Seneca has contributed the following about Latinos and the use of fear in the political climate:
Fear in public discourse is as ancient as political competition. While man was in the caves, he became fearful of fire, the shadows it created, lightening, thunder, the wind or snow storms, the swollen sea, the flooding streams, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, the sun, the moon, an eclipse, shooting stars, the movement of clouds, the howling of wild animals in the night and many other phenomenon. One ancient protagonist among our ancestors who became most important was not the leader of the pack but the ‘medicine man’ or better known as the ‘warlock’, the ‘sorcerer’, the ‘brujo‘ or simply the person who practiced the ‘black’ or supernatural arts and purported to be a healer as well. This manipulator of the human spirit in most races, tribes, clans and extended family became often associated with the idea of a ‘priest’, ‘rabbi’, or a ‘holy man’ and gradually a significant political influence. The politics enter when this brujo is able to not only use the natural fears of man but also to become the chief counselor or advisor to the pack or clan leader, king, prince, nobleman, or simple chieftain. His use of fear over the pack or clan helped him control the extended family or clan for the ‘leader’. This clever or artful individual becomes key to the organization especially as Plato described the tribe leaving the cave and out into the foreboding world. This demonstrated man’s urge to discover the world and confront the perilous challenges of an untamed one. A world of superstition (evil eye, spells, curses, disease, death…) made for a terrifying world existence. This struck at man’s most primal instinct: survival. The threats and fears have been a staple throughout human history.
In modern day public discourse, the politicians and the men or the persons of the cloth invariably use some sort of fear. The smite and wrath of God is one of the most ancient invocations of fear. The politicians, who became the managers of the city or nation-state, invariably invoked the power of the prince or head of state or nation to control the masses. Civil law seems to have codified the nobility’s claim to wealth especially land. Penal law as it developed was to control the peasantry, the lumpen, or the simply the lower orders. The penalties in violating penal law were obvious (in ancient times usually considered a threat to the governing class’ position in society). In autocratic societies or dictatorships, these legal ukases or decrees are enough to put most people on notice. The fear of the prince or king seeking retribution is enough on how to scare the populus into submission. Stalin did this most effectively in the 1930s with his wholesale slaughter of about 30 million Russian peasants (Kulaks) and millions of others. Hitler was another feared character. His totalitarian state created fear of the Jews and then sowed the hatred and monstrous destruction of the European Jewish population. But in democracy the use of fear is implicitly suppose to recede. Why? Because man has learned how to speak for himself, cheerfully groups up with like-minded people and seeks the best leadership. Man in the current democratic process has become more subtle in the manipulation of a more modern social being. Yet, the shameless use of ‘fear-mongering’ has risen to surging and commanding heights in recent decades in the Western World, especially the United States.
Fear-mongering in wars is quite common. We must not forget Winston Churchill’s cynical but true comment when asked how he could justify the lies and distortions Britain carried out against the Third Reich: he retorted with typical wit and bemusement: “…the truth is so precious that it must be safeguarded with a bodyguard of lies…” In today’s modern world of political discussion, we should be so lucky to have Churchillian wit or dazzle! Instead we have mostly mortifying demonstration of vituperative, lacerating, wicked inferences, slander and fear-mongering at its most evil. Talk show radio has become the medium of choice in the fear-mongering attempts. The political right with its nationalistic, ethnocentric penchants is in the forefront. Limbaugh, O’Reilly, Glen Beck, Anne Coulter, and some would include Lou Dobbs. The thundering sound of these prophets of doom and gloom certainly captivate a large segment of the American body politic. They readily resort to using ‘wedge’ issues like abortion, gun control, anti-gay sentiment to garner support for the Republican Party. Just like the Iranians call their political party, Hezbollah (Party of God), some wags call the GOP the ‘Party of God’ since it thrives in its core attraction to the religious fundamentalists. The right appears to have a much more defined array of issues that they invoke in fear-mongering: raising taxes, budget deficits, soft on commies or enemies of American people, gun control , pro-life (anti-abortion), use of busing for school integration, welfare, health care system, environmental issues, feminist rights, affirmative action and host of other themes. The liberal left lamely creates fear by pointing out that the right is excessive and dangerous and will eventually seek a higher cost. The left is often inclined to target capitalism as being ‘savage capitalism’: “the rich get richer and the poor get kids.”
Among the Latino community, fear-mongering has been constant. The Latinos before World War II were fearful of being arrested, lynched, detained or merely question by white authorities. The fear inherently was one of being targeted as a non-white or alien and therefore no basic rights could save you. The courageous work of the LULACS and other pioneering groups helped stem the fear. Fear was used by white political bosses to get the Latino vote. Staying on your side of town was a time honored approach to keep the Mexicans in their place. Sometime after the Civil Rights of 1964 with public accommodations fully attempting to integrate American society, the northern part or non-segregated portion of the US began to react to busing of school children in particular. The North, which earlier had been seen as tolerant of integration, now felt threatened. Concurrently, the Hispanics for the first time began to distance themselves from the Black American community, which previously had been a faithful partner in fighting discrimination. Cubans and Puerto Ricans came from island nations with a long history and presence of Afro-Caribe people. Hence, they showed no threat in general with working or living with non-white or non-Hispanics, though, a discernible patronizing feeling was commonly detected. Yet, Latino communities, especially Mexican-Americans who had rarely lived alongside African Americans, were targeted for fear-mongering by racists, intolerant individuals, hate-purveyors etc. The black communities were also whipped up to fear the ‘hordes’ of newly arrived Latino immigrants, who would displace them and take their jobs. Plainly, fear was the instrument of use in most cases.
The present day challenge for Latinos lies in the current immigration discussion. It is riven with fear of the newly arrived immigrants will bring down wages, take their jobs, create more negative image of Latinos, ruin neighborhoods, cause more discrimination against Latinos with a backlash from both the white and the African American communities. Fear has accompanied man since he left the caves and will continue to be used by the powerful or would be powerful to control groups, especially the poor, dispossessed, the undocumented, people of color, the less educated and the insecure middle class or working classes. Fear is the preferred instrument of control especially in politics and social interchange. The Latino leadership must be vigilant that they do not follow the already present example often demonstrated in contemporary US society. As FDR eloquently said ‘…there is nothing to fear but fear itself…’