Do Trump’s "S---hole" Remarks Represent American Values?

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I was shocked when I read reports about Trump’s alleged question posed at a recent meeting in the Oval Office asking, “Why are we having all these people from s---hole countries come here?” I have never been so ashamed of the leader of our country. If this had been a one-time occurrence, maybe I could dismiss it. We all say things we later regret. 

But this seems to be a pattern with Trump. He has demonstrated his bigotry, racism, and white supremacist ideas in numerous ways both before and after being elected president.

I was encouraged, however, by the number of lawmakers who denounced Trump’s words. I especially appreciated Rep. Mia Love’s statement. “The (President’s) comments are unkind, divisive, elitist, and fly in the face of our nation’s values. This behavior is unacceptable from the leader of our nation.” 

I thought, “Yes! This is not what America stands for. These are not our values. Trump is not speaking for America, even if he is president.” 

Other lawmakers made similar denunciations and further clarified what was understood by American values. They said things like: “Our strength lies in our diversity.” “People of these countries are made in the image of God and have worth and human dignity.” “Part of what makes America so special is that we welcome the best and brightest in the world, regardless of their country of origin.” It was nice to know that Trump does not really represent the most cherished values of America.

Then I had a terrible, nagging thought. What if he really does? What if the values of equality, freedom, diversity, and human dignity are not really the core values of America? I would like to hope that the majority of Americans do hold these as values somewhere high up in their hierarchy of values. 

But what if Trump really is representing the highest values on which America was established? Our founding documents retained a lot of power for white, male, landowners. Business practices and legislation have allowed an elitist class to retain the majority of wealth and power in America. As a white, male, landowner, I have benefited from this system, as have many others who may or may not fit this description. 

I am blessed to live in America. And I grew up proud to be an American. I used to believe that we valued equality over elitism and justice over the gain and retention of power and wealth. But when I hear the leader of my country repeatedly demonstrate his elitist and divisive attitude, it makes me question what values America really does stand for. 

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Community Builder

Resoundidly No

Participant

WE need prayer that God guide us to learn who WE are.

How about the American "value" of "calling a spade, a spade?"  No pun intended. 

Community Builder

 There is a difference between "calling a spade a spade," as you put it and vulgarity.  African countries are not "[email protected]" countries anymore than the States are.  Africans on average are more educated than Americans.  And if there are African countries where there is a big disparity between rich and poor, this disparity also exists in your country.  Does that make the U.S.A. a [email protected] country?  If not, then why should your president get away with saying that about countries simply because the majority of their inhabitants is dark-skinned?

Community Builder

Well, I'll certainly not defend Trump's blue collar potty mouth vulgarity, but then I'll not defend it from others either even though I tolerate it.  I had cabinets installed this past Saturday by a vulgar potty mouth guy who is otherwise a great guy and good at making and installing cabinets.  There's only so much you can do to control vulgar potty mouthed people, and there are lots of them, including my cabinet installer and our current President.  BTW, we've had past presidents who were vulgar and/or potty mouthed too, especially in private (as this discussion was).

 I do wonder though about the cause for the extra fuss about this apparent reference by Trump to "s***hole countries."  How exactly is that word different (in essential meaning) than our references to "third world" countries?  Sen. Graham referred to those countries as "hell holes" -- in public no less -- and that reference drew no response at all.  Indeed, some of those Dems who now decry Trump's vulgarity emphasize the he'll hole-ishness of these countries when advocating for more refugee status recognition.

So yes I'm displeased about Trump's potty mouth, but also with the Democrats use of it (from a private conversation no less) to publicly chastise for political purposes.  After all, there is no rational connection between Trump calling third world countries "s***holes" and the Democrats taking the position that they must walk away from negotiations about DACA.  If there was, I suppose I should have told my cabinet installer to stop installing my cabinets the first time he let a potty mouth word fly.

As to who "we are," presumably referencing Americans, we are many different kinds of people.  I engage with potty mouthers, non-potty mothers, potty mouthers in private only, potty mouthers all the time, and thousand of others kinds of Americans.  We might do well to recognize that Trump is our president, like it or not, and to encourage our political representatives to do their job despite that, rather than finding political excuses to take their ball and go home, something just as unhelpful as saying potty words.  Maybe even more unhelpful.

Those comments from the President were entirely unacceptable, and I agree whole heartedly with Rep. Love's assessment.

