Ex-Whaler Larrieux, a proud native of Haiti, stunned by the president's narrative
The voice on the other end of the phone Friday belonged to Voghens Larrieux, a New London High grad and native of what we learned from President Trump is that "shithole" of a place called Haiti.
Larrieux — "VoVo" as he's still known here to his friends — is the first guy I thought of upon hearing the president's most recent observation.
"I was actually trying to give him a chance," Larrieux was saying. "I see all these people hating on him on social media. I try not to let hatred in my life. But after hearing what he said, I mean, I'm stunned. How could you say something like that? It shows me what he truly thinks of our people."
A primer on Larrieux: He played football at New London High and used it to gain a scholarship to Coastal Carolina. He was in tryout camps with the Kansas City Chiefs and Buffalo Bills last spring, before realizing the National Football League wasn't for him. He returned to South Carolina and works as a sales representative in Myrtle Beach for UniFirst, a uniform supply company.
Larrieux has a message for everyone about that "shithole" where he spent most of his childhood.
"I grew up in a small town near the beach," he said. "People do beach things there. They fish. They live normal lives. We have greenery and beaches, small houses. A nice place to live."
Larrieux could have stayed in Connecticut to attend college, but listened to the quizzical little voice inside him. He realized change — scary and uncertain as it might appear — was required to truly live his authentic life.
"My own intrinsic motivation," Larrieux said. "I decided to take a risk, be a man and grow on my own. Best thing I ever did. My mom (Rose, a certified nursing assistant in Waterford) has worked very hard and sacrificed a lot for me and my sister since we moved here. She always made sure we had what we wanted. I made her a promise to return all that and more so she could retire at an early age. I'm keeping that promise."
Impressive guy, this VoVo.
Always has been.
Sort of makes you want to nudge the leader of the free world and go, "gee, they sure do produce dirtbags from that 'shithole' Haiti, don't they?"
But then ... how would President Trump know? It's not like he'd ever take the time to learn about anyone or anything that doesn't adhere to his predispositions and prejudices.
"You expect more out of the president," Larrieux said. "It's hard to believe he could say something like that."
Say this much for President Trump: His musings have certainly exposed many Americans for who and what they really are. They're slowly emerging from their caverns, empowered by their leader who preys on their ignorance to ignite more fear. And this is how bigotry festers. From fear.
We learned earlier this week in suburban Cincinnati, for instance, that it's permissible in some households to wear uniforms to a basketball game bearing the word "coon."
We've experienced a number of social commentators here at theday.com who don't feel the need to "apologize" for being white.
Oh, the persecution. How do they stand it?
But they will stand by their man here. Haiti, and all the other "shitholes" to which President Trump referred, are just that: "shitholes." Because their man said so. Because these people, like their man, haven't the inclination to learn about anything or anyone new. Why? It's easier that way. More convenient. Safer, in their eyes.
And their ignorance festers, growing like a weed until it morphs into fear. You know the rest.
Except what would the president make of a young man like Voghens Larrieux who doesn't fit the narrative? Larrieux knows Haiti better than anyone else passing judgment on his native country. He's polite, respectful and productive. And after trying to give the president a chance because he was taught to love and not hate, he woke up Friday to learn that his country is a "shithole."
And what would that make the people living there?
You're quite a guy, Mr. President.
Don't ever change.
There's way too much remaining ignorance out there for you to prey on.
And as Carly Simon once noted rather famously: Nobody does it better.
This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro