January 14, 2018

When the White House Becomes the Fun House: Distorted Mirrors and Scary Sounds

by Hal Gershowitz

Comments Below

Of Thee I Sing Heading AuthorsDid he say that, or didn’t he? Looks like he did, but maybe not, hard to tell, it was racist and vicious, but not that racist and not that vicious, but that one heard it, yet that one didn’t recall, and she said he didn’t use that exact phrase, but he said the quote was pretty much accurate.

Welcome to the Fun House.

So, here’s what we know. President Trump said something in reference to certain countries (or immigrants from certain countries) that was rather uniformly heard as a repugnant utterance. The “shithole” noun was either used or, depending on whose earwitness account you listen to, something that meant the same thing was used by the President of The United States to refer to places from which he doesn’t want to accept immigrants.

Having reviewed everyone’s version of what they heard or didn’t hear at the infamous White House meeting, we can adduce that President Trump doesn’t want people coming to the United States that aren’t, well, Aryan. Norwegians are definitely welcome and, we assume, so are Danes, Swedes and those from the land of his forefathers, Germans. Yes, President Trump, they were from Germany, not Sweden.

Well, we think all those Nordic types are great too. They share wonderful DNA that is full of great potential, promise, creativity, and brain power. The thing is, they pretty much share it with all of humanity. “Race” is a social construct. We recognize that our President doesn’t understand that, but qualitatively, Race is meaningless. It may describe how people look, but it has relatively little other value. It has absolutely nothing to do with a person’s potential to contribute mightily to society.

Yes, there are pathetically poor and disadvantaged areas of the world, but it has been demonstrated, time and time again, that every race and every socio-economic group, and every geographic area has produced great thinkers, great artists, and great achievers. And what is most important, it is the country that welcomes these immigrants that benefits from their potential. That’s why they emigrate out of those horribly disadvantaged places to the places that provide opportunity and which, in return, benefit the most from the talent they and their progeny provide.

That doesn’t mean we should have open immigration for all comers from all nations. Any country can be overwhelmed by unrestrained immigration, and no country can afford to have the needs of immigrants, or any group for that matter, drain its resources. But it would be insane to blacklist the citizens of any country from immigrating to the United States, because of their country of origin. Let us be more direct; it would be stupid.

What noun President Trump actually used, or the context in which he used it, has dominated the news cycle for three days now with only intermittent relief coming from an “oops” moment regarding a missile attack that either was or wasn’t aimed at Hawaii or the tragic mudslides in Montecito, California.

What is clear is that President Trump doesn’t want people coming here from what he considers disgusting places, otherwise referred to by some as shitholes. Now, to be fair, the President says that’s not exactly what he said, but, according to the President, he did use pretty rough language. Senator Durbin of Illinois says the President used “hate-filled, vile and racist remarks. Senators Cotton and Perdue said they don’t recall these exact words being used, but Senator Lindsey Graham said the quote was, basically, accurate.

Does the President really wonder about the value and contributions of Americans of African heritage? Doesn’t he realize that would have precluded Americans such as Condoleezza Rice, or Colin Powell, or Ben Carson or Mia Love, the promising young Republican from Utah who is of Haitian ancestry for Pete’s sake?

Doesn’t the President know that the children of very poor, destitute immigrants from a variety of what he would call shitholes and hellholes have been among the most creative and productive citizens in American history?  The world’s first highest performing superluminescent diode used in medical technology was invented by Haitian-American Gerald Alphonse, and Dr. Linda Marc-Clérismé, the daughter of Haitian immigrants, made it to Harvard and is now one of the world’s leading epidemiologists.

We wouldn’t be Dreaming of a White Christmas every year or enjoying an annual  Easter Parade or singing God Bless America had it not been for the son of poor Russian immigrants. We know him as Irving Berlin, who came from the poverty-stricken Russian shtetl of Tolochin.  He came with his parents when he was five years old and his only memory from his boyhood village was lying on a blanket by the side of a road, watching his house burn to the ground.

Nearly half of the fortune 500 companies were founded by immigrants or the children of immigrants, and nearly 60% of the top 35 fortune 500 companies were founded by immigrants or children of immigrants.

President Trump thinks we can cherry pick the immigrants who will be the most productive Americans. He’s pathetically wrong. America has done incredibly well welcoming millions of the world’s huddled masses, wretched refuse, and homeless, tempest-tossed immigrants to its shores.

