FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

There Are No Shithole Countries

We recently learned that Donald Trump referred to African nations and Haiti using a derogatory and profane term. (Accounts differ, but all seem to agree it ended with “hole.”)

Writing off an enormous percentage of the world’s landmass and population as inferior isn’t just nasty, it’s incorrect.

It’s true that some nations have oppressive, despotic, or corrupt governments. Some have high rates of poverty. I don’t envy the citizens of North Korea, as they have both.

But human nature is universal. Human beings in every country demonstrate the same levels of courage and bravery, compassion and kindness, and intelligence and ingenuity as we do here in the United States.

I’ve traveled to five continents (all but Australia and Antarctica) and I’ve met people in each place who excel in ways Americans value — such as by attaining college educations or succeeding in high paying careers.

But I’ve also encountered incredible people proving their greatness in other ways.

In Mexico, I visited boarding schools in which the children, some as young as seventh grade, grew, harvested, and cooked their own food every single day, in addition to attending class and completing homework.

They did this without tractors, refrigerators, or stoves. Making breakfast meant waking up before dawn to light a fire (with wood they chopped themselves) and cooking beans and tortillas from scratch.

In the Philippines, I visited a community that was being exploited by a multinational corporation. The community called in an international non-profit organization to investigate and publicize what was happening. Then they bravely gave their names and told their stories publicly, risking retaliation as they attempted to fight for their rights.

In Kenya, children spend far more time in school than Americans do. I stayed with a family whose two kids arrived at school earlier and stayed later than I ever had to — and they went back for more on Saturdays. In Kenya, such dedication to school work is normal.

In Cuba, I found people who could invent just about anything from simple materials. One man created a hydraulic irrigation device out of a few soda bottles and some plastic tubing. With no electricity, the device turned the water on and off at regular intervals, providing the right amount of irrigation to the man’s guava seedlings.

These were not unusually extraordinary people. Just as many Americans exhibit brilliance, creativity, and hard work, so do people everywhere.

However, there is value in diversity. By traveling and meeting people from five continents, I not only encountered diversity in skin colors, languages, and cuisines — I also encountered diversity in ideas.

Americans can only lose if we shun people from the rest of the world. When we meet and work with people from each different culture on earth, whether here in the U.S. or outside it, we gain from their unique perspectives just as they gain from ours.

Some of the most exciting developments I’ve witnessed have come from two or more cultures working together, combining the ideas of each to create something more than the sum of its parts.

A nation’s poverty isn’t a mark of its people’s intelligence — or their value. By all means, criticize oppressive governments. Hate poverty, war, and disease. But remember that people everywhere possess the same common humanity that makes each culture on earth great.

More articles by:
Weekend Edition
September 21, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Alexandra Isfahani-Hammond
Hurricane Florence and 9.7 Million Pigs
Andrew Levine
Israel’s Anti-Semitism Smear Campaign
Paul Street
Laquan McDonald is Being Tried for His Own Racist Murder
Brad Evans
What Does It Mean to Celebrate International Peace Day?
Nick Pemberton
With or Without Kavanaugh, The United States Is Anti-Choice
Jim Kavanagh
“Taxpayer Money” Threatens Medicare-for-All (And Every Other Social Program)
Jonathan Cook
Palestine: The Testbed for Trump’s Plan to Tear up the Rules-Based International Order
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: the Chickenhawks Have Finally Come Back Home to Roost!
David Rosen
As the Capitalist World Turns: From Empire to Imperialism to Globalization?
Jonah Raskin
Green Capitalism Rears Its Head at Global Climate Action Summit
James Munson
On Climate, the Centrists are the Deplorables
Robert Hunziker
Is Paris 2015 Already Underwater?
Arshad Khan
Will Their Ever be Justice for Rohingya Muslims?
Jill Richardson
Why Women Don’t Report Sexual Assault
Dave Clennon
A Victory for Historical Accuracy and the Peace Movement: Not One Emmy for Ken Burns and “The Vietnam War”
W. T. Whitney
US Harasses Cuba Amid Mysterious Circumstances
Nathan Kalman-Lamb
Things That Make Sports Fans Uncomfortable
George Capaccio
Iran: “Snapping Back” Sanctions and the Threat of War
Kenneth Surin
Brexit is Coming, But Which Will It Be?
Louis Proyect
Moore’s “Fahrenheit 11/9”: Entertaining Film, Crappy Politics
Ramzy Baroud
Why Israel Demolishes: Khan Al-Ahmar as Representation of Greater Genocide
Ben Dangl
The Zapatistas’ Dignified Rage: Revolutionary Theories and Anticapitalist Dreams of Subcommandante Marcos
Ron Jacobs
Faith, Madness, or Death
Bill Glahn
Crime Comes Knocking
Terry Heaton
Pat Robertson’s Hurricane “Miracle”
Dave Lindorff
In Montgomery County PA, It’s Often a Jury of White People
Louis Yako
From Citizens to Customers: the Corporate Customer Service Culture in America 
William Boardman
The Shame of Dianne Feinstein, the Courage of Christine Blasey Ford 
Ernie Niemi
Logging and Climate Change: Oregon is Appalachia and Timber is Our Coal
Jessicah Pierre
Nike Says “Believe in Something,” But Can It Sacrifice Something, Too?
Paul Fitzgerald - Elizabeth Gould
Weaponized Dreams? The Curious Case of Robert Moss
Olivia Alperstein
An Environmental 9/11: the EPA’s Gutting of Methane Regulations
Ted Rall
Why Christine Ford vs. Brett Kavanaugh is a Train Wreck You Can’t Look Away From
Lauren Regan
The Day the Valves Turned: Defending the Pipeline Protesters
Ralph Nader
Questions, Questions Where are the Answers?
Binoy Kampmark
Deplatforming Germaine Greer
Raouf Halaby
It Should Not Be A He Said She Said Verdict
Robert Koehler
The Accusation That Wouldn’t Go Away
Jim Hightower
Amazon is Making Workers Tweet About How Great It is to Work There
Robby Sherwin
Rabbi, Rabbi, Where For Art Thou Rabbi?
Vern Loomis
Has Something Evil This Way Come?
Steve Baggarly
Disarm Trident Walk Ends in Georgia
Graham Peebles
Priorities of the Time: Peace
Michael Doliner
The Department of Demonization
David Yearsley
Bollocks to Brexit: the Plumber Sings
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail