party in Greece.

As someone who had the opportunity to experience the rise of blatant xenophobia in his own country, I have noticed that the individuals spearheading such movements are usually trying to sugarcoat the vulgarity of their intentions by invoking people’s sense of patriotism. What many fail to realize, however, is that in cases where unsupported discrimination and unfounded hatred are advocated as acts of patriotism, what we are really talking about is nationalism. Therefore, it becomes impossible to reach a peaceful resolution, or even conduct fruitful discourse, when discussing sensitive topics like the refugee crisis. Any kind of meaningful arguments that could be made are overshadowed by misguided sensationalism. For example, the argument that Greece, due to its abysmal financial situation, cannot support the overflow crowds of refugees that arrive there monthly is well-found, but it is accompanied by expressions of racism and a desire for discrimination. However, despite all the negativity that currently dominates the global political landscape, I sincerely believe that change is possible.

I am convinced that meaningful reform is the best possible way for a nation to ensure long-term growth and cultural coexistence. It is refreshing to see that there are individuals who strive to come up with practical solutions to the aforementioned issues. U.S. senator and current Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders belongs to that group of pioneers, and even if he does not win his party’s nomination, his ideas deserve to be heard and debated. As a Lawrentian, I am inclined to perceive the current political landscape from a very critical standpoint, and I know that I am not alone in this; that is what gives me hope.