Strangers and Others

Propagandists on the political Left like to quote the Bible, ostensibly in order to prove their religious bona fides and legitimate their agenda to adherents of the Judeo-Christian tradition. One of the favorite quotes of the open borders crowd, especially those on the Jewish Left, is “Welcome the stranger, because you were once a stranger in Egypt.” (Exodus 23:9). 

Actually, this quote is a mistranslation. In this passage the Bible does not say to welcome the stranger, it says, “do not oppress the stranger” which is a rather different matter. But the reference to what happened to the Israelites in Egypt is both relevant and important because it puts the quote in context. We know exactly how the ancient Hebrews were oppressed; they were enslaved by a pharoah. Furthermore, with respect to open borders, the Israelites did not go to Egypt as immigrants, legal or otherwise. They went to Egypt because there was a famine in Canaan and they went there to buy grain so that they would not starve to death. Though they ended up staying in Egypt for four hundred years, they never went there to settle, the plan was always to return to their homeland. So intent were they from the very outset to return to go back from whence they came that when Joseph was on his deathbed he made his sons swear that when their people returned to Canaan, they would carry his bones back with them to be buried there.

The Bible’s treatment of the stranger is actually rather complicated. It is true that Abraham, as well as his nephew Lot, were very hospitable to travellers that were passing through but it must be remembered that the wayfarers to whom they were so hospitable not only were not settlers but turned out to be angels in disguise.

It has been common and indeed natural for people to be suspicious of strangers even up until modern times. Before the advent of urbanization and modern transportation, few people strayed more than about thirty miles from their place of birth where they lived, worked, married, raised families and died. In such circumstances everyone knew everyone else. In Tudor England, wanderers were required to register with the local sheriff when they came to town so that the locals could keep track of them. All strangers passing through were almost automatically considered to be suspicious. From this kind of thinking stem all vagrancy laws both ancient and modern.

People who live in cities have become accustomed to seeing masses of strangers on a daily basis and have consequently become largely inured to suspecting them of mischief -- but not entirely. To this day parents who are teaching their children to be street-smart always begin by warning them not to talk to strangers. Neighborhood Watch programs exist in many cities. The website of my local neighbourhood watch program which describes what it does is quite explicit, “A police officer patrolling your community may not recognize a stranger in your yard -- but your neighbours would!”

For the most part the Left no longer uses the slogan “Welcome the stranger” in their agitprop supporting open borders. This is due in part to the ongoing suspicion of the strangers just noted but mostly because they have devised another term, the Other, which does not have any lingering negative connotations and serves their purposes much better. For good measure, they concocted a related verb, to other, for good measure. If you look at the academic literature that defines the concept of the Other you will find that it all boils down to the idea that one group of people has been dehumanized and marginalized by another, the main idea being that this is what majorities regularly do to minorities. Regarding open borders it follows naturally that all those who are trying to enter illegally any given western country are deemed to be among the dehumanized and oppressed, that is, the Other.

Ironically the West is the place where the least amount of Othering occurs and it is precisely for this reason that most migrants want to come here. An excpetion can be found in the most egregious example of othering, the dehumanization of the Jewish people by Nazi Germany, which legitimized and culminated in the Holocaust. Since the Holocaust othering has preceded apace outside of the West. During Mao’s Cultural Revolution intellectuals, artists, and landlords were othered, rounded up, relocated, tortured, and killed.

Outside of western nations othering is a most widespread phenomenon. In Communist China today, ones of the most racist societies in the world, one is othered not only if one is not Chinese but also if ones is not Han Chinese and most especially if one is Uyghur.  In all Moslem majority nations on the basis of fundamental Islamic principle all non-Moslems, or infidels, are automatically othered and historically this has meant forced conversion, death, or the designated status of Dhimmi or second-class citizen. As Raymond Ibrahim has chronicled, if one is Christian living in Nigeria and many other African and Southeast Asian Moslem majority states the consequence of being othered is persecution in the form of dispossession and/or death. This has happened to tens of thousands of Christians in recent years. Palestinian refugees living in Lebanon and Syria have for years been systematically othered.

Leftists who so spiritedly love to denounce othering are precisely the ones who love to engage in it. In fact, it is characteristic of leftist thinking to turn what is ostensibly a shield into a sword to be used for activist purposes. In another instance of the Left turning a shield into a sword the same catchword of the open borders crowd that “there are no illegal humans” is withheld from one group of humans, the preborn human in the womb. All rational people on both sides of the abortion debate know and have always known that preborn babies at every stage of development are human and that all arguments arguing otherwise have been debunked. The only thing that is left that legitimates abortion is that before birth the preborn baby is not legally human.

The Bible describes our situation perfectly. “The stranger in your midst shall rise above you higher and higher, while you sink lower and lower. He shall be your creditor, but you shall not be his. He shall be the head and you the tail. All these curses shall befall you, they shall pursue you and overtake you, until you are wiped out, because you did not heed the Lord your God and keep the commandments and laws that He enjoined upon you.” (Deut. 28:43-45)   

Image: José Moutinho

If you experience technical problems, please write to