Which country is the real shithole?

Robin Wright at the New Yorker on Trump’s “tough” words about African countries:

President Trump’s credibility as a world leader has been, to borrow his vulgarity, shot to shit. With one word—just the latest in a string of slurs about other nations and peoples—he has demolished his ability to be taken seriously on the global stage. “There is no other word one can use but ‘racist,’ ” the spokesman for the U.N. High Commissioner on Human Rights, Rupert Colville, said at a briefing in Geneva. “You cannot dismiss entire countries and continents as ‘shitholes,’ whose entire populations, who are not white, are therefore not welcome.”

That’s what the US stands for at this moment – hateful racist contempt said aloud by our head of state, rebuked by the UN human rights body. The shame of it is scalding.

As I’ve found (to an embarrassing degree) over the past two years, many senior officials in foreign capitals and in embassies across Washington believe that he is simply articulating his intolerant and prejudiced world view. The White House signalled as much in its damage-control statement, on Thursday, explaining that the President wants to “make our country stronger by welcoming those who can contribute to our society, grow our economy and assimilate into our great nation.”

Some “damage control.” What the White House is saying there is that Trump’s “shithole countries” blurt is his way of saying that citizens of said “shithole countries” are – all, to a person – unable to contribute to our society and our economy. The explanation just makes the remark more insulting. “He didn’t mean anything insulting, he just meant we don’t want people from African countries immigrating here because they have nothing to contribute. That’s all.”

Trump is now preparing to attend the World Economic Forum, a gathering of global leaders in politics and business, held annually in Davos, Switzerland. Many American allies have long been wary of the President’s “America First” framework. After his remarks this week, the danger is that his counterparts will also view his agenda as “White First”—not a viable strategy in a world that places growing value on racial diversity.

I hope they make his life hell. I do. I hope he feels ostracized and shamed and humiliated. There’s clearly no hope of changing his mind, but maybe we can at least show him what it’s like.

Africa is home to 1.2 billion people and more than fifty countries. A whole continent can’t simply be stereotyped or dismissed. A cursory glance of Africa’s achievements includes Nobel Prizes in medicine, chemistry, physics, literature, and peace. (That’s one award Donald Trump will surely never win.) Africa is home to some of the world’s fastest-growing economies. Nigeria has built a vibrant film industry. South Africa’s peaceful transition from apartheid is a model for nations worldwide. Egypt includes a quarter of the Arab world’s population. Rwanda, once ravaged by genocide, is today a model for gender equality in politics: the East African nation has the world’s highest percentage of female lawmakers—more than sixty per cent. (As of last month, the United States ranked ninety-ninth among a hundred and ninety-three countries, according to the Inter-Parliamentary Union.)

We’re a shithole country ourselves, if you notice. Our rankings on items like maternal mortality and inequality are terrible; we don’t have a national health service; we have more people in prison than any other country; we have a grotesque rate of gun deaths. Shithole much?

Finally, the President’s coarse language will make it harder to make gains in his diplomatic agenda worldwide. Pity American diplomats, especially in non-white countries. The top U.S. envoy in Botswana was summoned to clarify whether the southern African nation is considered a shithole country, the Washington Post reported.

That was yesterday; today the US ambassador to Panama has quit because Trump.

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