Imagine it is 1620. You are in Europe. You are living in a small island country that is the seat of the most powerful empire on the globe. One might even call it the center of the Western world.
Yet, smallpox and typhoid are running rampant in your country. Tens of thousands have succumb to either sweating sickness or bubonic plague. Tens of thousands more will die before the end of the century from communicable illnesses that will one day be curable and practically nonexistent.
By the end of the seventeenth century, though, official records will show that one-fifth of the population of the largest city in your country died from plague between 1563-1665, and in 1665 alone nearly 100,000 people died of plague in the city.
The records will show that thirty percent of children in your country died before they could reach age 15 from plague, dysentery, scarlet fever, flu, whooping cough, pneumonia, and various unidentifiable fevers.
Those children that are not killed by illness are killed in horrible yet very common accidents. Since they are commonly called on to fetch water for their households as soon as they are able to walk and balance a bucket, many fall into wells and drown. Others slip on the mud surrounding the wells or rocks embedded in the shores of rivulets and streams and crack their skulls.
Child labor is legal, so many children working on farms are run over by horses and/or ploughs. Many infants and smaller children are dropped and killed by older children acting as their caretakers. Children working on ships, in shipyards, and in blacksmith shops are burned in accidental fires or poisoned by chemical fumes. Some are even killed on battlefields, where they are enlisted to help soldiers with their artillery.
When these children are injured, and not killed, they are most often treated at home by their mothers, not doctors or professional healers. They are rubbed with mixtures of chicken fat and feces when they suffer burns, or they are given potions like dried dill in honey for coughs. Very rarely are they admitted to the hospital or given manufactured or even just scientifically proven prescriptions.
In your country, blacksmiths most often set broken bones and perform a common surgical procedure for bladder stones called a lithotomy. These bladder stones are caused by the large amount of gravel in the people’s diets. The lithotomies to remove the stones are typically performed with common work tools in the blacksmith shop without any anesthesia.
Adults, when sick or hurt, are subjected to even more harrowing treatments than the children. Rectal purging, bloodletting, and forced vomiting are the most common methods of medical treatment. Surgeries, when performed, are rudimentary, and clean wards in which to convalesce are a rare luxury.
Childbirth is a particularly “tetchy” area of so-called medicine at this time. Up to two percent of women die while giving birth, and many women experience upward from two or three pregnancies because the use of birth control is not widespread, increasing their chances of dying in childbirth. Existent birth control methods are spotty in their effectiveness, and childbearing is essentially a social mandate for married women, so unwanted pregnancies are many and experienced by the majority of women.
Women in labor, if lucky, are only given liquor for the pain. Midwives typically attend births, not doctors, and they have considerable knowledge of how to deliver babies, but no technology available to them to make delivery less painful or safer for mothers or infants. They also have very limited ways of predicting or remedying crises like breech position or shoulder dystocia (when a baby’s shoulder gets stuck behind the mother’s pelvic bone during delivery).
Some women are poisoned by their attempts to terminate unwanted pregnancies using herbs. Many women force themselves to have violent bowel movements or fits of vomiting in order to lose their babies, and others subject themselves to bloodletting from the foot, which is believed to bring on “blocked” menstruation.
Children born in your country have a 20% chance of dying before their fifth birthday.
Illness and injury in your country are not just products of the profound lack of scientific and medical knowledge. The major cause for the epidemic spread of the Bubonic plague and other communicable diseases is the lack of sanitation.
Big cities in your country have no sewage systems. There is no running water. People must fill tubs with water they gather from wells, natural water sources, or public fountains to cook and bathe, and they must boil the water to sanitize it because there is no filtration system, so they regularly imbibe unfiltered water, and they don’t bathe regularly.
This means the germs that stick to them throughout the day remain on their bodies. They exchange money and other items with dirty hands that help spread diseases faster than rumors that a particularly bold or independent woman is a witch. This keeps the cycle of infection, illness, and death going at amplified volume and speed throughout the century.
There are no toilets in your country. People urinate and vomit in large clay chamber pots that they dump into streets with no drainage (remember). So the excrement remains where it is put and runs off into the rivers, rivulets, and streams when it rains.
Unfortunately, the people do not wash their hands after using chamber pots because germs are not “discovered” until the 1800s, and this is the 1600s. Because there are no public toilets, people urinate and vomit on the streets outside of restaurants, bars, gambling dens, and whorehouses.
People also purposefully dump their chamber pots and trash into the river. Trash that isn’t dumped in the river is tossed onto the streets since there are no organized dumps, and there is no uniform or government-sponsored system of trash collection or incineration. Trash in the streets causes rats to congregate. Rats help to spread diseases with their droppings and by biting people.
The Thames is a major source of water for the people living in the busiest city in your country. Mostly rich people have wells or their own water pumps. The majority of people in this country are poor and/or live in rural areas, so they collect their water from public fountains, streams, rivulets, and rivers. The Thames, though, is a literal cesspool.
All the flowers, rosewater, and vinegar the women in your country use to mask the odors of all the sickness and clean the homes are mere drops in the polluted bucket when it comes to keeping things clean.
Culturally, your country isn’t doing any better than it is doing physically.
Less than 40% of men and 25% of women in the country are literate. Only about one-fifth of the population can sign their names at the end of the 1500s, and this percentage only increases to one-third by the end of the 1600s. There are no free public schools for the general masses to attend, and, more often than not, children not born to nobles or middle class merchants and craftsman end up going to work when they are of age and not school.
“Public” school, in this era, only means that the school is not operated in a private home; it does not indicate that a uniform, government-mandated curriculum is taught, or that education is accessible to the majority of the population. There is no compulsory education for youth, and most schools do not teach science, music, or art.
Rich nobles only make up three percent of the overall population; the majority of the population is poor. Ninety-five percent of the population lives in rural districts where they do one-third of their farming to pay the lords that own the lands, another portion of their farming to support the church, and live off the portion that is left. These so-called peasants are only able to rise in class if they can buy the lands of some lord that has died from old age, plague, or some other disease.
The most desperate peasants live in poorhouses run by churches. Many are displaced when food agriculture slowly gives over to the raising of sheep (to feed the growing cloth industry), and acres of crop fields are turned into pastures. Peasants that relocate to the cities after being displaced have a difficult time finding employment, as there are very few jobs for unskilled laborers.
So, in addition to disease, crime is rampant in the city streets. Thievery, pickpocketing, and prostitution are extremely common, as are homelessness and begging, which are classified as crimes.
The average life expectancy is 42 because the quality of life is so poor.
And speaking of “poor,” poverty is wreaking such social havoc that there are actual poor laws. There are 15,000 parishes in your country, and the parishioners are charged with caring for the poor. The officials calculate how much is needed to do this and then collect the money from the parishioners. The deserving poor – the sick, elderly, and orphans – receive help from this money. The undeserving poor – able-bodied, unemployed men and women – do not receive help from this money, and, if they are found to be vagrant, they are punished for being homeless with public whipping.
And whipping is just one of the cruel and unusual forms of punishment that are common and legal in your country. Criminals that commit murder, treason, or some other serious crime can be tortured by pillory, iron maiden, bastinado, the rack, the jougs, or the gossip’s bridle (look them up).
Banishment doesn’t just occur in Shakespeare plays; it is a real thing to which serious criminals are subjected, and the punishment of returning to your country after being banished is death.
Execution (by hanging or beheading) is legal, exorbitant fines are common, and jail time is sparse and rarely given. Whippings and other forms of corporal punishment are favored because they are less costly than maintaining penitentiaries.
As is typical of just about every western country in this time, single women have practically no legal rights, and children go largely unprotected by the law from abuse and neglect.
The dearth of scientific knowledge of the world allows people in your country to cling to terrible superstitions. Negative occurrences in people’s personal lives are commonly blamed on witches, which makes it possible for random innocent women (because women were more often accused of witchcraft) to be tortured, banished, and executed for imaginary crimes by people that may just be exercising their misogyny, xenophobia, jingoism, or religious bigotry.
Though the Pilgrims that will venture from your country in 1620 to North America are depicted in the grand historical narrative of the US as a sect of poor, persecuted devotees that were simply seeking freedom of religion, the Protestant Reformation out of which they have emerged is not nearly as noble as that (though in truth the Pilgrims themselves are not paragons, but that is another post for another time).
In fact, the Protestant Reformation in your country began with a promiscuous King whose only issue with Catholicism – the religion that had ruled in your country for centuries – is that it does not allow him to divorce one wife and take another.
This King – Henry – only spearheads the Reformation in your country in order to obtain the annulment he seeks (and go on to marry five additional times) and claim the lands and monies held by the Catholic Church in your country.
Through unwarranted, unrelenting “royal” confiscation, Henry empties all of the Catholic Church’s riches into his own coffers and allows the country’s nobility to buy up the Catholic Church’s land for mining and other commercial ventures, which, of course, increase tax revenue for the monarchy without improving life for the peasants.
Henry closes the numerous abbeys and rectories in the country, forcing nuns and priests to enter the workforce with little work experience or social prestige, where they are paid horrible wages and often mistreated by Protestant bosses and coworkers.
The Restoration occurs in the mid-1500s, yet the political prostitution of religion continues into the 1600s.
When your most famous Queen – Elizabeth – takes the throne in 1603, she aligns herself with the Protestants just as her father did before her. She does this mainly for money purposes, which were, again, major motivators for her father.
So many of the big business and land owners in the country are Protestant at this point, after growing their wealth under her father, that the Elizabeth literally cannot afford to allow Catholicism to regain a foothold. It would ruin the monarchy financially if the Vatican swept in to reclaim its lands and co-opted assets from the throne.
So not only does Elizabeth oversee the establishment of the Church of England to force Catholicism out of the country, she stands aside as Parliament passes uniformity laws that force everyone to attend the Church of England and use the same Book of Common Prayer, essentially doing away with freedom of religion.
In the meantime, the Protestants that lead the Church of England (they are now called Anglicans) are not only struggling alongside Elizabeth to suppress underground Catholics that seek to topple the Church; they are using suppressive methods (outlawing their church services, breaking up their protests, jailing their leaders) to silence the fanatical Puritans, who wish to destabilize the Church of England because they believe its rituals are still too decadent and its dealings are still too centered on obtaining money, even after the Reformation.
The Anglicans are so deeply threatened by the Puritans in fact (because their numbers are considerable) that they resort to violence to stop the Puritans. Anglican bishops actually put prices on the heads of the most outspoken and influential Puritan leaders, and they encourage peacekeepers to arrest Puritan protestors and execute outspoken Protestants for heresy.
This persecution of the Puritans occurs from the 1590s until the 1620s, when it reaches such an intensity that the Pilgrims flee this country – yes – it is England – for North America.
And that lands us in the ideal symbolic place for me to make my point about America and its immigration history.
The Pilgrims are revered in this country as its founders. Their genocidal treatment of the Native Americans is treated as a rather insignificant footnote to this main narrative that characterizes the Pilgrims as the brave, strong, and resourceful pioneers of our democracy.
That’s right. Even though revisionist history reveals that Puritan culture was every bit as hegemonic, suppressive, violent, and political as British culture in the seventeenth century, the majority of Americans – and especially the white men in power – still regard the Pilgrims for setting the freedom-seeking, freedom-loving tone of our country’s political ideology.
And whether this is true or not, it is a fact these immigrants from Elizabethan England are the forefathers of our founding fathers, who did actually transform the 13 colonies into this glittering dystopia we call America.
So they are the descendants of a shithole country because Elizabethan England was oozing with filth, emanating with disease, teeming with vagrants, rife with crime, bursting with corruption, and animated by deprivation, division, strife, violence, and oppression in 1620 – the year in which the Puritans departed it.
This is the irony of Donald Trump’s statement in that now notorious DACA meeting that he doesn’t want anymore people from shithole countries like Haiti, Africa (which is not a country, but a continent of 54 countries), and El Salvador entering America, and he would rather see more people arriving here from countries like Norway.
He and others that think like him hail western European countries as better places from which to be descended than the countries of Africa, Asia, and Central or South America, but, when it became the homeland of the Pilgrims back in 1620, England was in the same desperate straits as what we would currently stigmatize as a Third World country.
If the descendants of the England that I described in the opening of this post – an England whose conditions sound very much like those in current day Haiti (though only after suffering from a near-cataclysmic earthquake) – can become the most celebrated citizens of America – can be made into literal monuments – then it stands to reason that the descendants of just about any people – from any country – can also do great things with the opportunities afforded them here in the US.
I can type a list of immigrants of color that have arrived in America with nothing but in their suitcases but dreams and made tremendous contributions to the progress and greatness of this country.
Or I can play into Trump’s bigotry and point out that Alexander Hamilton, though white, was an orphan immigrant from Nevis in the British West Indies – a small Caribbean island covered in slave sugar plantations and rife with political violence with a 90% black population – and he – Hamilton – went on to become the founder of the American financial system, the US Coast Guard, and The New York Times newspaper and the first Secretary of the Treasury.
So Trump is dead-wrong in propagandizing his racist views of immigrants hailing from countries of color as the mere products of so-called intelligent thinking and logical analysis because history shows that immigrants from all over the globe are much more likely to come to America and flourish than they are to flounder.
And anyway Trump is not trying to make America safer by closing its borders to immigrants and refugees of color. He isn’t trying to reduce crime or increase jobs or strengthen the economy or accomplish anything other than his reelection in 2020.
Trump is continuing to gaslight his voter base through the use of divisive propaganda and propagating very ignorant, unfounded concepts of American history and world politics, proving that the many claims that have been made in the news about his lack of preparedness and fitness for the presidency are correct.
It goes without saying, but I will still say it: Trump’s adamant refusal to educate himself about this country is growing increasingly dangerous, as is his willingness to scapegoat minorities, immigrants, Muslims, and members of the LGBTQIA+ community to secure the support of his apparently dwindling voter base.
Trump may have given his supporters some supremacist political porn to which they enjoyed mentally jacking off with his deplorable characterization of countries and immigrants of color and successful sidetracking of a possible Congressional DACA deal, but the majority of Americans and the leaders and people of those countries are disgusted and want Trump to be held accountable.
South Africa, Ghana, Botswana, Senegal, and Haiti have summoned their US ambassadors to meet with government officials in each country and address Trump’s comments. South Africa has also issued a diplomatic protest to the US. The African Union, which represents 55 member states throughout Africa, has demanded an apology from Trump. In honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, a sizable group of Haitian immigrants and Haitian Americans in Florida protested Trump at the gates of his West Palm Beach resort.
These responses – the outrage of these black people – their black lives – matter to Trump whether or not he knows it because the US does $37 billion of trade with Sub-Saharan African countries; we export $18 billion of goods to these countries and import $19 billion of goods from these countries.
We sell machinery, aircraft, vehicles, oil, and electronics to these African countries with which we have trade deals, but we buy crude, iron, and steel from them – materials we use to not only manufacture the good we sell to them, but to other countries.
Trump’s only accomplishment while in Office has been to slightly improve the economy, and he claims that building on this improvement is a top priority for his administration. But sending profitable trade partners to other countries to get their goods will not help our economic situation in the least, so Trump needs to reevaluate his approach to dealing with countries of color across the globe and making leadership decisions that may revert America back to the shithole it was in 2008, during the Recession.
In addition to learning about the England that we Americans stupidly fetishize, aggrandize, and valorize, Trump may need to learn from that historical iteration of England and how Queen Elizabeth wrongly dealt with immigration during her reign.
If he did just five minutes of research on immigration in Elizabeth’s time, Trump would learn that barring immigrants of color and/or expelling immigrants of color is not a panacea for the economic issues a country is facing.
And please believe that all of this sudden emphasis on immigration in the political discourse has to do almost exclusively with the facts that the economy is relatively stable and growing, the rich want that to continue, and the white majority wants to remain the main benefactor of that growth.
However, they cannot maintain their inequitable hold on what the young people have so charmingly taken to calling the “bag” by throwing out all of the immigrants of color and shoring up our borders from immigrants of color, no matter what they may believe.
The underlying trouble with stabilizing and growing our economy is multifaceted and deep-seated. It hasn’t arisen from highly educated immigrants of color taking jobs from lower educated or unskilled white Americans because these lower educated or unskilled whites cannot do the jobs these highly educated immigrants of color do. It hasn’t arisen from unskilled immigrants of color taking jobs from unskilled white Americans because if white Americans wanted those jobs institutional and cultural racism would secure those jobs for the whites. It hasn’t arisen from all of immigrants of color opening new businesses in America because businesses add to tax revenue and stimulate consumerism, which benefits the economy.
No – America has the lack of innovation in American industry, wrongheaded tax and economic policies that perpetuate the wealth gap, governmental favoritism of special interests, cronyism, needless complication of the regulatory apparatus (the regulations placed on American businesses), stale focus in American business on producing goods rather than providing services, poor public education, exorbitant college tuitions, distortions of the tax code, and the lobby to blame for its current and long-standing economic issues.
And seeing as some of its most brilliant and least brainwashed residents are immigrants of color and their children and grandchildren, inviting more immigrants of color to the country and/or allowing those that are here to remain in the country might be more a help than a hindrance when it comes to fixing what’s wrong with American society in general and the economy in particular.
Queen Elizabeth made the same mistake that Donald Trump is considering back in the 1600s. She issued three expulsion orders against Africans living in England in order to improve employment rates and economic conditions for “native” English citizens. And none of these expulsion orders did anything to drastically improve conditions in England. Only one-half of a percent of the jobs available in London were taken up by Africans at that time, and that didn’t account for the widespread unemployment or poverty that the white population was experiencing.
The expulsion of African immigrants from Elizabethan England didn’t reduce crime, either. Poverty was the cause of all of the thievery, prostitution, vagrancy, debt (which was a crime), larceny, and brawling amidst street gangs (yes, there were street gangs), and since Elizabeth could not end it, she couldn’t end crime.
Hint, hint, hint, hint, hint, hint.
According to statistics compiled in 2017, there are roughly 43 million foreign-born people living in the US. This is only about 13 percent of the total population – almost two percent less than when immigration was at its peak in the US in 1890.
Of the 43 million foreign-born people living in the US right now, 20.7 million are citizens, 11.1 million are unauthorized, the largest segment are from Mexico (11.6 million), and another 11 million are from China, India, the Philippines, Vietnam, Cuba, Dominican Republic, and South Korea.
Only 2.1 million Africans live in America, 1.4 million people from El Salvador live in America, and less than 700,000 Haitians live in America – the people Trump referenced in his rant as coming from shithole countries.
So they are clearly not taking over the country any time soon. The total population of America is 323 million people.
Too, the majority of the foreign-born people living in America today are homeowners, according to the Center for American Progress; fewer than one in five lives in poverty, and only 9.3% of their households receive their entire income from public programs, in comparison with 15% of US-born households.
Thirty-sex percent of US children born of immigrants are college graduates while only 31% of US children born of US-born parents are. This means the majority of immigrants in America are contributing positively to the culture, and as a whole they are contributing significantly to the economic bottom-line.
So Trump really needs to take a seat – preferably beside a tutor – and get to know what’s truly happening in his own country rather than operating off of what he watches on Fox News and reads on Breitbart when he is wheeling and dealing in the Oval and on the Hill.
He may also want to take a look at the article about Norwegian immigration that ran on The Atlantic website just a few days ago, written by Krishnadev Calamur.
In it, Calamur says, “[Norway] discovered oil in the late 1960s, and unlike other resource-rich countries that have succumbed to mismanagement and corruption in the face of sudden wealth, invested heavily in its people and its economy to become one of the world’s wealthiest places . . . Norway has higher life expectancy at birth than the US, lower rates of infant mortality, low unemployment, and access to the European Union’s labor market . . . Norway is the world’s happiest country . . . the place with the most political freedom . . . [the] most press freedom . . . and the most prosperity.”
Calamur also makes the point the US ranks 14th in happiness, 45th in political freedom, 43rd in most free press, and 18th in prosperity – well beneath Norway.
That said, the Norwegians are distinguishing between America’s shittiness and Trump’s shinola and choosing to remain in their homeland, which looks to be the new home of the free.
Calamur makes it abundantly clear in his article that they have no incentive to immigrate to the US even though millions of Norwegians eagerly migrated to the US during the 1800s and 1900s.
So Trump needs to STFU with all his anti-black and anti-Latinx screed before he destroys the incentive that people from other countries have to immigrate to the US and his precious economy, all in one frizzy, bleached blonde swoop.