By Dr. Ian Clarke

The leader of the USA has continued to come out with obnoxious statements. In relation to US immigration policy he recently remarked

‘Why do we have all these people from shithole countries come here?’

The countries he was referring to were African countries and some South American countries such as Haiti and El Salvador. So now we know what the President of the United States thinks of us.

One wonders what happened to the sentiment inscribed on the Statue of Liberty ‘Give me your tired, your poor,… the wretched refuse of your teeming shore..’ Times have changed in terms of the American administration’s attitude to the downtrodden of this world.

Commenting on the President’s remarks, David Axlerod, formerly of the Obama administration, said ‘We know who Trump is, we have got to ask ourselves who we are’. It is a searching question for Americans: are they lining themselves up behind Trump, like the leaders of the Republican party, or are they going to distance themselves from such sentiments and stand for values such as compassion and human dignity.

Philip Mudd, formerly Deputy Director of CIA Counterterrorism, said in response to the President ‘I am proud to be a shitholer, I am them, we denigrated people until we became ashamed’. He was referring to the fact that it is only a few generations since immigrants from places such as Ireland and Italy were called names such as Wops and micks.

Trump went on to say that he only wanted to receive immigrants on merit. His policy would be to take only those who are the cream of a society. Let me tell you about three immigrants whom I know.

One is my own Ugandan daughter who went to the USA to train as a nurse and then went on to do her PHD at an Ivy League university. In the process she was given American citizenship and she could have remained in the USA as well-paid professor, but she chose to come back to Uganda to use her qualifications to build capacity in the Ugandan health sector.

I am grateful to the USA for having allowed her to study there and gain an education at one of its best universities. The second person is a medical doctor who is now a cardiologist in the States. He went to Makerere Medical School and was trained at the expense of the Ugandan taxpayer. Subsequently he travelled to the USA for further training and then stayed.

According to Trump he is the type of immigrant he wants, but most of his education, right through from his primary school to medical school, was paid for by this African country that Trumps categorizes as a shithole. Trump’s policy towards poor countries would be to drain more resources from such countries.

The third person is a girl, who was abducted by the LRA, spending eight years in captivity. After this shocking ordeal she went back to school in Uganda, and then obtained a scholarship to university in the USA. After her degree she put herself through nursing school in the States and at present is doing a doctorate of nursing. She was ‘the wretched refuse from our teeming shore’ who was given a chance by America. She is an amazing human being who will make an astonishing contribution to whichever society she chooses to be a part of.

People deserve respect whoever they are, whether the person is a poor villager, an old grandmother, an uneducated slum dweller, a cleaner or a watchman. A person does not earn respect by being from a particular country or ethnic group, or because he has a certain level of income. We do not qualify to be treated with dignity because we are black or white, rich or poor, highly intelligent or just average. None of us can stand as a judge of the other. Respect for human dignity is the foundation of our relationships with our fellow man.

Trump is in no position to make a judgment on a whole continent, much less a country. We live in a shithole of a country according to his judgment, but I can tell him that there are many individual Ugandans who are far greater human beings than he will ever amount to. Even if a whole country sinks into a state of lawlessness and anarchy, as has happened to Somalia, there will always be individuals of that country, such as Mo Abram, who are exceptional human beings.

As for ordinary Americans they need to decide if they still want to stand for decency, dignity and respect for people.