Just when you thought the laws of physics rendered it impossible for President Donald Trump to stoop any lower, the Bigot-In-Chief strikes again. This time he’s sparked global indignation by lamenting immigration from what he called “shithole countries” — namely the black and brown ones like Haiti, El Salvador and African nations (presumably including “Nambia”) — and wishing for more immigrants from nations like Norway, which happens to be just about the whitest place on the planet.
Before I tackle Trump’s latest outrage, let me be clear that despite the liberal (I hope not gratuitous) use of Trump’s vulgar vernacular in what follows, I do not believe it is appropriate to call anywhere anyone calls their home a “shithole.” Although that supremely unpresidential word will turn up in abundance here, I use it only for argument’s sake.
What we seem to have here is yet another glaring case of Trump’s racist ignorance. How else to interpret such remarks? Of course, not everyone would agree. There’s still a pretty full basket of deplorables out there, after all. One of the most ardent Trump supporters to regularly troll my Facebook wall predictably defended the president’s remarks, asking “if these countries aren’t shitholes, why are their people so desperate to leave and come to America?” The mere asking of this question belies an ignorance infused in the worldview — if it can be called such — of countless millions of Americans, apparently including the president himself. It begs the question, how much does the leader of the most powerful nation in the world really know about the world he has the power to instantly destroy many times over with his biggest and most powerful nuclear button? If I could, I’d ask Trump a few questions:
Does Donald Trump know that the Central American refugee crisis is largely of the United States’ own creation? For generations, Washington has fomented or blessed coups against popular democratically-elected governments and backed brutal dictators in its “banana republics” in order to achieve and maintain strategic and economic control of this half of the planet. This included arming, training and supporting the terrorist Contra rebels in Nicaragua, death squads in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras and genocidal regimes in Guatemala and El Salvador, where a civil war raged throughout the late 20th century. The “bad hombres” of MS-13 and other Salvadoran gangs did not originate in El Salvador. These gangs were born on the mean streets of Los Angeles, where young civil war refugees, who found themselves beset by existing black and Mexican gangs, banded together for survival. Many of their members were later deported back to El Salvador, where gangs grew in numbers and strength, terrorizing the local population and fueling the latest surge of Salvadorans into El Norte.
Does Donald Trump know the harrowed history of Haiti, where more than 200 years ago the enslaved black population rose up and successfully broke free from the shackles of French colonialism — and has been punished for it ever since? Although the Haitian revolution greatly benefited the United States (it was able to double its size by acquiring the Louisiana Territory from France for $18 per square mile), then-president Thomas Jefferson — he of “all men are created equal” fame— supported a French-led economic embargo and “reparations” payments that crippled the tiny agricultural island nation well into the 20th century. The United States has also long trained, armed and supported brutal Haitian dictators and death squads and has invaded or occupied the nation on multiple occasions, once for nearly 20 years.
Does Donald Trump know how the legacy of colonialism, and the continuing scourge of neocolonial economic domination and exploitation — coupled with support for unimaginably corrupt and often brutally authoritarian regimes, plays a significant role in the continued impoverishment of many African nations? Or that this exploitation of both human beings and their stolen natural resources is what enabled the great Western imperialist powers to rise up from “shithole country” status to stupendously wealthy rulers of the world?
Also, does Donald Trump know that the answer to the question of why more people “from countries like Norway” don’t emigrate to the United States is that, quite simply, they are acutely aware that they’re better off where they are? As fellow Kossack integrate noted yesterday, “from a Norwegian perspective, the prospect of moving to America isn’t an escape from a ‘shithole country.’ From a Norwegian perspective, America is a ‘shithole country.’” The diarist added:
If a Norwegian family were to move to the United States it would give up:
- a per-capita GDP almost 20 percent higher than the USA
- an unemployment rate slightly lower than the USA
- no-fees university education for citizens
- universal health insurance with low or no co-pays and no lifetime limits
- paid paternal leave
- the sense of security that comes from knowing that your unbalanced, disgruntled, angry neighbor cannot arm himself with military weapons
- the freedom to sew your national flag to your knapsack when traveling — without feeling embarrassed
Indeed, it’s all relative. Asking, “Whose country is the real shithole?”, DK diarist wagatweon Friday posted a series of tweets by author William C., who noted that “a shithole is” …
- an astronomically wealthy nation that refuses to guarantee access to clean drinking water and heating for schools in the winter
- a nation where school massacres aren’t surprising and neither are mass shootings because of politics and profit
- an astronomically wealthy nation where the military budget is enough to fix crumbling infrastructure, but it’s used to murder people abroad instead
- a nation that pretends capitalism is fair and equitable
- a nation that goes around the world destabilizing other countries, killing and ruining lives so its corporations can exploit resources
Heads swollen with the mythology of “American exceptionalism,” conservatives would protest, “but we’re number one!” Yes, we are number one, but not always in ways we should be proud of. We’re number one when it comes to:
- mass shootings
- police shootings
- the number of people incarcerated in prisons and jails
- the number of countries bombed or invaded
- the number of foreign civilians killed since the end of World War II
- military spending
- the number of foreign military bases
- being seen as the biggest threat to peace around the world
- poverty among developed nations
- infant and maternal mortality among developed nations
- waste production
- hours spent watching television
- opioid addiction
- anti-depressant drug consumption
- student loan debt
… these, to name but a handful of our most dubious “number ones.” You see, “shithole” is very much a relative term.
I was raised in New Jersey, often undeservedly maligned as “America’s armpit.” More specifically, I grew up near Atlantic City, which New Jerseyans themselves often call the biggest “shithole” in the Garden State. It’s also the town where, in my youth, Donald Trump, despite well-known Mafia connections, was able to procure a gaming license and build a series of casinos, each one glitzier and schlockier than the next. Trump promised his casinos would reverse Atlantic City’s decades-long decline. In reality, his shambolic stewardship led to multiple bankruptcies and, after running off with hundreds of millions of dollars in assets from his fast-failing casinos, Trump left Atlantic City and its increasingly unemployed residents — of which African Americans make up the largest percentage — to fall into an even deeper state of economic despair.
Even back then, people who knew Trump knew how little he cared for, or even to be near, denizens of the “shitholes” he exploits — one former Trump Castle employee said that when Trump visited the casino, managers ordered all black workers off the floor. Time and again (and many more agains), Trump has demonstrated blatant racial prejudice, billionaire class-blindness and the cold-hearted indifference to others which defines many a narcissistic megalomaniac and inoculates him from the empathy any decent human being would feel toward others.
And so, instead of seeing desperate people fleeing from deadly violence and economic privation largely brought on by the policies and actions of his own country’s government, Trump sees “bad hombres” and “rapists.” Instead of seeing hard-working Muslim families eager to integrate into and contribute to American society, Trump sees potential terrorists. Instead of seeing the centuries-long looting and oppression of the Global South, Trump sees “shithole countries” good for nothing but more economic exploitation.
Donald Trump appears utterly incapable of understanding that when it comes to the US and his “shithole countries,” it’s all related. And it’s all relative — and I feel relatively confident speaking on behalf of the vast bulk of humanity when I affirm that, in the words of the delightfully profane former Mexican president Vicente Fox, Donald Trump’s mouth is “the foulest shithole in the world.”