Most people aren’t race-baiters, haters or supremacists, including those nodding their heads in agreement with what President Trump said in a private meeting to Democratic and Republican lawmakers.
Most people simply think it’s neither the mission nor the obligation of the United States to educate people who can’t get anything that even passes for education in their countries of origin — or get even basic health care, sanitation and job opportunities.
Most people think it’s in America’s and Americans’ interest to emphasize merit over need in deciding whom to admit to our shores for possible citizenship. Emphasize merit but not exclusively.
Mr. Trump, for all his controversial word choice and political incorrectness, has forced that discussion into the public square — and other heretofore verboten subjects. Maybe in time to save the republic from the elites who are killing it, maybe not.
I don’t know what the president actually said in that bipartisan meeting regarding immigration from third-world countries, but this I do know.
Over the last six decades, I’ve talked privately or in small groups with friends and acquaintances of color who are citizens of Third World countries, including Haiti, other Caribbean countries, Central and South America and much of sub-Sahara Africa.
These friends and acquaintances commonly referred to their own countries in the exact words that a U.S. senator from Illinois, Dick Durbin, told the world Mr. Trump had used in their meeting.
What Mr. Durbin did was an astonishing betrayal of the commonly accepted confidence expected in private meetings.
A Haitian or Ghanaian or Ecuadorean uttering “Third World s—-hole” in my presence was indicating not disrespect for the home country but rather exasperation with the political class and business cliques that skim the cream off their economies and keep the rest of the population poor and backward.
A person of color blasting the elites in his own country in a private talk with me would feel ambushed and betrayed if I publicly revealed his “s—-hole” comment that he had uttered out of consternation, not disrespect for his native land.
It’s not much different from conservative Republicans calling their the GOP “the stupid party,” as rightists who appreciate the synergy between irony and humor are wont to do. Or liberal Republicans complaining that the “far right” has hijacked the party of Jerry Ford, the Bushes and Abe Lincoln. Or the Bernie Sanders’ wing of the Democratic party complaining that Hillary Clinton and the Democratic National Committee conspired to block the 430 South Capitol Street entrance to progressives.
Profanity at the highest levels of government, also known as adult talk, permeates history’s pages. Early in his presidency, LBJ explained, in his inimitable fashion, that the worth of a U.S. senator versus a U.S. House member is “the difference between chicken salad and chicken shit.”
Years later, on the U.S. Senate floor, Vice President Dick Cheney loudly told Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy, “Go f—k yourself.” Mr. Cheney, bless his heart, had the self-assurance later to say, “It was sort of the best thing I ever did.” Then there was the time Sen. John Kerry excused his vote for the Iraq war by saying, “Did I expect George Bush to f—k it up as badly as he did? I don’t think anybody did.” Or remember when Joe Biden called the health care reform bill a “big f—king deal”?
You have to be of a certain age to remember JFK’s calling his Canadian counterpart a “dumb son of a bitch.” Many years after, George W. Bush called a New York Times reporter a “major league a—hole.”
By their nature, none of these wonderfully colorful interjections handed partisan opponents or the press an invitation to cry “racist!” Doesn’t mean in private talk none of these distinguished personages didn’t call certain countries feces pits because of their pervasive official government corruption, racketeering posing as legal business, below sea-level literacy rates, ubiquitous poverty and non-existent health and sanitation standards.
Doesn’t mean they did talk such frankly and honestly.
It does mean that if they did talk frankly to each other, there wasn’t present a life so low as tattlin’ Dick Durbin.