With a special “sh*thole” edition, here are this week’s top picks in imperial and global history.
It feels strange to me after so many years of thinking and writing about Haiti, to say nothing of simply being there, to have to rise to the country’s defense against a fool. But that fool is the president of the United States, so let’s start with first things first. It goes without saying that Donald Trump knows nothing about history. But those who do have heard of the Louisiana Purchase, the incredible deal President Jefferson struck with France to buy the giant piece of land, 828,000 square miles of river and breadbasket, that stretches from what is now the Canadian border down to New Orleans and the delta. Without this territory, the United States would never have become a continental power nor, subsequently, a great global power. Jefferson got it at a bargain-basement price: $250 million, in current dollars, doubling the size of the country for less than 3 cents per acre.
You may ask what this has to do with Haiti (although any president with a competent staff would have this information at his fingertips). Here’s the answer, White House staff: Napoleon wanted to sell this fabulously valuable piece of New World real estate because for more than a decade he had failed to put down the startling slave revolution in the French colony of Haiti, losing two-thirds of French forces there in the process.[continue reading]
William S. Cossen
After reports broke on Thursday that President Trump questioned why the United States should continue welcoming immigrants from “shithole countries,” several officials were quick to condemn the remarks, with many arguing that they did not represent American values.
Trump’s comments are certainly disturbing. They also reflect, however, a long, troubling history of a nation that desires immigrants, but only the “right” sort of immigrants. Indeed, this exclusionary vision of America’s open door has been part of American policy even during the late 18th and early 19th century period celebrated as a time of unrestricted immigration. Well before the era of strict restriction — the decades of Chinese exclusion and racist quotas — the United States was already picking and choosing who could come and who could not. [continue reading]
hen President Donald Trump claimed that he didn’t want America to accept immigrants from “shithole countries” such as those in Africa — Trump has more or less denied saying this, but anyone who believes him needs their head examined — he was being a racist, a xenophobe and an all-around ignoramus. What he was not being, however, was un-American.
If progressives and decent people everywhere are going to combat the scourge of Trumpism, the first step is recognizing that it didn’t begin with Trump. For as long as America has been a sovereign nation, racist policymakers have attempted to impose various limitations on the ethnicities of the immigrants who can become citizens. The most glaring modern example of this was the Johnson-Reed Act of 1924, which developed quotas that increased the number of visas available to people from Western European countries, limited those available to residents of Southern and Eastern European countries and outright banned immigrants from Asian countries (many of whom had already been barred under previous immigration laws). [continue reading]
Donald Trump just can’t help letting the cat out of the bag. And boy does his administration have a lot of cats in bags. The line of the Republican Party right wing has been that voter suppression laws are necessary for the integrity of elections. In fact, they are crafted to prevent racial minorities from voting, by making it hard and/or expensive to register. Race drives the policy, not a search for fair elections. Likewise, Trump’s policies on immigration have been portrayed as a matter of law and order. But they aren’t about lawlessness. They are about racial hierarchy. That is, in some key areas—corporate power, racial hierarchy, militarism—the Trump wing of the Republican Party are Franco or Mussolini fascists in ideology.
Trump could go along with the polite fiction that he is worried about criminality when he addresses immigration. But yesterday, according to the Washington Post, he launched a tirade at Sen. Dick Durbin asking why we have to have people here from “shithole” countries and why we can’t have more Norwegians. Trump always used to say on the campaign trail that countries are not sending us their best citizens (as if countries are sending anyone at all intentionally). But now he is admitting that the real problem, in his view, is that it isn’t the best countries that immigrants are coming from. Trump was badmouthing a whole range of countries including Haiti, El Salvador and some African states, but for the sake of clarity let me home in on El Salvador here. [continuer reading]
U.S. President Donald Trump’s reported comments maligning the people of African nations were a foreseeable outburst from a man addicted to the cable news culture that consistently portrays the continent in a negative light. They were also, ironically, an indictment of his own leadership style. What the president doesn’t grasp is that if some African nations have been reduced to “shithole countries,” it’s precisely because they’ve been run by leaders like Trump. Indeed, underdevelopment in sub-Saharan Africa — and the institutional disorders that propel migrants toward countries like the United States — can be traced directly to leaders who behave as he does.
Trump provides ample evidence that executive rot is borderless. In his first year in power, he attacked members of the federal judiciary, purged career civil servants perceived to be disloyal, and appointed unqualified members of his family and social circle to key strategic roles. USA Today detailed how dozens of lobbyists and executives with federal contracts pay large sums to play golf at Trump’s private clubs, often when he is there. He has terrorized media and political opponents. He has used his pardon power to undermine constitutional rights. His Cabinet spent months piggishly using their official positions to travel like a moneyed executive class — from which, incidentally, many came. [continue reading]