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11 responses to “When the White House Becomes the Fun House: Distorted Mirrors and Scary Sounds”

  1. Steve Marcus says:

    I understand there’s a bronze plaque available that starts with the words “give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses…..”. Cheap. Obsolete.

  2. Perry Green says:

    In spite of his horrific comments and his blunt statements which I find reprehensible his accomplishments are remarkable. If only he can “Forever” learn that his tasteless and hurtful comments
    are cannon fodder for his constant critics he will be then be able
    to carry out his agenda which in most instances has proved to
    be not just inspirational but rational thinking.

    Why he cannot reconcile his personal comments is astounding.

  3. Karen Krohn says:

    As always, a calm and rational analysis of a highly emotional issue.

  4. marc slavin says:

    Trump knowns damn well that we are a nation of immigrants. That’s why the US is so great. Everything is taken out of context when he talks and we all say things we don’t necessarily mean. I wonder what expletive Roosevelt used to describe the Japaneese and now they are best friends. Interesting.

  5. Susan duman says:

    What a perfect response to this past week!
    This column will hold an honored place in your future book.

  6. Robert borns says:

    Objective observers must be having the most fun watching the liars,scoundrels and thieves on all political sides coming out of their holes to pontificate on morality and ethical behavior. As a son of immigrants I understand that a Pandora’s box has been opened.

  7. bonnie joseph says:

    steve and I will be eternally grateful for the beacon that reads “give me your poor, tired masses yearning to breathe free” as our fathers took advantage of that in the 1920’s. my father speaking no English and reading and writing not at all sneaked in through nova scotia after having been sent away from ellis island. he sneaked in with mary hiken who married max kohl and produced herb kohl , our past Wisconsin senator. I agree with you Hal, that immigrants did and will continue to KEEP this country great. HIAS helped my father to get here and to adjust. I am happy to help others find success here.

  8. SHEILA says:

    Brilliantly stated, Hal, Thank you.

  9. Dr. Lydia Axelrod says:

    Wonderful article; it is the best yet. Nothing to add or dispute . On the money.
    I only wish more folks would be gin to understand how we are not only alienating the world but further diminishing the values of our nation.

  10. Dan K says:

    Hal, on this one I can not help but feel you have fallen into the same trap so many others are falling into. I agree that this whole mess of an issue is a circus. I would also go so far as to say Trump is the clown or the master of ceremonies for this aweful show. But, as you stated, the meaning of his comments are far from clear and jumping to the conclusion that he is rascist is a whole different matter.

    If I were in charge of our immigration policy, I would look to let in as many people as we can absorb into our culture without prejudice. It is my understanding, however, that the immigrants, legal and illegal, that we are allowing into our country do not represent a cross section of the world’s population today. Not even close. If we are to be a melting pot, we need a cross section of immigration. Not (for Spanish press one; for Mandarin press 2; for Japanese press 3; for Polish press 4 etc…..) A melting pot needs to melt doesn’t it?

    Finally, is it wrong to call El Salvador and Haiti shitholes? His comments were not meant for public consumption. I find it wrong that Dick Durbin would run to the microphones and share those comments. Not sure it is a good negotiating tactic.

    As sad as Trump’s comments may be, and they are, Trump has so ruined our national discourse that we can not even give the President of the United States the benefit of the doubt. He simply has not earned it.

    Trump should be riding high on a great economy and the ending of a war, yet he is such an ass, he can not get out of his own way. Sad.

    • We fail to see “The Trap” Dan feels we have fallen into. We do not know if President Trump is a racist, only that he talks and acts like one. We do know when a critter walks like a duck and quacks like a duck; it is probably a duck. The relevant issue isn’t whether El Salvador or Haiti or other similar countries are “shitholes.” The relevant issue is whether or not it makes sense to exclude people desperately trying to escape those places. Statistically, those individuals trying to legally emigrate from these miserable places are, generally, quite well educated. Implying (as Trump does when he asks why we would want to take anyone from Haiti), that the most qualified applicants from these miserable countries are no more acceptable than the least qualified applicants from these countries is, in fact, rather racist. Finally, the United States has never had an immigration policy that sought to let in immigrants from a cross-section of the world’s population.

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