The powerful fear of “The Other”

Because Thanksgiving is also recognized by some Native Americans as a “Day of Mourning,” I thought today would be a good day to include an essay I wrote in 2019 regarding early Europeans’ relationship with the natives they found when they came to North America beginning in the 15th century, and how the fear of “the other” has been used to justify immoral and discriminatory behavior throughout American history.

Long before Europeans arrived in the Americas, fear of “the other” has been used as a justification for isolating and exploiting people who differ from the dominant culture. Differences in race, language, religion, cultural traditions, economic status, and other categories have been used to create separation and fear and provide the impetus for aggression and conflict. The interactions between the early English settlers of New England and the native Indian tribes, as well as interactions between the colonists themselves, provide numerous examples of this use of fear of “the other” in early American life.

Wayne Franklin describes the travels of a Taino native who Christopher Columbus encountered in what is now the Bahamas, and who took the name Diego Colòn after being baptized in Europe. He was one of “seven Natives whom Columbus seized and took to Spain,”[1] in other words, he didn’t have much choice in the matter. Columbus’s motivations were more commercial in nature as opposed to religious, but as a “superior” European he wasted little time in claiming land in the name of his royal benefactors and kidnapping people to take back home.

This behavior of European explorers was repeated throughout the Americas in the 16th century, and the early English colonies in New England were no exception. While the early months of the Plymouth colony were hardly an example of great European strength, as the colonists died by the dozens of disease and starvation, they didn’t lose faith that God was watching over their efforts. The intervention of the Wampanoag tribe[2] helped get the colonists back on their feet, and there seemed to be hope for cooperation between these two very different groups, especially after Massasoit signed treaties with the colonists, granting them the land around the former native village of Patuxet[3] and agreeing to support each other in conflicts with other native tribes.

This early understanding between the Plymouth Colony Puritans and the Wampanoag was short-lived, however. As more English settlers arrived in Massachusetts in the mid-1600s, the personal connection between Massasoit and successive English leaders became more remote, making it easier to treat the natives as outsiders in their own land. Even natives who had made a conversion to Christianity and had taken on many of the appearances of English culture, were quickly labeled threats to the colonies when “King Philip’s War” began. Despite the efforts of John Easton and others to mediate a compromise between the colonists and the natives, the demand for more resources, especially land, was too strong for reason to succeed, and fear of “the other” became a major motivating factor to convince colonists that the Indians needed to be dealt with.

Even natives who had made a conversion to Christianity and had taken on many of the appearances of English culture, were quickly labeled threats to the colonies when “King Philip’s War” began.

As the conflict grew through the end of 1675 and into 1676, over half of the towns in New England were attacked by Indians. Mary Rowlandson was kidnapped by Wampanoag raiders in February, 1676[4], and her account is interesting not only as an insight into her religious beliefs (and doubts), but also for her description of the behavior of the Indians who held her. While some people likely read her words with sympathy for her situation, being held against her will by a group of savages (a not unreasonable reading, of course), it’s also apparent that the Wampanoag were well aware of the use of fear of “the other.” Rowlandson describes the terror of the Indian raid quite graphically:

There was one who was chopped into the head with a hatchet, and stripped naked, and yet was crawling up and down. It is a solemn sight to see so many Christians lying in their blood, some here, and some there, like a company of sheep torn by wolves, all of them stripped naked by a company of hell-hounds, roaring, singing, ranting, and insulting, as if they would have torn our very hearts out….[5]

In raiding the colonists’ towns in this manner, the Indians surely expected to create the maximum amount of uncertainty and fear in the colonist population, hoping to frighten them into at the least concessions, and ideally away from America entirely. In this way, encouraging the colonists’ fear of “the other,” and what “the other” might truly be capable of, served their own ends.

As mentioned previously, Columbus and other early explorers were less motivated by religion than the potential for economic success. For the Puritan settlers, however, their reasons for enduring the hardships they faced in leaving England for the American wilderness were almost entirely religious in nature: freedom to worship as they desired, rejecting what they saw as heretical beliefs and practices of the Roman Catholic Church and the Church of England. The native tribes of New England provided a stark version of “the other” for many Puritan colonists (though it should be noted that King Philip’s War wasn’t strictly between white settlers and Indians; the Mohegans and Pequots fought on the side of the New England Confederation for their own political and economic reasons). The certainty (or perhaps, “purity”) of their beliefs led to conflicts within their own congregations as well. Dissenters, such as Anne Hutchinson, were questioned and tried at church courts, found guilty, and were excommunicated from the church and banished from the community.[6] Such treatment of anyone who strayed from the teachings and policies of the community’s leaders reinforced the idea that only those who conformed could be truly righteous, maintaining a level of fear of becoming “the other” that promoted a cohesive society.

John Winthrop’s sermon to his fellow pioneers aboard the Arbella in 1630 included the following words:

Lastly, when there is no other means whereby our Christian brother may be relieved in his distress, we must help him beyond our ability, rather than tempt God in putting him upon help by miraculous or extraordinary means.[7]

The promise of “help… beyond our ability” must have been of some consolation to these people, about to set sail across a dangerous ocean for an unknown future in an equally dangerous land. To know that others in the community would be there to help in times of need would have been very reassuring. That charity, however, was only recommended by Winthrop to “our Christian brother.”[8] In other words, non-Christians – which in the Puritan Separatist society included anyone who wasn’t specifically part of their sect – need not apply. The fear of becoming “the other” in this case was used to good measure to keep people in line.

Winthrop’s confidence that his group of 700 people would somehow be remembered at all, much less as a “city upon a hill,” is remarkable. The confidence that his beliefs afforded him was incredibly strong. Somehow, against all odds, the Plymouth colony did survive, and, combined with the other New England colonies, even thrived. So we do remember who they were and what they did, and we continue to quote from his sermon as John Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, and other American leaders have for generations. Being the “city upon a hill” means that others see your triumphs, but they also see your shortcomings, and America has its share of both.

Much later, in the early 1800s, Americans’ fear of “the other” had been reinforced by law, and African slavery had become a significant source of wealth throughout the southern United States. William Apess’s observations in his address “An Indian’s Looking-Glass for the White Man” distills the frustration of being part of “the other” in a country that claimed to be a champion of individual rights and liberty:

I know that many say that they are willing, perhaps the majority of the people, that [Indians] should enjoy our rights and privileges as they do. If so, I would ask, Why are not we protected in our persons and property within the Union? Is it not because there reigns in the breast of many who are leaders a most unrighteous, unbecoming, and impure black principle, and as corrupt and unholy as it can be?[9]

Fear of “the other” is still a significant motivator in American society. It’s far from unique, of course. We inherited it from our ancestors: Europeans, Asians, Africans, and native Americans.  Prejudice, racism, economic inequity, wars, and genocide are all a result of one dominant group using a fear of “the other” to justify terrible actions, sometimes in the name of God and sometimes in the name of mammon. 


[1] Franklin, p. 3.

[2] Grimberg, 4:25 into the film.

[3] Grimberg, 31:30 into the film.

[4] New-style date.

[5] Rowlandson, p. 129.

[6] Winthrop: John Winthrop and Anne Hutchinson, p. 3.

[7] Winthrop: A Model of Christian Charity, p. 93.

[8] I’m not suggesting that Winthrop intended to imply the exclusion of women in his use of this phrase here, as this would have been a normal way of addressing the community in Winthrop’s day; though there certainly was an overarching sense of sexism inherent in their lives.

[9] Apess, p. 501.


American Experience: “We Shall Remain: Part I – After the Mayflower”. By Sharon Grimberg. Dir. Chris Eyre. WGBH Educational Foundation. 2009. Streaming video. <>.

American Passages: “Utopian Promise”. By Kristian Berg. Dir. Brett Wood. Oregon Public Broadcasting. 2002. Streaming video. <>.

Apess, William. “An Indian’s Looking-Glass for the White Man.” The Norton Anthology of American Literature. Ed. Robert S. Levine and Arnold Krupat. Shorter 8th. Vol. 1. New York: W. W. Norton, 2013. 2 vols. 499-504.

Christopher Columbus – Exploration. n.d. 14 9 2019. <>.

Easton, John. “A Relation of the Indian War.” American Voices, American Lives. Ed. Wayne Franklin. New York: W. W. Norton, 1997. 60-70.

Franklin, Wayne. “Beginnings to 1700.” The Norton Anthology of American Literature. Ed. Nina Baym and Robert S. Levine. Shorter 8th. Vol. 1. New York: W. W. Norton, 2013. 2 vols. 3-19.

Hanson, Elizabeth. “God’s Mercy Surmounting Man’s Cruelty.” American Voices, American Lives. Ed. Wayne Franklin. New York: W. W. Norton, 1997. 149-160.

Mather, Cotton. “John Winthrop: First Governor of Massachusetts Bay Colony.” 2001. The Puritans’ Home School Curriculum. Ed. J. Parnell McCarter. Electronic document. September 2019. <>.

Rowlandson, Mary. “From A Narrative of the Captivity and Restoration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson.” The Norton Anthology of American Literature. Ed. Wayne Franklin, Nina Baym and Robert S. Levine. Shorter 8th. Vol. 1. New York: W. W. Norton, 2013. 2 vols. 127-143.

Winthrop Reading at the Ronald Reagan National Memorial Service. Perf. Sandra Day O’Connor. C-SPAN. 2004. Streaming video. <>.

