As the Mayor of San Juan, Puerto Rico, begged for help from fellow Americans after Hurricane Maria, President Donald Trump ignored the disaster and attacked her leadership instead. Dr Norm Sanders reports.
HURRICANE MARIA left the island of Puerto Rico totally devastated.
In terms of human suffering, it is at least as bad a disaster as the situation in Texas and Florida. President Donald Trump immediately Tweeted his sympathy to residents in those States.
It took him days to even mention Puerto Rico — and when he did, it was to attack Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz, who was pleading for help.
There are at least three reasons for his actions:
- Trump's racist attitudes;
- the fact that he was publicly criticised by a woman; and
- the peculiar status of Puerto Rico as a U.S. Territory.
Trump seems to share the ignorance of nearly half of all Americans, who don't realise that Puerto Ricans are fellow citizens.
Or maybe his lack of interest in the plight of the island is just because Puerto Ricans – incredibly – are not allowed to vote for the President. Puerto Rico was originally discovered by Christopher Columbus and claimed by Spain. The U.S. acquired the island in 1898 after the Spanish-American War and it has remained a U.S. Territory ever since.
Puerto Ricans are, by law, natural-born U.S. citizens but have no say in “mainland” elections. Statehood and full participation remain a distant dream.
Trump grew up as a member of the privileged white upper class in a multiracial New York. His ancestry is German, although his father, Fred, claimed to be Swedish until the 1980s.
As a descendant of immigrants himself, Donald should be understanding of others who come to America. Unfortunately, this is not so, particularly when it comes to Latinos. He has always made it clear that he considers Latinos inferior, as is repeatedly demonstrated by his fanatic effort to “Build the Wall.”
In terms of American racial prejudice, Puerto Ricans are lumped in with other non-whites and are certainly an underclass.
West Side Story is a 1950 musical (and later movie) based on Romeo and Juliet and set in the Upper West Side of New York. Romeo (Tony) is a member of a white gang, the Jets, while Juliet (Maria) is related to the leader of the Puerto Rican “Sharks”. A famous song from the production is 'America'.
The lyric goes:
'Life can be bright in America. If you can fight in America. Life is all right in America. If you're a white in America'.
Tony and Maria die tragically in the final act. Ironically, it was a hurricane named "Maria" that caused so much tragedy in present-day Puerto Rico.
The Category 4 hurricane killed 16 people, and left a large proportion of the 3,411,307 residents of the island without power and in urgent need of food, water and communications.
Donald Trump, meanwhile, was energising his white supremacy supporters by Tweeting his condemnation of NFL Football teams who were kneeling – "taking a knee" – during the national anthem, in protest against black killings.
It took the Mayor of San Juan, Carmen Yulin Cruz, to shift his focus to Puerto Rico.
Cruz said at a news conference:
"We have no time for patience anymore. I am asking the President of the United States to make sure somebody is in charge that is up to the task of saving lives.
I am done being polite. I am done being politically correct. I am mad as hell."
On 30 September, Trump got Tweeting:
'The Mayor of San Juan, who was very complimentary only a few days ago, has now been told by the Democrats that you must be nasty to Trump.'
... Such poor leadership ability by the Mayor of San Juan, and others in Puerto Rico, who are not able to get their workers to help. They .....
... want everything to be done for them when it should be a community effort. 10,000 Federal workers now on Island doing a fantastic job.
If President Trump – the most powerful man in the world – thought he could Tweet Carmen Cruz into silence, he was sadly mistaken. She fired back with a series of news conferences and interviews which went around the globe. Appearing on CNN, she wore a T-shirt which said, 'HELP US WE ARE DYING'.
The contest was never equal. There was Trump, tweeting away in opulence, perhaps while seated on his golden toilet, criticising a woman who was pleading for her people's survival after losing her home and was now sleeping on a cot in a shelter.
What kind of a person would take on the President of the United States? Trump should have done some research before he attacked Ms Cruz.
Carmen Yulin Cruz is 54 years old, married, with one son. She has been Mayor of San Juan since 2013.
San Juan is a city of 347,052 inhabitants (2016) and is the 45th biggest city in the U.S. Being mayor is a big job. Before becoming mayor, Ms Cruz served from 2009 to 2013 as a member of the Puerto Rico House of Representatives. She is affiliated with the Popular Democratic Party (PPD) and says she is philosophically in tune with U.S. Democrats.
After graduating from high school in Puerto Rico, she went to Boston University, graduating Magna Cum Laude with a degree in political science. She went on to complete a Master of Science in Public Management at the prestigious Carnegie Mellon University. Cruz then embarked on a professional career in the human resources department of Westinghouse. Later she became a human resources director for Colgate-Palmolive, Banco Popular, Celluar One (now AT&T), Scotia Bank and the U.S. Treasury Department.
She returned to Puerto Rico in 1992 and became interested in politics. The rest, as they say, is history.
Actor Jennifer Lopez (JLo) was one of the Puerto Ricans who was furious about Trump''s attacks on Carmen Cruz. JLo posted on Instagram showing Trump playing golf while Carmen Cruz is wading knee deep in sewage.
The image says it all.
In a Meet The Press interview on NBC, Cruz said:
“I don't care. He can attack me all he wants, you know, bring it on. I'm here if it saves lives. If it gets the message in the right place, frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn.”
Trump can tweet all he wants, but this remarkable, angry Puerto Rican woman has cut that bully down to size.
Dr Norm Sanders is a former academic, TV journalist, Tasmanian MP and Australian Federal Senator.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Australia License
Be proactive. Subscribe to IA today.