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Day 435 – Let’s Talk About Puerto Rico, Mr. President. And Our Citizens. And How You Failed.

Day 435 – Let’s Talk About Puerto Rico, Mr. President. And Our Citizens. And How You Failed.

Image from UPI

Mr. President,

In 1929, Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart wrote a beautiful song called, “Manhattan.” The chorus ran, in part, “We’ll have Manhattan, the Bronx, and Staten Island, too…” We know, from the various histories and biographies of yourself that you do have a peculiar affection for New York and its environs. If you hadn’t kept up with such things, the population of these three boroughs just happens to be about 3.5 million souls, a goodly number, and you are probably acquainted with many of them.

Roughly 1,700 miles south of New York City as the crow flies, there is a small island about the size of Connecticut that’s called Puerto Rico. I am certain you can find this place – you’ve been there once, recently, and Google Earth has excellent resources for refining your search. The population of the island is about 3.5 million souls, a goodly number, and like, the souls in the boroughs mentioned above, ARE ALL CITIZENS OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.

And just in case it escaped your attention, in September 2017, a major hurricane, Hurricane Maria, which is regarded as the worst natural disaster on record in Dominica and Puerto Rico, devastated that island, now with a reported death toll of nearly 1,100 souls, and with hundreds more injured and ill, and thousands left without power, potable water or adequate medical assistance. Damages, to date, exceed $100 BILLION!

Supplies and aid have been sent, but they are not getting to where they’re most needed. This is not a failing of either the aid organizations nor, contrary to your opinion, of the Puerto Rican government. We have had nearly six months to help our fellow American citizens in Puerto Rico, and, sir, we have failed them.

Mr. President, the failing is ON YOU for your lack of leadership and failure to act. I repeat it’s on YOU – you’re Commander-in-Chief. Get moving, sir; get the Marines into Puerto Rico to get things organized and moving. Send in Navy Seabees to help with infrastructure and Army transport helicopters and medics to deliver supplies and evacuate the sick. Waive the ‘Jones Act’ – which is a joke anyway – for at least 2 years, not just the 10 days you chose. In other words, sir, LEAD. These are AMERICANS; they are dying and will continue to do so. They have suffered mightily for nearly six months. They don’t deserve this.

The point is, sir, that if the equivalent disaster had occurred in Manhattan, the Bronx and Staten Island, you and the rest of the government would be literally falling all over yourselves to fix things, and would have started the effort on day one. In fact, Texas and Florida, the other states struck by hurricanes this past fall, received Federal help immediately, and are largely rebuilt now. This is shameful.

In the now-famous words of Joseph Welch to Sen. Joe McCarthy in the 1954 hearings, “At long last, have you left no sense of decency?”

Sincerely,

Letters2Trump

 

Day 254 – Put Your Giant, Infantile Ego Away and Focus On Helping Puerto Rico, Mr. President.

Day 254 – Put Your Giant, Infantile Ego Away and Focus On Helping Puerto Rico, Mr. President.

Photograph from CNN

Mr. President,

Well, it’s been a hell of a week. Actually, it’s been a hell of a month. Hell, it’s been a hell of an administration.  No doubt you have had many a bad day since January 20th, so I want to extend to you a bit of empathy.  It must be hard to be the leader of such a diverse country, everyone wants you to consider their agenda, everyone wants you to carve out a space for their plans, everyone needs something from you: attention, funding, a platform…the list goes on and on.  And you, sir are just one man.  I get it, I feel for you.

Do you see how that works?  I, a black woman, a teacher, living in the suburbs of the District of Columbia with only a tiny bit of experience in management, can feel for you, a white man, who has never known a day of true discomfort, had to apply for a job, catch a bus or cook dinner. I haven’t walked in your shoes, but I can empathize with your situation, and it doesn’t cost me anything to do so.  It doesn’t really help you either, except to possibly give you comfort that someone else is cognizant of your suffering.

