My first thought after reading the study asserting that 4,645 Puerto Ricans died in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, due primarily to U.S. government negligence, was: Oh My God, this is going to set off one hell of a shit storm.
That’s more deaths than the 9/11 attacks and Hurricane Katrina combined and more than 70 times the 64 deaths that were certified by the government when the study was released. The study, moreover, was funded by Harvard University and published in the New England Journal of Medicine, two of the most respected stamps of Anglo-American authenticity.
I could just see the endless talking heads on CNN; the John Oliver monologue, the Frontline special report, Face the Nation, Meet the Press, the above-the-fold headline in the New York Times, and, of course, a rationalized frat-boy celebration of those deaths by Tucker Carlson.
You can imagine my absolute shock when all I heard were crickets. Rather than confront reality, the news media focused instead on questioning the accuracy of the study. The Washington Post fact checker, in fact, made the chilling observation that 4,645 “is not a verified number, unlike a body count in war” in a story that listed lower estimates from less reliable sources, clearly implying that the disparity in numbers somehow made the deaths defensible. It’s not like we actually shot those people, you know.
“It would have been a bigger story if 5,000 kittens had died,” Elizabeth Yeampierre observed.
Elizabeth runs a Brooklyn, NY, community organization named UPROSE, dedicated to participatory community planning, sustainable development and climate justice, a natural fit for galvanizing Puerto Ricans who are intent on saving their island. She delivered her slap at the press to a packed house (including sprinkling of not-so-undercover police agents) at a recent forum on Puerto Rico with author-journalist Naomi Klein of The Intercept, one of the few news outlets to show how the U.S. and its proxy Fiscal Control Board are trying to speed up the depopulation of the island by withholding critical hurricane assistance.
As a journalist, I can’t argue with Elizabeth. A story about 5,000 dead kittens is always preferable to a story about 5,000 dead Puerto Ricans. It’s bound to attract many more patrons to a news organization. And what mainstream reporter doesn’t want that?
That said, the sluggish reaction to the study across the U.S. stunned me.
Liberals, in particular — from the pipe-smoking establishment types, for whom being seen at the White House Correspondents Dinner is a crowning achievement, to the liberal liberals that support universal health care, free public college, planned parenthood, choice and gun control — were staggeringly incapable of grasping that, irrespective of body counts, their country provoked a mass killing of its own citizens and tried to hide it.
“The government failed its basic responsibility,” tweeted Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut, stating the obvious, as if he had just stumbled upon it. “We should be ashamed of this treatment of American citizens.”
The remaining liberals, like Murphy, mustered varying degrees of the same righteous indignation and moral outrage. (Come on Kamala, baby, you can do better than that.)
Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (D) CT “History will make clear that the United States shamefully mishandled the recovery effort, failing to uphold our nation’s moral obligation to our fellow Americans,” said Rep. Rosa DeLauro, also of Connecticut.
Bernie Sanders and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, meanwhile, dusted off their proposed $146 billion federal aid package for Puerto Rico that stands a snowball’s chance of passing in Congress andCongresswoman Rosa DeLauro (D) CT“History will make clear that the United States shamefully mishandled the recovery effort, failing to uphold our nation’s moral obligation to our fellow Americans,” said Rep. Rosa DeLauro, also of Connecticut. that, at its core, offers to cure colonialism with more colonialism.
And Sen.Roberto Menendez of New Jersey of New Jersey washed his hands like Pontius Pilate and tried to pin the deaths on the Trump administration, conveniently ignoring the fact that his party installed the control board that dismantled the services that would have saved many of those lives.
Some of the remaining members of the liberal chorus line bear mentioning: Richard Blumenthal, Andrew Cuomo, Kirsten Gillibrand, Chuck Schumer, Cory Booker, Kamala Harris, Dannel Malloy, Ned Lamont, John Larson, Jose Serrano, Nydia Velasquez and others too numerous to mention here.
That means no hedging; no saying, “Well I want whatever the Puerto Ricans want” to leave the questions open ended and give yourself room to wiggle out later. Simple yes or no answers. State your case plainly up front and let the Puerto Rican people judge you accordingly.
With that in mind, I hereby request that a reputable organization, such as CTLatinoNews.com, The Intercept, The Center For Puerto Rican Studies at Hunter College, The Washington Post, or even Harvard University, survey these tap dancers — all of them — for a clear, unfiltered position on issues that matter to Puerto Rico and what they’re going to do to make them happen.
That means no hedging; no saying, “Well I want whatever the Puerto Ricans want” to leave the questions open ended and give yourself room to wiggle out later. Simple yes or no answers. State your case plainly up front and let the Puerto Rican people judge you accordingly
We can start with:
* Do you support granting Puerto Rico political sovereignty so that its citizens can freely decide how they want to govern themselves, in the same way that the original 13 American colonies did — yes or no?
* Do you support the repeal of the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, otherwise known as the Jones Act, requiring that all goods shipped to Puerto Rico be carried on U.S. vessels, thereby increasing the cost of everything Puerto Ricans consume by as much as 50 percent — yes or no?
* Do you support abolishing the Fiscal Control Board that runs Puerto Rico like a fascist junta — yes or no?
* Do you support granting Puerto Rico voting and funding equity with the 50 states in the union — yes or no — and, if so, what realistically makes you think it can happen?
* Do you support conducting an audit of the $70 billion bond debt to determine how much of it was illegal and should be nullified — yes or no?
* Do you support the appointment of a special prosecutor to criminally charge government officials who knowingly compounded the loss of life in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria— yes or no?
* And finally, what benefit, if any, do you for Puerto Rico in remaining a colony of the United States — yes or no? And if so, what is it?
By demanding clarity from liberals about their feelings and intentions, Puerto Ricans will be better able to know who they can trust to get them where they want to be.
Whether or not anyone surveys them, liberals would be well advised to lay their cards on the table early. A vast number of the Puerto Ricans they associate with — whether it’s on the job, in their kids’ schools, the movie house, the beauty salon, at the mall, or stroking their genitals in bed — are this close to unleashing their fury in ways that will make liberals regret ever turning their backs.