On shitholes 

The Observer is at home today in our kitty cat socks, weathering a combination sick day and snow day. Way down in Stifft Station, we live at the top of a hill that slopes away in all directions. That's good in a flood, but piss poor other than for sledding during snow and ice, especially when you only have access to a two-wheel drive car.

Like a lot of Americans, The Observer has been considering shitholes of late. Not the shithole from which turdly human beings like Donald Trump and his sycophants, apologists and enablers were born. We're talking about Trump's recently expressed idea that we should shun those immigrants from "shithole countries;" un-Norwegian places, full of black and brown poor people, many of them yearning to scale our walls, tunnel under our moats, and set up shop, breathing all our free and prosperous air. Folks from those countries will always see America as a lamp lifted beside the golden door. Meanwhile, to residents of a country like Norway, the land whose flood of Aryan immigrants Trump covets, America — with our willingness to spend $600 billion a year on the military even as our overall mortality rate increases, our infant mortality rate spirals upward, the American Dream wilts under a mountain of student loan debt and we express a proudly dumb willingness to let folks die in the street for want of basic health care — must look like quite a shithole indeed. Shitholery, it seems, is relative.

The Observer, whose father was a roofer, knew a few folks who fled what our president would undoubtedly call shithole countries as a youth, guys who told harrowing tales on lunch break of families left behind, friends buried on the side of the road in the long trek north, hopping freight trains in Tijuana and dodging rattlesnakes in the Arizona desert in order to get across an invisible line that marked the divide between grinding, relentless poverty and a land where we all have so much to eat that we routinely throw half of it away. A place where they might have a chance to be prosperous and free. Those same guys, carrying stories in their heart that weighed a thousand pounds, would rise from their lunch and proceed to work a white boy like Yours Truly right into the ground, leaving us sipping Gatorade in the shade of the truck while still they toiled, unfazed and smiling at their good fortune to have a job in a land where unbelievable bounty was available for anyone willing to work for it. The Observer used to drive some of those guys down to the corner store on Fridays so they could sign on the dotted line and ship the lion's share of their paychecks back to families in those far-off lands our president would, no doubt, dismiss as shitholes. And yet Trump, and his supporters, would undoubtedly call those men criminals, thieves, refuse washed ashore to take a white man's job, when we know plenty of white folks who wouldn't cross the street for a paycheck, much less work a pumper kettle or a shingle hoist in the broiling sun.

The Observer, for the 10,000th time since this man Trump — this rough beast, his hour come round at last — assumed his office, thinks: Who have we become? Why have we, a country built on opportunity and immigrants, become so afraid of the outsider, the newcomer, the stranger in our strange land? Take a look at the complexion of your average Norwegian as opposed to the face of your average Haitian, and you will find a lot of your answer. Baked right into the cake, it is, right from the beginning, our Great American Original Sin, percolating through Dred Scott and the Klan, Mississippi and Little Rock, a balcony in Memphis and a bridge in Selma, finally bubbling forth here, in the far-off future of 2018, to swamp and drown what has and always will make this country truly, really great: our capacity to love anybody with the initiative and drive to come here, work a day and make their way. Are we really going to hang a sign that says: "You Must Be This White To Enter"? That, dear countrymen, would stake our claim as the deepest, darkest shithole in the world.


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