“Xenophobia – A fear of or aversion to, not only people from other countries, but other cultures, subcultures and subsets of belief systems; in short, anyone who meets any list of criteria about their origin, religion, personal beliefs, habits, language, orientations, or any other criteria. While some will state that the “target” group is a set of persons not accepted by the society, in reality only the phobic person need hold the belief that the target group is not (or should not be) accepted by society. While the phobic person is aware of the aversion (even hatred) of the target group, they may not identify it or accept it as a fear.” ~ Wikipedia (Oxford English Dictionary reference)
In research published by the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology in 1994 , and research in Belgium in 2000 , scientists found a strong correlation between authoritarian personalities and groups described as conservative, and xenophobia. Those identified in various ways from conservative, authoritarian, or fascist, genuinely believe that they are morally, genetically, or otherwise superior to those toward whom they express their extreme fear.
Certainly not all who express strong beliefs in one area or another should be considered xenophobic. Honest, good people from all walks of life are encouraged, and even obligated to participate in their governmental processes. Their views may be diametrically opposed; yet, their divergent views maintain a healthy dialogue in our country. There are those, however, whose extreme views teeter on, or fall over, the boundary of constructive exchange.
With the aforementioned research to consider, those who are more open to other cultures, races, and groups should exhibit compassion for those who have the psychological challenge of xenophobia, in part because the research also describes that some who exhibit the xenophobic behavior suffer from post-traumatic stress syndrome. In addition to compassion, though, we must also recognize the symptoms of this condition and listen to the message with an educated ear.
As we follow the political machinations of the 2012 election process, we have an opportunity to assess whether groups exhibit this xenophobic-based authoritarianism, and if so, how the larger population should respond. There are few tell-tale signs of this condition. Their rhetoric includes correlations to:
- cultural conservatism;
- a desire for social dominance; and
Additionally, those who exhibit these xenophobic qualities also are found to have a negative correlation to empathy, tolerance, communality, and altruism. Do we see those qualities exhibited in national politics today? If so, how?
Fascism, authoritarianism in its extreme, is defined by Merriam-Webster in the following way:
“A political philosophy, movement, or regime… that exalts nation and often race above the individual and that stands for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition.”
None of our candidates have suggested that a fascist government is what the United States needs; however, some aspects of fascism are becoming increasingly visible, including the stated desires of “severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition” by those who believe their traditions and values are most important. These beliefs would relegate certain populations in our society to the status of invisible. This, too, may be indicative of the growing xenophobia in our country. A vocal, if not large at this point, group of citizens sympathetic to these views are listening more attentively to candidates and public figures who espouse these exclusive behaviors. The research indicates that those who suffer from xenophobia rarely recognize themselves as sufferers. They simply see themselves as correct in their views.
Although as a people we will likely choose to ignore these evident signs, the xenophobic underpinnings of contemporary politics are nonetheless apparent. These fears can be ameliorated in part with compassion, a focus on inclusion, support for those who value all aspects of American culture, and those responsible to the entire American population, rather than only to their closed, isolated group.
A welcoming, inclusive community for all is the antithesis to xenophobia. How do we view America today? Our leaders are saying it best. I suppose it just depends on to whom we listen.
 Pratto, Felicia; Sidanius, Jim; Stallworth, Lisa M.; Malle, Bertram F. (1994) “Social dominance orientation: A personality variable predicting social and political attitudes.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol 67(4), Oct 1994, 741-763. doi: 10.1037/0022-35220.127.116.111 Retrieved on February 9, 2012 from http://psycnet.apa.org/journals/psp/67/4/741/
 Duriez, B. & Van Hiel, A (2000) “March of modern fascism. A comparison of social dominance orientation and authoritariansim.” Personality and Individual Differences, Volume 32, Issue 7, May 2002, pp 1199-2013. Retrieved on February 9, 2012 from http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0191886901000861