Shitholes... seems like there are a lot of them.
And how they are defined depends on one's perspective.
When we go to a diner and the soup has a fly in it, the eggs are adorned with someone's hair, the table top is greasy, and we can smell the restrooms (another cozy euphemism, eh?) we say that "we'll never go back to that shithole."
But for others, the bar is set much, much higher.
Like Comedy Central's Jon Stewart, who once said of Binghamton, New York, and its environs: "This place is kind of a shithole... There was nothing that I passed (on the three-hour ride from New York City) that I couldn’t milk."
We get it. For some Americans, the fly-over portion of America is, to use Jon Stewart's phrase, "a kind of shithole."
In the aftermath of President Donald Trump's alleged remarks about a few Third World nations, some have attempted to define it as "racist" -- the most overused moniker in use today. So much today is called "racist" that the word has lost its punch, much in the way the word f*ck has (though still blocked by some Internet filters).
But can we actually define the term "shithole" in any meaningful way?
Actor James Woods made this attempt: "Rule of thumb: if the water where you live is not potable because local engineers can’t somehow separate well water from sewage water, you live in a #shithole country."
Writer Scott St. Clair suggested that we turn our attentions to the Research Institute for Compassionate Economics and its studies of each country's level of "open defecation" to determine which are "shitholes" and which are simply borderline. Does a high level of shitting in the street define one's nation as a "shithole"?
Many people don't like the idea of characterizing a whole nation that way. They say that you can't paint with a broad brush like that. But many of these same people are quick to claim that all white Americans have "privilege" -- ignoring the fact that there are more of them in poverty than any other "group." Many of these people assume that all white Americans have ancestors who owned slaves (percentage wise, it is far more likely that a black American had an ancestor who owned a slave or was involved in the slave trade). Black Lives Matter's great misstep was to ignore all those "sovereign citizen" videos on YouTube and to assume that their white fellow citizens were racists instead of fellow sufferers (albeit, for many, to a lesser degree) of a vastly empowered and increasingly militarized regime of policing.
BLM could have won outright had it not taken a "minority" position. But when one considers that Al Sharpton and Chris Christie use the same establishment public relations firm, maybe it has gone the way it was supposed to go. After all, working class black Americans and working class white Americans haven't been at each others' throats like this for decades... while the one percenters are getting richer and richer off a booming stock market. Go figure.
The media is constantly programming Americans to paint groups with a broad brush. The entertainment industry's portrayal of black Americans are the imaginings of suburban Gen-X writers and is decades off. So too are its ideas about the South -- while its portrayal of working class America, particularly of those who reside in mobile homes... well, talk about one's perception of what a "shithole" is -- the suburban trailer park must jump in the minds of America's media.
It seems to us that two kinds of people make a nation a "shithole" -- that nation's politicians and the world media. Rich celebrities like Bono -- a world class tax-avoidance artist -- reap public relations windfalls from advocating for the Third World, sending working class taxpayers' money into the hands of a corrupt political class, who invests it in places like Switzerland. When anyone notices this, they are called "racist" by the media -- who run heart-tugging appeals that picture suffering children, covered in flies, without proper drinking water. America's taxpayers see all this media and say, "What a shithole! We need to help those people!" The people who live there say, "This place is home, but the politicians have turned it into a shithole and there is no getting rid of them, so we're out of here." You can't blame them.
Yes, you can't blame them, because they are no different than most Americans in wanting to escape the "shithole" and move on. In America, the grass is always greener somewhere else. We are a people on the move. That's not how is used to be. A few generations ago, we stayed in one place for so many generations, we developed regional --even neighborhood -- accents. Once upon a time, there were people in a section of Philadelphia who talked like Rocky did. Now it is an out-of-date stereotype on SNL.
That's why so many of our most educated and well-to-do fellow citizens take a relaxed view of illegal immigration. Lacking loyalty to a place -- leaving it for greener pastures instead of staying to make it better -- is a way of life for many Americans. And when there is something they don't like, they move. No wonder they so readily understand when others abandon somewhere, leave it to those who would despoil it, to come here. The working class and the poor, they can't move as easily and are often left with no choice but to improve their community in order to improve their circumstance. Of course, they look upon illegal immigrants coming into their community differently than do the rich and mobile. They see increased competition for jobs, increased taxation to support expanding social services, increased pressure on remaining green space, the potential disruption of established folkways, and the loss of property value (which, for many, could lead to them to ending their days in a substandard nursing home, laying in their own piss).
We might expect the better-off and well-educated in places like Haiti to stay put and help their nation out of its troubles -- but how many rich people stayed in Detroit, Michigan, to help the town that raised them get out of its troubles? No way! It is easier to tear the shithole down, street by street. In the end, there will just be two groups left in Haiti -- the political class stealing the international money that media coverage and the western elites bring them -- and the poor who will be kept poor so that those appeals and the money keeps coming. Who is to blame the more adventurous of poor Haitians who attempt to follow their middle-class to places like France and the United States? And you can say just about the same thing for Detroit.
If the nation's moving companies are to be believed, New Jersey is one of America's main shitholes. Lots of people are moving out of New Jersey because of the tax and regulatory policies imposed on them by the political class here. Not that the political class itself stays. Rich guys like former Speaker Joe Roberts, Democrat of Camden, get out of this over-taxed shithole the moment they leave office and move to Republican-run states, like Florida.
Of course, there are a lot of people who come from a whole lot worse shitholes and who would love to get to New Jersey. So maybe, in the end, what is or isn't a "shithole" is a matter of where you are?
We thought of this when reading a Facebook post by a Republican candidate -- a fellow named John McCann -- who repeated the silly mantra: "All are welcome." Yeah, yeah, but this candidate has moved from state to state throughout his life. He's a lawyer, his wife is a doctor, and they are plenty rich to say "enough of this shithole" if too many people he ends up not wanting to live near take him at his word. Yep, "all are welcome" until too many of those "open defecators" take advantage of your front lawn, and then... "we're rich honey, so we can move to someplace better." Only the poor and the working class who can't move get screwed by the silly virtue-signaling of elites like this guy.
Speaking of which, we came across a breathless article on a Trenton-based political website, written by a former official of the administration of Governor Christine Todd Whitman. This fellow was demanding that every Republican publicly break with President Trump by calling him bad names over his alleged "shithole" comment. He really had his knickers in an uproar over it.
Too bad that he never had anything public to say about all the sexual abuse and skirt-chasing (by both males and females) that went on during the Whitman administration. We distinctly recall one high-ranking official chasing after her female assistant with a cigar. Then there was the high-ranking legislator whose staff made sure that females were accompanied whenever they ventured into his lair, as is done during physical examinations in a doctor's office. Or another high-ranking legislator who enjoyed luring the female members of his staff into attending what can only be called "sex" parties. Oh, it goes on and on, and it is all far worse than saying the word "shithole."
Look, for better or worse, Donald Trump is a performance artist. Always has been. Like Jon Stewart, he practices what can be called a transgressive art form. He engages his audience by getting a rise out of us. By the time his presidency is over, he will probably be running through George Carlin's list of "words you can't say" at the start of his press conferences. But hey, he is the elected President of the United States and will be so for the next three years unless there is an illegal coup of some kind. By-the-way, such an act would make the United States of America... officially... a shithole -- politically, if not materially.
Always remind yourselves -- you holier-than-thou pricks in the political and media and corporate establishments -- that it didn't need to be this way. The Democrat Party could have run an honest primary process. You didn't all need to conspire to give us the "President" you wanted us to have. You fixed the Democrat Party primary process but couldn't fix the national election. So here we are. Stop complaining about it.