dump, n: an accumulation of refuse and discarded materials; also, a disordered, slovenly, or objectionable place.
That’s what our President of These United States called the White House, arguably the most famous home of a head of state this side of Buckingham Palace. And it might be that–that, that little throwaway insult, that tiny, almost invisible meanness, that thoughtless, casual cruelty–that has most upset me about the Trump Era so far. Not the staffing of the cabinet with bootlickers and running dogs and fascists and science-deniers. Not the ignorance of tradition, the destruction of norms, or the rapidly eroding global confidence. Not the dozens or hundreds of daily indignities of having a man like that in the Oval Office, an admitted sexual predator, a fraud, a liar, a thief, a con man, a brutal, arrogant bully, a man of such moral and spiritual smallness that his very existence is an ugly, sharp shock.
I think it might be this.
None of this is to elide the pain and fear and misery that’s being inflicted on the most vulnerable of us; this personal insult to me is nothing, not even worth mentioning, in the face of the active campaign of terror against women, immigrants, Muslims, LGBT folks, the poor, and countless others. But grant me this. Indulge me.
Since I got out of college, I’ve worked what I think can be charitably called “shit jobs,” what a more dignified economist might call “Dirty, Dangerous, and Difficult.” I’ve scrubbed a lot of floors and cleaned a lot of toilets. I’ve pulled a lot of hair out of shower drains and wiped out unspeakable refrigerators. I’ve hauled trash, mowed lawns, washed dishes, and otherwise given my body to the service of others. Housekeepers, janitors, cooks, sanitation workers, landscapers, these people don’t move the world. But the people who do couldn’t move without all of that happening in the background.
Not coincidentally, that’s what my book is about, so do us a favor, yeah?
For the President to call the White House–again, synonymous with power and dignity–a dump is to invalidate what I know to be the gross, painful work of keeping a place looking nice enough to have guests over. I’ve never met a member of the White House’s cleaning staff, but I take it as an article of faith that they work as hard as I do–doubtless harder, because no one with a gun and a wireless mic was ever watching me while I worked (that I know of).
It’s a cruel thing to say. It’s a distant thing to say, an ignorant thing, completely divorced from the reality of the hard work and effort of others. It’s just so dismissive, and worst of all, I have no doubt that Mr. Trump didn’t even think about it. He just said it. He just said it.
A man who cares so little for the lives of those below him does not deserve to lead other men. A man who is so unaware of the backs on which he stands is not worthy to stand on them.
But hey. He’s the president, and I’m not. So I guess he must be doing something right.