Unlike me however, your empathy has the strength of a nation behind it. As you sit at your desk and watch millions of people struggle to obtain basic needs, food, shelter, water, and even oxygen, you could sign executive orders that would bring instant comfort to those people, American citizens dying on a tiny island surrounded as you say, by ocean water. Come to think of it, you could have sent literal Comfort to your citizens, the USNS Comfort, which you might remember deployed to NYC to help after 9/11, to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina and more recently to Haiti to aid after the devastating earthquakes there. Your empathy has the innovation of the Army Corps of Engineers behind it.  They can help with that crumbling infrastructure you mentioned before offering or outlining any help to that island in the “big water.”  Your empathy has ability to rescind laws behind it like the Jones Act.  It was great to see you extend that empathy to the shippers before you revoked it (temporarily, we all note) but perhaps that was misplaced. The shippers, you see have access to clean water, food, and shelter.  I’d venture to say they have great air conditioning systems on their ships.

Within the past few days, you have moved to do some of these things, and although it has been 11 days since this tiny island surrounded by ocean water was hit by one of the most devastating storms ever to land on U.S. soil (that tiny island, remember, is a part of the United States), I am sure that they are glad to know that in about 5 days, a hospital with roughly 800 beds will be there to help them deal with the approximately 59 hospitals that are closed due to the storm. Hindsight being twenty/twenty and all, I do not envy you when the actual numbers of deaths caused by the storm and the subsequent slow federal response (that’s you) are accurately reported.  You see, Mr. President, people have been forced to bury their dead loved ones on their own since the storm hit.  The morgues of those hospitals that have closed, and there are 51 of them, report that bodies have been piling up.  Your celebration of the low death toll most certainly will come back to haunt you, and I’m loath to point out that your positive spin was not empathetic to those that lost loved ones there, on that tiny, tiny island.

Again, I realize that you are a busy man, always “working with a lot of time on your hands,” so your attention is split.  You had to support your GOP candidate in AL although you wondered aloud if that might have been a mistake.  That had to have been tough.  And you decided to show NFL owners empathy as they deal with those pesky professional athletes protesting…what was it again, oh yes, the deaths of unarmed black men, women and children at the hands of law enforcement officers; you certainly gave those multi-millionaires the moral support they needed, I think.  But, and forgive me if this has been brought to your attention before, I think the loved ones of those killed, and those, like me, who have black and brown children or who are indeed black and brown ourselves, might appreciate a little empathy.

Hey, you are in charge, and as you have said, you have a pretty good brain.  Maybe calling the mayor of a storm-destroyed city, surrounded by pallets of supplies that can’t be moved to the people who need them “nasty” was the best move you could make.  Perhaps declaring that the people of this tiny island out in the Atlantic, “want everything given to them” especially considering they have nothing, might goad them into building their home back up again.  I’ve heard that they can register online with FEMA to start the process for themselves.  But if your words and lack of deed come back to bite you in your political posterior, I’m here for you.  Maybe.

Sincerely,

Letters2Trump

 

Day 252 – Puerto Rico, Puerto Rico, Puerto Rico, Puerto Rico, Puerto Rico, Mr. President.

Day 252 – Puerto Rico, Puerto Rico, Puerto Rico, Puerto Rico, Puerto Rico, Mr. President.

Photograph from NY Daily News

Mr. President,

Puerto Rico is Spanish for “rich port,” as in, the port of big money, baby! $$$

Now that I have your attention, Puerto Ricans are Americans. Puerto Ricans are Americans. Puerto Ricans are Americans. Puerto Ricans are Americans. Puerto Ricans are Americans. Puerto Ricans are Americans. Puerto Ricans are Americans.

Aside from the fact that Puerto Rico should be a state (alongside Washington, D.C., Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands), its citizens are us. Americans. They aren’t even the immigrants that terrorize your toddleresque view of tribalism. They are us. Americans.

Citizenship aside, they are humans. That should be all you need to know.

