The President and Puerto Rico: Dividing Us When We Should Come Together

I know that I should be writing about President Trump's belligerent, oafish attacks on National Football League players who take a knee during the National Anthem. I know I should point out that Colin Kaepernick and others aren't protesting the flag or the dumb, boring National Anthem, but that they are protesting police brutality and the murder of unarmed African Americans by cops. I know I should call Trump all kinds of names and make nasty references to body parts.

But, instead, when it comes to Trump, it's more important to point out that, since last Wednesday, the President of the United States has not tweeted about Puerto Rico, the American territory that was devastated by Hurricane Maria last week and Hurricane Irma before. It's more important to point out that the White House website offers no information on Puerto Rico or the U.S. Virgin Islands, also wrecked by storms, since a readout of a phone call with their governors from last Thursday. At a point where a real president would be uniting us behind Americans whose lives have been destroyed, Trump has chosen to divide us between people who give a shit about the goddamn American flag and people who do not.

So I'm sorry that I'm not railing on that red meat topic. Instead, I'm thinking about the families of a hell of a lot of my students. I'm thinking about the millions of loved ones of the estimated over 5 million Puerto Ricans who live in the United States mainland.

I'm thinking about how:

- About 80% of the lines that bring electricity to cities and towns were decimated by the storms, on top of the fact that all the local power lines are down. The power grid will likely need to be rebuilt from scratch. The heat index in San Juan right now is 100 degrees. 91 plus the humidity. With not even a fan. And no water pumping stations on line. Which means you can't flush a toilet. Or get a drink. Imagine for a second being without electricity for months, as people without generators will be. Imagine being without every modern convenience and more than a few necessities.

- Maria "wiped out about 80 percent of the crop value in Puerto Rico." It took out dairy barns, chicken coops, and plantations. It destroyed the roads where food is transported with debris and landslides.

- The Guajataca dam still is at risk of breaking, flooding an area where 70,000 live. Meanwhile, the streets of the cities in Puerto Rico are still flooded, days after the storm.

- Fuel is in short supply. People line up for hours to get anything for cars or generators.

- Hospitals can't guarantee that they can take in more patients, let alone take care of the ones who are there. Hospitals lack enough electricity and running water, even with generators helping.

Fox "news" personality Geraldo Rivera is from Puerto Rico, and he was able to get to the island to see how his family was doing. His assessment is stark, especially for, well, Fox: "Only an approach like the Marshall Plan that resurrected Europe in the wake of World War II can save this place known as La Isla del Encanto, the island of enchantment. Bring in the aircraft carriers; import thousands of generators. Recruit linemen from around the United States to rally to the cause of their fellow U.S. citizens. The need is dire."

A massive effort will need to be undertaken, and, to be fair, FEMA is there and helping, as much as it can. But there are very few places for planes to land, and the Navy could send a hospital ship to help. Mostly, the level of devastation is too huge to grapple with. And we're talking a population roughly seven times that of New Orleans during Katrina. Right now, the White House is talking about getting a disaster aid request to Congress in the next couple of weeks. Enough time for a whole lot of people to die. Enough time for a humanitarian crisis to overtake any efforts going on now.

Trump's refusal to discuss Puerto Rico at all this weekend while he was freely disparaging the NFL and John McCain and, of course, playing golf come across as distressingly apathetic and unsurprisingly racist. And, frankly, the media is aiding and abetting this apathy by concentrating on his bullshit tweets (it'd be one thing if CNN was using Trump's hissy fit to discuss police tactics, but, no, it's just "Trump mad. You mad, too?"). This morning, NPR didn't even mention Puerto Rico in its news round-up. The New York Times had a brief mention of an article on the bottom of the front page.

Maria would be Trump's Katrina, except very few people seem to give a damn.