Do you believe Trump voters live in red-state shitholes of their own? And will you be sneering at the corrupt Irish cops and priests in the new TNT series?

Next week, TNT begins airing a much-hyped new series entitled The Alienist.  Set in 1890s New York, The Alienist is based on Caleb Carr’s best-selling novel which was released in 1994 and revolves around Dr. Laszlo Kreizler, a brilliant criminal profiler who tracks down murderers.

“Shithole” countries

The Alienist comes to us at an interesting time.  Much attention was paid when President Trump reportedly said that America should accept fewer immigrants from “shithole” countries like Haiti, and more immigrants from places like Norway.

Or maybe he didn’t say that.  Things have gotten so screwy in this country that folks can say something and then just say they actually did not say that thing they said.

But let’s assume the president said this.  After all, it’s consistent with other reprehensible things he’s said.  

Here’s the bigger problem: those who despise the president, and the gross things he says, like to stand on a moral high ground.  They are the self-proclaimed forces of equality and righteousness.  But they have their own problems, their own long, snobby tradition of sneering down on certain folks.

Dare I say, they see certain places as shitholes, as well.

Caleb Carr's "The Alienist"

Look no further than The Alienist.  The book, I should add.  The TNT show does not begin airing until January 22, and I look forward to seeing it.  

But if the show’s plot matches that of the book, it reflects a long, disturbing American tradition.

Carr’s novel is narrated by New York Times reporter John Moore, who chronicles Laszlo Kreizler’s heroic and groundbreaking methods of criminal investigation.  Along the way, Kreizler and Moore are accompanied by Sarah Howard, a trailblazing woman working for the NYPD, as well as Cyrus Montrose, an African American assistant.

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This is quite an impressive band of outsiders, of historically oppressed folks who can and should do battle with the bad guys.

That’s where the trouble comes in.  Guess who author Caleb Carr sets up as the corrupt and powerful establishment?

Irish cops, Catholic priests and Irish machine politicians.

Cover art to Caleb Carr's novel "The Alienist".

Cover art to Caleb Carr's novel "The Alienist".

And guess who teams up with Kreizler’s outsiders, to topple the corrupt Irish? Teddy Roosevelt.  

This consummate child of privilege is offered up as the type of noble reformer who can deal with forces as powerful and entrenched as…uh, immigrants who fled a harrowing Famine only to land in a nation where wealthy, powerful Protestants viewed them with scorn, and wished they’d go back to their own priest-ridden shithole.

It goes without saying that, historically speaking, there were loads of nasty Irish cops, corrupt Irish politicians, and hypocritical priests.  But it’s one thing to discuss such troubles in the context of immigrant desperation and deeply ingrained American anti-Catholicism.  It’s quite another to say: These guys are the bad guys.  And that’s that.

This even though the 1890s was actually the high point of the American Protective Association, an anti-Catholic, anti-immigrant nationwide group that had hundreds of thousands of official members and millions more sympathizers.  Meaning the high-minded forces of urban “reform” were also aligned with the nastiest bigots of the day.

Trump supporters v critics

And that’s the real problem surrounding the Trump’s shithole controversy, especially if you’re Irish.  Both Trump’s supporters and critics come off bad.  If you believe it’s okay for Trump to demean a less-affluent country, then you’re no better than yesterday’s anti-Irish bigots.

But if you proudly denounce the president, be careful: Do you believe Trump voters live in red-state shitholes of their own? And will you be sneering at the corrupt Irish cops and priests in The Alienist, essentially wishing we’d built a wall way back in the 1890s?

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