However, we need to be a little more precise with our language. First, you seem to be setting up a false dichotomy between equality and elitism. Equality of what? People? Nations?  If President Trump made these comments about the nations being bad (I'll opt for nicer language), talking about people leaving Haiti and other nations in droves to come to the US, then the value assessment of the nation they are leaving seems to have already been made by those leaving. That is, I would make the case that the people leaving those countries would agree (albeit I'd hope in a less crude way). Could you clarify what you mean by equality? Equality of what?

Second, you also imply that "gain" is unjust. Proverbs is full of blessings that come with wise actions, wealth being one of them. Those who gain wealth justly, I would say, have demonstrated good money management and responsibility. Power is merely the ability to do work, and I want power in the hands of righteous people. Both money and power in the hands of wise people is not a bad thing, and it is unjust to call them unjust.

I guess my thought is, it is possible to detest what President Trump did AND to disagree with Marxist notions social justice.

Participant

The term “American values” is a broad brushstroke.

Old American values had enslaved and endentured people making America great.

All immigrants came here for a myriad of reasons, one being persecution because of religion.

There were and are millions who want to gain money, land, food and power.

Churches, businesses, well meaning people all are involved.

Our nation has tiers of socioeconomic classes and we seem to want to argue over anything at any time.

We must toil harder to encourage common agreement.

Community Builder

 Sorry, I'm Canadian, so I can't tell you that.  But up here, north of the border, we have taken in a lot of Haitian people last year who were afraid of being sent back to Haiti.  They have applied to be admitted either as refugees or immigrants, not sure which, and are awaiting a decision about their status that could take awhile to come.  Hopefully not years though.

Participant

Are they afraid of being sent back because Haiti isn't such a nice place? Hmmm.

My wife and I like Canada, and we wave at you when we drive along Lakeshore Drive in our community and see Canada across Lake St. Clair. We also think it's cool to see another country, yours, when we enjoy Detroit's beautiful Riverwalk and look south to the parks of Windsor, Ontario, along the Detroit River. I even like to hear your trains honking when I'm dropping off to sleep.

I have to say, though, that I don't think it's a good idea for residents of our two countries to be commenting on the policies of the other country, as has happened recently here and in The Banner. Such remarks are likely to be based on insufficient information.

You folks may have nicer immigration policies than we have, but I don't know that. I still have sad memories of a border incident for which there may have been a sound basis, but was disappointing for me. I was the leader of a one-day field trip with two motor coaches of college students, and was forced to go back to the U.S. with one of the buses (toll each way and at least an hour lost out of our trip) to return a student who was not allowed in because he was from Poland. He was a good student and a nice young man, and I had to drop him at a shopping center to wait for transportation back home. Yes, he should have known he needed a visa, but at that time, a few decades ago, the border was virtually invisible. (I learned that at the time Canada required visa applicants to submit various numbers of photos, some needed only one but others, such as from the Middle East, needed five.) There may have been a good reason for these policies. It would be unfair to judge with only this much information, but I wondered, and still do, what the problem was with Poland.

Community Builder

 You may not think our commenting on your country's policies is a good idea, but since we're members of the same denomination how would you go about preventing it short of a schism for political reasons?

Participant

Easy! Just don't talk about "your country" and "your president".

Note that in my post I attempted to avoid criticizing your country and government. I thought I was quite pleasant.

Have you seen any comments directed at your country or prime minister from our direction?

There is so much wrong with this article it is hard to know where to start. First, whether or not the President made this remark is not certain. It was alleged by a person that hates the President and all that he stands for. Secondly, while such language is not a good idea for anyone to use, I wonder where the writer of this blog was when previous presidents have used salty or vulgar language. Did the writer express the same outrage when the previous President used the same terminology publicly speaking about Libya? Please use a little, good old 'mote-in-your-own-eye' thinking.

 

There seems to be much confusion regarding the meeting in question.  The latest news is that two Senators and a cabinet secretary now say that the president did not say what was originally reported by one of their colleagues.  This is a reversal from their earlier statement that they "could not recall."  Suddenly their memories are in line with the president's.  Has a miracle occurred, giving them simultaneously a sudden bolt of memory?   The meeting was held in the cabinet room and not open to the public; however,  they were conducting the public's business.  The meeting was not secret and did not involve classified information.  The writer apparently knows what is in the person's heart when she writes about one of the senators that he "hates the President and all that he stands for."   Maybe we can agree that it is business as usual in a toxic environment (?)  Many of us yearn for leadership which will take us out of the swamp of toxicity rather than contributing to it.

