Donald Trump, in is own very inimical way, paved the way for a long over-due conversation about how so many of us got to be American. Almost all of us, regardless of when our ancestors came or from where, are descendants of a “shithole” country. Why? Because with few exceptions, the well to do, the comfortable, the secure, do not leave family, friends, language and their known world behind to immigrate.
Immigration is not an easy undertaking. It is scary. It is difficult. More often than not, the immigrating generation works their fingers to the bone in dirty, backbreaking and ill-remunerated work. Ask Donald Trump’s mother, Mary Dunham, the daughter of a fisherman who grew up in a large, struggling family in the “shithole” village of Tong, Scotland. Like millions of immigrants she was the product of chain migration linked to the United States by a sister already resident in New York. Mary was also unskilled and made her way in her adopted country as a domestic servant. In other words, Trump would not exist but for an unskilled, impoverished parent who came to this country through chain migration because the conditions in her “shithole” country motivated her to leave. Dunham, except for her whiteness, epitomized everything Trump despises in so many of today’s immigrants.
Most Americans, except for Native Americans, are not too far removed from some version of Trump’s mother’s experience. It would behoove this president, and all of us, to remember this before we close our doors to the process that has served us so well for hundreds of years and without which America would never have prospered or (until the ascension of Trump) been the envy of the world. I say etch in your mind, heart and soul the words engraved on Statue of Liberty:
“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
and with it the spirit, values and access to the human capitol that have made America great.