How do you define a “shithole” country?


The President of the United States would like you to know that not all countries are created equal. Some of them, says the POTUS, are in fact “shitholes.” He distinguished between which countries he would like to see people emigrating to the US from by referring to several countries, like Haiti and countries in Africa, by the less-than-flattering term and suggested immigration from Norway, a country that certainly appears to be very, very white. However, Norway has a lot of advantages over the United States and Canada that make it very unlikely that anyone would decide to move from there to here.

So, what makes a country a shithole? I’m sure no one at the White House could answer that question, so I will answer it for them. Below are some statistics that describe the current state of affairs in the United States.

According to the National Center for Children in Poverty more than 15 million children living in the United States, about 21 per cent of all the children living there, live in poverty. That is the highest number of poor living in the US right now, says the Poverty Program, at about 15 per cent of the total population, or one out of six. When it comes to income disparity, the US is third place. 34 per cent of all of the billionaires on the planet live in the US.

Police brutality, something that has been in the news so much that we have become nearly numb to it, is another factor for the US. The Washington Post published “Fatal Force,” a database based on an award winning investigation. It shows that in 2017, 987 people were shot and killed by the police, an increase of 24 from the previous year. 23 per cent of the dead are black, though black people make up only 12.3 per cent of the US population. 24 per cent of the shootings involved a mental illness.

When it comes to American indigenous populations, things are also pretty grim. The National Congress of American Indians reports that Indian (their word, not mine) youth have the highest suicide rate out of all ethnic groups in the US and that suicide is the leading cause of death for Native people between the ages of 15 and 24.

The treatment of immigrants is also concerning, to the point of the POTUS himself writing executive orders to ban people travelling from or immigrating from certain countries. The ban, often called the Muslim Travel Ban, appears to have been based solely on the predominant religion of the area that was banned. Those without citizenship got scared and tried to do what they could to stop themselves from being sent back to countries that might be ravaged by war. In August last year the Toronto Star reported that nearly 7,000 people had walked into Quebec from the US since the previous year, 3,000 of them having come in the month before the article was published. These are the people who attempted to come into Canada illegally, and only in Quebec.

When it comes to students, the US falls behind many other non-shithole countries. Student debt is at its highest, with over 1.48 TRILLION dollars divided among 44 million people. According to Student Loan Hero, a company formed by Andy Josuweit, a US student who graduated with his own crippling debt and wanted to help others dig themselves out from under it, that is about $620 billion more than the total US credit card debt. The US Board of Labour and Statistics says that 2.5 per cent of people who graduated with a Bachelor’s degree or higher are unemployed, and for people with an associate degree that raises to 3.6 per cent. This number is actually an improvement. Unemployment in the US reached just shy of 15 per cent in 2010, the height of the economic crisis.

To be clear, these statistics are far from comprehensive. There are many more things that could have been added to the list but time and space then become an issue. I’m certainly not purposely leaving anything out. These issues and many others share a high level of importance.

My Canadian readers, I can feel your smugness back here in the past where I am writing this. We’re Canadian, you say to yourselves, and believe that makes a difference. Even if we choose to disregard the ridiculous amount of us who were happy to see the current POTUS take office, we have to acknowledge that our country is truly and deeply flawed. Trump says American Values, some white/cis/straight/christian Canadians say ‘Canadian Values.’ Our poor are drowning. Our students are overwhelmed with debt and poor job prospects. We call immigrants ‘newcomers’ but treat them like leeches and tell them to ‘learn English’ or ‘go back where they came from’. Indigenous children are killing themselves because they see no future that is not what they already know: hell and hunger at the hands of the Canadian Federal Government and no support from those of us who claimed to be their brothers and sisters when we celebrated the 150th anniversary of this beautiful-on-the-surface country. The daily reminders in the news that Americans are worse off than we are only serve to blind us to these flaws. We are not that different from our neighbours, we just say please and thank you more and awkwardly hold doors for strangers.

We have to be honest with ourselves. It’s not that Trump didn’t think anyone was listening, or that he was in a private space that no one would repeat what he said. He didn’t care. His ‘apology’ and back-tracking on the subject are not believable. He and others like him, the old white men of the world, know that they can say anything they want without consequences. 2017 became the year of consequences. Let’s make a tradition out of it.


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