Winthrop, John. “A Model of Christian Charity.” The Norton Anthology of American Literature. Ed. Wayne Franklin, Nina Baym and Robert S. Levine. Shorter 8th. Vol. 1. New York: W. W. Norton, 2013. 2 vols. 91-102.

—. John Winthrop and Anne Hutchinson. n.d. Microsoft Word document.

—. Winthrop’s Journal: History of New England, 1630-1649. Ed. James Kendall Hosmer. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1908. Online book. <>.

The hand of Diego

Diego Maradona died today. Maradona was one of the greatest soccer players ever, voted the co-winner of the FIFA Greatest Player of the Twentieth Century award in 2000 (he won the fan poll conducted on the internet, while Pelé won the survey of journalists and coaches. He was a phenom from childhood, seemingly blessed with speed and skill beyond any other young player in Argentina. He led the country’s national men’s team to four World Cups, winning it all in 1986.

Unfortunately, his career was overshadowed by one infamous on-field event and a lifetime of financial problems, drug addictions, and personal disputes. The on-field event took place in the 1986 World Cup quarterfinal match against England. Maradona scored both of Argentina’s goals, the first on what would come to be known as the “Hand of God” goal. On a play in the penalty area in front of the goal, Maradona jumped to play a ball along with England’s goalkeeper, Peter Shilton. It seemed that Maradona might have deflected the ball into the goal with his left hand, but the referees didn’t see the foul and allowed the goal. Argentina ended up winning, 2-1, and they advanced to the semi-final.

For years, despite photographic evidence that he had, in fact, touched the ball, which should have resulted in a yellow card and a disallowed goal, Maradona denied it, crediting the slight deflection to his head and to “La mano de Dios,” or the Hand of God. Due to the controversy, it’s often forgotten that the winning goal was also scored by Maradona in a magnificent display of individual skill. He took the ball in his own half and broke up the field, beating five England players and finally Shilton just four minutes after the disputed first goal. The second goal was named the “Goal of the Century” in an online poll done in 2002.

Ahora sí puedo contar lo que en aquel momento no podía, lo que en aquel momento definí como «La mano de Dios»… Qué mano de Dios, ¡fue la mano del Diego!

(Now I can say what I couldn’t at that moment, what I defined at that time as The Hand of God. What a hand of God, it was the hand of Diego!)

Diego Maradona, from his autobiography published in 2000

Maradona was a larger-than-life figure who lived a remarkable, if flawed, life. He certainly was no angel, but he seemed to have enjoyed himself quite a bit. I’m conflicted when I see someone like him. Obviously, he had incredible talent, but he was also driven to use that talent to be the best. Would he have been successful if he’d played by everyone else’s rules? I doubt it.

A few weeks ago, my son and I were having a mostly facetious argument over whether I could outplay some legendary athletes at their games – not in their prime, but today, with both of us well beyond our prime athletic years (which I never had any of in the first place). I told him I could beat Maradona at soccer today, because he had been overweight, had fought drug addictions, and was reportedly in poor health. Andy said he’d still be better at soccer than me, and I have to admit I thought that might be true. Well, I’m definitely better at soccer than Diego Maradona today, and the world is a somewhat less interesting place now that he’s gone.

In recent years, Maradona returned to the Catholic faith of his youth. Perhaps he’ll get to see the real Hand of God after all.

Cardboard Tigers: Bailey, Cabell, Casanova

Fifth in an occasional series. Collect ’em all!

I’m working through a stack of Tigers baseball cards from the late 1960s and early 1970s, with occasional newer cards, such as the ones featured today.

Howard Bailey – Topps 1984 #284

Howard Bailey was a Michigan kid who grew up to play for the Tigers in 1981 through 1983. Born in Grand Haven in 1957, he pitched at Grand Valley State College in Allendale in the seventies, then was signed by Detroit as an undrafted free agent in 1978. He worked his way up through the farm system, compiling a rather unimpressive record highlighted by his 1980 season with the Montgomery Rebels (AA), where he went 12-12 with a 3.44 ERA and 132 strikeouts in 186 innings.

He spent parts of the 1981 and 1982 seasons with the big club before sticking around for the entire 1983 season, appearing in 33 games (including 3 starts) with a 5-5 record and a 4.88 ERA.

In the Tigers’ championship year of 1984, Howard was back in Evansville, where he got off to an 0-8 start with an inflated ERA of 6.47, which got him a ticket back to Montgomery, where he finished his pro career with 18 ineffective games. At that point, it appears he’d lost his control, racking up a WHIP of 1.846 between the two farm teams.

