middle brow | citizen how \ 2 feb 18 /

dreamers of all ages. from all places. 

a silly little man named donald trump said a truly fucked up? sad? childish? i don't know the right word to describe it anymore. i think i'll just presume everything he says comes from a really weak, insecure, malleable place. he's more like a high school kid than even paul ryan is. he's like the guy in high school who watched good will hunting and wanted to be smart like will hunting so he went out and bought howard zinn's the people's history of the united states and was the most progressive guy in school. and then he "got really into books" and stumbled onto the fountainhead. and was enamored by individualism. ... the difference is that donald trump doesn't read books. he just watches fox news. and adopts whatever opinion he heard last as if it's a "really good idea that lots of smart people are saying" he had. and so when some shitty congressman appealed to his racist sensibilities on immigration, saying "why the fuck should we take immigrants from places like haiti?" he immediately thought, "he's right! i mean, i'd never sell my name to any hotel built in haiti. or africa for that matter. why would we want people from those countries in our country? gross". 

and then. he called them "shithole countries" out loud. i presume he's never been to a country that lacks a four seasons in which to have a nice golden shower. but the countries he's referring to are not shithole countries. they have roads from town to town. they have cars taking folks down those roads to visit their faraway friends and families. they have gas stations and fruit stands along the way. where folks gather and laugh and stretch their legs. they have town squares with churches that people go to on sundays. or saturdays. or fridays. or any days. they have grocery stores with refrigerated water and juice and milk and oreos. and poorly-designed 16oz energy drinks. in so many ways, they're just like the us. they have people building things. doing lots of construction. running wire through electrical conduit. mixing cement. and just like parts of detroit. or the outskirts of pittsburgh. or chicago. or rural california: they simply have more poverty than new york city does. or, at least, the shitty, boring parts of new york where donald and ivanka trump live.

and so, like a high school kid who lacks the imagination required for empathy. he called them shithole countries. and a boner named rod dreher defended the comment, or at least identified with the comment, in the american conservative magazine. here are some quick excerpts:

"Let’s think about Section 8 housing. If word got out that the government was planning to build a housing project for the poor in your neighborhood, how would you feel about it? Be honest with yourself. Nobody would consider this good news. You wouldn’t consider it good news because you don’t want the destructive culture of the poor imported into your neighborhood. Drive over to the poor part of town, and see what a shithole it is. Do you want the people who turned their neighborhood a shithole to bring the shithole to your street?

No, you don’t. Be honest, you don’t."

holy fucking shit!!!!!! this guy is one of those christians who measures the size of his christianity-dick by his facility with scripture and dogma. obsessed with catholicism and christianity generally because of an upbringing and some insecurity about his place in the world. and he masks it as an appreciation for mysticism and community. it's like if jack white or stephen colbert were more disingenuous and less polymathic.

as for the paragraph above. god damn. it couldn't be more incorrect. at least as far as i'm concerned. if you live in a city like i do, you'd love it if they announced some section 8 housing on your block. the people lucky enough to get section 8 housing often try and fail to do so for years. they're working hard to send their children to school. they sit outside together. and talk together about the weather. and about anything else they can think of. like real neighbors should. they have rich cultural backgrounds. and they're willing to share them with you if you simply say hello and ask them about such. they make a neighborhood vibrant! and diverse!

............ : : : and they make for strong communities. ............ : : : the same communities that will supposedly, bring this country together. the same communities that will help this city (and others like it) fight crime. the sorts of communities that derive from an abundance of good, engaged neighbors. and from the juxtaposition of wealthy folks, middle classics, and people who are born with fewer opportunities and less familial structure. poor folks already know this. they already raise their kids together. wealthy people don't quite know this. they might know how to pay someone to watch their kids or drive their kids around or prepare meals for their kids. but they tend to know much less about communities and community-building. because they simply don't have to know anything about it.

anyhow, enough about that dumb ass paragraph from an extreme pocket-book republican. the bigger questions are: why do those countries have more poverty? more crime? and does that mean we shouldn't embrace immigrants from them?

