My heart goes out to the victims in Puerto Rico. I have been considering long and hard how to write this. I’ve been watching, waiting to see exactly what would happen. I gave this administration and our nation a chance to respond, to see how and if they would. For once, I was quiet. Well, okay, maybe not overly silent. I had a good bit of frustration and anger, some really emphatic social media posts and my poor husband heard a great many rants. Although, he didn’t complain. We share an indignant passion for people who are marginalized. He’s a good man. I’ll keep him. But, as for making an official statement, writing an article that would be tossed out to the masses, I waited. I just wanted to see what would happen and study the events as they unfolded so that I could look at it on timeline comparable to other disasters. I gave this administration the opportunity to succeed before I condemned them. And succeed they did, though not in any manner worthy of praise.
Instead of showing any sense of compassion, Puerto Rico was met with contempt. They were treated, from the onset, like a parasite; with us but not us, sucking our energy and giving nothing in return. This is exactly how the so-called President of the United States of America treated U.S. citizens. He demeaned them. Blamed them. Insulted them. Denied them adequate relief efforts. The relief effort for Puerto Rico by the United States government was token, at best. That does not mean the people who went were not working as hard as they could. It means the administration sent way too few to help with an immense disaster. Puerto Rico is literally post apocalyptic right now. Sure, the death toll could have been worse, but we still, three weeks later, actually do not know how many have died. They can only officially report deaths confirmed related to the disaster. Since there are areas and villages still inaccessible, that count is sure to rise from the forty-five listed as of today. Oh, and people aren’t even finished dying, yet. And, there is the matter that only one agency, the Institute of Forensic Science, can officially determine a death count, which means bodies either must be transported to San Juan or an official must travel to the location to confirm the death and that it is related. There has been some speculation that the death toll is being intentionally suppressed to paint the relief efforts in a better light. Outside estimates claim there may be between four hundred fifty to two thousand dead and counting.
Many people have died in the aftermath of the storm: in mudslides, due to the loss of medical services or equipment, and even to diseases from the tainted water. These people have not been counted. For whatever reason, their deaths were dismissed. There are reports from aid workers that the morgue in Aguidilla is closed because it is at full capacity. Those deaths have not been counted, either. Now to get a handle on that, it would mean around five hundred people, and supposedly, FEMA is aware of it, but not reporting them. The New York Daily News sent a request to FEMA to confirm this without response. I also made a request and mums the word coming out of FEMA. Nothing but a referral back to their website for updates on the situation. The Puerto Rican Newspaper El Vocero stated in a report that approximately three hundred fifty additional bodies were being held in the Institute of Forensic Science’s morgue. Those have yet to be verified or counted. My requests for information or verification of this have not been answered.
After three weeks, almost the entire island is still without power. Fuel is a luxury almost no one has. More than half the population is without clean drinking water. The tainted water is spreading disease. Most homes on the island have been damaged or destroyed. Communications across the island are near non-existent. It can take days to get messages between cities and some of the more isolated areas have yet to be reached.
The Trump administration would have you believe they have done a magnificent job in the relief efforts. In fact, Trump believes they have really done quite enough and the island needs to stop whining already. He blames them for their situation, that their infrastructure was too poor and inadequate. It may be true they had an old system in desperate need of updating, however, there is no indication that a newer system would have fared better under the extreme conditions of a large, powerful category four hurricane ripping across the complete island. A better electric system would not have stopped the winds so strong they snapped weather service wind gauges and cell phone towers along with power lines and buildings. It would not have stopped the landslides or the severe flooding or the trees being ripped from the round and turned into lethal projectiles ripping through power lines, homes and buildings. No. Poor infrastructure may not have helped much, but it did not cause the disaster.