But let me return to language you understand. Imagine a golf course, just a beautiful golf course. Gorgeous. Just unbelievable greens. Rolling fairways. Tee boxes from your dreams. Imagine that golf course gets destroyed. I don’t even care by what. Doesn’t matter for this story. It gets completely wiped out. You can’t tell a tee box from the clubhouse. Now, for a loose analogy, imagine that this course is maintained by the wealthiest golf course developer in the history of the game of golf. The richest one ever. EVER. In history! How would you, a regular at this course, feel if that guy refused to help the golf course? It takes him a week to respond. The greens haven’t been mowed in a week. A week! You’d probably be pretty upset, right?

It’s already painfully apparent that you lack any form of empathy that’s empty of dollars, so I can’t imagine you will make the conceptual leap from golf course to human beings. But Mr. Trump, people are going to die if they don’t get more medicine, food, and water as soon as humanly possible. I’ll continue trying to speak your language (though it feels inhumane—I just tried to help you feel empathy by relating people to a golf course for God’s sake): These aren’t just people that will die; these are Americans that will die.

Americans.

It is, frankly, hard to make a place great “again” if its people are dead.

These are citizens of the richest country in the history of the human race, and in the six days following the devastation, the U.S. federal government deployed a total of three Navy ships to help. Three. Americans will die without potable water and food. The agriculture on the island was destroyed. Puerto Ricans need all food shipped in now. We can do that. You can make it happen.

But to do that you will have to understand that brown people are Americans too, even when they lack representation in Congress.

No, it’s not easy to transport and distribute goods to a destroyed land, but waiting a week to react is simply inhumane. Good lord, Mr. Trump, even Doctor Doom has more complicated motivations than you. Even the most straightforward villain in comics would have helped these people more quickly if for no other reason than to play the hero role merely for the adulation that comes with it. Yes, the island is in the middle of a “very big ocean.” The rest of us did our fifth-grade homework and already knew that, but most of us also know that brown skin does not make someone less than human.

I’m done trying to appeal to the scared toddler inside you. Send more medicine, food, and water. Pretend they’re members of Mar-a-Lago if you have to. Just get it done.

Sincerely,

Letters2Trump

 

Day 127 – The Wall Would Be an Epic Waste of Money, Mr. President. And a Failure

Day 127 – The Wall Would Be an Epic Waste of Money, Mr. President. And a Failure

Photograph by Gavin Stewart

Dear Mr. President,

Your Budget for 2018 has a lofty title – A New Foundation For American Greatness Fiscal Year 2018. I thought America was already pretty great, but I read on. There is a lot in it about not squandering our resources on the poor and disabled, and others whose occupations are students, artists, writers. You propose many spending cuts and outline lofty goals that include huge, new spending.

“This Budget, therefore, includes $639 billion for the Department of Defense—a $52 billion increase from the 2017 annualized continuing resolution level. This increase will be offset by targeted reductions elsewhere…”p.2

You are seriously proposing a $52 billion increase in defense spending, and in the same budget reducing our Nation’s citizens’ (I love how your capitalize Nation) access to health care, food stamps, education, the arts and humanities. I object to increased defense spending any time, and on this we will agree to disagree.

However, it is the money for the wall that really sets me off.

“The President’s Budget secures the borders of the United States by investing $2.6 billion in high-priority tactical infrastructure and border security technology, including funding to plan, design, and construct a physical wall along the southern border as directed by the President’s January 25, 2017 EO. This investment would strengthen border security, helping stem the flow of people, drugs, and other illicit material illegally crossing the border.” p.18

Have you ever thought or read about the history of walls? Did they ever do what they were supposed to do, which was usually to keep out aggressors? Think of it – the ancient Mesopotamians built a wall. So did Hadrian. So did China. Theirs is now a tourist attraction. So are many castles and city walls, all breached at one time or another. Remember the Berlin Wall, built in your lifetime? The East Germans called it “The Anti-Fascist Protection Rampart.” Work began on it in 1961, and it was  torn down by the people in 1989. Such a lofty name and it no longer exists.

