by Kristina Vakhman
By the time this opinion is printed, President Donald Trump will have flipped-flopped and somersaulted with his positions regarding Puerto Rico and Hurricane Maria an immeasurable amount of times.
Puerto Rico is home to over three million American citizens, making it by far the United States territory with the largest population. However — perhaps due to Puerto Rico’s three million American citizens being unable to vote for him in the 2016 presidential election — Trump and his administration don’t seem to care all too much that Hurricane Maria virtually wiped out the island’s entire way of life.
In fact, Trump’s response — or rather his lack of a fast, appropriate response — to this humanitarian disaster is the greatest evidence that he and compassion are absolute strangers.
More than every other unorthodox thing the commander-in-chief has said and done, this really hits the nail on the head in conveying that Trump has never so much as shaken compassion’s hand. This should be especially troubling to those of his Evangelical base who believe in the Christian principle of compassion, since it is the religion he says he belongs to.
Rather than offering and sending aid to Puerto Rico immediately after Hurricane Maria totaled the island, Trump stalled for over a week. When he finally addressed the crisis during interviews and on his Twitter, his comments were borderline demeaning and mocking, mentioning Puerto Rico’s debts and crumbling infrastructure in a time when the lives of struggling survivors should have been the main focus. Additionally, he attacked Puerto Rican leaders for criticizing his sedated support.
If we are to follow the logic of the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt, who said it was wrong to discuss something like climate change when Hurricanes Harvey and Irma victims were picking up the pieces, it is wrong of Trump to complain about how Puerto Rico is going to repay the United States in the future when people are desperate for food and water.
How could a president mess up responding compassionately to a natural disaster? Is money that much more valuable than human lives?
Moreover, when Trump eventually took the action that should have come in the immediate wake of the storm, he did not let the media forget it. The pats on the back he gave himself kept coming and coming.
Even though relief efforts proved insufficient in the face of power outages and food and water shortages, his boasting continued through tweet after tweet, interview after interview. Even if the country’s Defense Department stated that the provided assistance was not enough, there was no end to the narcissism. Stroking his own ego and catering to his base has filled the president’s ears with cotton.
It is important to remember, even if Trump does not, that American citizens reside in Puerto Rico. Though they cannot vote in the presidential election, they matter. Their lives should not be weighed on a scale with money and popularity. These people, as citizens of the U.S., are entitled to the same help as those affected by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.
If you are unable to recognize that and instead pit humans up against “unpaid debts,” you are not fit to sit in the White House.