Love thy neighbor, America

On Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2017, a Category Four hurricane made direct landfall on the island of Puerto Rico. The infrastructure of Puerto Rico was completely destroyed, leaving 3.4 million American citizens without power, food or water. As of Oct. 16, according to the Associated Press, 86 percent of the island was still without power. Let that sink in: 86 percent of the population, all of them American citizens, living without power for almost a month. Consider everything we use electricity for in our modern lives: communication, sewage disposal, life support and other medical technologies, and basic things such as air conditioning and running water. People in Puerto Rico are suffering. They are receiving little or no help from anyone. They could continue to live like this for months. Our fellow Americans have been deprived of basic living standards that all of us are accustomed to. How long do these people have to live in these conditions before we start treating them like U.S. citizens?

When you compare recovery efforts in Texas and Florida to those in Puerto Rico, the recovery efforts from the U.S. government have been just short of pathetic. Granted, Puerto Rico is an island which already faced a crippled economy and poor infrastructure. Those things just make the process that much more complicated. To say that the federal government hasn’t helped at all is wrong. Yet they didn’t provide nearly enough people or supplies to adequately help the people on the island. FEMA (the Federal Emergency Management Agency) has yet to approve a reconstruction fund for Puerto Rico, something it did quickly for both Texas and Florida. But that should be no excuse, especially now, a month after the hurricane hit, as living conditions remain more or less the same. Why is it that when Harvey impacted Houston and Irma impacted Florida there was a shared desire to help all those affected? Yet when an American territory is decimated, people tune out their fellow citizens that are suffering. An American citizen is an American citizen, no matter what race, creed or ethnicity they are. Our government has the obligation to help Puerto Ricans the same way they are helping Texans and Floridians.

This problem is not only an issue of helping fellow Americans but of helping human beings. Puerto Rico and many other Caribbean islands have been completely flipped upside down by hurricanes. The people who inhabit the island of Puerto Rico deserve so much more help and support than what has been offered. It’s not too late to help. Even the smallest bit helps. You can help by donating to agencies like the American Red Cross or United for Puerto Rico, which are dedicated to aid and support the victims of Hurricane Maria. This is an American humanitarian crisis. It is our duty to help and support our fellow Americans in any way possible — even if that just means keeping the conversation going.

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Dalton is a staff writer for The Lorian.

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