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Shithole countries, revisited


I was trying to recall all the smug, vulgar insults Trump has spewed over the years. There are so many! “Rapists and murderers” about Mexicans was one. “Grab their pussies” was one. “Blood coming out of her whatever” about Megyn Kelly. “Would anyone vote for that?” about Carly Fiorina’s face. “Thousands of people were cheering as that building came down” about Jersey City Muslims “celebrating” 9/11. “Just knock the hell — I promise you, I will pay the legal fees,” about Republican thugs beating up protesters at his rallies. And, of course, “good people on both sides” after Charlottesville. But for me, “Shithole countries” sums up everything hideously wrong about Trump.

He said it last year about immigrants from Haiti and Africa. “Why do we want these people from shithole countries coming here?” he said in a meeting that included his new best friend forever, the confirmed bachelor Lindsay Graham, who has yet to say anything on the record about being bothered. It may be that racism still plays well in South Carolina.

Of all the fucked up stuff from Trump, “shithole countries” encapsulates him. It’s anti-Black, for starters–dismissive of entire populations of human beings. It’s the essence of white supremacy, the same Anglo-Saxon arrogance that drove Adolf Hitler to exterminate millions of “inferior” beings. It’s incredibly ignorant. It’s pandering to his base. And it plays into the fact that his father, Fred, was a member of the Ku Klux Klan. The apple seldom falls far from the tree.

All the presidents we’ve known in modern times were aware of the latent racism in America. But all tried their best to steer America away from its worst excesses. Reagan pandered to Southern racists with his Neshoba County campaign speech, but that was about as far as he went on the anti-Black spectrum. Thereafter he backed off. George W. Bush’s policies were of no help to Black Americans, but one never had the sense that the man himself was a racist. Trump is different. His supporters at places like Breitbart, who most definitely are racists, certainly assume that he’s one of them, and with all the dog whistles and coded language, he has done nothing to dissuade them that he’s not. The KKK white nationalists at Charlottesville, egged on by Stephen Bannon, assumed the same thing. This is why racism is crawling out from the rocks under which it usually hides. People who hates Blacks feel emboldened because the President of the United States shares their views.

The white, under-educated, rural conservatives who form Trump’s base are said to be pissed off that “coastal elites” are dismissive of them and their lifestyles. They resent the fact that New Yorkers and San Franciscans consider them “flyover country.” I don’t think that’s true, but it’s what these Southerners and Midwesterners feel, so it’s true for them. Have they ever considered that, if it is true, then coastal residents consider the interior U.S. as “shithole states”? In other words, they support a man who insults foreign countries, but at the same time they resent Americans who insult them. They really can’t have it both ways; what’s good for the goose is good for the gander. And to the extent these same conservatives, in most cases, call themselves “Christian,” they are guilty of violating one of the most profound of Jesus’s teachings: Matthew 25:34, “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.”

These “shithole countries” are poor, destitute, troubled. They are not to the liking of rich white men used to the comforts of a Mar-a-Lago or Trump Tower. In his attitude towards them, Trump displays the typical bigotry of wealthy country club snobs, men who drive from their gated communities to their enclaves of privilege; if they must transit through ghettoes or slums, they roll up the windows and make sure the doors are locked, clucking their tongues all the way: How horrible it is for “these people” to live this way! How fortunate, or talented, I am to have risen to such respectability. Do the Christians of Alabama, Oklahoma, Indiana imagine that their precious Jesus thought that way? He was the first to embrace the unwashed, the rejected, the despised; if he resented any human, it was the wealthy, the Trumps of ancient Judea and Samaria, the money-changers who pretended to love God but who by their actions proved they did not.

“Shithole countries.” Let that sink in. This is the President of the United States, not some drunk white nationalist in a dive bar, ranting about “these people.” The President of the United States…although not, perhaps, for much longer.

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