[Ads-l] Shoulda seen it coming....

Wilson Gray hwgray at GMAIL.COM
Tue Jan 23 05:56:46 UTC 2018

> I don't remember any widespread outcry that the film was somehow racist
for describing the South Bronx as an s-hole.

After all, a throw-away line in a random film is non-distinct from a public
declaration by the United States of America. Am I right, fellas? High five!

On Mon, Jan 22, 2018 at 12:46 AM, Peter Reitan <pjreitan at hotmail.com> wrote:

> Well, "s-hole" is generally understood to mean something like, "an
> undesirable place," for some undefined negative reason.  The most
> "sinister" of the possible meanings that have been bandied about in the
> press the most often is the suggestion that the expression necessarily
> suggests that Trump is  a racist, presumably thinking that people from
> those countries are terrible because they are mostly non-white.
> I first remember hearing the word "s-hole" in the film Apocalyps Now, when
> Captain Willard discusses his river boat crew.  "Mr. Clean" (a very young
> Laurence Fishburne) is said to come from "some South Bronx s-hole."  The
> South Bronx of the early or mid-1970s when the film took place was widely
> depicted as having high levels of poverty, crime and violence, so "s-hole"
> seemed believable.  I don't remember any widespread outcry that the film
> was somehow racist for describing the South Bronx as an s-hole.  While I am
> sure that many of the people lived there might have disagreed, there was in
> fact levels of poverty and crime there that made outsiders see it as the
> kind of a place one might call an s-hole.
> There is certainly a less sinister reading of Trump's words, if that is
> what he said.  A likely, plausible meaning is that those countries are poor
> places with lots of political and social problems, and why would we want to
> import so many people from those countries, along with whatever problems
> they bring with them from those poor, politically unstable or violent
> places.
> We can have a political debate about how many we want to accept, or
> whether we should take more precisely because they are s-holes, but it is
> hard to argue that those places are not very nice places - s-holes, perhaps
> - by many objective standards.  It may be true that the majority of people
> in those countries are non-white, but they do have political, social and
> economic situations that make them seem like undesirable places to go, at
> least from the perspective who live in economically, socially and
> politically more stable places.
> Even if we accept the Washington Post's version of the statement, "all of
> these people," it does not necessarily refer to each and every person from
> those countries.  He could reasonably be understood as speaking about the
> volume of immigrants permitted entry from those countries as compared to
> other countries.  I know that I sometimes use "all" in this way as well,
> and I know that many (if not most) people frequently do as well.  "All
> that" - can mean - "as much as that" - and not necessarily "each and every
> portion of all of that."
> It is also my understanding that they were specifically referring to an
> extention of TPS (Temporary Protected status) protection to people from
> certain countries, not every majority non-white country in the world.
> Ironically, perhaps, the reason that people from those countries were
> awarded TPS protection in the first place is that those places were
> considered "s-holes".
> He spoke (purportedly) about Haiti, El Salvador, and certain unnamed
> African countries (not every country on the continent). There are at least
> three African countries currently benefitting from TPS - Guinea, Sierra
> Leone and Liberia.
> El Salvador is the home of MS-13 and currently suffers from widespread
> gang violence and has a history of violent political unrest and civil war.
> Haiti is generally considered the poorest country in the Americas, and has
> a history of political corruption.
> If the certain "African countries" referred to Guinea, Sierra Leone and
> Liberia.
> Sierre Leone had an 11 year civil war in with attrocities and child
> soldiers.  Yellow fever, malaria and ebola are serious problems there.
> Guinea has been the subject of fraud and corruption charges related to
> mining rights by US, British and French law enforcement.  Guinea had a
> military coup in 2009 and hundreds of people were injured and killed in
> protests related to an election a few years ago.  The two major parties run
> along tribal loyalties.  It is very poor.
> Liberia has a long history of corruption, is very poor, and had a civil
> war that ended in 2003.
> I'm not the kind of person that refers to places as "s-holes," but I know
> how s-hole is frequently used by people who speak that way, and can see how
> the several countries at issue might objectively be seen as "s-holes" by
> outsiders from more stable, economically advanced societies and without a
> personal or nostalgic connection to those countries might view them as
> "s-holes," in the way that others use the similarly problematic word
> "deplorable" to refer to people of an opposing political view.
> I haven't been to any of those countries, but I have been to nice country
> in Central America that wasn't a s-hole, nice countries in the Carribean
> that weren't s-holes, and a country in West Africa not far from Guinea
> which, although it is considered a stable democracy with religious
> tolerance and a relatively prosperous country for the region, might
> reasonably be called a s-hole by someone used to a different kind of
> lifestyle.  The one time I visited West African (as a small cog in a
> diplomatic mission while I was on active duty in the military) was the only
> time I have ever seen a young man squatting and taking a dump next to a
> dead goat on a beach in the middle of a large, capital city, and with no
> one blinking an eye at it or really taking any notice of it.  The rural
> communities seemed well kept and the people happy, if poor by our
> standards, and the city was vibrant, crowded, hot and the wealthy people
> and diplomats lived behind big walls with armed private guards to keep the
> riff-raff away.  Was it an s-hole?  I wouldn't call it that, but I wouldn't
> be surprised if some people visiting might see it that way.  And it was, by
> all accounts, much nicer than any of the countries Trump is said to have
> dissed.
> You be the judge on whether that is less sinister or not.  It is at least
> not necessarily "racist", which was the primary accusation making the
> rounds last week.
> ________________________________
> From: American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU> on behalf of Mark
> Mandel <thnidu at GMAIL.COM>
> Sent: Sunday, January 21, 2018 5:09 PM
> Subject: Re: Shoulda seen it coming....
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
> -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Mark Mandel <thnidu at GMAIL.COM>
> Subject:      Re: Shoulda seen it coming....
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> -------------------
> Peter Reitan, can you find any plausible "less sinister meaning" here?
> especially taking into account  John Baker's observation?
> Mark
> On Jan 18, 2018 1:30 PM, "Peter Reitan" <pjreitan at hotmail.com> wrote:
> > The "implausible spin" is frequently made in response to a basic feature
> > of "the Resistance," namely, interpreting and reporting every Trumpian
> > ambiguity only in light of the worst of all possible meanings, without
> > giving honest or fair consideration to the possibility (and in many
> cases=
> ,
> > the clear likelihood) that the intended meaning was something less
> sinist=
> er.
> >
> > The truth generally lies somewhere in the middle.
> >
> ________________________________
> From: Baker, John JBAKER at stradley.com
> Date: Jan 18, 2018, 10:32 AM
> It=E2=80=99s important to remember that Trump did not just characterize
> Hai=
> ti, El
> Salvador, and African countries as =E2=80=9Cshithole=E2=80=9D or
> =E2=80=9Cs=
> hithouse=E2=80=9D countries.
> Either term is offensive to those countries, but by itself it can be
> understood as just a crude way of saying that the countries are poor places
> where it is unpleasant to live. But what Trump actually said, according to
> the Washington Post, was =E2=80=9CWhy are we having all these people from
> s=
> hithole
> countries come here?=E2=80=9D In other words, he asserted that people are
> inherently undesirable simply because they come from those countries. There
> is no sugar-coating that sentiment, even if he had said =E2=80=9CWhy are
> we=
>  having
> all these people from countries without plumbing come here?=E2=80=9D
> John Baker
> >
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

All say, "How hard it is that we have to die!"---a strange complaint to
come from the mouths of people who have had to live.
-Mark Twain

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