phobia (n): a combining form meaning “fear,” occurring in loanwords from Greek (hydrophobia); on this model, used in the names of mental disorders that have the general sense “dread of, aversion toward” that specified by the initial element.
I found out about a new word this morning, at least it’s new to me: Islamophobic.
I’m not always up on the latest trends or lingo, but I had to chuckle a bit when I saw this one because it’s becoming common place to prefix the words “phobia” and “phobic” with anything that will create a label describing people who have different views. I’m sure that in some cases there are extremists who are actually afraid of whatever is referred to, but I’d like to be clear that I’m not, nor are any of the people I associate with who share my views.
If something poses a direct threat to me, or to people who matter to me, then yes, I’m afraid of it. I’m afraid of extreme heights because I know that if I fall I will probably die. I’m afraid of people with guns because I don’t want to be shot, people with knives because I don’t want to be stabbed. I’m afraid of horror movies because my mind holds onto images and I have nightmares and I don’t like that. You get the picture. But even at that, I don’t believe any of my fears would be serious enough to be called a phobia. I don’t think they are mental disorders.
I assume from what I have read recently that I would be considered part of the group of Islamophobes. But I’m not afraid of Muslims, nor do I hate them. I don’t personally know any Muslims but I’m certain many of them are kind and loving people who hope for a peaceful existence just like I do. If I had the opportunity to meet and get to know someone who is Muslim, I would be happy to do so. I am, however, afraid of sharia law. I’m afraid of losing my own rights and protections that I have enjoyed all my life in this country. So if a Muslim person poses no threat to me, I am not afraid. But if they work to take away my rights and impose their law on me, I will fear them. Does this make me Islamophobic? Does it mean I have a mental disorder? I don’t believe so. It simply makes me a human who is uncomfortable with certain people who promise to change my existence for what I perceive to be the worse. I resent being labelled as a “phobic” just because I have a different view of whether or not it’s OK to make allowances for certain people who promise to impose their views on me regardless of whether or not I want to accept them. Does the fact that some of these people have a different view of my beliefs make them Christianphobes? or Democraphobes?
In the same vein, I’m not afraid of homosexual or transgendered people. I’ve personally encountered more than one person who is gay, I’ve also personally known more than one, and I’ve never felt threatened by them. I’ve never had reason to see them as people to fear. I am certain that most of these people are kind and loving human beings who hope for a peaceful existence just like I do. I am, however, afraid of losing my personal rights and freedoms. I don’t fear – and definitely don’t hate, for that matter – gay and transgendered people, their perspectives or their lifestyles. But if they work to take away my rights and impose things on me that make me feel unsafe or unprotected, I will fear the result of their actions. Does this make me homophobic? Does it mean I have a mental disorder? I don’t believe so. It simply makes me a human who is uncomfortable with certain people who insist on getting their own way at the expense of others. I resent being labelled as a “phobic” just because I have a different view of whether or not it is OK to make allowances for certain people who seek their own comfort at the expense of mine. Does the fact that some of these people have a different view of my beliefs make them Heterophobes?
As an aside, I find it interesting, especially in discussions surrounding the homosexual and transgendered community, that any implication connecting sexual orientation to psychological conditions is considered offensive. Yet the same group of people will refer to opposing views – such as mine – as a mental disorder by labelling it a phobia.
I don’t consider people who share different views than mine to be afraid of me, even if they disagree strongly. I wouldn’t label someone an Annophobe! I think that this trend of making up words that end in phobia just to describe differing views is ridiculous and not at all helpful in mending fences. I prefer to deal with people themselves and in every group – whether people are grouped by religion, gender, sexual orientation, or preferred pizza toppings – there are going to be some who are reasonable and some who are not. And I don’t believe the word phobia has any place in our discussions or along our path to discovering our differences, our similarities, our hopes, or our vision for a peaceful existence.
For anyone who hasn’t already heard me say it, I would defend anyone’s right to be treated with dignity, no matter who they are, and I would like to think that most people, Muslim, gay, or anyone else would do the same for me. I believe when it comes right down to it, most people want to live in peace. It is of those who openly indicate that the fight is more important to them than anything else that I am afraid.