2017 can’t seem to let up. It seems like disaster hits one after another – both figuratively and actuality. A friend of mine even stated that it feels like Mother Nature is aggressively trying to show that climate change is real. Almost like she is having a conversation with Climate Change Deniers and states, “Hold My Beer.”
Unfortunately, these disasters are heavily taking a toll. Hurricane season has broken all sorts of records. Hurricane Harvey devastated Texas. The Caribbean was wrecked in Hurricane Irma. Florida was upended with Irma. Puerto Rico has almost been annihilated due to two hurricanes; Hurricane Irma and Maria. Hurricane Maria devastated, nay annihilated the infrastructure and land in Puerto Rico. Hurricane Irma unleashed its tremendous power during the week of September 4th. Before Puerto Rico could even start to breathe again, Hurricane Maria hit on September 20th. The entire island lost power. This means an island with over 3.4 million did not have power, supplies, even clean water. To this day, 23 days since the second Hurricane hit, over 80% of Puerto Rico is still without power, not to mention access to clean water and supplies. 45 people have been reported as being killed due to the Hurricanes and their damage.
So why is it that it seems so difficult to make Americans concerned with the state of Puerto Rico? We must first understand a little bit of history.
Puerto Rico has a long history of being controlled by foreign powers. Christopher Columbus claimed it for Spain in 1493. It would endure colonization attempts from the French, Dutch, and British. The Spanish-American War saw Puerto Rico becoming an asset of the United States. So as of 1898, Puerto Rico has held American ties. For over 119 years, Puerto Rico has belonged to America. Puerto Ricans are natural born American Citizens due to the 1917 Jones- Shaforth Act. Yes, they are American Citizens and have been for the last 100 years.
Despite its location being outside of the continental US, American citizens can travel without a passport to this island. Puerto Rico is represented in the Miss America pageant. Puerto Rico is NOT represented in the Miss USA pageant (the one that Trump owned from 1996-2015) It somehow makes some sense that Trump would treat Puerto Rico as separate. But that is not the correct response.
America, Puerto Rico is yours, it is a part of your ‘great’ nation. That means that it deserves, nay requires your support, your resources, and your time. Their lost, their struggles are our own.
This means the rebuilding of the country and the health and safety of its people is America’s responsibility. If we are to believe that we no longer live in a colonization mindset – we cannot ignore the plight of Puerto Rico. We cannot rest of the fact that they seem to be ‘foreigners,’ that because they are not attached to the continental United States they are not one of us. We can no longer rest of the fact that no one knew Puerto Rico was part of America, or that they are citizens- I just explain its position, its history, and Puerto Rico is an American responsibility.
Recently the 45th President tweeted that FEMA cannot stay in Puerto Rico for very long. This ridiculous tweet highlights multiple things but 2 of which I would mention. First, it highlights the President’s lack of understanding and comprehension of how disaster relief works. It has been ten years since Hurricane Katrina and FEMA is still providing relief work and financial support. Ten years of rebuilding and bringing back to life New Orleans – and still when I visited the 9th Ward three years ago there was still a lot of work to be done. So, no, Trump, FEMA needs to stay in Puerto Rico. They are in terrible, terrible need and will be for a long time.
The presence of FEMA isn’t the only issue. FEMA was slow in its response to aid Puerto Rico, it has deleted information on its website regarding the PR, and supplies were port locked for days until the President reluctantly lifted the taxation order. When Trump visited Puerto Rico, there are pictures of him throwing paper towels at people.
He has belittled and attacked Puerto Rico’s mayor. He has been insensitive in all his comments regarding Puerto Rico. To the point that one of the most generous human beings, Lin-Manuel Miranda (creator of Hamilton: The American Musical and one of the composers of Moana) finally lashed out. Miranda, of Puerto Rican descent, has lots of family still living on the island. He voiced his general distain over a man that had been golfing when the mayor had been working nonstop with relief aid for her people. (http://www.pajiba.com/celebrities_are_better_than_you/trump-broke-linmanuel-miranda-a-celebrity-twitter-roundup-re-puerto-rico-crisis.php)
His general lack of empathy and compassion has been front and center during these disasters. Even Bush Jr., bless his heart, had more wisdom and understanding on what the people, wrecked by devastation, needed in their leaders.
It is par for the course that the 45th President has not issued a statement, a speech, or press conference which addresses the devastation, voiced his concern (outside of the cookie cutter template “pray for…). The current leader of this nation has not brought its citizens together through words of wisdom, of foresight, of compassion. I remember being moved by President Bush’s speech after September 11th, I have many, many memories of being brought to tears, feeling my heart lifted by the words of President Obama. I am constantly angered, baffled, and saddened with the lack of or lackluster response of this current presidency.
But that does not have to filter into how the regular US citizen respond. This is a call of action. A call to live up to the American Dream/Mythos. Puerto Rico is our brother, our sister, our neighbor, our fellow citizens. Below I have included links, not because this was an attempt to gain donations but on the hope, that with reading this post, you are moved to help your fellow citizens or at least understand that Puerto Rico is America, its problems are American, its future is intimately tied to America: