Americans are trapped on a devastated island and all around them a public health crisis is unfolding, but their president only recently took time out from attacking football players on Twitter to give them a noticeably begrudged acknowledgement.
Early this Friday, Trump hinted again that U.S. help in rebuilding Puerto Rico is questionable.
“The fact is that Puerto Rico has been destroyed by two hurricanes. Big decisions will have to be made as to the cost of its rebuilding!” Trump tweeted. The sentiment seemed clear: Try not to get your hopes too high, Puerto Rico.
In another tweet, the president painted an encouraging picture of the rescue effort. But that didn’t reflect in the words of San Juan’s mayor, Carmen Yulín Cruz, whose pleas in an emotional viral video from this Friday drove home the severity of the situation.”We’re dying here,” she said to reporters, and presumably Trump.
— Erick Fernandez (@ErickFernandez) September 29, 2017
After expressing her frustration with FEMA, Cruz directly asked Trump to send someone who is “up to the task of saving lives.”
“They were up the task in Africa when Ebola came over,” she said, according to The Guardian.
“They were up to the task in Haiti [after the earthquake of 2010]. As they should be. Because when it comes to saving lives we are all part of one community of shared values.”
The shared values of fellow citizens.
“I will do what I never thought I was going to do: I am begging,” she continued, her voice cracking with emotion. “I am begging anyone that can hear us to save us from dying. If anybody out there is listening to us, we are dying. And you are killing us with the inefficiency and bureaucracy.”
According to a recent poll reported on by The New York Times, almost half of Americans don’t know that Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens. While it’s likely that contributed to the muted response to Hurricane Maria as opposed to the Texas and Florida hurricanes, the end result is just the same as the general apathy that emanates from people when Syrian or Iraqi children are being killed. Now, the President of the United States is openly showing the same apathy, and it’s a disgrace.
Trump’s hesitancy towards Puerto Rico is coupled with a rising narrative in the Alt-Right Twittersphere — a kind of Ayn Randian “f*ck them, they should have been prepared” mantra. Mike Cernovich, the conspiracist troll who helped propagate the “Pizza Gate” nonsense, went so far as to call Cruz a “murderer.”
“She is garbage, she is a murderer, she failed her people and her duties and belongs in prison!” Cernovich tweeted Friday night. The comment thread that vomited beneath echoed the same sentiment.
Libatards never miss a chance to take advantage of a crisis to further their agenda.
— J D Nobles (@rengadepress) September 30, 2017
Well I see a ton of bottled water behind her!!!! Quit bitching and start handing it out! I want to see her mandatory disaster plan they are have written out and practiced annually..
— Common Sense (@SenseS76758215) September 30, 2017
I don’t remember this kind of vitriol when Texas or Florida were ravaged by storms.
Either way, a natural disaster couldn’t have come at a worse time for Puerto Rico. Not only do they have to battle the logistical problems of getting aid to citizens who need it, but they need to battle a competing narrative for the truth from the Trump administration. Earlier on Friday, Cruz slammed acting homeland security secretary Elaine Duke for saying the relief effort was a “good story.”
“Dammit, this is not a good news story,” Cruz told CNN. “This is a people are dying story. This is a life-or-death story.”
Update: The Washington Post published a damning report this Friday alleging that after Hurricane Maria made landfall on Puerto Rico on Wednesday, September 20, Trump “jetted to New Jersey that Thursday night to spend a long weekend at his private golf club there, save for a quick trip to Alabama for a political rally.”
Trump did hold a meeting at his golf club that Friday with half a dozen Cabinet officials — including acting Homeland Security secretary Elaine Duke, who oversees disaster response — but the gathering was to discuss his new travel ban, not the hurricane. Duke and Trump spoke briefly about Puerto Rico but did not talk again until Tuesday, an administration official said.
Even though local officials had said publicly as early as Sept. 20, the day of the storm, that the island was “destroyed,” the sense of urgency didn’t begin to penetrate the White House until Monday, when images of the utter destruction and desperation — and criticism of the administration’s response — began to appear on television, one senior administration official said.
Featured image via YouTube