S#*thole

Last night a friend in my close, inner-circle shared an article detailing the now infamous s#*thole comment we’ve been all been talking about all day today.  Last night, I wasn’t sure if it was real, or a manufactured story.  These days its truly hard to tell at first glance.  Today, I promised myself I’d listen, first.  I wanted to listen to my liberal friends.  You know, the ones who haven’t liked a single thing the President has done.  I wanted to listen to my most conservative friends.  You know, the ones who haven’t had a negative word to say about the man.  In case you weren’t aware, the main topic of this Congressional session is immigration reform.

Apparently, having become frustrated with some form of the bi-partisan talks about how legislation could take shape, Donald Trump formed a question.  “Why”, he asked, “do people from shithole countries come here?”  In the context of the meetings, the question surely came as a way of dragging out from Democrats a response somewhere along the lines of “well, because our country provides freedoms, securities and luxuries that no other country will, or even can, to immigrants, while also being the most willing to accept peoples of all nations into its borders through legal processes.”  I’m not sure what the answer he got was, but I’m betting it wasn’t that.

As one who evolved over the past decade from a Progressive Democrat to a Reaganite (that’s the closest I can come to describing policy I completely support), I can appreciate the position of both parties, although I really only believe one to be correct.  I’d like to explain, after listening, pondering and checking against what I know to be true, the three reasons why I agree with the President, even if I wish he’d package his delivery in an easier-to-swallow tone and message.

  1. President Trump wasn’t labeling people, only nations – and he’s not wrong: Okay, so I don’t happen to agree that word selection should be shithole.  But it is a matter of objective fact that the United States has accomplished more in the sectors of human rights, liberties, economy, just military activity, peaceful political transition… and just about everything else, than nations he specifically referred to – Haiti, El Salvador, various African Nations.  This is not to suggest that these nations can’t elevate themselves to more equal standing in some of these areas.  But to be clear, they’ll never achieve complete and total equal standing with the United States and at present nearly anyone who has the means to leave these mentioned nations for another nation essentially does.  This indicator of immigration/emigration is a prime indicator of a nation’s place on the spectrum of misery/prosperity.  The United States, by all accounts is decidedly prosperous.  Haiti, by all accounts, is perhaps the least prosperous of all the nations in the Western Hemisphere.  None of that has anything to do with the people governed by corrupt and totalitarian regimes led by careless authoritarians or oligarchies.
  2. Over the past seven years, I have worked for three general contractor firms.  I have worked in Baltimore, Maryland, Washington, DC and Richmond, Virginia.  On a given day, any of the fourteen projects I have managed are somewhere between 35%-75% Hispanic.  Those people come from all over.  Many of them are illegal immigrants.  Citizens of El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Mexico and Venezuela; I have had the opportunity to have in-depth conversations with many of those whose presence has been continuous.  Nearly to a man, financial relief is sent to family back home.  Also, nearly to a man, their chief hope is that they can one day save enough to move every single member of his family to America.  And the rational is not merely that America is so prosperous.  It coincides with the complimentary fact that drug lords and gangsters control their homelands.  Returning to their country with enough money to retire often alerts these crime rings to pay a visit to a family and demand patronage of some sort, in order to remain protected.  Their government, police force and elected leaders (if they are fortunate to live in a democracy) offer no help. Some have even discussed the miserable reality of having elected leaders and police officers side with the crime ring or in some cases be the entity that propositions this patronage relationship.  By their own admission, their country is firmly affixed to the opposite end of the spectrum of misery/prosperity.  They would never use the word shithole out of veneration for their ancestors and friends lost to drugs, crime and corruption – but the words they use are essential interchangeable, if only slightly less profane.  Candidly, my experience does not extend to Haitian or African citizens.  There are decidedly less of those individuals in the construction industry, if only because their nationalities are not as present in the area of the country in which I reside.
  3. Finally, the prime defense I’ve witnessed in attacking Donald Trump is that this statement is racist.  In an era where a Caucasian levels a statement whereby a minority – whether an individual or entire citizenry – is compared to a Caucasian of the same magnitude, that statement is automatically racist in its roots.  This is purely a derivative of temporal movements.  Racism is the inherent belief that the color of one’s skin creates superiority in-and-of-itself.  When someone accuses another of racism, it is a serious accusation.  And yet recently, the context by which this accusation is delivered is increasingly diluted – for two reasons.  Many of these cases, such as yesterday’s, incorporate variables having nothing to do with race.  Haiti’s historic response to deadly disaster after deadly disaster has prevented it from achieving any stability.  Their size and limited profile of resources similarly guarantee its economy will never be as vivacious, dynamic or sustainable.  Haiti’s culture, rooted as a hotbed for slave trade is pervasive even to this day in the class system that exists.  Upward mobility is not a word that can be employed there.  It is not racist to assert these things.  In fact, in Eastern Europe, in places such as the Balkans, there are similar examples of nations riddled with natural disasters, limited economies and culture of authoritarian dictatorships/communist influence.  While their men are not subject to slavery,  its women very much are.  Would it be racist for me to call Latvia a shithole? Is it even a shithole, or is its distant location to me and history of soviet occupation just create in my mind a false pretense? No doubt, Latvia is probably a fine place to live.  But if I had to choose, you wouldn’t be able to accurately represent with a stopwatch how quickly I made my decision.

If I were a person of influence with Donald Trump, I’d tell him he was doing a fine job of incorporating his campaign promises into legislation and through judicial appointments as well as executive order (only when necessary).  I’d also implore him to do two things – 1. Stop Tweeting.  Although he has been able to effectively deliver his message to his constituency without manipulation by the media, the topics he’s chosen to engage in have been suspect at best and harmful at worst.  Perhaps a daily rundown at the end of the day, where he’d only be using his Twitter account between 7-9PM and topics would be pre-determined. 2. Politics in a democracy is a balance between content and packaging.  While Donald Trump, generally, has provided decent content.  His packaging has sucked.  Historically, we’ve had Presidents who would come off just like Trump had they been subject to a 24 hour news-cycle, and these men were considered very effective leaders.  Teddy Roosevelt, Harry Truman, John F Kennedy, Jr., Andrew Jackson chiefly among them.  These men cursed like sailors, cavorted with women like they played for an NBA team, and just generally didn’t have to worry about packaging their message but for the State of the Union Address, and they occasional direct statement publicized in papers to reach the American people.  Trump shares some form of this rough-edged personality with each of these men.

I have no idea what type of President Donald Trump will turn out to be.  He has three years left on his first term.  Much of his legacy is yet to be written.  My hope, and reason for getting political tonight, is that Donald Trump will package his message better AND that his opposition will make more of an effort to understand that some of this is just poor packaging, while other aspects of the affront are simply higher levels of ethnocentrism, patriotism and hot air.

May God Continue to Bless America,

Will O’Connor

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