Enos Cabell – Topps 1984 #482

Enos Cabell had already spent ten seasons in the big leagues with Baltimore (1972-74), Houston (1975-80), and San Francisco (1980) before coming to Detroit in 1981. Enos was an above-average hitter who could play either corner infield spot and also do spot work in the outfield if needed. I remember him as a building block on Sparky Anderson’s early eighties teams that were working their way into contention, and always felt a little bad that he didn’t get to be part of the World Series champion team in 1984 when the Tigers granted him free agency after the ’83 season.

This is his 1984 Topps card, but he’d already re-signed with the Astros. He played parts of two seasons with Houston before being traded to the Dodgers in 1985 where he finished his career.

Enos was one of seven players who were suspended by Major League Baseball before the 1986 season for using cocaine. The suspension was lifted when the players agreed to make donations to anti-drug groups and perform community service. He played his last season in L.A., hitting .256 in 298 at-bats and still playing all three outfield positions, first and third base, and pinch hitting, all at the age of 36.

He finished with a .277 average, with 1,647 hits, 596 RBI, and 238 stolen bases. Not bad for a guy who Bill James infamously stated “can’t play baseball” in his 1983 Baseball Abstract.

These days, Enos is a special assistant to Astros’ general manager James Click.

Raúl Casanova – Omega 1998 #87

Frankly, I don’t remember Raúl Casanova at all. Not just in Detroit, but at all. The late 1990s and early 2000s were kind of my dark period for baseball, though. I was fed up with the steroid nonsense and the Tigers were, as we’d prefer not to remember, lousy. And they were working to abandon Tiger Stadium for a new place downtown. So I was kinda checked out on them for a few years, which is apparently when Raúl showed up.

Raúl made his major league debut with the 1996 Tigers, who finished 53-109 under Buddy Bell in what was also Randy Smith’s first season as general manager. He played three seasons with Detroit, backing up Brad Ausmus in ’96, starting the majority of games at catcher in ’97, and then backing up the immortal Paul Bako in ’98. He then bounced around for six more major league seasons with the Brewers, Orioles, White Sox, Devil Rays, and Mets.

Raúl’s Wikipedia entry says that he “was a catcher from 1996 to 2008 with the exception of 1999, 2003, 2004, and 2006.” Those are pretty big exceptions, really. Sort of like “He was there except when he wasn’t, which was about a third of the time.”

The final insult came in 2008, when the Mets put him on the bereavement list to attend the funeral of his father in Puerto Rico. When he returned, they designated him for assignment, ending his career. This is yet another in a long list of reasons why the New York Mets suck.

I have no idea what Raúl is up to these days. He’s only 48, so I hope he’s healthy and enjoying life.

Even if I don’t really remember him at all.

It’s beginning to look a lot like something

Not a great day. I haven’t felt good all day after eating a big cheeseburger and steak fries last night (still made at home, I haven’t eaten out since March). That’s not what I’ve been eating and it kept me up during the night and I never felt right during the day.

It’s the kind of feeling that before losing the weight, I’d have packed it in for the day and sat around feeling sorry for myself. To be honest, I did the feeling sorry for myself, but I surprised myself (and my family) by suggesting that we actually put Christmas lights in our front yard. We haven’t done that for years, but this year I just wanted something nice. So my daughter bought some new LED lights this morning and we put them up as the sun went down. Here’s a picture:

It also looked like I was going to break my current streak of 25 days closing all three rings on my Apple Watch. But I got on the treadmill and walked – virtually, using Google Street View – up Duval Street in Key West and then back down Whitehead Street, about 1.75 miles. So the rings got closed and the streak goes on.

Tomorrow will probably be a better day, but today turned out okay in the end.

The Schnitzelbank Song

Something a little different tonight. I’m a member of the Michigan Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers (MACRAO), and we would have been meeting in Frankenmuth, Michigan, at the Bavarian Inn, for our Annual Conference this week. Instead, we put together a virtual version of our professional development sessions, and today was the longest day, with four session blocks spread over the entire day plus our annual business meeting at lunchtime.

I’m the president-elect of the association, but my role this week has been to be the behind-the-scene tech support for the several GoToMeeting “rooms” we set up for the sessions. All in all, things went pretty well; we had a few technical glitches, but it generally ran very smoothly.

The one thing nearly all of us miss is the chance to meet in person. I get a lot out of the formal presentations, but I get as much from the meals and after dinner gatherings, where you can share tips and ideas (or just commiserate over shared problems!). At the Bavarian Inn they usually have a solo performer singing cover songs in their lounge, and around 10 p.m. each evening, he or she leads the patrons in a rendition of “The Schnitzelbank Song,” a traditional German drinking song done in a call-and-answer format. The bar has napkins with the words on them so you can sing along.

Since we couldn’t be in Frankenmuth, I decided to record a version of the song for my friends – and friends I haven’t met yet – so they could sing along as if we’d been together. Until we meet again, MACRAO friends, here’s the song: