Contemporary Issues

Fences, Neighbors, and Zoos

My friend and colleague, Dr. Paul Lehman,1 writes an informative and incisive blog, America’s Race Problem. In his most recent post, “Paul R. Lehman, Our history tells us why the mob stormed the Capitol,” Paul describes the attitudes of America’s earliest “white” settlers toward the indigenous people—an attitude he links to the violent assault upon the U.S. Capitol:

“The mob attack on the nation’s capital should not have come as a surprise to anyone who knows American history. Why? Because American history has from the beginning fostered the concept of America being an Anglo-Saxon, European American, white, only country. Other people living in America are here only by permission, even the Indians. If we were to follow American history from the arrival of Christopher Columbus, we would recognize the superior attitude exuded by him and the other Europeans towards the non-European people they encountered, especially the Indians.

“When the pilgrims and Puritans arrived in the 1620s and 1630s not only did they bring with them the superiority attitude but also a religion that told them they could use their superiority to take by force whatever they believed their God wanted them to have. The history books pictured initially an America that was simply virgin territory with little evidence of civilization present. This description was accompanied by references to the native people as savages. One of the first things the Europeans built in America was fences, not relationships with the Indians.” [Emphasis added].

The last sentence especially caught my attention. I wrote the following comment to Paul’s post:

“I hope the message that you have been presenting for many years, regarding the myth of ‘race’ and ‘white superiority,’ will be seen more clearly in light of present events. But the ability of some of us to keep our eyes tightly shut against the light of truth is impressive.

“I was struck with your statement, ‘One of the first things the Europeans built in America was fences, not relationships with the Indians…. ’

“It’s been said that ‘Good fences make good neighbors2 [link added], but they don’t. Good neighbors don’t need ‘fences,’ probably because they had already learned to be good people, treating neighbor and stranger with integrity and respect.

“What good fences do make are ‘good zoos.’ Good zoos keep animal predators and prey apart. People believe they need fences (gated communities, etc.) when they view other people as a different species, ‘predators or prey,’ either to fear or exploit.

“Obviously then, ‘those’ people don’t qualify to receive the benefit of our moral imperative to ‘love thy neighbor.’”

Today’s geopolitical map of the world largely reflects Europe’s centuries of colonial and imperial power to build fences. After all, relatively fixed nation-state borders first appeared in Europe as an aid for trade. European colonialism completely or partially controlled almost every country in the world. Borders became European administrative tools with which to divide and exploit the masses—often for vast economic profit. 

Socioeconomic, political, or literal fences are not built by fully conscious Human beings. No spiritually conscious adult Human, for example, would ever choose to live in a gated community, or private beach, or private island. Spiritually conscious Humans strive to remove sectarian fences of all kinds. However, the absence of good fences is very scary to people who live in a zoo.

  1. It was Paul’s original thoughts about “race” that inspired our blog, QM, the Strategic Error Made by “Anti-Racists,” and the Mind of a Bigot.
  2. Allen, A. (2019, August 20). Robert Frost: “Mending Wall”: How a poem about a rural stone wall quickly became part of debates on nationalism, international borders, and immigration. Poetry Foundation’s Poem Guide.

3 replies on “Fences, Neighbors, and Zoos”

Tom and Kerry,

Thank you for taking the time to read and comment on my blog; more importantly, thank you for sharing. We can only hope that more people will become consciously connected with our past and present so we can build a better future. Your concern and comments are greatly appreciated.

Paul, you have profoundly shaped my thinking about “race,” and European-American privilege. I am greatly indebted to you for your original approach to social issues I hold very dear. Your recent post, “Paul R. Lehman, Many Diversity Programs are misused to avoid confronting Bigotry”, concisely expresses the position we suggest in the “Bigotry” section of our blog, “The Content of Our Mind Does Not Determine the Level of Our Consciousness.” Thank you for your continued support and insights.

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