 

Community Builder

  It's not just a question of the word your president used, but of the blatant racism involved in the remark.  Your president actually bragged to his rich friends of having used the word in question before the WH decided they should deny he used it.  So there isn't much doubt about it.  Your president added that your country needed more immigrants from countries like Norway, who don't need to immigrate to the U.S. because their economy is fine and they have single payer health care in Norway along with free education.  

Participant

This is starting to sound like the stuff one reads in blogs on the Web.

Our president gave a great speech today in support of the March for Life. I'll avoid making a comparison with another country.

Shalom!

Participant

I'm sorry. It was rude of me not to give you a better reply to your post but I had a little trouble processing it. I understood that the topic being discussed at the meeting in question was merit-based immigration, which the U.S. doesn't now have but reportedly Canada does have. I haven't confirmed that. You may have a better source of information than I have on what happened in the White House, but based on my assumption that the topic under discussion at the meeting being discussed was merit-based immigration, as reported, I interpreted the Haiti-Norway comparison as between developing and developed countries, not between black and white countries, so I didn't see any "blatant racism". I didn't realize that "merit-based" was code for "race-based".

I suppose exposing my ignorance may put me at risk of now being labeled as racist, but I think a look at my Facebook page by anyone interested will demonstrate that my friends are as diverse as the UN.

I hope you read all the way down to the bottom of my previous post that told of my experiences as a volunteer in Kenya. Perhaps you would agree with me on the "brain drain" issue that has the potential of making developing countries intellectually impoverished.

Participant

This article begins, "I was shocked when I read reports about Trump’s alleged question posed at a recent meeting in the Oval Office..." Now I'm shocked that Network would publish an article with a title like "Do Trump’s "BLEEP" Remarks Represent American Values?", with that title, even, and wonder if we should ask if the article represents Christian values.

I think it's deplorable to begin with a sentence that cites an "alleged question" and then go on with an article based on what was alleged as if the alleged quotation had been documented. Many of our political leaders use language that most CRC members, or other Christians, would not use, at least not in public, and it's possible that President Trump used this language in a private meeting, but we have no video or audio recording of the purported incident (unlike when another president remarked that his detractors "cling to their guns and Bibles", and it was caught on an audio recording).

Anyone who follows politics at all must have noticed that many politicians, but not all, are less than honest in reporting the position of their opponents on issues. Distortions, half-truths, and misrepresentations regarding opponents are common in politics. Do we look at what someone actually said or what a political opponent reports that the person said? There seems to be plenty of room for false witness issues here.

Then we get into labeling and name-calling based on our interpretation of what someone said or allegedly said. Individuals are smeared as racist, sexist, or something else negative because of a particular statement or act, but when we examine the person's record we find that label simply doesn't fit. I'm talking here just about President Trump. I'm talking about myself and others I know. I tend to give the other person the benefit of the doubt.

I've remarked that it would be great if politicians would reevaluate their standards. My guy should not just expect the other guy to operate with the standards of my guy, but my guy should hold himself or herself to the standards to which he or she holds the other guy. That would be a higher bar. This would work for non-politicians, too.

So many questions. Did the President say this or something like it? If so, what did he mean by it? Does that mean he deserves a derogatory label of some kind? How should a Christian judge him? Should we cast the first stone?

We do not have to rely on "alleged"  comments made in closed meetings, where there is no audio or video record of transactions.  In the case of President Trump, we have ample record of statements made to detect certain patterns. There is a complete history of tweets in the Trump Twitter Archive.  There are also video clips (and printed transcripts) of public statements made in various venues.  These often contradict claims made, which makes me wonder why he even bothers to assert "I never said that," when the record shows otherwise.  Presidential historians will have a field day with this documentation.  Christians have many opportunities for an honest assessment, i.e. one not clouded by partisan or tribal biases or by the temptation to limit the assessment to reductionist "derogatory labels."  What is needed, in my humble opinion, is a discussion of what criteria Christians should use.

 

Participant

I thought I should focus on the title topic, not the entire Trump presidency. Both supporters and detractors think many of the Tweets and remarks are disconcerting and unhelpful. However, it was the alleged statement in the title that was used as a basis for a charge of racism.

These days, that serious accusation is frequently used to label people who other people don't like , and I think actions speak louder than words. I think that what a person does is a better indication of a person's standards than that person's words or a detractor's interpretation of them. If we think we need to judge someone, this seems to be a Christian approach. Instead of a list of Trump's Tweets, there should be a list of racist actions, if that's the issue, or actions of the opposite type.

