Tuesday, January 16, 2018

 

The Shithole of American Politics


shithole
noun
vulgar slang
     An extremely dirty, shabby, or otherwise unpleasant place.

Sen. Cory Booker is the among latest grandstanding asses to pontificate over Trump's alleged remarks reportedly disparaging Haiti, El Salvador, and unspecified African countries. The fact is that some of these countries are, indeed, "shitholes" of crime, corruption, human rights abuses, violence, disease, unemployment, poverty, etc. Of course, the polite and likely more informative terms are failed or fragile states but the main observation, however it is articulated, is not false.

In the context of a discussion of immigration policy Trump's alleged remarks—like much that emanates from his mouth or Twitter feed—were inflammatory, unproductive, and evinced ignorance. However, they could have served as an opening for a rational and illuminating discussion. That is, if anyone in politics or the mainstream media were interested in principled discourse instead of political point-scoring.

Instead, political and media pontificators, such as Booker, generally showed themselves to be the mirror image of Trump (also an ass) by stooping to renew ill-founded allegations of racism, White supremacism, etc.1 Such is the shithole of American politics.

If Booker et al. were seriously interested in the truth and what's best for this country and for would-be immigrants they should have started out by conceding that, yes, some countries are failed states or in American vernacular, shitholes. That is one of the main reasons why so many people are eager or desperate to leave them for a better life in the US, Norway, and elsewhere. From a humanitarian perspective one might argue this is exactly why immigration from these countries should be permitted.

The abysmal situation in the countries at issue is thus a driver of immigration, legal and otherwise, and any comprehensive immigration policy would at least acknowledge that if not invoke it as a rationale to (re-)consider the implications of US foreign policy, including aid and military intervention.2 In many cases, US foreign policy under Trump's predecessors—with the complicity of the mainstream media and politicians of all stripes—has contributed directly to the appalling state of affairs in places like Haiti and El Salvador as is well-documented.3

It also bears mentioning in any reasoned discussion on the subject that just because someone lives in or comes from a "shithole country" does not render them unworthy of life or regard. Nor does it make them unable to adjust or contribute to humanity or American society. In the 1800s when some of my ancestors fled Ireland that country was a shithole suffering under centuries of British colonial oppression. Yet, most Americans would probably agree the United States has benefited significantly from 19th century Irish immigration.

Notes
1. Trump may in fact be a racist but my point is that nothing he has uttered so far points definitively to that conclusion. Trump's remarks are more plausibly understood as a manifestation of recklessness and/or ignorance of or well-deserved contempt for the Liberal canons of acceptable thought/expression. The latter clearly resonates with his political base, whom many in the chattering classes have unjustly written off as irredeemably racist.
2. To be clear, US foreign aid has, by design, all too often been a tool to deliberately prop up corrupt, repressive regimes and keep the masses people of countries such as Haiti and El Salvador in subjugation and dependency. Of course, that need not be the case but it has been.
3. Two cases in point of media collusion are the selling of the transparently false stories of Iraqi WMDs and cooperation with al-Qaeda to justify the 2003 invasion of that country. Further back, there is the shameless betrayal and abandonment of Raymond Bonner after he broke the story of the 1981 El Mozote massacre in El Salvador by elite US-backed military forces. Thanks, in no small part, to US media collusion the US funded civil war there would continue another decade after the massacre was revealed.

See also: "On Propriety, Power, and Social Protest"

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