The ‘Trump Reaction’ to the Puerto Rican Tragedy

Hannah Webb, Editor-in-Chief

When Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico on September 20, Americans and others all over the world were dismayed. Only weeks after Hurricane Harvey had hit Houston, already another storm was wreaking havoc in an area relatively close to home. My expectation (like many other Americans with a moral conscience) was that the United States would, as we had in Houston, aid the hurting population of Puerto Rico and do everything we could to help.

It goes without saying that I was disappointed. While Puerto Ricans began their struggle to recover, our President was more focused on the audacity of NFL players to kneel during the National Anthem. Honestly, how dare they exercise their freedom of speech!

When President Trump finally found the time to discuss the Puerto Rican tragedy, he said the following: “Texas & Florida are doing great but Puerto Rico, which was already suffering from broken infrastructure & massive debt, is in deep trouble. Its old electrical grid, which was in terrible shape, was devastated. Much of the Island was destroyed, with billions of dollars owed to Wall Street and the banks which, sadly, must be dealt with. Food, water, and medical are top priorities — and doing well.”

Now, it must be recognized that this statement is essentially true. Puerto Rico was not doing well, financially, even before Hurricane Maria hit the island. According to The New York Times, Puerto Rico’s debt had been piling up for a while prior to May 2017, when it became the first U.S. territory to file for bankruptcy.

My problem with Trump’s statements lies not in their contents, but in their context. There is nothing wrong with truthfully reporting on the state of the Puerto Rican economy. There is, however, a problem with making these reports days after the island has been struck by tragedy. Because of their timing, these statements simply serve to make both America and Donald Trump look completely insensitive to the troubles of others. Think about it. You wouldn’t comment on the reckless drug problems someone’s father used to have at his funeral.

As if this wasn’t enough, Fortune reported that Trump also reached to tweet that the Puerto Rican government was showing “such poor leadership” and that they wanted “everything to be done for them.” This comment was made after the mayor of San Juan, Carmen Yulín Cruz, requested further assistance from the Trump administration.

Sure enough, Trump’s comments elicited a negative response.

The tweets this morning are despicable, are deplorable, are not statesman-like at all,” said Melissa Mark-Viverito, Puerto-Rican born New York City Council Speaker.

And it’s true–by all moral and respectable standards, the U.S. should be doing its best to provide assistance to Puerto Ricans. Not because of any political gain, but because it’s just the right thing to do. No one’s asking the President to dump all of our resources into Puerto Rico to the point where we have nothing left for ourselves. All they’re asking is for the most assistance we can give.

Therein the problem with modern politics lies. The politicians in power are only interested in helping others if there’s some political gain waiting for them on the other side. Charity is only ever a power play.

Thanks to his unneeded comments, President Trump has now sent the message that Americans think just like politicians: charity is only necessary if some benefit for us comes from it. That’s one message that I don’t believe America needs to send. As a pillar of democracy and freedom in this world, we should be doing everything we can to give back to countries in need.

Yet again, we find the whole of America disgraced by the actions of one man. The bubbling pot of political discord in our country continues to threaten to bubble over. The question is, when will it be enough?

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