Shithole Countries and the Free Press

Alan Zendell, January 13, 2018

Since the end of the second world war, we’ve had a succession of presidents who, regardless of their overall political philosophies, all believed that increased trade and friendly, cooperative interaction with other nations were the best recipe for peace and prosperity, not to mention their personal legacies. But in the Age of Trump, governing the country the way he ran his businesses means changing that. In the Trump business world, things like fairness, mutual respect, morality, and law were sidestepped any time they got in the way of profit. All that mattered was size and money, and it’s clear that if Mr. Trump has his way that’s how our government will be run.

One can only wonder how many smaller firms, customers, and business associates he trampled for the sake of convenience, and why not? In Trump’s terms there was no reason to be fair to shithole companies, shithole customers, shithole cities, or even shithole business partners and subcontractors. Is anyone surprised that our president views the rest of the world the same way?

It’s not entirely clear which countries are on Trump’s Shithole List, but it’s safe to assume that if you’re in Africa or in the western hemisphere south of the Rio Grande, you’re on it. A special exception is the American Territory of Puerto Rico. They were already on the Shithole List anyway, but putting an official stamp on it will make it easier to ignore the complaints about lack of aid for three million American citizens in desperate need.

Like the majority of Americans, I reacted to Trump referring to Africa as a continent of shithole countries with disgust and dismay, but not anger, at least not at Trump. My anger is directed at everyone, myself included, who has continued to take every piece of bait he throws out and blow it up into something far more important than it is. In doing so we help him pump up his base, who love nothing more than seeing him stick it to whatever straw man represents their anger and frustration.

The truth is that Trump’s slurs are meaningless. The only substance they have is what we give them. As the courts have ruled, he does not have the power to decide who gets into the country and who doesn’t. We should follow the lead of foreign leaders who put up with him because they have no choice, while silently awaiting a chance to make him pay. They know he will disappear one day, and it’s very likely that Trumpism will disappear with him.

When Congress goes along with his nonsense, it’s on them, which explains why their approval rating is even lower than his. It’s too much to expect most Republicans in Congress to call the president out to his face the way Lindsey Graham did. Most of them will remain silent, and many may even have valid reasons for doing so. But if those silent Senators and Representatives allow the president’s inappropriate and frankly disgusting words and tweets to find their way into law, we will have a real problem.

If Trump’s hateful rhetoric ever becomes policy, that’s a whole other ballgame. But so far, whether it’s Shithole Countries or threatening the fake news media, Trump remains an egotistical loudmouth bully who is 98% bluster. Don’t be taken in by him. He has neither the legal authority nor the guts to see his threats and slurs through to meaningful action, and if he tries to, the American system is still strong enough to stop him.

What goes around usually does come around. Consider the silent revenge of Puerto Rico. NBC News reports that nearly a quarter million people have moved from the island territory to Florida since Hurricane Maria. They’re all American citizens who can register to vote there. Imagine the irony if they turn Florida into a solidly blue state. Well done, Donald!

If you doubt that he can be stopped, go to see Steven Spielberg’s new film, The Post. Watching it was one of the most uplifting things I’ve done since the election. The theater was full, and it was no accident that everyone in it had gray hair. For my generation this film relived a truly terrifying period in our lives which affected everyone. Of all the horrors surrounding the Vietnam War, the worst part was the Nixon administration’s attempts to silence the free press.

The film takes us through the agonizing decision made by the Katherine Graham, the owner and publisher of The Washington Post in 1971. She was a lone woman in a world of powerful men, pitted against not only the government but her Board of Directors and legal staff, all white males. Her courage in standing up to Nixon and risking prison and financial ruin literally brought tears to our eyes. The timing of the film’s release and the fact that Spielberg cast the marvelous Meryl Streep as Mrs. Graham makes it absolutely clear that The Post is aimed squarely at Donald Trump.

It scores a direct hit and reminds us what our country is really made of.

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