Perhaps walls worked for a while and made people feel a little more secure, but in the end they were a colossal waste of money, time, resources, and effort.

Walls do not work. This is a historically accurate fact. This is not fake news. So why are you proposing that we spend $2.6 billion of taxpayer money on such a folly? I go to your very own budget where you talk about reducing improper payments government-wide. A wall along the Mexican border fits securely with my definition of “Improper Payments.”

“Reduce Improper Payments Government-Wide. For the past few years, improper payments have been rising, and the Budget helps fulfill the President’s promise to crack down on these improper Government payments. Even though the majority of Government payments are made properly, any waste of taxpayer money is unacceptable. The Budget prioritizes shrinking the amount of improper cash out the door. Specifically, by 2027 the Budget proposes to curtail Government-wide improper payments by half through actions to improve payment accuracy and tighten administrative controls.” p.12

There, you said it yourself, “any waste of taxpayer money is unacceptable.” A wall along the Mexican border is a “waste of taxpayer money” to use your own words.

Mr. President, step away from the “spend-money-on-the-wall” button. And don’t ever think about it again.

Sincerely,

Letters2Trump

 

 

 

 

Day 125 – Your Budget Won’t Stand, Mr. President. And Noah Cross is Not a Good Role Model.

Day 125 – Your Budget Won’t Stand, Mr. President. And Noah Cross is Not a Good Role Model.

Image from WordPress blog by Josmar Lopez

Dear Mr. President,

In your phone call last month with Rodrigo Duterte, you praised him for the “unbelievable job” he was doing with his nation’s drug problem.  Duterte’s government has sanctioned deadly attacks on suspected drug dealers.  He has made the suspicion of selling drugs a capital offense, the punishment to be carried out without a trial.  And you congratulated him on this, even inviting him to visit the White House “anytime.”

As jaw-dropping as this news is, it’s overshadowed, for me, by your latest budget proposal. This proposal, somehow titled “A New Foundation for American Greatness,” seems to take as its model of greatness not an America of middle-class opportunity and prosperity but a Gilded Age of radical wealth inequality, a near-total absence of social safety nets, and an utter disregard for the well-being of the vast majority of the nation’s citizens.  It proposes ridiculous cuts in Medicaid, disability benefits, and nutritional assistance programs, to say nothing of the government subsidies that make it possible for our country’s poor to attend college.

The reward for the nation if this budget becomes law?  Although not specified in the budget itself, the reward appears to be lower taxes – “one of the biggest tax cuts in history,” according to the White House.  Assuming that these cuts include last month’s proposed 20% cut in the corporate tax rate and the elimination of the alternative minimum and estate taxes, your proposal will enrich the already wealthy at the expanse of the rest of us.

Now look, everyone knows that your budget, as it currently stands, has no hope of passing.  But your budget is a statement of intent, a statement of your philosophy of government, and a clear revelation of what (and who) you find of value.

Toward the end of the film Chinatown, private investigator Jake Gittes confronts the fantastically wealthy and deeply corrupt Noah Cross over his crimes. “Why are you doing it?” Gittes asks. “How much better can you eat?  What could you buy that you can’t already afford?”

In a response chilling for both its implications and the empty geniality with which it’s delivered, Cross answers, “The future, Mr. Gittes. The future!”

Though the film ends on a supremely pessimistic note and seems to suggest that the common American stands no chance against the corruption of the rich and powerful, I still believe that Cross is wrong.  He’s deluded.  You cannot buy the future.  It’s one of the few things that none of us, no matter how wealthy, can do.  Yes, your money and your fame may allow you to sexually assault women with little consequence, perhaps even, as you said, to “stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody” without losing support.  But your riches and your recognition, your wealth and your notoriety will not allow you, or even Noah Cross, a lecherous, incestuous criminal, to buy the future.

