We watch. We witness. And what we see is an endless stream of behaviors which offend the senses, that certainly change America’s role in the world. We have hardly forgotten Trump’s treatment of Puerto Ricans when their nation was leveled by Hurricane Maria. He fought very publicly with the mayor of San Juan, he sneered at her and brought up Puerto Rico’s debts. His disdain for both women who refuse to be submissive and the people of Puerto Rico was on full display. He did not seem to know, or acknowledge once he did know, the close relationship between the US and Puerto Rico. He most likely has old evidence of Puerto Ricans he hired to work for him years ago stored in his moldy brain. So he threw paper towels to Puerto Ricans while he stroked his own ego. It was embarrassing, and if I had been one of the people who needed empathy and aide, disheartening.
Parts of Bermuda were recently leveled by Hurricane Dorian and I don’t recall any official statement of grief issuing forth from the US President at the terrible losses suffered there. Public conversation on American media instead revolved around a guy – our 45 – who hates to be wrong and so entered into a weeklong back-and-forth about his mistaken (oops, Trump is never mistaken) statement that Alabama was going to be in the path of the hurricane. Trump is shameless – he apparently added to the hurricane’s path with a “Sharpie”, extrapolating an extended path, and then excoriated a NOAA employee for disagreeing with the president’s bona fides as a meteorologist. NOAA admin then backed the president rather than their own employee because there is (frighteningly) only one expert in our government on every subject and that is the barely sane Donald Trump. I guess the weather was “fake” news.
To add insult to injury, Trump’s new immigration stance, requiring that only folks with money and credentials (and white skin) need apply, made it difficult for those made homeless in Bahama, whose documents were destroyed by Dorian, to enter the US. Well Trump may not ever feel shame, but I did and I do. Do you recognize this incarnation of America? I don’t. Does the world recognize this as American behavior? They may cut America some slack for a while but probably not forever, because there are signs that protectionist, selfish behaviors are becoming the new normal, and many recognize that it never bodes well when the world goes there.
Each day I think that there will be aid pouring into even the remotest corners and mountaintops in Puerto Rico. The photos show total devastation and people struggling day to day to survive. Why aren’t these Americans getting the help they need, not necessarily to rebuild; help just to survive for more than one day at a time. If we can’t get food, water, and perhaps a tent for shelter to these folks then we should be evacuating them.
FEMA, as I understand it, is mostly a program to apply to for funds to rebuild. Apparently FEMA can offer small amounts of food and water, but providing expendables does not seem to be their purview. People without access to electricity or internet are not able to fill out the paperwork FEMA red tape requires. Usually we see the Red Cross anywhere there is this kind of disaster but either there is no Red Cross in Puerto Rico or it was destroyed along with everything else.
On the mainland, whenever we have a natural disaster, we see the lines of energy trucks headed to the areas with no power and power is restored fairly quickly to at least the homes and businesses that are still livable. Trucks don’t drive on water. There is no parade of utility trucks to come to the aid of Puerto Ricans. This leaves these Americans at the mercy of the “lift yourselves up by your own bootstraps” Republicans and “the Donald” (who hates losers).
How can you go off to work when there is no longer any place to work? How can you leave your family before you know they will be able to eat and drink reliably while you are gone? How can you go off to work when there is no fuel and you have no fresh water to drink and you are still sorting through the ruins of your house? Well we should keep our eyes on what is going on in Puerto Rico because this is what life will be like without a safety net. How can people lift themselves up when there are no opportunities to be had?
This is a terrible tragedy, and it is not just a Puerto Rican tragedy. It is an American tragedy. You may turn your cold heart away and think that this President and this Congress are doing the right thing because after all Puerto Rico already has a huge debt. I cannot. We have never just let people drink bad water and die of cholera, at least not if we had the means to help them. I am very glad that Rachel Maddow has decided to keep our attention focused on Puerto Rico because we lose focus very easily these days.
What happened to all our helicopters? Can’t water and food be airlifted to people who need it, people who are drinking water from rivers which might or might not be safe to drink? Why can’t they at least hand out those magical new “pills” that make any water, no matter how dirty, potable? We use this technology in other places, why not here? Can’t people be reassured that any land they own will be kept for them so that they can evacuate with some confidence that they will be able to keep their property and return to it once infrastructure is restored? If Puerto Ricans want to work on restoring infrastructure isn’t there a way to assure them that their families will be looked after. I know we can do better than this. It is disturbing to think about what this means about America.