By Eddington Obaro Jonathan
What exactly did Donald Trump mean when, in a bipartisan session with a group of American senators in the White House, he said that he did not want immigrants from “shithole countries”?
So coarse was his comment that some American newspapers kept the quote out of the bold print while some American television stations suggested that parents hit the mute button if children were watching.
Citizens of the countries Trump was referring to knew quite well that their countries were in bad shape. Nevertheless, they wondered what justification Trump had in using such vulgar language in describing their beloved countries.
In fact, the Haitian government had to officially summon a US official to explain the meaning of Trump’s words.
However, in a joint press conference with the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari, on 30th April 2018, Trump gave the American people a hint of what he meant by “shithole countries”.
According to him, “You do have some countries that are in very bad shape and very tough places to live in.” It is true that there are countries that are very tough to live in but if Trump is looking for perfection, he may well travel to the moon in his wild goose chase.
Barely two years after Donald Trump polarized the world with those dehumanizing words, George Floyd, a black American, wasmurdered in a manner that suggests that racial discrimination still occupies a large part of America’s consciousness and will continue to raise its ugly head in American civil life.
Pressed to the ground dying, Floyd, a citizen of a non-shithole country, kept on saying those pathetic words, “I can’t breathe” yet Derek Michael Chauvin, the Minneapolis police officer whose murdering instinct is taller than him, kept his knees with all the weight he could muster on the neck of a fellow human being. How would Floyd’s ghost react if it could be summoned to place America within the ambits of Trump’s polarization of the world?
As a child, I witnessed my mother killing chicken for Christmas on several occasions. With one of her legs, she would press the legs of the chicken to the ground and with the other, she would pin the wings of the Christmas meat before cutting off its head.
I thought that that method was reserved for killing chickens but little did I know that in some civilized countries, a more cruel method is employed in arresting suspects who offer no resistance at all. Was my mother actually introducing me to the ways of the world? Honestly, I do not know.
Prof. Sunny Awhefeada once said that Nigerian security men have developed the habit of killing Nigerian citizens in order to protect them. But Derek Chauvin, Thomas Lane, TouThao, J. Alexander Kueng, Daniel Pantaleo, and other American policemen have demonstrated that America has a more shithole breed of security personnel in this regard.
It is worrisome that in Donald Trump’s perfect America, such a hideous act was perpetuated in the full glare of the American public. Perhaps, Trump should have considered removing the logs in his eyes before opening his mouth to vomit vulgarities.
No doubt, when it comes to matters of racism, the United States has always been and still is a shithole country, at least from the Trump’s perspective. Eric Garner’s homicide in 2014 takes our minds back to when those words, “I can’t breathe”, first drew the attention of the world.
Pinned down in a chokehold, Garner, another black American, was sent to his untimely grave. What happened to Daniel Pantaleo, the killer? He was relieved of his job in August 2019, five years after he committed the homicide and, apart from that, nothing happened.
How would Donald Trump assess the worth of black lives in his beloved America under his watch? It is unthinkable that the worth of an American life is barely equal to a $20 bill. Would George Floyd have believed it if he was told that his life would end so cheaply? What was the purpose of Chauvin’s kneeling on Floyd’s neck?
Was it to prosecute him on the ground? Do American police render their suspects unconscious before arresting them? We need answers to these questions in order to remain sane.
During the Judiciary Committee impeachment hearing last year, Stanford Law School professor Pamela Karlan referred to America as “the shining city on a hill”. Of course, there can be no truer reference than Karlan’s and this appears to be the motivation behind Trump’s holier-than-thou attitude.
It is also the reason why America is so visible to all and sundry, why the whole world is short of words to describe the savagery that was demonstrated by the Minneapolis police officers.
However, Trump is the reason why we tend to neglect the fact that there is no perfect society.Had Trump not been foul-mouthed enough to dehumanize our existence, we would mind our business and watch this drama unfolding in this shining-city-on-a-hill from a distance with our mouths agape.
After all, we, citizens of cities in valleys and plains, have our own domestic problems that appear to have defiled all kinds of solution. But Trump disgorged leprosies and now we are watching him and his shining-city-on-a-hill, with our mouths ready to run.
EddingtonObaro Jonathan Teaches English Language and Literature At Chokhmah International Academy Port Harcourt, Rivers State.