Most of this really shouldn’t have to be said…
I’m also not the best person to say it… but nevertheless I feel the need to vent a bit:
Purported quotes: “Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?” "Why do we need more Haitians? Take them out." Mr Trump told lawmakers [that] the US should instead be taking in migrants from countries like Norway.
On the surface-level
It’s obviously myopic to label entire swathes of the world “shitholes”. One could point to examples of decidedly non-shitty places in the shitholes as well as decidedly shitty places in the non-shitholes as riposte. Not worth splitting hairs about this as the main point is that TBH this level of thinking is a) not becoming of the office of the President and b) not indicative of someone who can think further than their eyes can see.
But they are shitholes?
Yes. Isn’t it great that we can now finally express our narrow-minded opinions unfettered by liberal/elite/intellectual imps and their fellatory attitude towards political correctness? The truth is the truth, and it wants to be heard.
(Trump will probably deny that he said it at all, but it will be too late for the foaming sycophants who publicly agree with his alleged statements.)
The argument that goes alongside this idea, if we are being charitable, is that it’s not racist if it’s true. Perhaps in the strict sense, but in the context of other things the man has said, it becomes another piece of ever-increasing evidence that he is, in fact, a flaming bigot. And this bigotry is oozing into your politics, national discourse and foreign policy in ways that are far less subtle than before.
(Let’s not even begin to talk about America’s historical penchant for contributing to shitholery worldwide – I’m sure there will be some punditry on this topic elsewhere.)
A country’s shittiness as determinant of what exactly?
On the first level, it is quite obviously stupid to tie the preference for a potential immigrant to the status of their home country. There is presumably a process involved which negates having to rely on "nationality" as the deciding factor. Presumably also people who are happy where they are tend not to move to places which are worse for them (in the general sense that we are considering immigration here) so the point is probably moot.
I’m sure the ancient Egyptians would have considered Europe to be a shithole too if they were thinking like this. The wheel turns slowly. But it does turn. And so it would appear that MAGA is not final, shittiness not fatal. Your president is a cock, my president is a cock. Your politicians are often shit, my politicians are often shit. Pray to your remaining institutions of social cohesion that you can keep it together lest the door hit you on the way out in the South China Sea some years from now.
OK, a bit crude but the point is that petty nationalism and the related disparaging of the Other implies a lack of familiarity with “we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal…” If nothing else, then I would hope that America can remember in the years to come what its founding principles were.
Olive branch fatigue
Many of us shitholers are constantly engaged in a very tiring battle to gain a more full humanity in the eyes of the likes of Trump’s base. This is the kind of struggle that Trump’s comments undermine. I think the key feature is that it’s actually quite difficult to explain things that e.g. to me might seem obvious, but in fact are hard to understand if you have a very different frame of reference. When Fanon says that people revolt “because they cannot breathe” I wonder who is capable of appreciating what he means.
On a practical level, this kind of understanding is better found through calm engagement or reading a book but instead it tends to happen in the vitriolic spaces of social media – it’s worth a thought how much this is having a negative impact on “debates” – I certainly perceive that it is.
Eventually people give up trying and become jaded. Cf. the processes by which people move from satyagraha or civil disobedience to armed struggle.
Africa is a country, n’est ce pas?
Firstly, the mere fact of calling out “Africa” as one of the shithole entities qualifies it for this one.
Secondly, it’s telling that it is only some countries which are labelled as irredeemable shitholes. This idea is laid bare too obviously by Trump but I’m going to put it to you that he is not alone. Most analysis of the continent is done through this lens and I invite you to extend a more critical eye (side thought: Mahmood Mamdani speaks about how Africa has been a victim of history by analogy – I will go look for the quote when I have the chance).
This is confirmed by his supposed preference for Norwegians… Norway, the social-democratic welfare state with universal healthcare. The fact that these policies are not in the US Overton window is apparently not enough to designate a country as a shithole and its citizens as fundamentally undesirable.
It’s pretty clear what his rationale is here…
In fact, as dog whistles go, the veneer is becoming increasingly thin. I watch with growing alarm at the amount of bile spewn by reinvigorated white nationalists. Please, America, don’t let them win. When the dust finally settles you will be hard pressed to find anyone who claims they voted for Trump, just like you can’t find anyone who voted for the NP in South Africa.
