Shitholes? Really?

In a remarkable about-face, after many news reports and first-hand accounts alleging that President Trump referred to African countries and Haiti as “shitholes,” Mr. Trump announced that it was all more fake news, that he never said what was reported.  Trump is reported to have uttered these vulgarities within a discussion of who should be allowed to legally migrate to the United States, Trump expressing a preference for people from Norway.

The fact that more than 80% of ethnic Norwegians are white, whereas the countries Trump disparaged have largely black or brown populations is naturally a cause for outrage, another self-inflicted would for Trump.  And, despite the media maelstrom and the ping-ponged accusations from both sides of the political divide, Trump’s alleged statement is entirely consistent with a long public record of unfavorable bias against people of color.

A reporter from a conservative outlet defended Trump’s language by pointing out that this is the language that ordinary Americans, specifically Trump’s base, would use to describe these countries.  That is if he said it – and he said he didn’t – it would be ok because he was speaking the language of the “forgotten man.”

I wasn’t in the room.  I did not hear what was said. Maybe Trump barked profanely (probability high), or he didn’t (probability low), or he said some variant of the same language (probably medium).  In any case, this is language that should not cross a U.S. President’s lips within earshot of public officials or the media.  Many of the disparaged countries are swimming with AK-47 rifles, the leftover’s from long forgotten Cold War conflicts.  All it would take is one enraged foreigner to answer Trump’s alleged words with a volley of gunfire in a tourist hotel to demonstrate the danger of this kind of disparaging rhetoric.

If you want to call Haiti or all of Africa a “shithole” in your local pub, I will disagree, but I will support your right to free speech. If you want to say the same thing from the Oval Office, you still have a right to say it, but be prepared for consequences, from other countries and the electorate writ large.  It plays to Trump’s base, but he now is the servant of We the People.

Or maybe that is Trump’s aim, to rile up his base and anger other countries. The lesson learned from George W. Bush is that terrorist attack is an opportunity to bring up poll numbers, and it seems that Trump could use a bump in popularity.  Is that hypothesis too cynical?

Thoughts?  I’d love to hear your (moderated) comments.

Photo By David Shankbone (Own work) [GFDL, CC-BY-SA-3.0 or CC BY-SA 2.5-2.0-1.0], via Wikimedia Commons


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Christmas, Once More

By now I have lived through quite a few Christmases. There are no memories that stand out, just a general feeling of warmth and hope for the return of Spring.

I am always surprised by the common theme of disappointed expectations surrounding Christmas: the desired toy not arriving, the hoped-for moment of family togetherness ruined by a drunk uncle, or the perfect meal ruined with a burnt turkey setting off the smoke alarm.

Though not to be overly Zen about it, I have come to realize that the way to avoid disappointment, at Christmas and every day, is to throw expectation out the window. Expect nothing and you will always be surprised, occasionally in a good way.

The With those small words of wisdom, I wish you peace on Christmas and joy in the New Year.

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The Longest Night

Last night was this Winter’s Solstice, the longest night of the year.  A very dark night after what was, to me, a very dark year.  I am hoping that as the days get longer some of the darkness in our country and in the world lifts.

The reeking spirit of hatred, against blacks, immigrants, Muslims, and women are something that I have rarely seen in my adult life, at least at the intensity in the air today. The waves of moral progress I have seen build over my lifetime seem to have come crashing to a halt, and the real possibility of retrenchment of civil rights issues seems more likely today.

It is easy to point to our President and cast blame, but smarter people than me have pointed out that Trump is a symptom, not a cause.  The intellectual and spiritual rot on America’s political right has festered for decades.  It was only a matter of time before the decay became a grotesque infection, if not under Trump’s leadership, then someone else would have picked up the torch.

I have some hope that after this long night, 2018 will bring some needed change in my country.  But it is a slim hope.  Racism, xenophobia, homophobia – they are all part of the same learned fear of the other that has divided humanity from ancient times to the present.

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