Calling a country a shithole sounds like no big deal. But it is precisely because it serves to demean and divide the world. It isn’t just vulgarity or locker room talk. It’s the language of empire.
[Content Warning: The following blog post has some profanity. Like you’ve heard on the news lately.]
I was on vacation when the president called a bunch of countries and a whole continent a shithole. Or a shithouse. Either way, he was calling half of the planet a toilet. Splitting hairs on where we deposit our feces is really, really, really beside the point.
The point is really pretty obvious. The President of the United States of America referred to half the wold as a latrine, an outhouse, a place in need of bleach and sanitation. That’s what a shithole is.
But even that makes it sound too coy.
While most people are upset by the vulgarity, there are others cheering because the previous low standard of electing the person you’d like to have a beer with was summarily flushed to make room for the one you’d like to shoot the shit with.
And I’ve come to think they mean that literally.
The real point, is to demean, divide, and demote half the world.
While Christians are called to respect the dignity of every human being, the president is making it his mission to declare half of the world uninhabitable and its people subhuman toilet-dwellers.
Shithole wasn’t a slip. It’s his consistent argument.
It’s a straight line from that fateful day, riding the escalator down and saying a neighbor country is full of murderers and rapists. The kind of brilliant logic which just might encourage the rest of the world to say the same about us. Because…statistics aren’t on our side on this one.
Like when we send the president abroad, they might say to their own people,
“When the United States sends its people, they’re not sending their best…They’re bringing drugs… crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”
And when the president walked into the White House, which has served as the home for 44 presidents, he called it a dump.
A home which has entertained countless dignitaries and held safe the millions of public servants who have sacrificed greatly for their country. He called that home, the people’s home, trash.
That this was taken as a swipe at the previous occupant reminds us how race is one of the dividing lines.
We must recognize these insults are all the same. Shithole is just an extension of the insults which preceded it. This kind of insult of our neighbors, our institutions, and the many more against brothers and sisters around the world and in our cities and states, our mountains and plains and coasts is the siren song of empire.
The siren song of empire
The vulgarity isn’t the problem itself—it’s what he wants us to think of those places, institutions, and people he doesn’t like. He thinks the people are vulgar. It’s the cynical eye he wants us to develop when we see them.
He calls a country a shithole because he wants us to think of our brothers and sisters who live there as deserving of poverty and squaller. He wants us to judge them and wish they would remain locked in a toilet.
If half the world’s a shithole, it becomes easier to keep our home sanitary by keeping the shit out.
And really, in his cruel, divisive mind, is their any difference between the shit and the person covered in shit? He’s already called them poor, trash, murderers, rapists, the worst of humanity. Whole countries. All of their immigrants. Again, its splitting hairs. To the empire, a person in the shit and the shit itself are indistinguishable.
He’s marketing a package of hate like its locker room talk. A couple of guys laughing over a beer. An idea so laughable considering how much meaning he injects into a football player kneeling. It goes from “don’t be so PC” to “get ‘em fired” in 0.43 seconds. That’s what one ill-fated candidate called putting lipstick on a pig.
Nah. It’s hate dressed as a bullshit sandwich.
He wants your hate.
What he wants most of all is to get us to hate people. Immigrants and minorities, first of all. But also the poor, the public servant, the people working for justice and those serving the poor. And of course, hate the criminal, those arrested for a crime, those arrested for a crime they didn’t commit, those suspected of a crime, those whose family member is suspected of a crime, even wanting to execute those publicly exonerated for a crime, etc.
He wants us to hate and look down upon anyone he declares that we should look down upon.
He wants us to hate. Because hate is useful. Hate is the vehicle of empire. Hate spreads fear. It brings injustice and declares it good. It breeds intolerance and power and names it just.
Hate puts people under boots and drives them into the shit. The same shit the powerful put on the street to rub noses in. It encourages justifications and rule-breaking for the in-group and drives out our tolerance. Hate is the demonic vehicle of empire.
And Empire has an enemy in faith. In works of love, justice, and mercy. It hates how we love the weak and shelter the homeless, feed and visit, and respect the dignity of every human being.
Empire despises us. Empire calls us shit.
The president is lobbing twitter grenades at the common good and pretending he’s protecting us. Protecting us from ourselves. But what he’s really doing is dividing and conquering for a Pax Americana. The Empire’s greatest disguise: waging war for peace.
All he needs is a crown which reads “Emperor”. In gold, of course.