We have a hunch that last night at the Pjoltergeist Restaurant at Rostedsgate 15B in Oslo, some old friends from Nord University were shaking their heads with perplexed expressions, trying to make sense of the latest reports out of Washington, D.C. Pouring freely from the chilled bottle of Muscadet, they conversed intently, with furrowed brows and palms turned upward in confusion. “Why would we…?” one would begin, tentatively, only to have her voice trail away in puzzlement, and then finally return to complete the utterly confounding question. “Why would anyone who lives in Norway ever want to move to a country led by Donald Trump?”
Yes, this time Donald Trump’s latest shit storm is actually a shit storm, as the President of the United States not only articulated his own overtly racist immigration policy, but did so with an incendiary scatological insult to Haiti and a number of African nations. It happened during a discussion of immigration policy in the Oval Office, when Trump questioned the wisdom of the “visa lottery” program that creates broad opportunities for persons of any nation to come to the United States. Objecting to the fact that the program is designed precisely to not favor particular nations, Trump took fecal matters into his own hands.
The President of the United States called a broad swath of sovereign nations “shitholes.”
Let that sink in. So now Haiti is a “shithole?” How did he decide that? Surely there is a good reason. Perhaps 48% of their citizens just voted for a serial child molester to represent them at the highest levels of government. Oh, no… wait… we have to fact check that one. Oh, sorry, pardon me. That was Alabama.
It turns out that in Donald Trump’s America, we limit our search for the tired, the poor, the hungry, and the huddled masses yearning to be free to the upscale neighborhoods in Bygdøy and Holmenkollåsen. Trump prefers “people from countries like Norway” to come to the United States, conveying an apparently deeply held conviction that Norwegians have vast untapped potential to become excellent Americans. No explanation was given, but we are going to go with the theory that Trump believes that Norwegians are pretty much white, that he assumes there are not a lot of Norwegian Muslims, and because Trump probably thinks of Norwegians as essentially Minnesotans with umlauts. Nice people, Minnesotans. Hearty stock. Hard workers. Probably don’t complain about global warming. Don’t make trouble.
Why can’t we let in more people from Norway, Mr. President? Well, our first theory out of the box is that they don’t want to come here. Donny, here’s an important insight about the portion of the world that is not the United States: not everybody goes to bed at night dreaming of becoming an American.
Norway happens to be a pretty nice place to live. In one of those delicious ironies, Donald Trump happened to choose for his example the country that has been named the “world’s best democracy” for six years running by the Economist Intelligence Unit of London. There are only 1.75 gun-related deaths per 100,000 people in Norway, far below our 10.54. Norway was just voted the “world’s happiest country” for the year 2017. The United States, by comparison, was ranked 14th, but then again, that was before Donald Trump called a bunch of African countries “shitholes.” Today we are certainly lower still.
But perhaps the real point is that Norwegians don’t want to come to a country where an ignorant shithole is in charge. Of course, Norwegians would be far too refined, gracious, and kind to phrase it like that. To do so would make them... uh, what is the word? As of today, I guess we'd have to say Americans.
If you have not had the opportunity to travel overseas since Donald Trump became President, it is an eye-opening experience.
Before Donald Trump ever happened, it had already been a long time since D-Day and the Berlin Air Lift. Fresher memories are Vietnam and Iraq, grand failures born of arrogance and ignorance. Tony Blair was labeled Dubya’s “poodle,” a humiliating assessment that the P.M. sucked up to an idiot. And every bit as quickly as we stopped serving “freedom fries” we forgot that the French defiantly dismissed our WMD fiction and refused to follow us into Iraq. They were right. We were wrong.
The European view of the United States is a tale of two narratives. They admire American optimism, can-do spirit, ingenuity, confidence, innovation, and while they found our idealism a bit naïve, it is an essential part of our charm.
The second narrative, of course, is the boorish, uncultured, under-educated business person or tourist who shows up in Paris and wonders – as Steve Martin so brilliantly put it – why the French have to have a different word for everything. This is the America of fast food and slow wit, reality tv and megachurches, populated by graceless clods whose unifying philosophy of existence is to make money and then spend money.
Barack Obama was who Europeans hoped we were becoming.
Donald Trump is what they fear we really are.
Every day, the latter theory is gaining the upper hand.
Last night, we met the real shithole and it is us.
We are the country that labels other sovereign nations and their people as just so much excrement. We can no longer pretend that other countries think we are just going through a phase we will quickly outgrow, like a repressed teenager rebelling with ink, pot, and graphic rap lyrics who will blossom and flourish once again as soon as the admission letter arrives from Bowdoin.
The time for believing that sharing posts on Facebook is protest is over. Virtual protest gets virtual results. 2018 is the year to hit the streets. It is life or death for our democracy, our reputation, and our future. If we do not take back at least one chamber of Congress this year, the United States of America is going to become Donald Trump.
Most people associate Norway with the midnight sun, freezing cold, deep blue fjords, and that universal icon of human emptiness and desperation, Edvard Munch’s painting “The Scream.”
Ever wonder why Munch’s subject feels such agonizing existential fear and loathing?
He probably just heard that Donald Trump wants more Norwegians to come to the United States.
If we want more people from Norway – or anywhere else on this planet – to once again admire the United States of America, then we the people must show the resolve to demand that our government live up to the principles and ideals articulated in our Constitution.
Now, for certain, we know that this means ending the reign of error of Donald Trump.
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