Shithole today, trading partner tomorrow
Even only practically, this numpty probably makes US diplomatic staff incredibly despondent. Good luck creating those bilateral trade deals with the shitholes – politics has never been rational and so these stupid things ironically matter. As one twitteratus put it: “If Africa is the shithole, y'all must enjoy eating ass”
Anyway, Death to America, eat the rich, and furthermore Carthago delenda est.
P.S. in these trying times I have to add that I am not being 100% serious, if it wasn't clear...
Most of this shouldn't have to be said, but you're welcome and encouraged to say it anyway. I would like to personally apologize to you for the fact that my national interests are represented by an abhorrent historical figure. I have never before been so thankful for the general inertia of the Republic to preserve what standards and customs we have.
That said, don't overthink it. Trump represents a dark, spiraling shithole at the center of a Venn diagram of awfulness, each on its own surmountable but taken together presenting a towering edifice of despair:
- A NEAR TOTAL LACK OF EMPATHY. Trump has never demonstrated an ability to empathize with other human beings. He is a species apart. "People" does not mean "People like me" it means "animals that we call people." What empathetic actions Trump has taken served the purpose of increasing his size in his own mirror, that of the press and social media. He is not the sort who helps others out of kindness.
- A NEAR TOTAL LACK OF CURIOSITY. Trumps father was a developer. Trump is a developer. Trump clearly has tastes for Slavic women and he clearly has tastes for junk food and these tastes are decades old. Trump's world, from horizon to horizon, is a known quantity filled with familiar items and people. The question about "shithole countries" was rhetorical - he wasn't interested in the answer, he was dismissive of the problem. And, as a fundamentally non-empathetic individual who has never sought out anything or anyone, the statement made was not intended to be questioned or repeated.
- DEFICIENT EXECUTIVE FUNCTION. Donald Trump has neither the working memory nor the inhibitory control nor the flexible thinking to be a diplomat. Based on his performance as a businessman he lacks the executive function to be a businessman. "Norway" was on his mind because he met with the Prime Minister of Norway the day before. He said "shithole countries" because he lacks the inhibitory control to not say "shithole countries." He asked about "shithole countries" because he lacks the flexible thinking to understand that "good" people come out of "bad" (for purposes of illustration - not a judgement held by any rational, thinking human) countries.
But that's just Trump. In order for the trifecta of suck to end up as the world's problem, we also had to suffer from:
- ERODING TRUST IN TRADITIONAL ELECTORAL STRUCTURES. The past 40 years have not been kind to large portions of the electorate.
Both viable political parties have worked towards an agenda of globalization and enrichment of the upper class; education has been eroding and opportunity diminished. Much of the Brexit vote was in the form of a protest; much like the Brexit vote, distortions of the electoral process gave an outsized boost to a minority viewpoint.
- A FRAGILE AND OUTDATED ELECTORAL PROCESS. Most electoral maps show islands of blue in a sea of red, thereby giving the impression that America as a whole voted for this madness. xkcd has a better take on the actual distribution of votes; the fact of the matter is, our 200-year-old system no longer adequately represents the will and intent of an instantaneously-connected citizenship with global reach.
- A NOVEL AND EXPLOITABLE INFORMATION SYSTEM. 2016 was only the third election since the advent of Facebook and Twitter. Technological approaches to manipulating electoral behavior is almost always experimental because the technology changes so much faster than the ability to test. One of the most interesting things about the Wolff book, to me, is that it contains no new information. All it does is provide (ostensibly true) examples of the rumors we've all heard. Nobody wanted Trump to win, including Trump. Including the Russians. The entire Republican campaign was an exercise in obsequiousness and favor-currying by the lickspittle opportunists of the conservative movement but now, they're the dog that caught the car. And here we are, in the wreckage.
Don't overthink Trump The Man. What we're all dealing with is Trump the Series of Unfortunate Events. It is exposing the world to the worst America can offer and almost all of us are ashamed. Unfortunately, a discouraging fraction of us are also making hay while the sun shines.
Looters don't believe in your cause. They just want a free TV. And if they have to break a few windows to get one, well, someone else is going to have to clean all this up anyway.
Again, I'm sorry. We're working on it. I promise.