Sep 15

Lost in Translation

Or pure ignorance.

We live in a world of increasing diversity, or rather in a world where diverse groups actually come into contact with one another on a regular basis. There are many ways to respond to this but we can plot the spectrum in three points. First is acceptance and even enjoyment. I had some of the best food I ever ate at a Thai owned gas station in the heart of Alabama last week. The second is a simple neutral acknowledgement with little engagement. Finally there is fear and even hatred (Fear almost always leads to Hate.) We call this xenophobia, fear of the strange(r).

To put it simply, xenophobia is the idea that if it is different it must be bad.

Take for instance this sign that showed up on the side of the road in Louisiana.

Local authorities get flooded with calls about "Arabic threats" and "possible terror message."

Why? Because they didn't recognize it and therefore it must be bad.

It is Hebrew. It says "Welcome home, Yamit." Now admittedly it looks like it was written by a child and I wouldn't expect the average person to read (I was only a C+ Hebrew student myself) or even recognize Hebrew; but I do expect people not to freak out just because they see a sign in a foreign language!

There is also an inherent bit of egotism going on here. Not just the idea that one's own culture must be the best, but that somehow you are important enough that some foreign person would actually conspire against you.


Much like with an acrophobe who is forced to jump out of an airplane, the only real cure for xenophobia is exposure. However, unlike the guy who jumps out of a plane - who at worst is going to have a heart attack - exposure to other cultures might actually do something really dangerous. Like change you.

Part of what I am trying to do with this blog is explain the world to you. Show you that it is not so scary. Sure there is bad stuff in it. But you need to understand that you cannot paint people with a broad brush. You shouldn't be afraid of someone just because they are different.

Eat the gas station Thai food. Go get coffee with your LGBT coworker. Help your Muslim neighbor paint his house. Ask the Buddist how he gets his vegetables to grow like that around here.

Not only will you be a better person for it, you will be a better person of faith for it as well.

Leave a Reply