When President Donald Trump wondered aloud in a congressional meeting “why we let in all these people from sh!#hole countries” many people’s natural reaction was a mix of outrage and embarrassment. But there is an upside to Trump’s blunt, ignorant declaration. Hear me out.

First, there’s no denying the fact that Trump’s comments are deeply damaging. They betray deep prejudices against people who are poor and non-white. It’s inconceivable to Trump that people in poor, non-white countries could possibly be educated. Or that they might have nice things in their home countries – cities, museums, culture, etc.

Second, his comments also further harm the reputation of our nation, a reputation that will be left in tatters by the time he leaves office. It destroys the confidence other people have in us, not only to do the right things, but to be fair.  Under Trump, this country has greatly reduced its stature as a world leader.

So, you ask, what is the upside?

What I found lacking in the analysis of Trump’s blunt charges against the Third World, was a recognition that his sentiments were in no way unique to him. Trump’s myopic ignorance about other places – other predominantly non-white places – is widely shared by a great many people who use a similar sentiment to write off people and places they’d otherwise have to care about.

And we don’t feel that way simply about other nations. We say the same things about whole cities. We say it about neighborhoods a 10-minute drive from our own homes. We might use a more artful adjective like “sketchy,” but it means the same thing. Trump’s remarks are an opportunity to think about that.

What this reflex allows us to do is write these places off as if the very nature of the place – its problems with poverty, crime and lack of opportunity – is an intrinsic result only of that place. You don’t want go there. It’s a sh!#hole. Best to forget it exists and move along.

It’s for that reason we carry on and gladly ignore the problems in our own backyard. We let gun and drug crime rage on. We allow our public-school system to go without much-needed investment. We let whole blocks of buildings and infrastructure crumble to the ground. No need to worry ourselves about it. What do you expect in a sh!#hole?

Fortunately, there are efforts to undo the damage of this sort of sh!#hole logic. This past Monday –Martin Luther King day – is a great example, in which thousands of people across the city made an effort to reach out to places around the city – to people in need – and lend a hand. It’s a time for us to reflect on the fact that we are all “in this” together. To be ignorant or dismissive of places and people, to ignore their struggles, is harmful to our own well being.

As Martin Luther King wrote in his 1963 masterpiece, “Letter from a Birmingham Jail”: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”

Pete Mazzaccaro

  • Robert Fox

    Please explain why merit-based immigration policy is racist. Show your work.

    • PMazz

      Not mentioned in the piece.

      • Robert Fox

        Really, this dance again? You say something. I comment on it. You deny saying it. I point it out that you did. You admit saying it but that I don’t have a point. It’s boring. But I digress. Let’s dance:

        “[Trump’s Comments] betray deep prejudices against people who are poor and non-white. It’s inconceivable to Trump that people in poor, non-white countries could possibly be educated.”

        “$hithole countries” is not racist. It’s offensive and inappropriate, but not racist. If anything, it’s racist to say it’s racist because it implies only people of certain races are from economically impoverished countries. Is that what you think Pete? That only certain races live in impoverished areas? I know you’re too intelligent to think that but prove me wrong.

        • PMazz

          The contortions you go through to defend the indefensible are remarkable, Robert. Really, truly. You’re a loyal man. Trump didn’t say: “OK, so can we figure out a way to craft an immigration policy that favors the educated — people who can contribute to our economy from an employment perspective?” No. He couldn’t make it through even an 8th-grade level sentence. He fell back on an Archie Bunker knee-jerk declaration that was 100% the product of prejudice. And it’s every bit as classist as it is racist, but again, I doubt Trump even realizes the prejudice of his own statements. And that’s the biggest problem. He’s not the first racist and classist or even prejudiced president, but when you run the country, your words are important. He speaks and acts before he thinks…. and that’s assuming he’s capable.

          • Robert Fox

            In what way did I defend it? I called it offensive and inappropriate. The contortions are from those who are calling it “racist.”

          • Joe

            Robin G,

            Let’s first be clear – you, by your own admission, are a staunch supporter of Trump. You also, by your own admission, believe the “left leaning media, in its lurch leftward” (your words) is mischaracterizing your idol.

            You then take every opportunity to address perceived left bias in the semantics of Pete’s thoughts and pretty much anyone else on this site that does not express an opinion identical to your own.

            Does Karen know about all the friends you are making? Maybe she should.

            I’d suggest you shush, robin.

          • Robert Fox

            Pete (or anyone reading this) – I believe Joe here thinks I am the dentist Robin Gallagher. I have no idea why nor do I care. I have tried to tell Joe that I am not operating under a pseudonym but he insists I am lying to him. Feel free to call Dr. Gallagher’s office and tell him about this. I don’t know what the law is, but Joe has made some pretty disparaging comments that I suspect Dr. Gallagher would prefer be removed. Or, better yet – Joe, save everyone some time and delete your comments about the Dr. and direct them at me. Thanks!

          • Joe

            Haha! Yes, thanks for outting yourself Robin!!! Now the real fun begins. It was your hatred for those “hate has no home” signs that gave you away. Oh… and your fathers name 😉 Not to mention your adverse reaction when I mentioned his name 😉

            I have other ways to prove it’s actually you though – see, I’m a software engineer and I know how the internet works 🙂

            Btw, it was strange how many times you typed your response, re read it… changed it and typed it again 😉

            Now for the threat.

            Robin, I’m going to let your customers have a copy of your posts. I have them all printed out. I’m also going to let your wife know about how you spend your time making friends.

            I’m pretty sure your business will suffer when people realize how terrible you are.

            Or maybe I’ll forget.


          • Robert Fox

            And now you’re threatening to try to harm his business. Pete, please delete these or call the cops. Thanks. Bye.

          • Joe

            🙂 I’ve done nothing illegal Robin – in fact, you are the one that mentioned a name.

          • Joe

            Correction: I’ve said nothing illegal, Robin.

          • joey

            Good thing about the internet is… In addition to my aforementioned tactics, I can keep outing you over and over again Robin – I’ll make sure to end cap every post you make for maximum exposure. I’m a firm believer that your customers and your neighbors (and your family) should know who you really are.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/protestprotest/ Darryl Hart

    Pete, why do you think the U.S. has any reputation left after Vietnam, Nixon, Reagan, the Bushes, and Iraq? If you think the nation’s reputation endured all that, what’s one more Trump?

    • Fred Rickle

      You are out of your mind if you believe those mention are anywhere near as terrible as trump.

    • Fred Rickle

      Ok… never mind, I did some research on you – ultra conservative, right wing religious zealot at Hillsdale posing as a historian – right?

      For the record, mr. Hart doesn’t actually disagree that Trump is a Buffon (as far as I can tell) I think he even suggested as much in one of his articles. However, he recognizes that trump furthers his conservative agenda – despite the damage it’s doing, and therefore supports him.

      I like your avatar btw – but it doesn’t look anything like you …


      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/protestprotest/ Darryl Hart

        “My” conservative agenda? If that were the case, we’d give back the Louisiana Purchase to the French.

      • Robert Fox

        Are we entering a world in which labeling someone’s political views constitutes a substantive argument against their ideas? In which observance of a religion must also carry with it the label of “zealot”? Where “supporting” a duly-elected official is enough to completely dismiss someone?