America the Shithole

It’s not even surprising anymore when President Donald Trump, an angry pumpkin on top of a very large pumpkin on top of a smaller pumpkin, says or does something racist. He is a fucking racist. If you’re a fucking racist, you do fucking racist shit all the time because that’s who you are. If he didn’t say or do a racist thing, we might say, “Oh, look, he wasn’t racist in that moment.” But just because a rat in your house didn’t shit all over the floor one day doesn’t mean that the rat still isn’t a rat. It just kept its shit to itself for once.

So how are we supposed to react when we hear and Senator Dick Durbin confirms that Trump called, at the very least, African nations “shithole countries” whose people he doesn’t want emigrating here? My gut reaction was utter outrage and contempt, but I have nothing but contempt for Trump and everyone who supports him, including each and every motherfucker who voted for that plague rat.

Trump supporters have been shown many off-ramps where they can get off this Highway to Hell they’ve been on. Support for neo-Nazis was one exit. Condemning black football players who were protesting was another. Any number of lies could have worked. All along, there have been these places where they can veer away and turn around. But so many have decided they are on the road for good, and they don’t give a damn what Trump says about preventing immigrants from poor black or brown countries from coming to the U.S. in favor of people from places like Norway. And no amount of my rage at what a savage cunt mite Trump is will change that because a racist is a racist is a racist.

You know what people from shithole countries do when they get here? They get jobs, sometimes the worst jobs we have because, like most immigrants who have ever come here, they aren’t thinking of themselves. They are thinking of the better life they will give to their kids. That’s the myth of this country we tell repeatedly: the immigrants who come here with nothing in order to have a better life for them and their families. One of my grandfathers came over from Italy. Do you think he was a doctor? Or a professional? Fuck, no. He was a laborer. And he helped build things here because that’s what he did. And Italy was a shithole. Ireland was a shithole. Russia, Poland, many, many countries were shitholes. All the people in this photo came from shitholes, some with just their native clothes on their backs, because they wanted to get out of the shithole.

But let’s get more recent than Ellis Island. By any measure, Liberia has been a terrible place to live for decades. Between horrific wars and horrific disease, it would be kind to just call it a “shithole.” That’s why hundreds of thousands became refugees and why over 60,000 of those refugees came to the United States in the late 20th and early 21st century. A whole lot of them settled in Staten Island, which, believe it or not, is still a borough of New York City. And many of those go to the college where I teach. I have taught Liberian students for years and they have been, to a person, kind, smart, engaged, and hard-working. And that’s because they came from a shithole. Many of them were refugees from that shithole; some of them or their family members were tortured. They embrace the chance they have here (and are often treated like shit here for their efforts).

Funds are raised for refugees by churches, the real Christian churches, not the fake ones that promise you salvation for a price. You can read stories of an Illinois evangelical ministry helping settle Liberian refugees, of a Rhode Island Baptist church helpingrecent arrivals from the Congo, of the Nazarene ministry in Missouri that is assisting refugees from Syria. In other words, if you stand with your church in making sure that refugees have a place in the United States, you stand opposed to the president. Or you’re a goddamn hypocrite.

You know where else is a shithole? In large swaths of the United States, including many places where Trump voters live. A United Nations report essentially declared that the U.S. is the shithole of the “rich nations,” with poverty so extreme that it is pretty much on a par with Haiti, El Salvador, and African nations. And we have one big thing in common with most of the countries Trump has condemned: no universal health care.

The president is a racist. We knew that. Millions of people in this country are racist. We knew that, too. We also know that many racists don’t think of themselves as racist and sure don’t want to be called “racist.” Well, here’s another gut check, motherfuckers. If you can stand with a man who believes what Trump believes, with a man who has the power over life and death and is wielding that power against people of color, then you have made your choice to plunge into the shithole Trump has created and wallow around in his shit, pretending that it’s not shit at all. We are a shithole as long as Trump remains president.

Someone will say that I’m agreeing with Trump because I say some countries are shitholes. That’s getting it wrong. Trump said he didn’t want “all these people” from those nations coming here. But I want to get people out of there.

If you don’t want immigrants from shitholes to come here, it’s not because they are terrible people. It’s because you are.

(Note: To be fair, Liberia just had a peaceful election, so there is always hope in any shithole.)
(Note: There are lots of shitholes that people call home. Doesn’t mean it’s not a shithole.)
(Note: And, no, I haven’t even gotten into just how big a role the United States has played in turning many of those countries into shitholes.)

Editor’s Note: This essay originally appeared on January 12, 2018, on The Rude Pundit, a website featuring commentary by Lee Papa.  It was reproduced here with the consent of Mr. Papa.

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