Open letter to President Trump: In defense of ‘shithole countries’
Dear President Trump,
When my roommate told me, I thought that it was a lie. It honestly sounded like something that was made up. Surely the president didn’t refer to my country as a shithole.
I desperately wanted not to believe it, because I am the product of “those people.”
My parents came from somewhere else. A place that helped to produce many influential “Americans,” like Sanya Richards-Ross and Marcus Garvey. A home to athletes, philosophers, doctors, and people like me, writers.
They are from the beautiful but treacherous island of Jamaica.
Like so many others, they came here to take a shot at a new life.
That desire, that hunger, that want, is the strongest and most powerful thing about the American immigrant experience. These are the people who look at life itself with the half-full mentality and life in America with a glass-essentially-full mentality. They see America as this almost Technicolor dream land where if they work hard enough, their wildest dreams can become realities.
What is most upsetting about the president’s comment is that it undermines the core of what I believe it means to be an American today.
When you become an American, you essentially sign an informal social contract. This contract encourages you to work your hardest, and in return you will get a chance at happiness, an importune chance that may or may not reap returns. This informal contract is what unites us as countrymen, specifically for people who immigrated here. For example, all of my roommates’ parents were immigrants, but they are united by that collective experience of reaching for the heights of American ideals.
I believe that America is the one of the few places in the world where the sourest of lemons that life gives us can be turned into the sweetest lemonade.
More than forty years ago, the United States initially took in 125,000 Vietnamese refugees at the end of the Vietnam War. That number later rose after political and ethnic problems in the region. These people needed a way out. They just needed a chance at a new life, and we gave them that opportunity.
There are so many things that seem so essential, so perpetual to contemporary American lifestyle and culture. One of these refugees brought the gift of Sriracha to the American palate. As a country, we have benefited so much from people who escaped dangerous situations in both quantifiable and unquantifiable ways.
When I was in high school, one football coach always stressed the importance of “buying into the program.” At the core of “buying in” is trust — completely trusting the system, the coaches and, most important of all, working hard.
What the U.S. needs is people who want to buy into our ideals and values; people who still strive for success in the face of doubt; people who won’t pack up and leave when the going gets tough; people who still dream. Emma Lazarus said it best in the “New Colossus:”
“With silent lips. ‘Give me your tired, your poor, (y)our huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, the tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!’”
A Child of Shithole Countries
Opinion columnist Perren Wright is a biomedical engineering sophomore. He can be reached at [email protected].