“With All Do Respect…”
“I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today, my own government.”
-Martin Luther King
As social media debates rage over the words of our current president, I committed the unthinkable act of reading the comments section of the news sites that were breaking the story of the “shithole...” comment made by our current president Donald Trump. If you’ve been under a rock for the last few days, at a recent White House meeting on immigration reform, the president is alleged to have referred to Haiti, certain Latin American nations and several African nations as “shithole” countries. Now, I’m not here to debate the legitimacy of the quote. It doesn’t matter. What affected me more was the prevailing indifference of the commenters of such an offensive and historically ignorant statement. I’m fully aware that the comment section ON ANY SITE is a place where internet trolls dwell. People whom – through the power of internet anonymity – troll to incite frustration, if not fights with racist, sexist. It’s outlandish, buffoonish, nonsensical banter. All that being said, I still dove headfirst into the dreaded internet abyss of sneering, social disdain. I found that it didn’t matter the site I went to that was breaking the story: Fox, CNN, AP, etc. In each space, there was a prevalent opinion of: “What’s so racist? He’s just telling it like it is..”
When we speak for the poor, please note that we do not take sides with one social class. What we do is invite all social classes, rich and poor, without distinction, saying to everyone let us take seriously the cause of the poor as though it were our own.
-Father Oscar Romero
This is where my concern lies. In the shoulder-shrug mentality of “just being honest”. Of “Telling it like it is”. There were people that were truly baffled by why some would call those comments racist. All colors of people come from domestic areas that we would call shitholes, and that doesn’t make them racist..right? I mean, isn’t Haiti and most of Africa what we call 3rd World Countries? Aren’t we flooded with images of the starving children, that for just the cost of a cup of coffee we can feed? Isn’t that kinda the definition of a “shithole”? Countries led by dictating warlords in a constant state of civil war – are these the people that we want in our country? Won’t they just come here and turn “America the beautiful” into a 3rd world dump?
The silencing of the Haitian Revolution is only a chapter within a narrative of global domination. It is part of the history of the West and it is likely to persist, even in attenuated form, as long as the history of the West is not retold in ways that bring forward the perspective of the world.
-Michel Rolph Trouillot
It was the absence of any sort of acknowledgement of history that really shook me as I read so many disparaging comments. Even people that were self proclaimed Trump-haters, were jumping in defending this particular comment as non-offensive and just an astute observation by a self-proclaimed genius. As we continue to move at a warp speed toward an Idiocracy-like reality here in the states, it might be time to pump the brakes on the normalization of this behavior from our president. All of the touring I’ve done over the last decade in the heartland of America, I understand how Trump came to be by igniting a disenfranchised voting base with xenophobic, racist, sexist tirades masked as speeches. I understand how as Chris Hedges calls it, a “corporate coup d’etat”, has destroyed this beloved heartland and vomited up a character such as Trump. What I can’t get is our need to drape ourselves in the cloak of American exceptionalism and not expect to be blinded by our arrogance. Is this truly a great nation? Why don’t more people from Nordic countries immigrate to the US? I mean, why would you want things like socialized healthcare and free college education? Who wouldn’t want to amass a mountain of debt for school, or better yet, who wouldn’t want to go bankrupt just to pay their outlandish medical bills. I mean…we got NASCAR people…NASCAR!!
This cavalier attitude prevents us from asking the big important questions. Questions like, “What role does global militarized capitalism play in the making of a shithole country”? The individualization of neoliberalism helps keep the demos illiterate in the languages of empathy and compassion. Noam Chomsky puts it best here:
“As long as the general population is passive, apathetic, diverted to consumerism or hatred of the vulnerable, then the powerful can do as they please, and those who survive will be left to contemplate the outcome.”
Before we start calling 3rd world nations shitholes, we need to look no further than our own. As the internet was blowing up with stories of the outrageousness the latest Trump accusation, I watched a video of a woman struggling to walk down a cold Baltimore street, bleeding, and barely able to walk. She was asked to leave the hospital due to lack of insurance; it was reported to be 30 degrees outside. Where’s the shithole again? One of the richest nations on the world can’t afford to provide basic human needs to its populace. As we point fingers at other countries with inept leadership, corrupted by the financial influence of large global corporations, engaged in raping the land of all financial viable resources and house sweatshops that enslave the populace. Those things don’t happen without western influence. But if you really want to see shitholes, no longer do you have to look to the developing world. There are certainly parts of our very own country that are starting to mirror those same nations that we pass off as less than. Cities with water so rife with pollution, it’s undrinkable; capitalism sacrifice zones that have turned once thriving industrial cities into violent crime ridden poverty pits. The point at which we realize our fate is linked, is the point where we realize that there is no “us” and “them”. It is just we.
As one of my favorite authors Chris Hedges puts it, “A shithole country depends on your perspective”.