A few years ago, my husband, my youngest son, and I went to Puerto Rico. My husband hates to travel. He loves Puerto Rico, though. He traveled there for work many times. He loved the beautiful beaches, the rainforest, and the native coqui frog. So, he was glad to have the opportunity to share the experience with our son and me. The island is spectacular. The weather started out iffy, with storm warnings. By the end of the trip, it was fabulous. The architecture, the rainforest, and the food were all wonderful. The people we met were friendly and hospitable. I did have one rather strange experience while at the El Yunque National Forest Visitor’s Center, a woman asked me something. I don’t even remember what it was. She might have asked where I was from. She then said to me how nice it was to see an American face. Since it was early on a rainy day, we were the only visitors there. I told her all the faces around were American faces. I can only assume she meant white faces. I’m from California, so to me, American faces are all shades. Puerto Rico is a US territory. It has been since 1898. People born in Puerto Rico are US citizens. They can move to the mainland and back freely. No passport is required for travel to Puerto Rico from the mainland or any other part of the US. So why is a hurricane in Puerto Rico more their problem than a hurricane in Texas or Florida?
We have several possible answers. First, as illustrated by the woman in the introduction. Somehow, either out of ignorance or racism, Puerto Ricans are not seen as part of “us.” So, they are not so much our responsibility. They do not have American faces. You also have the problem of empathy exhaustion. Maria is the third hurricane to hit a US land mass in just a few weeks. Harvey was formed August 17, 2017, and dissipated September 3, 2017. Irma, a category five hurricane formed August 30, 2017, and dissipated September 16, 2017. Hurricane Maria, another category five hurricane formed September 16, 2017, and dissipated October 3, 2017. By the time Maria hit Puerto Rico, Trump was bored of hurricanes and was ready to move on to other issues, like athletes’ position during the national anthem. The really important stuff.In fact, I must say I have been impressed with American’s ability to continue to care and give to causes to support hurricane victims and victims of the Las Vegas shooting. I can only hope that more voters will see that this President does not reflect their values.
We have many ways to look at hurricane Maria as somehow different from Harrold and Irma. I’m not sure that Americans see them as different in quite the same way our president sees them as different. We are down to a reason that I think applies only to him. In what way is caring about this going to benefit me? The fact that Puerto Rico is a territory, not a state with the ability to vote for president, is going to affect Trump’s approach their problems. Texas and Florida both voted for Trump in the 2016 election. He would probably like their votes again. He never really stopped running for president. President Trump only knows what he is told. He knows how many troops have been sent to help with hurricane relief. It seems like a big number to him; it should be enough. He has no idea how many are needed to provide the kind of relief that Puerto Rico needs. Puerto Rico is also going to need more federal aid, because, as you said, Mr. President, it is an island. It does not have access to aid from National Guard troops. There are no local agencies from unaffected areas available to help. It all seems great on paper. It is not great on the ground. If Houston needed that kind of aid, would the same questions have been asked? I don’t think so.
El Yunque National Forest by Donald Herman
Fortunately, I have not heard many people expressing the contempt for the victims of Hurricane Maria that our president has expressed. I have heard the same concern for the victims of Maria that of victims of Irma and Harrold. While Trump complains about the state of the budget due to Puerto Rico, American’s drive to help Puerto Ricans to have clean water, food, shelter, medication, and electricity is unabated. So, what is up with this guy. Why is he picking fights with the mayor of San Juan, Puerto Rico? Why is he dedicating golf trophies to people without food? Clearly something is wrong. But, he is goal-directed in his off the wall arguments. They seem to come from nowhere, yet they always come from something.
We will look more closely at Trump’s Twitter war with San Juan’s mayor next time. Comment to join the conversation. Also, share or friend me on Facebook and follow me on Instagram.