Yet again, our President has gotten a hook stuck in his own mouth due to his reckless rhetoric.
I am not calling the President a fool, but his choice of words has been foolish at times and such undisciplined actions are undermining the very agenda his voters elected him to accomplish.
“A fool’s words bring strife, and his mouth invites fighting. A fool’s mouth is his unraveling, and his lips entrap himself.” -Proverbs 18:6-7
This proverb of biblical wisdom needs to be shared more often at those congressional bible studies going on up there on Capitol Hill or around the White House. Maybe Paula White, one of the President’s spiritual advisors should take some of that ‘All of January paycheck” seed money she’s asking people to donate to her and use it to buy a good Proverbs bible-study to lead our leaders through for the sake of political and social sanity. (https://paulawhite.org/firstfruits).
A simple biblical truth about communication is that our mouths can set the world on fire for good or bad: “The tongue is a flame of fire. It is a whole world of wickedness, corrupting your entire body. It can set your whole life on fire, for it is set on fire by hell itself.” -James 3:6
This last week in a meeting about immigration reform, President Donald Trump questioned why he should accept immigrants from “s—hole countries” like Haiti, El Salvador, and nations in Africa, instead of places like Norway.
The resulting firestorm is evidence enough of the truth of Proverbs! People on all political sides and from numerous different nations have exploded in anger, rage, rebuttal, frustration and disappointment. As the newscycle unfolds there have been responses from the President and congressional members who were present that contradict or confirm various narratives of what actually took place.
The President’s response was: “The language used by me at the DACA meeting was tough, but this was not the language used. What was really tough was the outlandish proposal made – a big setback for DACA!”
Hopefully we can get some clear transcripts of what was specifically said and in what context those statements were made. The Context matters to me, even if, his statements were wrong, rude or reckless.
I have written a lot over the last 12 years about refugees, immigration and racial reconciliation (https://www.crowbarmassage.com/2017/12/18/my-thoughts-on-chain-migration-and-the-religious-and-political-debate/). It’s subject that I have been involved in on many levels, personally and professionally. I am a friend of, an advocate for, people at the margins of society. I have also written and taught on the difference between cursing, vulgarity and cussing:
https://www.crowbarmassage.com/2018/01/03/the-difference-between-cursing-vulgarity-and-cussing/, which seems particularly relevant in light of who many times people have said S**hole this week. Even putting ** in words is ridiculous to me, but for the sake of not adding more gasoline to the fire, i’ll refrain from writing it out.
These issues matter to me and my life investment in work and witness regarding people and policies is evidence that my thoughts are not media shaped moral outrage but sincere values. When I engage these issues, I do so with human stories in mind, people I know, situations I am working with that touch all the threads of these debates.
I did not vote for Trump in the primaries, but I did in the general election.
I did so based on party platforms and the social agendas at war in the American culture. But my vote doesn’t determine my voice. My conscience calls me to speak the truth, work for the most good for the most people and deal with the realities that face me in the community where I work, witness and worship and what the President said and how he said it were wrong for a number or reasons that I want to explain.
Courage and conviction shouldn’t be reserved just for our political opponents. If people can only challenge or rebuke political parties or leaders that they don’t align with, than I question the real depth of the moral outrage being expressed.
I stand against any actual racial bigotry, all irrational demonization of groups and the stubborn, adversarial posture that’s acts contrarian just for the sake of legislative obstructionism and political partisanship. When President Trump does or says something that is wrong, I think it should be called out and addressed in a manner that is right, just and good. But I reject news driven hysterics, fake moral outrage, or political one-upmanship from troublemakers. Being a peacemaker means we work to build bridges not barriers in our day to day lives. That doesn’t mean that such work is placid, scourged and sanitized, trepidatious or politically correct but it does mean we work to understand, communicate and act with conviction and at times compromise.
I am thankful for the push back and advocacy for free speech that has been at the forefront of this election cycle. Because there’s been so much helicoptering and overly-pensive word-policing going on that actual dialogue and debate is getting shut down. A suffocating communication culture of breathless nannying, feigned niceties and nauseating hyper-moralizing has to be challenged for the sake of raw truth, a free press and freedom of speech, even speech that some people don’t like.
What I hope comes out of this latest firestorm is the ability to judge the differences between ‘What is being talked about’ and ‘How something is talked about”. Unfortunately right now what matters the most to me, the ‘WHAT’ is being eclipsed by the ‘HOW’ and that is a lesson this President can’t seem to learn or is unwilling to change. For the sake of the policies that matter to many of the people who voted for his agenda, I hope he will adjust the sights of his political bravado, to better hit than miss, the desired political targets.
As for the actual Immigration debate about ‘merit based Immigration’, we need to discuss and debate the merits of incoming refugees or immigrants from dysfunctional, dangerous or depleted nations. But in examining these nations, we need to be humane and historical in working to understand how a nation became a S**thole.
In the case of Hait, the President’s denigrating remarks need to be enlightened with more information on how Haiti got to where it is in light of the historical geo-political actions and policies that have shaped Haiti. As well as the impact of slavery, natural disasters, resulting poverty and impoverishment due to corruption, crime and failed humanitarian policies and projects that have disenfranchised and disempowered local, indigenous action and responsibility. These conditions do not mean that Haitians or any other ethnicity can abdicate their personal responsibilities in the past or future, but if you had eight of your fingers severed off, your capacity for action is dramatically reduced. Such observations seem to be lost in debating these issues. The President lost an opportunity to encourage and empower, instead he chose to denigrate and demean, even if the realities do reflect substantial failures, challenges and prolonged problems in the future. He could or and should of done better.
That said, can we have a little less knee-jerk rooster crowing about racism and more rational debate about reform?
Organizations like World Relief, put out statements rebuking and calling for increased dialogue and debate:
“World Relief and its leadership are grieved and disheartened by the President’s reported comments and believe that while there is a robust debate to be had about immigration policy in the United States, disrespectful and derogatory comments spoken about specific countries—regardless of who is making such comments—only hinder the productivity of the debate.”
Evangelical publications like Christianity Today weighed in as well:
Why We Need to Talk about Trump’s Haiti Remarks
These groups and many others have offered up scathing critiques and passionate pleas of advocacy, civility and action. I hope that such ‘courageous conversations’ will include non-partisan platforms. We need just and unbiased voices in and among those benefiting or suffering from the outcomes of policies. All should be welcome to the table to discuss and debate but let’s be honest, you wouldn’t have pastors chair the committee to reduce their own salary. Such vested interest makes the whole subject suspect at very critical points, a fact that not many people seem to be willing to acknowledge or admit.
I find it fascinating that in our day to day life we accept critical comments about people, places and projects but when we nationalize these conversations they get charged with thought crimes, racism or hate. Business and employers choose who they want to work for them every day. They base these choices on the merit or the possibilities of the person applying. Our educational admittance world is or used to be, based on performance. People are paid based on productivity and accomplishments, both what they do and how they do it matters. Families make discriminatory decisions when they choose to buy a home and they ask questions like: ‘Is it in a good neighborhood?” Or we talk about a area having ‘Good schools’. When did it become racist to ask these types of questions? One can judge a nation and not be judging an ethnicity, such political hyperbole is unhelpful in having productive debates about the issues.
As we navigate the s**tstorm from the President’s ‘S**thole’ remarks, let’s not lose our way in all dust stirred up. Let’s be discerning and not divisive as we work for a more prosperous and secure country for all, not matter where they came from in the world. And remember in the end it’s our walk, not our talk that matters most.
“Everyone’s got an opinion; be an example.” -Bob Goff