“Shithole” Manners

I really would rather not write all the time about President Trump and his latest escapades.  I honestly would rather write about just about anything else.  But sometimes, President Trump is alleged to have said something that simply can’t be ignored.

donald-trump-gty-jt-180107_16x9_992So it is with the allegation that, during a meeting with congressional leaders about American immigration policy issues, Trump referred to Haiti and some countries in Africa as “shitholes” and said American policy should try to restrict immigration from those places.  Trump later issued tweets that seem to deny the use of that vulgar term, as well as disputing the notion that his remarks were racially motivated, although he admitted to using “tough” language during the meeting.  On the other hand, Illinois Senator Dick Durbin, who attended the meeting, confirms the report that Trump used the word “shithole” to describe the countries.

Could it really be that the President of the United States used the term “shithole” to describe another sovereign nation, however strife-torn or impoverished or economically or socially challenged it might be?  Could it really be that the President of the United States, who as the head of the executive branch of the government is the titular head of the American diplomatic corps, used such crass, inflammatory, undiplomatic language in an official meeting?  Could it really be that the President of the United States is so profoundly ill-mannered and graceless and brutal?  Could it really be that the President of the United States wouldn’t recognize that people would interpret such remarks as racially motivated and that world leaders would react with shock and horror to such statements?  It’s mind-boggling . . . but in the era of the Trump presidency the mind-boggling has become commonplace.

But let’s give our elected President the benefit of the doubt and accept his denial that he used that coarse term, and assume that Senator Durbin and any other sources for the news reports simply misheard whatever “tough language” the President actually used.  What’s equally bad, from my perspective, is that some Trump supporters have actually tried to defend the early reports of Trump’s alleged “shithole” remarks by arguing that the term accurately describes the countries.  Such arguments, which speak so dismissively and callously about countries where human beings live, and work, and struggle, solely in order to advance a political point, show an appalling lack of basic human kindness and decency and simple good manners.  Calling someone else’s country a “shithole” is almost sadistic in its cruelty.

It’s another deeply troubling sign of just how low and horrible our political discourse and culture have become.  Where is our humanity, and basic decency?

Dad In Haiti

The aftermath of the earthquake in Haiti is heart-rending.  It is impossible to see the images of dust-covered survivors digging through the piles of rubble, trying to find loved ones in collapsed buildings, and not be deeply moved.

Yesterday I talked to Mom.  We discussed the horror in Haiti and she told me an interesting story about my father and his friend and business associate, Eugene Graham — one that I had never heard before. They had a mutual friend who was a minister and who operated a mission in Haiti.  The three of them had lunch one day, probably in the late ’60s or early ’70s, and the minister spoke at length about the terrible poverty and living conditions in Haiti.  Dad and Mr. Graham were so touched by the minister’s description that they bought 100 beds, mattresses, blankets, and pillows and then personally delivered them to the mission.   Their minister friend then took them on a tour of Haiti, and Dad apparently was very disturbed by the misery he saw.  He vividly described his trip to Mom upon his return, and so far as I know he never spoke about it again.  He certainly never mentioned it to me.

I’m proud that Dad made that effort to help people in need, but Mom’s story also brought home the fact that the problems in Haiti have been long-standing — although the devastation wrought by the earthquake obviously has made living conditions in Haiti immeasurably worse.  For decades, Haiti has been bedeviled by political corruption, cruel dictators, a failed economy, gangs and a host of other miseries, and monetary aid from America and elsewhere hasn’t really materially changed the realities of life there.  Maybe the earthquake will make people take notice of this impoverished land and figure out how to resolve the underlying problems of that country so that meaningful change is accomplished.  In the meantime, I hope that somewhere in Haiti the beds that Dad and Mr. Graham bought and delivered so many years ago are still in use, allowing some of the earthquake survivors to be more comfortable in their time of great need.