On the Subject of 'S***hole Countries'
"Quiet, please." [o]
Trump’s “shithole” comment was racist all right. It passes judgment on some people as less desirable than others based on their race or nationality. However, if you can set aside the racism and salty language (and before you say: “what else is left?”), you might allow me to make a couple more points:
1. The governments of Haiti, El Salvador, and one African nation after another, at mind-numbing length, have demonstrated over and over their appalling inability to do much more than enrich the leaders and the favored. For decades these predatory regimes have served themselves while failing to provide their people with such basics as safe drinking water, public safety, desks for students (as publicized by Lawrence O’Donnell’s of MSNBC), navigable roads, and other reliable infrastructure, including electricity.
Those who don’t go on to develop high-tech skills, invent new things and add to global knowledge and well-being, still live honorably . . .
I will not defend these regimes from Trump’s barnyard epithet. When their ambassadors or other well-fed satraps respond to Trump’s comment with feigned or real outrage, acting as though it impugned their national pride, I remain unmoved. Their regimes are a national insult. The ambassador from Haiti? A stooge for the latest oppressive clique. El Salvador? Please. When Trump said he would end the 'temporary' resettlement of Salvadorans displaced by the earthquake — in 2001! — an alarmed Salvadoran said his government has no way to provide jobs for the returning families. Yeah, right. They have few jobs to provide much of anyone, because their regime presides over an economic basket case of corruption, incompetence and indifference.
No, I do not rise in defense of these execrable regimes. Rather, I condemn them. Not with such vulgarisms as Trump spews, but with compassion for the neglected and oppressed people who have to live under their government’s casual brutality, selfishness and careless practices.
Members of the junta, San Salvador, 1979. Photo by Susan Meisalas. [o]
2. Let’s focus on the wretched subjects of those despicable regimes — 'wretched refuse', as Emma Lazarus, using another blunt term, would call them. Here is where Trump got it exactly wrong. You want more immigrants from Norway, and fewer from Haiti? Good luck with that. Most Norwegians like living in Norway just fine, and won’t be moving. (The same as us: It seems so few American citizens emigrate to somewhere else that the government doesn’t even keep reliable statistics on the subject.)
A whole lot of Haitians, meanwhile, are struggling for their very existence. No wonder they want to emigrate! Hasn’t it always been thus? The United States takes in the people who find life so hard in their native land that they make the difficult, irrevocable, courageous, imperfect decision to leave the country of their birth, home of their ancestors, and face the unknown in America. With all its promise and all its hazards. It is precisely these people to whom America must keep its doors open. Why? Because we always have. And, one might say, that’s who we are.
History has shown what magnificent contributions immigrants made over the years, decades and centuries. As desperate citizens of nations that cruelly betrayed them, some may have arrived with little. Give them a chance and an opportunity, and watch them grow! Those who don’t go on to develop high-tech skills, invent new things, create, manage, lead, add to global knowledge and well-being, still live as honorably as other Americans with modest talents and ambitions. To say that we should allow fewer immigrants from the world’s worst-governed ('s***hole') nations is not just racist, but against the values of equality and opportunity America holds dear, and not at all in our national self-interest.
Time, January 15, 2018.
I grudgingly forgive Trump for his clumsy and graceless way of calling out regimes that are themselves a disgrace to responsible governance. Why pretend they are anything else? I condemn those regimes for compelling their own citizens to leave in order to thrive, or even to live. And by the way, I would argue against forcing those Salvadorans we admitted in 2001 to return to El Salvador after 17 years. Having granted so many extensions of their 'temporary' status, we must recognize that it has become 'permanent'!
Finally, I condemn Trump for his wrongheaded idea that the US must restrict access to those who need it most urgently. In doing so, he ignores American history and disrespects America’s values. ≈©
FRED FISKE, a contributing editor of The Journal of Wild Culture, is an independent journalist and composer who spent his career in journalism, mostly writing editorials for The Post-Standard newspaper in Syracuse, New York. He majored in history and literature at Harvard and received his masters from the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism. Having grown up in a foreign service family, living in Bangladesh, Germany, Congo and Iceland, he now lives in Syracuse and Florida.