shithole.

I’ve been doing my best to steer clear of politics recently – mainly because I was so burnt out when I moved away from working in them, and because I’ve been working to find my place in this political climate. I have always been a loud and proud conservative Republican fiscally, with a more left-leaning view of social issues. And the funny thing about it all is… My beliefs haven’t changed all that much. They have matured and evolved (as our beliefs on most everything do) but I still believe that the government should keep their hands off my money and health insurance, and that gay couples should be able to protect their marijuana fields and adopted children with firearms. Win-win-win, right?

So, no. I haven’t changed all that far from my moderate conservative stance. Rather, I’ve stayed centered while I have watched the political spectrum tilt and stretch in ways I never even could have imagined. We have Antifa and Neo-Nazis, Tariq Nasheed and Ann Coulter. But what about those of us in between?

What about those of us who have our beliefs and stand for them – but also have common sense and compassion? I’m still trying to figure out where we fit, because I’m right there with you.

If you’re reading this, you’ve opened up the internet today and chances are you’ve either heard or seen Trump’s comments on immigration – “Why do we want all these people from ‘shithole countries’ coming here?” He was referencing countries such as El Salvador, Haiti, and Africa. Can you say yikes?

Now, I’m nowhere close to considering myself a “bleeding heart liberal,” hell, I’m nowhere close to considering myself a liberal at all. But I believe in humanity, and this…  This one struck a chord with me. I’m not an immigrant, and I don’t have any personal ties to what Trump and some of his followers may consider “shithole” countries, but man did that particular phrase really resonant with me.

To understand exactly why, let’s back up a little bit.

Growing up, I led a pretty blessed life. I never wanted for anything, and I never had to worry about whether there would be lights on when I got home or food on the table for dinner. I received a solid education, and I was raised with the unique brand of spirit than can only come from a small town. But, some of my classmates weren’t that lucky. In fact, many of my classmates didn’t have that type of security. You see, that solid education I received was due in thanks to some incredible teachers who chose to teach in a Title I school district. I feel lucky to have grown up in little Hadley, PA … but some may see it as a “shithole.” In fact, just last year, a founding partner of TimeShareCMO said exactly that.

… no educated person wants to live in a shithole with stupid people.” Nope, that’s not photoshopped, Melinda Byerley really said that. I’ve linked her twitter in case you’re interested in what she’s up to these days, but I can’t see it as she has me blocked – probably because I don’t fall into the “people like us” category. Because I grew up in one of “those towns that have nothing going for them. No infrastructure, just a few bars and a terrible school system.” I have a million words about that, but there are far bigger issues at hand than what a disconnected business person in San Francisco thinks about my tiny town.

And I’m not naive enough to believe that a CEO in San Francisco cares about what a little hillbilly from podunk Pennsylvania thinks either. Chances are, my opinion was written off and scoffed at the minute I said I identify as a moderate conservative. I’ve grown pretty used to that in this day and age.

But in the event that my voice, my opinion, reaches even just one person… It was worth standing up for.

Do I believe in open borders? No, absolutely not. Do I believe that we should deny access to immigrants from “shithole countries” who enter the US legally and through the proper channels? No, absolutely not.

If growing up in an underprivileged, often overlooked and dismissed town has taught me anything, it is that some of the hardest workers and brightest minds can be found there. Thomas Edison once said that, “Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.” I learned that lesson over and over again growing up, as some of the most valuable lessons came knee deep in cow manure with straw in my hair. Are we really okay with missing out on valuable additions to this country, just because they don’t come from a first world country? Or because they don’t look quite like I do?

Would you pass up a diamond, just because it didn’t come from a shiny storefront?

One of my favorite songs has a line that says, “Doesn’t matter how small you start or how far you’ve come, our feet all hit the dirt when the day is done” and isn’t that the truth? I’ll never know – or begin to imagine – the feeling of being an immigrant to the United States, chasing the American Dream, and hearing words like that. But I know my own feelings on my version of a “shithole” and how it shaped me.

Maybe Trump said those words, and maybe he didn’t. But, today I am ashamed that it’s even a question.

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