Friday, January 12, 2018


I live in a country that is surely on Donald Trump's list of "shitholes". Indonesia is a country that has struggled through a long era of colonial occupation by the Dutch, then through occupation by the Japanese during World War Two. It is a country that has been robbed and oppressed by foreign peoples. Even after its declaration of independence, the people were subjected to corrupt rule by their own representatives. For decades, the common people languished in poverty while the few filled their pockets. Little by little, however, the people have taken charge of their government and a thriving middle class has arisen. It is a country, like all countries, that has undergone strife and trouble and growth and improvement. 

What Indonesia is not is a "shithole". On the contrary, the pervasive attitude among the Indonesian people is one of friendship and humility. Do they know that their country still has problems to overcome? Yes. Do they think that it is a shithole? Not at all. 

It is the clearest shame that our president would refer to any country as a shithole, declaring, by extension, that the people of such a shithole do not deserve to be allowed in America. It is simple bigotry fully unveiled, tantamount to stating, in singling out Haiti and Africa while championing Norway, that colored people are not welcome here, while white people are.

And what about America? Consider our crime rate. Consider our slums. Consider the presence of so much poverty in the richest nation on earth. Consider our history of racial oppression--which is still, as it would seem, thriving, even at the very top. Consider the fact that women cannot feel safe walking out at night. Consider our mass shootings--the murder of children, for God's sake! Is America not a shithole of a nation?

Better than insulting others would be to invite all that we can--let them bring their hopes to our shore, their integrity, their work ethic, their admiration, their gratitude--and build again on the worthy foundation that our current president is so intent on trashing.

I believe in the America that Indonesians, even now, continue to believe in, the America that people from all over the world, including Haiti, believe in. It is the America of opportunity, of justice, of tolerance, of integrity, of compassion, of inclusion. It is time for Americans to take a close look at ourselves, to ask ourselves how we would life to be perceived--as arrogant, intolerant bullies or as humble, compassionate friends. We did not choose our place of birth, nor did the Hatians or the Africans or the Norwegians. And yet, we are free to choose who we are as individuals, haling ultimately not from this or that shithole, but from the Creator of all, who created all peoples as equal, and worthy, and beloved. 

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