The other night I watched an episode of The Profit, on CNBC. Normally this show is about Marcus Lemonis working with people in businesses that are failing. This past week’s episode was about his trips to Puerto Rico, and how much the people are suffering. This show is usually on as background noise for me while I am doing something else—this episode angered me. Not because of Lemonis and his actions, but for the lack of response to the disaster that Hurricane Maria wrought on this American territory.
During one segment of this show, there was a village that had lost the only bridge that connected them to the rest of the island. They had made up a jerry-rigged shopping cart with a cable and pulley system to bring supplies in and out of the village. In another segment the people living in another village dammed up the river so they could pour a homemade concrete mix to make a makeshift road through the river so they could come and go, albeit in four-wheel drive vehicles only. What made me so mad about this is that sitting in the United States are the resources to build temporary bridges, and do expedient road repairs—any U.S. Army combat engineer battalion has the manpower, and know how to do these repairs. In eight hours or less one platoon of engineers could have had Bailey bridges over these rivers giving these villages access to the rest of the island until a permanent structure could be built.
Potable water is another issue—people are using ingenious ways to collect water from mountain streams. Lemonis was amazed at the ingenuity used to collect this water. He did collect some and had it tested—it was contaminated with E. coli. Again, the U.S. Army has the capability to purify water:
“The 288th is a water purification unit. We have four pieces of equipment to purify 1,500 gallons an hour,” said Capt. Duane Fousie, a native of San Antonio, and 288th company commander, “If we run all our equipment, in one 24-hour period we can purify 200,000 gallons that can be used for laundry, showers, cooking, by the engineers as well as the civilian population.”
That is one company that can purify 200,000 gallons of water in a 24-hour period. There are many more of these units in the Army. Why are they not in Puerto Rico providing clean water?
I was no fan of President George W. Bush—his handling of the Katrina disaster was incompetent at best. But at least he showed some compassion toward those who were in her path.
Contrast the photo on the right with Donald Trump meeting with victims of Hurricane Maria. He is tossing out paper towels as if they are T-shirts from a T-shirt gun at a minor league baseball game. That is not presidential, and sure as hell shows no empathy toward the people who survived a natural disaster.
I am not sure that the current White House occupant, or the Republican-led Congress is even aware that Puerto Rico is a U.S. Territory, populated by U.S. citizens.
“The response and recovery effort probably has never been seen for something like this. This is an island surrounded by water. Big water. Ocean water.” — Donald Trump
I have never before questioned a sitting president’s grasp on basic geography before, but, then again, there are a lot of things I never questioned about a sitting president prior to Trump. Empathy toward others and your actions toward the less fortunate are how we should be judged. Many of you reading this are just one or two missed paychecks away from disaster. In Hubert H. Humphrey’s last speech he stated,
“…the moral test of government is how that government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; those who are in the shadows of life; the sick, the needy and the handicapped.”
By that test, our nation has failed. A “victory” in getting tax cuts for the rich was far more important to the Republican cabal currently running our nation, than providing adequate aid and relief to Puerto Rico, the sick and the poor.
I am not a religious man; however, I have read just about every religious text I could get my hands on. The bible, a book that I doubt many of the so-called Christians on the right have ever read, contains some wonderful writing. One of my favorite quotes is from Matthew 19:24:
Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.”
The Republican Party has sold its soul in the pursuit of wealth. The evangelical leaders who support them have forgotten the words from the very book they preach from—in many ways they have become no better than then people who are twisting the words of the Koran to fit their twisted, violent vision of the world.
Perhaps President Trump views those living in poverty in Puerto Rico as rabble, if that is the case, then maybe he should watch It’s a Wonderful Life, in particular, this scene:
Just remember this, Mr. Potter, that this rabble you’re talking about… they do most of the working and paying and living and dying in this community. Well, is it too much to have them work and pay and live and die in a couple of decent rooms and a bath? Anyway, my father didn’t think so. People were human beings to him. But to you, a warped, frustrated old man, they’re cattle.
Denise Oliver Velez and Kelly Macias have done an amazing job of keeping Puerto Rico in the headlines on Daily Kos—the rest of the U.S. media, not so much, and for that they are to be commended. Now, if we could just get our nation’s leadership to pay attention to the plight of Puerto Rico, instead of crowing that they cut taxes for corporations, and the wealthy—if we had a leader who showed empathy, any empathy our nation would be far better off than we will be with the tax cuts that will cripple our nation, and cause even more people to suffer.
This is a Creative Commons article. The original version of this article appeared here.