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Politics

Can there be a charitable reading of "s---hole"?

Kathleen Parker on

CAMDEN, S.C. -- While recently perusing unread books gathering dust on my shelves, one tome caught my eye and, upon being loosed from the grip of neglect, fell open to a random page from which leapt the following sentence: "The ancestors of a critical and growing mass of present-day Americans existed in dung heaps of humanity amidst rotting vegetables."

Naturally, the line seemed providential -- if you happen to be a columnist.

Did he say dung heap?

Of course, the difference between "dung heap of humanity" and "shithole," as Donald Trump recently described countries of origin for unacceptable immigrants, is about the width of a sheet of bathroom tissue. Trump's comment has been analyzed to within an inch of its life, with most commentators concluding that this was simply another example of the president's racist attitudes.

The book in question, "The Idiocy of Assent," was written by F. Reid Buckley, youngest brother of William F. Buckley. As a friend for 30 years before his death in 2014, I never heard or witnessed any suggestion of racism, though he did observe cultural differences among nations and peoples as any seeing-eye human, or anthropologist, would. On the subject of cultural equivalence, he'd bat away the notion with a flick of his wrist and utter, "The Aztec pyramids were dripping with the blood of human sacrifice."

It is only because of Buckley's "dung heap" and Trump's "shithole" that I noticed the similarities in their immigration views. Buckley would surely never use Trump's word, partly because he thought insults should be more artful.

For those who slept: At an immigration meeting last week, Trump reportedly said that he didn't know why we were accepting people from "shithole countries" such as Haiti, El Salvador and all the ones in Africa, where people coincidentally tend to have darker skin than Trump. He cited mostly white Norway as a better place from which to cull new citizens.

The inference, of course, is that Trump is pigmentation averse.

Or, racist, if you prefer. This conclusion is a low hurdle to leap given Trump's history spearheading the birther movement against Barack Obama, as well as his having tossed racial chum to his base throughout the campaign.

When Trump's ratings go low, his race baiting goes high.

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