No matter how your budget might claim otherwise, America’s future belongs to all of us.  We refuse to allow you to mortgage it for the sake of a few extra billion in your pockets or the pockets of your cronies.

If there has been any consolation in these first 125 days of your presidency, it has been watching your fame become infamy and your name become synonymous with boorish insecurity, scandal, deceit, and ignorance.  This is your future.  And you will not live it down, no matter what else your billions might buy.

Sincerely,

Letters2Trump

 

 

 

Day 83 – Syria and Flint, Mr. President. Not Just One or the Other.

Day 83 – Syria and Flint, Mr. President. Not Just One or the Other.

Photograph by Enid Martindale

Dear Mr. President,

Reportedly, Mr. Trump, you decided to authorize a missile attack on a (basically empty, but that’s for another letter) Syrian airfield because you (or, according to reports, your daughter Ivanka, but that’s for another letter) were moved by images of hurt babies.

We are raising thousands of hurt babies in the Rust Belt. I’m not sure if Fox News covers the Flint Water Crisis, so you may not be familiar with the situation. In short, residents of a large (but poor and black—perhaps that’s for another letter) city had their clean drinking water taken away because the state government wanted to cut corners and save money. On water. The result? Thousands of Americans are being poisoned by their municipal water supply.

I am deeply concerned about Syria, too. I have been for a long time. I wish that when Obama asked Congress to consider our stance on Syrian intervention, Congress had done so. I don’t have the answer (though I doubt missiles are it). Ignoring Syria is heinous, so I appreciate your desire to act, to aid children in harm’s way. Yet, I find it odd that hurt babies in one area got your attention when hurt babies in another area do not.

What follows is not a false equivalency between Syria and Flint. Syria is a humanitarian crisis. And so is Flint. They are not mutually exclusive, and though the crises are clearly different, they have eerie similarities too. We needn’t address only one problem at a time.

I am worried about the children of Michigan, too, Mr. Trump, so when I heard your speech about deciding to attack Syria due to the poisoning of babies, I heard this as well:

________________________________________________________________________

WASHINGTON — I wish the following were a transcript of President Trump’s remarks from Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Fla., as transcribed by The New York Times. In reality, this is Mr. Trump’s Syria speech, lightly edited. (The original transcript is here.)

My fellow Americans, over the past few years, Michigan’s governor, Rick Snyder, and his administration allowed for a horrible chemical attack on innocent civilians. Using a deadly negligence of infrastructure, Snyder harmed the life of innocent men, women and children. It may result in a slow and brutal death for so many, even beautiful babies are cruelly hurt in this ongoing barbaric assault. No child of God should ever suffer such horror.

Tonight I ignored a targeted attack on the drinking water of Flint. It is in the vital, national security interest of the United States to prevent and deter the spread and use of deadly cash grabs that value money over human lives. There can be no dispute that Michigan’s state government used an approach that values a budgetary bottom line over citizens’ lives, violated obligations to protect all Michiganders, and ignored the urging of a host of scientists and doctors.

Years of previous attempts at changing the governor’s behavior have all failed and failed very dramatically. As a result, the Flint crisis continues to deepen, and the region continues to destabilize, threatening Michigan and the United States.

Tonight I call on all civilized nations to join us in seeking to end the governmental negligence and poisoning in Flint. And also, to end such institutionalized racism of all kinds and all types.

We ask for God’s wisdom as we face the challenge of our very troubled world. We pray for the lives of the wounded and for the souls of those who have passed. And we hope that as long as America stands for justice, that peace and harmony will in the end prevail.

Good night, and God bless America and the entire world. Thank you.

________________________________________________________________________

As you can see, I didn’t have to change much of that transcript. That speaks volumes. To knowingly allow for babies to get poisoned is hardly different than actively dropping poison on them.

Although, to be fair, that does require some analytical nuance, and maybe you asked Sean Spicer to help you determine the difference. That could explain the confusion.

Please, Mr. Trump, use your position to help everyone. That is supposed to be the American way.

Sincerely,

Letters2Trump

 

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