Here is the funny thing, though; well not funny like a good joke, but funny as in peculiar, We never heard this type of rhetoric out of Trump regarding Houston. Now Houston’s civil engineering actually did hold some level of responsibility for making some very poor decisions on structuring neighborhoods in areas which should have been deemed flood zones. People’s lives were put in danger for profit, who should have been aware of the actual risk associated with the homes they bought. But not a word of dissent out of the administration. They got there and worked diligently to get people to safety. In Florida, again, no complaints towards the state or the citizens. In no instance did Trump ever suggest Floridians or Texans were just lazy and wanted everything done for them. He never belittled them. He never insulted them. He never made suggestions that the government had done enough and they should take on the rest by themselves, as he did this morning with Puerto Rico. So, we have to ask why? What makes Puerto Rico different? Well, there are several things.
First, Puerto Rico is not a state. While all the people there are citizens of the United States, they do not have the right to vote. They have no representation in the federal government with any power. Their position is that of a colony and is regarded just about as well as King George regarded New England. Actually, the comparison is solid. What brought about the American Revolution? Taxation without representation. And that is exactly the case with Puerto Rico. Most individuals do not have to pay federal income tax, though they do pay payroll taxes, social security taxes, commodity taxes, and import and export taxes. They contribute billions annually to the federal government, yet they are only allowed a single representative without voting power. Taxation without representation. Puerto Rico has been victimized for a long time, forced to adhere to ridiculous laws which keep its economy stifled and without the voting protection or voice to do anything about it. They are ruled by the United States, not governed. Their democracy is only local with very little power to effect change on any scale which would improve their situation.
And now they are being treated like the unwanted child of a mistress who a Republican Senator would have happily had aborted. They have literally been told by Trump that they are costing too much. Today he pled the argument that their situation was their own fault, so it is time for the federal government to start stepping away. Disgusting, right? But not so unexpected. We’ve only touched on the first point of how Puerto Rico is different: its lack of representation. Now let’s discuss why that is. After several referendums to become a state, the only reason Puerto Rico is not a state and entitled to representation is because the United States has failed to approve it. They like keeping Puerto Rico exactly like they are. Especially the GOP.
Why? Well, with statehood it would be an entire state of predominantly Spanish-speaking brown people. It is difficult to argue that English should be the only language when we have a state that is almost entirely Spanish-speaking. The white patriarchy would have difficulty accepting the people of this state as equals, much like they still cannot accept Native Americans as equals and continue to pilfer their lands and break their treaties.
This is the biggest difference, the reason the Trump administration doesn’t care if these people live or die, so long as Trump can claim he did something and good ratings: These are minorities. And worse, they are a majority minority. Crippling Puerto Rico sets them back many strides in gaining representation; belittling them and making them seem like a parasite, rather than citizens worthy of equal rights and representation. This is a genocide of neglect on the part of Donald Trump and his actions should be criminal. He has literally killed people with his lack of adequate response. Lives lost that can never be returned. People are dead and they will never see their families, nor their families them, again, because he sent a quarter the resources to Puerto Rico that he sent to Houston or Florida with more than a week’s delay. His administration claimed there was “no economic benefit,” to suspending the Jones Act for the island, despite its immediate suspension after Harvey and Irma.
Thankfully congress is stepping up to at least send some sort of funding to help Puerto Rico rebuild, but that will not change the potentially thousands dead. I doubt we ever know the actual death count, but it is a sinister thought that it could be intentionally misrepresented.
In the end, this is just more about race inequality in our nation. Our racist president is ever eager to prove his white heritage dominance to the bulk of his supporters, who ironically don’t even think they are racist because they have a friend who is black or the guy who mows their lawn is Mexican. But they have an inherent disposition to believe that ‘other’ is bad. They are quick to accept that a black man is dangerous or an Hispanic man is lazy or a criminal. People of color are put in the position of having to prove themselves and overcome a negative impression that was gleaned from nothing more evident than the their skin tone.
Puerto Ricans are dying because of this voluntary blindness to the racism imbedded, systemically, in our nation. This is the difference that matters, because this is the one killing them.
Fight. Resist. Speak for those who cannot speak any longer. Help these people, our people, our fellows, our countrymen and women. We are a nation of tragedies, so many of our own making.
We are One Woman, One World.
Updated 10/13/17 to correct Daily News to New York Daily News and to correct typographical errors without consequence to the meaning or integrity of the article.
Sources to Help the Victims of Maria
You can search for many more relief organizations.