The Danger of Isolation and “The Other.”
Life has been pretty bleak since March. The whole world has lived in isolation with only those nearest and dearest. This experience has proved positive and negative. Luckily, I love my hubby; our time together has proved valuable and rewarding. We engaged in more cooking, cleaning, and gardening while we quarantined. The negative aspect of all of this has been less time with other friends and family. The festivals, church services, weddings, sporting events, and family gatherings have been on hold. People the world over have lived in isolation from everyone except those in their own households. I used this time of isolation from the outside world (except for my ever-loving) to write and lose myself in a firestorm of creativity, but the isolation from others still took a toll. The news contained images most of us hoped never to see—the dead in body bags lining the hallways of hospitals. The death toll mounted and continues to spiral.
When we thought the news couldn’t grow more depressing, George Floyd was murdered in front of the world. The brutality of Floyd’s death ignited protests around the globe and calls for reform. Many of us engaged in conversations on social media and in our households on the insidious effects of racism in our society. The brutal mindset that brought about George Floyd’s death is not new; prejudice against others because of their race, religion, ethnicity or even political leanings has plagued the planet since antiquity. Wars erupt because of such bigotry. Many societies as well as individuals protect themselves by creating an invisible circle that encloses them and those like them; those outside the circle are the “Others.” Anyone belonging to the “Other” race, religion, ethnic group, or political affiliation existed in a cloud of suspicion. We have a “bias” toward people outside of our sphere, and bias is nothing new. A bias in favor of our own cultural experience is inevitable; however, when that bias develops into bullying, discrimination, and outright hatred, conflict arises and too often people die. Too often we choose to isolate ourselves from others, fearful of our differences rather than embracing of them.
As a writer of historical fiction, I see the effects of labeling another group “The Other.” Two of my novels, Love at War and The Progeny, are set in WWII. A destructive war was fought because a monster decided he could bully the world into submission; Hitler labeled various groups of people, “The Other.” The Jewish population suffered most cruelly at his hands, but he also condemned Gypsies, gay people, and many disabled human beings as well. People in authority, such as Hitler, scapegoat others to maintain their own power and their own control over the populations they hope to dominate. In my novels, many characters answer the call to eliminate the kind of ethnic and religious hatred that plunged their generation into war. In my novel From Ice Wagon to Club House, my characters rise up to defend Ireland against a dominating and bullying regime that labeled them inferior for centuries.
This tendency to bully and abuse power still exists today. That’s why people like George Floyd die at the hands of others. That’s why we still have genocide and “ethnic cleansing.” That’s why we still have people making war for land-grab. Historians often seek to remind us of the past to prevent injustice. In many ways, fiction writers also do this when we re-create those time periods, bringing them to life through vivid description and character development.