Never have I seen so many “progressives” have so many faux fainting spells or faux temper tantrums over a scatological term. Not even a real obscenity — just coarse language that would have seemed mild in the Clinton White House.
No, President Donald Trump absolutely should not have used the term he did to describe what American politicians used to call “Third World” countries and now call “developing” countries, at least when they’re speaking in public.
Yes, once again, the president’s insatiable, adolescent need for attention gets in the way of a rational discussion of an important topic. Instead of a possibly semi-rational discussion about immigration reform that doesn’t amount to blanket amnesty and open borders, we are drowning in days upon weeks about how one word is proof that Trump is a racist. And it’s proof that any Republicans who want to work with him on any issue are also racists and bigots.
Actually, the Democrats ought to be secretly sending gifts to Trump. He owns every news cycle, but he keeps handing them gift-wrapped campaign talking points.
But as long as we’re neck deep in muck about how “painful” and “devastating” it is for people supposedly to be in fear of a racist president, perhaps we should talk about the best ways to discuss countries — and, yes, some of our own cities and neighborhoods — that are distressed to the point that people are desperate to get out of them and will do just about anything to avoid going back.
Clearly, to those who have left and don’t want to go back, those places do amount to some kind of hole — not a nice one — and nobody would accuse them of racism or bigotry for saying so.
An example: Shortly after Trump’s comment was reported (he has denied using that specific word, but let’s stipulate that either he did, or used a term that was equally pejorative), National Public Radio interviewed the founder of a news site in El Salvador. The questions were, as expected, soft, highly respectful and highly anti-Trump.
But the responses from the journalist were interesting, to say the least. They were focused on about 200,000 Salvadorans who were granted “temporary” (wink, wink) refuge in the U.S. after the devastating earthquake of 2001. Now, 17 years later, he said it would be “cruel and immoral” to send them back to their native country.
Why? Because there would be no decent jobs for them. Because, he said, El Salvador is a country of “high violence,” with one of the highest homicide rates in the world. It is ruled by gangs that he said were formed in the streets of California, and when those gang members were sent back to their own country (long before Trump became president), they became so powerful that they essentially rule the country.
“They are out of our control,” he said.
In short, he described a place where nobody but a criminal would want to live — which is essentially what Trump said, in more coarse terms.
So, it may be worthy to debate whether the Salvadoran families granted “temporary” status should be given permanent status. But there shouldn’t be any debate that it is a terrible, dangerous place to live — multiple politicians have in the past referred to such countries as “hellholes,” and nobody had a meltdown over it.
In fact, when advocates for illegal immigrants argue for “comprehensive immigration reform” (by which they mean granting citizenship to everybody who is here illegally), one of their chief arguments is the same one the journalist made — that sending them back to their own countries would be cruel and immoral, because those are such terrible places to live.
Does that make them racist bigots? Based on their current outrage at Trump, it ought to.
So the current froth over an inappropriate term should be seen for what it really is — posturing to create a diversion from the real issue of a continuing refusal either to enforce immigration laws or to change those laws.
Probably the best example is Cory Booker, the Democratic senator from New Jersey, who went on a rant for several minutes this past week at a committee hearing, twisting his face, pounding the table and shouting at Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen because she not only said she didn’t remember exactly what term Trump had used, but that there was plenty of bipartisan profanity bouncing around the room.
If any Republican male had yelled that way at a female cabinet secretary of President Obama’s, he would have been castigated as “sexist.” But Booker saw himself as a hero, carrying on about how outraged he was at Trump’s “vile and vulgar language.”
“For you not to feel that hurt and pain is unacceptable to me,” he shouted, while Nielsen remained respectfully silent.
The thing is, Booker wasn’t in any pain. This was a performance — one that he made sure to promote on social media. Indeed, just about every display of outrage at congressional committee hearings is nothing but theater – posturing for votes. It’s all done in hopes that TV stations will choose to broadcast it, so these representatives can go back home and talk about how they’re “standing up” to the president and his cronies.
Trump said an inappropriate word. What is worse is using that as pretext to avoid a real problem — the refusal of far too many jurisdictions whose officials claim we are a “nation of laws” to enforce laws they don’t like.
Taylor Armerding is an independent columnist. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.