Puerto Rico

Alan Zendell, September 26, 2017

Sometimes it’s fun to look at a bunch of seemingly unrelated random facts to see if there’s a previously undiscerned pattern. Let’s try it now. Really, it’ll be fun.

Fact: Donald Trump has been obsessed with his war on the NFL players all week.

Fact: When Hurricane Harvey struck Texas, it occupied his attention for days. He lauded the wonderful people of Texas and promised them immediate massive federal aid to rebuild, deploring the reality that ten percent of Houston was without power. Nice touch except for the campaign rally tone which was devoid of compassion.

Fact: When Hurricane Irma struck Florida, it occupied his attention for a week. He lauded the wonderful people of Florida and promised them immediate massive federal aid to rebuild, deploring the fact that over a million people might be without power for a few days.

Fact: When Hurricane Maria ravaged the entire island of Puerto Rico Trump spoke of the total devastation and pledged help, but he seemed more energized by the ferocity of the storm than the plight of the people, and Puerto Rico seemed to fall off his agenda a day or two later.

Fact: In presidential elections, Texas has 38 electoral votes, Florida has 29, Puerto Rico has 0.

Fact: Texas has 36 voting members of the House of Representatives and two senators, Florida has 27 voting members of the House of Representatives and two senators, and Puerto has 0.

Fact: During the 2016 election Trump conducted 10 campaign rallies in Texas, 30 in Florida, and 0 in Puerto Rico.

Fact: In 2016 Texas voters were ethnically classified as White (non-Hispanic): 11.4 million; White (Hispanic): 9.0 million; Black: 3.1 million; Other: 1.3 million. Florida voters were ethnically classified as White (non-Hispanic): 10.9 million; White (Hispanic): 3.9 million; Black: 3.1 million; Other: 0.6 million. It’s hard to find comparable data for Puerto Rico, but it’s safe to say that most other Americans consider Puerto Ricans almost entirely non-white.

Fact: In recent days, Trump’s tweets have focused entirely on NFL players, touting a terrible health care bill that 80 percent of the country hates, and insulting Kim Jong Un. Not a single mention of Puerto Rico.

Fact: The electric power grid for Puerto Rico’s 3.5 million people has been destroyed.

Fact: All of Puerto Rico’s citizens are American citizens with the same right to the protection of the federal government (except voting rights).

FEMA has a presence on the ground in Puerto Rico, but their role is to coordinate aid and resources needed to save lives and rebuild. The problem in Puerto Rico is that there are precious few resources to coordinate.

Puerto Rico ranks in population with Iowa, Connecticut, and Oklahoma. Imagine if any of those states had to live without electricity for up to six months and were largely under water for weeks. That means no air-conditioning or refrigeration, no artificial lighting, no fresh food, and a completely dead tourist industry in a place whose economy is totally dependent on it. It also means very limited ability to move around. You can’t even fill your car with gasoline without electricity unless the pumping station has its own generator. Do you think Donald Trump would be ignoring Oklahoma or Iowa if it suffered the same fate as Puerto Rico?

Our little game of finding a meaningful pattern isn’t a game at all. Puerto Rico isn’t like those states. It’s not part of Trump’s base. Its people mean nothing in terms of his re-election or even his ability to sustain a single term in office. Trump doesn’t own a fancy resort in Puerto Rico. To all appearances, 3.5 million Puerto Ricans don’t matter as much as whether a few athletes offend the president’s sensibilities by silently protesting police brutality while the national anthem is being played, or showing that he’s tougher than some tinhorn dictator in Asia.

Can you imagine living on an island that is running out of food in a tropical climate without power or telephone service? Can you imagine millions of people begging for help and having it fall on deaf ears? We see these things every day in the third world, but these people are Americans! How dare Mr. Trump ignore them. It seems the adoring crowds he’s attracted to only matter if they’re filled with white people who vote for him.

With every compassionless act, our president diminishes our country. We knew he was devoid of moral leadership the day he announced his candidacy. We who have watched his career for decades have always known that he cared only about himself, but to behave this way before the world in the age of 24/7 media is horrifying.

How did our country come to the point at which our president has to be shamed into doing the right thing? I can only imagine General Kelly reading him the riot act. So Donald Trump has finally agreed to visit Puerto Rico 7 DAYS FROM NOW! It took him six days to decide to go to inspect what he himself called apocalyptic destruction, and it will be seven more before finds a break in his schedule to do it. I wonder how long it took to plan his campaign stop in Alabama last week – you know, the one where he started the war with the NFL.

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