one of rod the rod's presumptuous questions was: but why are these countries shitholes? and one of the obvious answers is: imperialism. he didn't want to entertain such answers, though, as he made obvious in the "update" to his post. but it's a super good answer!!!!! anyone who's studied developing countries in any depth knows that their modern history is dominated by belgian, dutch, english, american, spanish, french (!), and italian colonialism. you know what colonialism is, right? remember the tea party? taxation without representation? colonialism may bring some development with it. but it does so at the expense of the cultures and power structures and societal organization of the colonized country. one of rod's friends, who thinks he's pretty smart, had this to say: 

"Some countries are shitholes. To claim that this is racist is racist. They are not shitholes because of the color of the populace but because of bad ideas, corrupt governance, false religion, and broken culture. Further, most of the problems in these countries are generated at the top." 

false religion, as opposed to true religion? so i take it he thinks israel is a shithole? and japan? 

bad ideas and corrupt governance? when many of these countries were governed by tribes and/or kings, it's true that governments in the west had begun their transition into enlightenment ideas. but then europe colonized those countries. and exerted their power through clientelism. and installed leaders who often turned into despots. and those leaders only knew how to govern with gifts and grifts.

clearly imperialism and colonialism are major, if not the principal, causes for the current state of much of the developing world. 

and broken culture? the post goes on to say that one of these so-called reasons for shithole status is the insistence of folks in african countries to place their family above all else. that one of the reasons private enterprise isn't really practical is that, if you started a business, your family would show up and *selfishly* demand shit for free. and you'd be required by your culture to give it to them. and so nobody there starts any businesses. query whether this is true or explicative (see italian immigrants to the us). and query whether the frequency of private enterprise correlates perfectly with the depth of a shit hole. ... but i'd call a culture with family at the center of it a strong one. 

as for my last question: should we let people from so-called shithole countries into the us? well, we used to. ireland. italy. poland. germany. and look what those immigrants went and did? they found some more stability here. and they became inventors. and doctors. and teachers. and nurses. and comedians. and this isn't a clever point. many people have made it before. 

but i want to highlight another point that receives far less focus. if folks from the subject countries currently view family as the most important organizational unit in their society. and as such are *selfishly* willing to lie and cheat and steal to help their family get ahead. we should be begging those people to come to the us. think about how productive and community-oriented they would be in a society not ravaged by colonialism. where theft and murder and grift ain't necessary to stay alive. to improve the lot of your family. think about a society where such activity is more easily and consistently punished. and where work is plentiful. where one can simply work, and be rewarded for their work, and make a nice life for their family. they'd work like wild women and men!!! and that's largely what immigrants do! see, it even makes good sense!

and, one last point. there's a particularly monstrous and dangerous argument being made about merit. and about talent. that we should screen for talented people. that we should end immigration focused on family reunification and diversity lotteries because they let too many folks in who aren't talented or skilled. this is particularly myopic and ahistorical at the same time: the untalented and unskilled made america. these are the people who gave their bodies, and sometimes their lives, to afford their children the education and training necessary for talent and skill. the working class. the hungry. the desperate. ... compare that to middle class people from developing countries who got some education and then emigrated to the us for one reason or another. those families do just fine, in general. they're upstanding members of their communities. they have decks! and swimming pools! or maybe doormen! they print important documents at fedex! they know their peapod delivery driver! they have basketball hoops in their driveways! they have driveways! (edit: stevo). thanks to them for coming! how flattering that they chose to come to the us!

but the things that republicans and democrats both believe make america unique are... grit. confidence. openness to experience. adventure. and empathy for strangers. since each and every one of us descend from someone who wasn't afraid of being alone. of being a stranger. and untalented, unskilled, hungry immigrants from impoverished countries have all of the above.

somehow, though, repubicans have a hard time translating this into policy. it's like they just care about tax cuts, or something. that selfishness seems like an echo... but i can't quite tell of what.

this weekend: wake up from winter. and share your beer.