“It’s a very big ocean”

I’ll admit, when I was growing up, I didn’t really know where Puerto Rico was.

I mean, we were taught geography in school and I had an atlas, but I was always confused. Was it up near New York (I heard there were a lot of Puerto Ricans living there)?

It wasn’t until I owned property of my own and began nervously and scrupulously poring over hurricane maps that I was able to slap my head, go “duh!” and be certain just where Puerto Rico was.

But I always knew they were part of us, or U.S., in this case. The whole “U.S. territory” part of Puerto Rico stuck from the get go, back to my childhood. I knew they were Americans regardless of their language or location. Just like Hawaii and Alaska, even if those two are officially states (what’s that Washington, D.C.?).

All that leaves me concerned about the United States’ response to the catastrophic conditions in Puerto Rico. Where was the outpouring of urgency and commitment we proudly witnessed in Texas and Florida?

My concern starts at the top, where the impression given by the president is that he might not realize that Puerto Ricans are Americans. That, “make America great again”, should extend to our territories, as well.

I won’t get into the back and forth, his various bizarre statements or his inane fascination with a few football players kneeling versus 3.5 million people without power and lacking food and water.

Although, his “amazement” that Puerto Rico is “an island sitting in the middle of the ocean” does beg disbelief. As if somehow, there were no such things as ships and planes. Whatsoever can we do for something “in the middle of the ocean”?

But it extends beyond just the president. How could our government be so ill-prepared to rush disaster aid to Puerto Rico. As you can see by the map in this post, we had more than ample time to anticipate the storm’s destructive path and there was no doubt what a storm of that magnitude would do to Puerto Rico.

Why weren’t ships made ready? What reason was there for cargo planes not to be pre-loaded and ready to go (since we can’t just “drive your trucks there from other states”)? By intent or omission, the appearance is that we just didn’t care that much about Puerto Rico.

Then there was the inhumane comment about the Jones Act, which forbids foreign ships to carry supplies between U.S. ports. They must be American vessels, which not only are more costly, but it limited immediate aid. To which Mr. Trump replied, “But we have a lot of shippers and … a lot of people who work in the shipping industry that don’t want the Jones Act lifted.”

No duh. And who cares? It’s a humanitarian crisis! People are in life-threatening situations and you’re worried about some shippers’ profits? Are you kidding me?

We, the little people (otherwise known as the citizens of the United States) have done our part to make America great – we’re sending supplies and money to our American brothers and sisters over in Puerto Rico. We started right away.

Eight days later, it appears the U.S. government is finally flexing all of its muscles. Maybe now, desperate people in Puerto Rico can look to hope once again.

Even all the way out in the middle of a very big ocean.

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