I append the word "allegedly" to this statement not because there's any particular doubt that this is how he looks at the world. I'm just trying to be as even-handed as possible, given that Senators Dick Durbin and Lindsay Graham of South Carolina said yes, Trump said that, while Senators Tom Cotton of Arkansas and David Perdue of Georgia said no, he didn't. Trump, of course, denies it categorically, but given that Trump could say something on-air in front of millions of viewers, and five minutes later state with a straight face that he never said it, and his diehard supporters would believe him both times, I'm not inclined to put him either in the "yes" or "no" column.
What I want to address here, though, is a response that I saw posted on social media shortly after the whole incident hit the media. The initial post I saw showed photographs of slums in Nigeria and Haiti -- two of the particular "shitholes" Trump referred to -- with a text basically saying, "See, he was right."
Of course, the problem here is that if you're selective, you can do that with anywhere. For example [all images in this post courtesy of the Wikimedia Commons with the exception of the last two, which were taken by me], take a look at the following:
Figure 1: The United States of America
Or this one:
Figure 2: Also The United States of America
Or this one:
Figure 3: Yup, This Is The United States Too
And before you get your dander up, I'm not using these to prove that the USA is a horrible place, only that if you cherry pick your data points, you can prove damn near anything. (If you're curious, the first photo is from Detroit, the second from Camden, New Jersey, and the third from Rand, West Virginia.)
What really torqued me about the social media post, however, was one of the responses to it. "Far as I've seen, it hasn't been proven that [Trump] actually said that," the comment went. "But if he did, he's right."
It blows me away how quick people are to use some idiotic internet meme as incontrovertible support of what they already believed. It's like taking confirmation bias and raising it to an art form.
But really, think about what that person is saying. That the continent of Africa -- which is the size of the continental United States, China, India, and Europe combined -- can be lumped together under one derogatory epithet and summarily dismissed. A continent that contains places like this:
Pretoria, South Africa
Point Lenana, Mount Kenya, Kenya
The Cape of Good Hope
Waterfalls in Angola
And has faces like this:
Woman from Gambia
Yes, I know there's terrible poverty and corruption in Africa. The thing is, there's terrible poverty and corruption everywhere. By looking at the United States as some kind of pinnacle -- and by claiming that what Trump and his cronies are doing is "making America great again" (merciful heavens, I am sick unto death of that phrase) -- you are ignoring both the beauty in other parts of the world and the problems we have right here in our own back yard.
So for cryin' in the sink, before you throw your opinion in with a guy who is an unashamed racist (yes, I said the word), try breaking out of your own comfortable little bubble of smug certainty and travel to some of these countries that Trump and his supporters have dismissed with a single word. You see, I have. I've been in places like Belize and Ecuador and Trinidad and Malaysia. Yes, I saw poverty, and I saw some people in terrible living conditions. But I also saw this:
Pacha Quindi, Ecuador
Fraser's Hill, Malaysia
So my advice: stop falling for comforting overgeneralizations. Get up off your ass and travel to some of the "shithole countries," talk to the people who live there, and realize that the rest of the world is just as varied -- both in good and bad ways -- as the United States. Listen to Mark Twain, who said, "Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime."
After that come back and we'll talk.