 

After the recent charges of racism, Sen. Rand Paul issued a statement reporting that Private Citizen Trump had provided major financial backing for medical mission trips to Haiti where ophthalmic surgeon Dr. Paul and his team performed eye surgery on hundreds of Haitians. If providing that financial support was racism we need more racists. It's a Christlike act in my view.

Of course, lurking behind the latest fuss is concern over merit-based immigration and I'd like to make a comment on that. I'm not comfortable with full-blown merit-based immigration. We obviously can't admit everyone who wants to immigrate, and I think it wouldn't be wrong to establish limits or proportions for different skill categories of immigrants. I did not say racial categories. What concerns me, though, is brain drain, and that seems to differ from the views of the president.

I spent a stretch as a volunteer visiting lecturer at Daystar University in Kenya, and several students asked me if I could help them get a visa for America. My standard reply was that I was there to help educate the future leaders of Kenya. I pointed out that if everyone who wanted to live in America were to immigrate, America would be in worse shape than any country in the world. In the same vein, I think it would be wrong to pull away the best educated individuals from countries that need them.

Thank God for the many "Christlike acts" of financial contributions for services to the people of Haiti, such as you describe.  Many private citizens have done so, and continue to do so, for years after the catastrophic 2010 earthquake.  I don't think that financial contributions and supportive public policy statements are mutually exclusive, do you?  It is hard for me to believe that it would be "Christlike" to make racially insensitive statements after making  "Christlike" contributions of money -- and not just vis-a-vis Haiti. Speaking of "action,"  I submit that it takes a bold, courageous ACT to speak truth to power, and such ACTIONS may be louder than Christlike money followed by silence.

Participant

Many times "insensitive" statements are such in the "eye of the beholder". If you look for it you will find it everywhere and will constantly be taking offense. I have been falsely accused of racism, sexism, etc., because in was inarticulate in expressing myself. I operate by the rule that is wrong to intentionally give offense and equally wrong to take offense when none is intended. I am happier and I believe those with whom I have contact are happier because I tend give the other person the benefit of the doubt and don't have a "What did you mean by that?" attitude.

Pardon me if any of my comments to you appear offensive. This is a discussion, dialogue, and debate, and we are presenting different points of view.

Ken, lest their be some misunderstanding, my reference to "racially insensitive" pertained to the President's remarks in last week's White House meeting, not to your contribution to this discussion, a contribution which I appreciate very much.  Please note that I did not call the President a "racist."  That is not my judgment to make, even if there is a well-documented pattern of such remarks.  Ultimately only the Lord knows what is in his heart. 

 

Participant

No problem, Gerrit. I don't think I said you called the President a racist, but someone did.

We're talking about the same thing. Whether or not Trump said what he is alleged to have said, it is a matter of interpretation if that was racially insensitive. The language on this has evolved. In the past we innocently used "third-world countries", then "developing countries", although more recently the term "hell-hole countries" was used, too. The reference was to countries from which we can't possibly accommodate all who would like to come as refugees and to which we are reluctant to return refugees because of bad conditions, however one might label them.

If the President said something that might be racially insensitive, it seems to me that it would have been a good thing to suggest that he might use a better choice of words in the future even if only white guys are present. That would require no more courage than to think, "I can hardly wait to get out of here and tell the world what this jerk said" and then proceed to go public with an accurate or enhanced version of what was said in private and in the process offend a lot of people who otherwise would not have been offended. This would be another topic for discussion. Is it Christian to offend people and inflict pain on them if that is a side effect of exposing offensive behavior?

Participant

Your comments are good.

Matthew 7:1-5 teaches us to : “Judge not lest he be judged yourself.”

try as I might, this is not easy when we are living in an adversarial culture.

it is not wise for us to forget Love is Jesus message to us.

our churches must witness this Love in all we do. We can have positive debate about how we can better shine our Light. Our Light shines brightest with Grace.

Participant

Thank you for your good and kind words.

You are right about the adversarial culture. Too many think we have to hate those with whom we disagree. I have many good friends I don't always agree with, and am married to one.

Has anyone in the CRC, in The Banner or other Christian publication published an exposition of "The New Normal" since the advent of Donald J. Trump in the public arena?  Our president has been applauded for his disdain of "political correctness," but what has he substituted?  A "New Political Correctness" a la Trump?  How can the serious Christian navigate these murky waters?  I recall the mantra of the Viet Nam era: "Our country, right or wrong!" and "Our president, right or wrong!"  Will it take another Pentagon Papers, another Kent State massacre, and another Watergate to shake us into a new awareness?