Puerto Rico got walloped by Hurricane Maria. The storm made landfall on Puerto Rico as a category 4 hurricane seven days ago, now. Maria destroyed the territory’s electricity transmission infrastructure, and the vast majority of the territory is still without electrical power, with all the attending problems that causes. Food is running out, potable water is in desperate short supply, and it could be months before power is restored.
For the first days of this rolling natural disaster, there was no comment coming from the White House. There were no words of reassurance, no verbal commitment to aid an island that is home to over 3 million American citizens. Instead, President Trump decided to start a twitter war with professional athletes. When Trump did finally address the disaster in Puerto Rico, he used the opportunity to point out that the territory is deeply in debt. So, not only did the President of the United States abrogate the responsibility of the government to provide disaster relief, he decided to give a lecture about paying bills. I wish I could say I was shocked, or even mildly surprised, but the ignorance and callous disregard to the plight of Puerto Rico is directly inline with Trump’s character.
Puerto Rico was hit so hard by Maria that it will be many years before things get back to normal. In the meantime an overwhelming response to the disaster is required, otherwise people are going to start dropping dead from dehydration, starvation, and disease. The situation is so bad in Puerto Rico that it resembles a failed state. But it’s not a failed state. It’s a part of the United States, also known as the richest country in the world. There is supposedly no challenge that we cannot rise to meet, should we choose to do so.
The United States is responding to the disaster. FEMA is on the ground, and they are working hard. But this is a country whose Congress recently voted to give the Pentagon tens of billions of dollars more in its budget than they asked for.
We have the capability to provide an overwhelming response to the situation in Puerto Rico, and that is exactly what is called for. We should be mounting the equivalent of a humanitarian invasion in Puerto Rico, which, it cannot be stressed enough, is part of the United States. It’s mind-boggling that more than half of the people who responded to a recent poll conducted by Morning Consult did not know that Puerto Ricans are their fellow citizens. The island exists in a mental space where they are out of sight and out of mind. They are thought of as the other, as part of the overblown immigration problem, and thus not deserving of our empathy and help. It’s disturbing.
If we can flood our military with riches they don’t need and didn’t ask for, it is unconscionable that we can’t send a fleet of cargo ships and planes, packed full with aid workers and materiel, to Puerto Rico to relieve the pressure. Hurricane Maria did its work a week ago. Every death that has occurred since then, or that will occur, is not the fault of the storm. That’s on us.