Friday, January 12, 2018

"Shithole" Immigrants

In case you missed it, this just happened

It is no surprise to me, however, because it is no different from what The Toupee Who Shall Not Be Named has been saying ever since the primary. His campaign was indistinguishable from the 1920s KKK platform, and he openly called for an end to immigration from brown people from impoverished countries. He promised to do that, and evict as many brown people as he could. He is merely keeping the promises he made. The only difference is he used a vulgarity this time.

So if you voted for him, then you voted for this. Period. You are morally responsible for this. Sorry. Not letting you off the hook.

However, your response right now says something about you. And I will remember your response. So will my children. Choose wisely…


Here is my response:

Sir Thomas More:
Look, what you do offend you cry upon,
That is, the peace. Not one of you here present,
Had there such fellows lived when you were babes,
That could have topped the peace, as now you would,
The peace wherein you have till now grown up
Had been ta’en from you, and the bloody times
Could not have brought you to the state of men.
Alas, poor things, what is it you have got,
Although we grant you get the thing you seek?

George Betts:
Marry, the removing of the strangers, which cannot choose but much advantage the poor handicrafts of the city.

Sir Thomas More:
Grant them removed, and grant that this your noise
Hath chid down all the majesty of England;
Imagine that you see the wretched strangers,
Their babies at their backs and their poor luggage,
Plodding to the ports and coasts for transportation,
And that you sit as kings in your desires,
Authority quite silent by your brawl,
And you in ruff of your opinions clothed;
What had you got? I’ll tell you. You had taught
How insolence and strong hand should prevail,
How order should be quelled; and by this pattern
Not one of you should live an aged man,
For other ruffians, as their fancies wrought,
With self same hand, self reasons, and self right,
Would shark on you, and men like ravenous fishes
Would feed on one another.
Let me set up before your thoughts, good friends,
On supposition; which if you will mark,
You shall perceive how horrible a shape
Your innovation bears. First, ’tis a sin
Which oft the apostle did forewarn us of,
Urging obedience to authority;
And ’twere no error, if I told you all,
You were in arms against your God himself.
...Say now the king
(As he is clement, if th’ offender mourn)
Should so much come to short of your great trespass
As but to banish you, whether would you go?
What country, by the nature of your error,
Should give you harbor? Go you to France or Flanders,
To any German province, to Spain or Portugal,
Nay, any where that not adheres to England,—
Why, you must needs be strangers. Would you be pleased
To find a nation of such barbarous temper,
That, breaking out in hideous violence,
Would not afford you an abode on earth,
Whet their detested knives against your throats,
Spurn you like dogs, and like as if that God
Owned not nor made not you, nor that the claimants
Were not all appropriate to your comforts,
But chartered unto them, what would you think
To be thus used? This is the strangers’ case;
And this your mountanish inhumanity.

    ~ (Probably) William Shakespeare, from his contribution to Sir Thomas More


Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

    ~Emma Lazarus, “The New Colossus,” inscribed at the base of the Statue of Liberty


 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne.  All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.  He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.  For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in,  I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?  When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you?  When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.  For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink,  I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’
 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’
 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

~Jesus Christ, Matthew 25:31-46


As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, your sister Sodom and her daughters never did what you and your daughters have done.
“‘Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy.  They were haughty and did detestable things before me. Therefore I did away with them as you have seen.  Samaria did not commit half the sins you did. You have done more detestable things than they, and have made your sisters seem righteous by all these things you have done.”

    Ezekiel 16:48-51


As I stated above, this is no surprise. Anyone who was paying even the slightest attention during the campaign would have noted that Le Toupee’s core values were first narcissism, but as a close second, vicious racism and xenophobia. Sadly, it was this second value that drove many voters to him.

I have cut a number of people out of my life over the last two years over this very issue. While I question your judgment if you voted for this shithole, I won’t terminate a friendship over that. However, if you say racist and xenophobic things, I will. This includes relatives.

This debate is over more than abstract policy, it is over a core human value.

In Le Toupee’s worldview, immigrants are only worthwhile if they are rich (and white, mostly). He has no interest in the “huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” Poor people are “losers,” and their poverty is their own fault.

In contrast, those of us with basic human decency have a different viewpoint. In my case, I draw from my Christian tradition - specifically the values of my faith’s founder, who identified with the poor, the downtrodden, the oppressed, and against wealth and power. I believe we are to see Christ himself in others - particularly the vulnerable.

So when I see a refugee from a “shithole country,” I realize that that person is in some way Christ himself, and I had better think hard about my response.

While I draw from my faith tradition, this is a universal truth, espoused by many religions in some form or another. And, I should add, my atheist friends seem to grasp the concept just fine.

In fact, it is primarily white, middle class, evangelicals who lack the basic decency and empathy to embrace others.

This saddens me to no end, but I have found it to be all too true. This is why we left Evangelicalism for good about a year ago, and don’t have any real desire to do the church game anymore. If it cannot take a humane position on an elementary ethical question, why bother? I can send my kids to hang with the Peckerwood street gang and get the same white nationalist crap.

I am tired. I am so tired of pretending.

I am so tired of pretending and coddling people and acting as if they were decent human beings when they refuse to act like it. Turning away the needy from our shores is inconsistent with basic human decency. It is inconsistent with the teachings of Christ. It is inconsistent with being a good person. Sorry. I’m tired of pretending otherwise.

And for God’s sake, if you want to be a xenophobe and racist, go ahead, but STOP CALLING YOURSELF A CHRISTIAN.

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Because to anyone outside your self-righteous bubble, it is damn clear you have no intention of following Christ.

And another thing, I have been browbeaten enough times about how I need to accept the “authority of the scriptures” on sexuality and gender roles.

This is baloney on a stick. The vast majority of the people who harp on about this have absolutely zero interesting in the “authority of the scriptures.” At least when it involves something other than genitals.

Because the founder of our religion, Jesus Christ himself, said that our eternal destiny turns on how we treat the most vulnerable, including (expressly!!) immigrants and refugees. But that all can be just explained away, right? He didn’t really mean it, it doesn’t mean that, and it can be ignored…

You know what? Eighty freaking percent of you voted for the KKK candidate. To quote Indiana Jones again,  

You stood up to be counted with the enemies of everything the Grail stands for! Who gives a *damn* what you believe?

At some point (and that point has passed for many of us), you have zero credibility. If you decided to throw in your lot with a worldview that is the polar opposite of the teachings of Christ, why should any of us listen to you. We left. We’re gone. Many more will follow.

This is your opportunity to repent. If you voted for xenophobia, you can change your mind. But repentance isn’t just thoughts - or words. Actions matter. It’s time to apologize to those who have been and will be hurt by the racist policies of Le Toupee (and the GOP in general). And it’s time to actively work to protect the vulnerable.


Just to be clear, I am the descendant of immigrants from a “shithole country.” No, not the ones Le Toupee listed now. But definitely a country that was considered a “shithole” in the 1880s. In fact, it was as a result of panic about immigrants like my ancestors that the first restrictive immigration laws were put in place, to keep poor riff raff like my ancestors out.

On both sides of my family, we are majority German Mennonite. Nowadays, Mennonites are (unless of the Amish variety), looked at as quaint but pretty mainstream. The most conservative wear the beards without mustaches (mustaches were associated with the military…), and women wear head coverings. But you could walk into a Mennonite Brethren church and not see much difference from any other in the Evangelical tradition.

But it was not always so.

My ancestors were forcibly evicted from German in the early 1800s because of their religion. Mennonites are pacifists, and refused to serve in the military. Therefore, they were suspected of treason, persecuted, and sent packing with only what they could carry.

For a time, they found a sanctuary in Russia. But, as ethnic and religious bigotry swept Russia (think Fiddler on the Roof), my ancestors were again given the boot. With nowhere else to go, they showed up at Ellis Island in the 1880s dirt poor, unable to speak English, and with babies in tow. Absolute shithole immigrants.

To America’s credit, she took them in. And not only that, but gave my ancestors free land under the homestead act (in Montana and Kansas), gave government loans for a grub stake, educated their children for free in the public schools, and subsidized their farming and ranching efforts from the 1930s on. When we have fallen on hard times (as my own family did when I was very young), we got unemployment benefits, I got medical care at government clinics, and we got by. Sure, my ancestors worked hard. The vast majority of immigrants do, both then and now.

But they were still the sort of “shithole” immigrants today’s racists seek to keep out of the country. They didn’t speak English. They were “unskilled,” lacking higher education or the ability to work in lucrative professions. Coming from a Slavic country, they were denigrated as dirty, unwilling to assimilate, and religiously suspect. And Russia in the 1880s was hardly a picture of idyllic wonder, to say the least.

The period from 1870 to 1900 (more or less) was the greatest influx of immigrants in the history of our nation. Never since have more of our residents been foreign born. Every single thing that is being said about brown skinned immigrants now was said about my ancestors back then. The more things change…

I am grateful for the chance that my “shithole” immigrant ancestors had a chance. And to today’s immigrants, fleeing ceaseless violence, the drug wars (we created, btw…), crushing poverty, and seeking a better life, I want to raise that lamp by our golden door. These people, from “shithole” countries are the very people we should be embracing. They are the ones who need an opportunity to be free from oppression and violence and poverty. Why is this so hard? Are we really that selfish that we cannot even fathom giving others the opportunities our ancestors had?

(Dear Evangelicals, you already answered that question with your votes. You chose...poorly.)

To quote a famous person:

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.


And that is my response.


One more note: Back in my youth, before I had kids, I did not exactly expect that I would be spending the time I have over the last couple years talking with them about the meaning of “Grab them by the pussy” and “Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?”

I have not relished explaining that 80% of people from our religious tradition voted for this asshole. I have not relished their pain on behalf of their friends from Haiti and Puerto Rico or their friends of Mexican descent.

These have been hard conversations. But I am determined to raise decent human beings, who do not think of people outside their tribe as disposable. I’d like for them to follow Christ, not Ayn Rand and Steve Bannon.

I wish my Evangelical friends and relatives fully understood how thoroughly they have lit their credibility on fire and watched it burn to the ground the last couple of years. Particularly with my kids. If you cannot be bothered with basic human decency, then who really gives a damn what you believe? 

And let me add one more thing: I don't believe in the Evangelical version of hell. But I have sure been threatened with it. And you know what, many of you Evangelicals had better be hoping that you are wrong, because when you support this hatred and xenophobia, you are making a big down payment on a one way ticket there. 


  1. "Emma Lazarus, “The New Colossus,” inscribed at the base of the Statue of Liberty"

    This administration has already made it very clear how they feel about that whole poem, what with Stephen Miller claiming that since it was added later and wasn't present when the statue was erected, it's meaningless (see )...

    1. Well, Stephen Miller, so no surprise there. The New Colossus clearly conflicts with the teachings of the holy book, The Camp of the Saints...

  2. Tim, I really appreciate this post.

    I remembered that I had once seen a picture that is apt, and I finally found it on the internet.
    Look on pages 322 & 323 of:

    Of course, this is merely how your people _looked_ to "Old Canadians," not necessarily how they really looked to anyone with an open mind, but it serves as a good reminder of Exodus 23:9: "Do not oppress a foreigner; you yourselves know how it feels to be foreigners, because you were foreigners in Egypt."

  3. It bears mentioning that the “free” land given in the Honestead Act was stolen land & that the people who once lived there had been slaughtered & hunted with full intent to completely exterminate.

    1. True. Absolutely true. The Native American Genocide is one of our deep national shames, and many of us - my ancestors included - benefited from it.