The nation and world are still reeling from President Trump’s comments about immigration when he supposedly questioned why so many immigrants had to try to come here from “shithole countries” and lamented the fact that we didn’t get more people coming from places like Norway (It should be noted that President Trump denies making those statements but, since he has been documented to have lied more than 2,000 times in his first year in office, you’ll have to pardon me if I tend to believe the witnesses). Many people, myself included, immediately sniffed out racist undertones in those comments. The demographic makeup of the citizenry of the countries Trump was referring to–places like Haiti, El Salvador, and various African nations–juxtaposed with the lily-white populous of Norway made that assumption an extraordinarily easy one at which to arrive. But in the wake of the cries of racism that flooded the media and social media, many on the right began to aggressively push back. They insisted that Trump was not being racist, just realistic. They claimed Trump was not referring to the people of those countries in derogatory terms, just the nations and their governments. In the spirit of attempting to be empathetic and reasonable, I want to further explore this idea and show that Trump supporters are failing to see that they are trying to have it both ways in this debate over immigration and, in either case, they’re on the wrong side of history.
Last night, I broke a personal rule. I got caught up in a Twitter war. I am a reluctant Twitter user. Twitter is a great place to find real-time news and reaction to it. It is also a cesspool full of hateful trolls. Most of the time, I am able to sift out hatred and save the good stuff. Last night, I “went there” and got caught up in a couple of hours of a back and forth exchange with some people that literally creeped me out with their narrow, bigoted world view. The most troubling aspect of this exchange is that the people who were attacking me claimed to be Christians. What follows is some of the “highlights” from our debates.
The whole thing began when I answered someone’s query about the Trump controversy. The person wanted someone to explain why so many people were losing their minds about the fact that the president had said the word “shithole.” This misinterpretation of the source of the outrage seemed easy enough to explain, so I bit by responding with the following tweet…
It’s not the word “shithole”. It’s the racist undertones of comparing immigrants from the places to which Trump was referring as juxtaposed with Norway, which he implied he wished would send us more. That’s what was so offensive, not the word.
At first, I thought that explanation had hit home, as it was getting several “likes.” After awhile, though, I was under attack by several Christian Trump supporters. They insisted that Trump was not being racist, just honest and real. Then they began to try to attack my motives. They called me a dishonest liberal hippy–I must say, that one brought more of a chuckle than a sting. They then went on a campaign to try to get me to admit that, deep down, I knew what Trump was saying was true. Here are some samples of their tweets to me…
But if you and everyone else were being honest, people would MUCH prefer Norwegian immigrants living next door than Haitians. Don’t deny it, either, you fraud.
This is all obfuscation because you’re too ashamed to publicly admit that there are countries with different qualities of people.
If you had to have one person, chosen at random, would you rather live next door to someone from Pakistan or Norway.
It went on and on like that. They wanted me to join them in their bigotry. They started out defending Trump’s comments as not being racist, then set about the task of trying to get me to fall into their openly racist trap.I tried to make it clear that I wasn’t falling for it. I said I couldn’t answer those questions because I don’t know anything about the individual people in their hypothetical situation. I said that there are lots of good people in those “shithole countries” and plenty of bad people in Norway–how could I know which person I’d be getting by choosing at random?
Finally, I said this…
Ask me if I’d rather vacation in Norway or one of “those countries” and the answer is Norway. I get that part of what you are trying to say, but you are not getting what I am saying. Why not support helping good people escape from those bad situations? Nobody is leaving Norway because, frankly, they’ve got it better there than we do here in many ways–ways you’d likely rail against as socialism.
And there is the rub; even if we cut Trump some slack and believe that his statements were not intended to be racist, that still leaves the ugly fact that his immigration policy proposals are an attempt to block people from getting out of those places. And worse, in the case of DACA repeal, deporting millions of people who are already here and, in many cases, contributing greatly to our society.
So I ask you, who is really being dishonest here?
If you support Donald Trump’s comments AND his immigration policy, the end result is that you are ultimately, at least indirectly, supporting bigotry.
I’m not promoting open borders. We need a vetting process to make sure we aren’t opening our door to those who would mean us harm. We do need to be diligent and careful. But the fact is, we already have such a process.
The Twitter exchange I became entangled in last night was eye-opening and pretty disheartening. What I already knew became even more obvious. President Trump has emboldened a small minority of bigoted people to be loud and proud. The fact that many of them profess to follow Jesus Christ is the most troubling part for me. Frankly, Christians should know better.
Jesus spent much of his life hanging out with those whom his society shunned. In fact, Jesus was from one of the places that people of his time looked down upon. Nazareth could have easily been labeled as a “shithole country.” Many of the lessons Jesus taught, both through his actions and his parables, dealt with positive, loving, and highly unlikely interactions between people of different regions, cultural backgrounds, or social classes. For instance, one of Christ’s most memorable parables, the story of the Good Samaritan, is a prime example. Jews looked down upon people from Samaria–a “shithole country” as it were. Yet, in the end, it was the Samaritan who offered aid to the Jewish man–even after the man in need had been ignored by his fellow Jewish passersby.
Don’t you think Jesus was trying to tell us something profound?
Yet, far right wing conservative Christians, in their politically fueled zeal, seem to continuously miss the biblical message about immigration and they carry on in their blind, steadfast support of a president who keeps saying incredibly insensitive and hateful things while proposing policies that hinder the ability of millions of people trying to extract themselves from the terrible situations that are far beyond their control.
There was a time, not so long ago, when Ireland would have topped Americans’ list of “shithole countries.” Now, millions and millions of Americans tell little white lies and claim Irish heritage every March.
There are good people in every nation on earth and, God knows, bad people, too.
We certainly have no shortage of bad ones born and raised right here.