Dear Mr. President,

I have so many thoughts right now, but I’ll try to keep this simple for you.

My school has students from 38 nations. It is hard enough for them to adjust to life in a new country as an adolescent without someone calling their homeland a “shithole country.” As a geography teacher, I’ve spent the better part of two decades trying to get students to see that ALL countries have problems, and ALL countries have cultures to be proud of. I’ve had hundred of students watch the TED Talk by Chimamanda Adichie, “The Danger of a Single Story.” You should consider watching it, it would serve you well.

What 12-13 year olds understand, but you clearly don’t, is that we cannot, and should not judge an entire group of people by the actions of some. You have done this repeatedly with respect to Muslims, Mexicans, and anti-Nazi protesters. Now, with your latest comments calling Haiti and African nations “shithole countries” you repeat the behavior. These countries aren’t “shithole countries,” they are countries that struggle. They are countries that have problems due to colonialism, poor leadership, and poverty. The mothers and fathers in those countries want the same things that all parents want – safety, security, and opportunities for their children – things we value in this country.

The danger, Mr. President, is that other people around the world may start to do the same thing that you do and define all Americans by a single story – yours. But you don’t represent us anymore than warlords represent all Sudanese or corrupt politicians represent all Haitians.

Teachers across the country teach their students compassion and empathy everyday. We teach students that unless they understand people with other points of view, we are in real trouble. We teach students that words and actions matter. You could benefit from from the lessons that teachers across the country teach everyday.

So with that, I invite you to come into my classroom and learn. Not from me, but from the 12-13 year olds who understand how to have civil discourse, understanding, and common decency.

I look forward to your visit and until then, I leave you with the words that have been attributed to both Abraham Lincoln or Mark Twain, “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.”

Chris Heffernan

7th Grade Global Studies Teacher

Advertisements

53 thoughts on “Dear Mr. President – A Response to the “Shithole Countries” Comment

  1. I believe that it was also Lisa Simpson who attested to silence and speaking and fools. To continue that pop-culture allusion, I suspect that our President-in-Chief would follow Homer’s example and ask himself, “What does that mean? Better say something or they’ll think you’re stupid. Takes one to know one!”

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I concur. I also thank you for the links provided for your readers. Further study and research on the Internet these days is essential.

        Like

  2. So what you’re saying here. It’s better to teach them to live in it, tolerate and accept it, than to work hard and get out of it?

    Like

  3. Curious, I just looked up the definition of ” shithole”. ‘countries that struggle: countries that have problems due to colonialism, poor leadership, and poverty’.

    Like

    1. Curious, I just looked up asshole: Someone who doesn’t understand the rhetoric in an intelligently and eloquently written blog and so mocks it with juvenile humor.

      Liked by 3 people

    2. What dictionary did you find that in? So far I have found:
      https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/us/shithole: Noun: vulgar slang
      An extremely dirty, shabby, or otherwise unpleasant place.
      http://www.dictionary.com/browse/shithole: noun
      1.The anus; asshole, poop chute (1903+)
      2.A disgusting place; shithouse: You must move out of this shithole (1960s+)
      https://www.macmillandictionary.com/us/dictionary/british/shit-hole:
      a dirty unpleasant place
      Synonyms and related words
      Dirty and untidy places or things:shambles, hovel, dump…

      Liked by 1 person

  4. It’s simply, Freedom of Speech in the wake of TOO MUCH “political correctness”! Wasn’t it a famous Founding Father who said, “I disagree with what you say, but I will defend to the death, your right to say it!”

    Like

    1. Of course it is freedom of speech. Patrick Henry was right when he said it. But here is the thing, it has to work both ways Scott. I have the right to respond to what I think are pretty awful comments just like he has the right to say them. But I grow concerned each day when a President labels things he doesn’t like as “fake” and criticizes NFL players for using their rights to protest. But in all seriousness, I appreciate you taking the time to read it and comment.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Chris Heffernan thank you for addressing the ignorance of Trump. My daughter studied in India as a college student and although there was much poverty and corruption she came home and spoke of the beauty of the countrymen. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. It was a life changing experience for her. She is now an ESL teacher. So proud of her kaleidoscope eyes and rainbow heart!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I spent time in Cambodia and Colombia a few years ago and had the same experience – though they have way less than we do, they have happiness and pride – and that means something! And be very proud of your daughter – she is on the front lines of this!

      Like

  6. Just wondering if all of you were concerned when President Obama called Libya a s*** show. By the way, I agree with Obama on that. Does anyone want to live there or any of the places that Trump supposedly called s*** holes? He wouldn’t be the first president or VP to use crude language. There’s Joe Biden in referring to ACA and LBJ referring to African Americans. (And now given what other senators who were actually in the meeting are saying, it’s questionable that he said it after all. Of course, it doesn’t matter because most of you want to believe he said it.) But what does it matter? Why are those people fleeing the countries he referenced? Is it because they are paradises? You all know that he wasn’t speaking about persons individually. You all just want to believe that he’s a racist. Ask Alveda King if he is. Maybe he should have just called them deplorables.

    Like

  7. Reblogged this on Buscando Bilingüismo and commented:
    Encontré este artículo y aunque es en inglés, creo que perfectamente resume mis pensamientos sobre las noticias – se dice mejor que yo podría decir en cualquiera de las dos lenguas que hablo.
    Solamente una persona con una mente extremamente débil – una persona llena de odio – podía decir cosas tan horribles y deplorables.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Thank you so much for your beautifully composed letter. Your students are incredibly lucky to have a teacher of your caliber. This letter should be shared in all classrooms. Thank you again. Shari Westerline

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Thank you, Mr. Chris Hefferman, for writing such a thoughtful response to this latest undignified occurrence from the oval office. Like so many other souls, over my 60 years I have seen many events come and go in our country, good, bad and unsettling. Your letter gives me hope that we can regain some common ground of humanity and equilibrium in this swiftly tilting nation that is our home. Thank you for your gifted and dignified voice in these uneasy times.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for reading it and sharing your thoughts! I see evidence everyday of the humanity that we all want – it’s the 12-13 year olds in my classroom that give me hope for the future! We need to believe that they will do better than the “grown-ups” we have now!

      Like

    1. That’s a good question. It can’t be denied though that by indigent populations of locations that were colonized haven’t faired too well anywhere. Can you name one group that benefitted from colonialism?

      Like

      1. Pop onto YouTube and look at videos of the Belgium Congo in the 60’s. Ethiopia was never colonized and – well they are not the shining beacon of progress.

        I am in the fortunate position to have lived in or worked in or visited 42 African countries over the last 30 years. Colonialism- in my view – did not cause the current state of affairs in most African countries.

        Like

      2. You did not understand my answer.

        Look at the Belgium Congo in the 60’s and look at it now.

        Remember colonialism has not been around in most countries for half a century. I am not saying colonialism was right. I am saying it is not the primary cause of today’s ills.

        Like

      3. I have to admit that my knowledge of 1960s Congo is limited, but I’m assuming you agree with the two words I use after colonialism? It seems like poor leadership would be to blame there.

        Like

      4. You left out corruption, nepotism,dictatorships,exploitation.
        But yes. Poor leadership is an issue. Poverty is a result not a cause. Remember various African countries have a wealth of resources. Diamonds, copper, gold, cocoa, etc that have fallen foul of my reasons above.

        (Which of course led to colonialism in the first place. 🙂 )

        Like

      5. I’d say that poor leadership includes all those things, but yes to your list! My whole objection is a president who calls them shitholes. Every wave of immigration has come because their home country struggled. And as a teacher, it’s hard to stop an immigrant kid from feeling bad when his/her homeland has been called a shithole.

        Like

      6. Point well taken.

        Spend a week in – oh let’s say- Kolwezi, Lagos, Niger and give me your opinion.

        I have both

        But then again I have been to a few towns in the Midwest USA where I share the same opinion ( as well as a few in South America, Asia, UK and China. )

        I assume you see where this is going.

        Liked by 1 person

  10. Many Americans, both military and civilians, have died defending our freedom of speech and our country. In honor of them and, yes, in honor of the high American ideals they died for, let us conduct our civil discourse with dignity and respect for our opponent, neighbor or political rival even when her or she has a different perspective.

    Like

  11. Dear Chris,
    Thank you for being there and sharing your wealth of love, intelligence, smarts, kindness, empathy with your students. It would be wonderful if more of your caring peers joined you in this important work. Your students are incredibly fortunate.
    Anne Randolph

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Anne! You’ll be happy to know that I am more the norm. My interactions with teachers in person and social media shows that tolerance, empathy, and caring are common in classrooms of all levels across the country!

      Like

  12. Dear Chris,
    Well said..Chances are the one who needs to see this will pay very little attention to it, but perhaps if you take a page from “Shawshank Redemption”….Andy Dufrane mailed a letter the library folks every day before he got a response. Perhaps if you send him the same letter every day for an extended period someone will take note. Maybe he has the stones to take you up on your invitation to your classroom? I’d be willing to send letters as well.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s