Saturday, January 13, 2018

It's Not the Word, People

I keep seeing people on Facebook and in newspaper opinion pieces drawing back in horror that Trump said "shithole." Saying shithole was not the offense. Writing off huge segments of dark-skinned humanity as being unworthy of respect let alone empathy -- that was the gaping abyss in Trump's soul which suddenly opened up for all of us to contemplate. Is there any bottom to that hole?

It was not the word he uttered. It is the fact that this particular person -- putatively, the "leader of the free world" -- would express such racist contempt for millions of other people, out loud and in front of witnesses.

“This is how the forgotten men and women of America talk at the bar,” said a Fox News host, as if Trump's "honesty" were his saving grace. A lot of things get said in bars, which does not necessarily elevate those sentiments to a place of privilege in our public discourse. Bars are where small men go to swagger in front of their friends and rivals. The utterance “shithole countries" is mere swagger, meant to short-circuit discussion and bully any opposition.

The United States of America is full of people who came from troubled places, mere shitholes you could say, but it was not their places of origin which defines them. It is the content of their aspirations that defines them as "American," their willingness to become contributing and productive citizens of our commonweal (despite any asshole bully currently ruling the joint).

This president has clearly grown more comfortable blurting his overtly racist attitudes, condemning whole countries and their people for not being more like Norway, one of the whitest countries on Earth. Did those Republican congressmen in the room who now profess a failure of memory about what Trump said, did they laugh nervously when he said it? Did they through their grunts and gestures, like a gaggle of masculinity at a bar, let the bully's opinion stand unchallenged? Did they study the floor of the Oval Office, wishing they were elsewhere but also secretly acknowledging that Trump was speaking their truth too?

Senator Lindsey Graham claims that “following comments by the president, I said my piece directly to him yesterday," and we wonder what that "piece" might have included. We'd love to believe that Senator Graham told the president to knock it off, to stop being the braggart racist in the bar, but we also know the senator for a suck-up, so we're hedging our bets on that one.

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