There’s something constantly in the news about the bumbling mistakes that President Donald Trump makes in his position as the leader of the free world. Every single day, Americans and global citizens alike prop themselves in front of their nightly news or social media outlets (especially Twitter) and watch glazed-eyed, popcorn in hand, waiting for the next morsel of idiocy to tumble out of his mouth. The entertainment factor of this presidency is almost unreal.
In this way, Trump has consistently misused social media to tweet his every fleeting thought and whim despite the advice of many, including his own staff, to do otherwise. This manipulation of public relations has severely stained not only his office but the reputation of America as a whole. Yet, we cannot expect him to change this antagonistic and frankly childish aspect of his personality. He was voted into office as this caricature and we can only expect for this to continue (while simultaneously hoping that this nightmare goes away painlessly).
We can fault him, however, for his prioritization. While he spends all of this time tweeting temper tantrums about the NFL, the people of Puerto Rico are being ignored, left alone in their suffering. Having endured both Hurricane Irma and the latest torments of Hurricane Maria, the island is blanketed in darkness. The electrical grid was wiped out for the entire country, and Public Affairs Secretary Ramon Rosario estimated that it will take months to fully restore power to the island. These natural disasters are the largest that the country has sustained in the last century, and the ripple effects show the dire position that Puerto Ricans are in. No power means a handicapped ability for business to continue functioning without interruption—which, for a territory like Puerto Rico that’s drowning in a $74 billion debt load, is absolutely devastating.
Governor Ricardo Rosselló is pleading for any tangible help from the federal government, and Trump pays the island little mind. People are navigating through the damage, struggling to overcome flooding and navigate weather-worn lands for food and water, and Trump is tweeting away, unaffected, oblivious—and when he does decide to pay attention, the response is quite horrendous.
Trump arrived in Puerto Rico this week and held a conference in a church in San Juan. He tossed rolls of paper towels at attendees like a basketball player or a cheerleader at a pep rally, as if that would solve the island’s problems. He grandstanded about the death toll of Hurricane Katrina in comparison to Maria, acting as though this hurricane wasn’t a catastrophe. Even worse, he proclaims to the country that Puerto Rico has thrown the U.S. budget “out of whack” and belittles the cries for help from San Juan Mayor Yulín Cruz, rendering them as little more than complaints.
Although the facts are that communication is generally non-existent on the island, and the death toll will likely rise as the information continues to arrive, that the U.S. has absolutely economically ravished Puerto Rico for centuries, none of this was mentioned. The Federal Emergency Management Agency still hasn’t authorized disaster help for the island. Yet, Trump thinks we “can really be very proud of what's taken place in Puerto Rico.”
As I nervously await phone calls relaying information about family members on the island, desperately wanting to hear if they are safe, if the floods had affected their houses and farms, if my grandmother’s house still stands, Trump continues to prioritize golfing and complaining. This is unacceptable. We deserve more from the President of the United States than to be treated as the rag he wipes his sniveling remarks on. Yulín Cruz put it best: This is about saving lives, not public relations or politics.
To my fellow boricuas: We can continue to help our country stand after this. There are a number of organizations—particularly Unidos por Puerto Rico, started by Puerto Rican governor’s wife Beatriz Rossello, and One American Appeal, created by all five former living Presidents—that we can concentrate our efforts in and contribute to in support our families and friends on the island. We must remain strong during these difficult times— and remember that el mundo unido esta contigo, whether it’s tweeted or not.
Jessenia N. Class ’20 is a Crimson Editorial editor in Quincy House.
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