The image of the president throwing paper towels to people in Puerto Rico this week will not leave my mind.
It was sickening and disgusting and revealed the blatant disregard and disrespect of people of color this president has. While showing a modicum of sympathy for the people in the states of Texas and Florida, where there was also massive damage due to hurricanes, this president resorted to blaming the Puerto Ricans for their plight, noting the huge debt held by this American commonwealth, saying to them that they were “lucky they hadn’t suffered a real catastrophe like Katrina,” and saying that the Puerto Ricans “want everything done for them,” stating a coded phrase often used to describe the plight of people of color who are struggling to survive.
He slammed the mayor of San Juan, Carmen Yulin Cruz after she publicly criticized the federal government for its slow response to help the ravaged island, saying she showed “poor leadership.”
And he did all of this even as the people in Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands suffered – and continue to suffer from – lack of food, fresh water, medical supplies and electricity.
This president has shown that he has little regard or respect for anyone but his “base,” which consists, apparently, of a percentage of angry white people who feel like the government has ignored them. This base includes a group of white nationalists – people who want America to be white again – for whom the president apparently has fond regard. He stokes their spirits at every turn, working hard to appease them, at the expense, it seems, of the rest of the people of this country.
People of color are suffering under this administration, their gains being reversed steadily, but so are the poor, women, children, the LGBTQA community, and the environment. Voting suppression is being pursued with a vengeance and a fury, He is actively working to sabotage the Affordable Care Act (ACA), making it harder for people to sign up for health care –simply because he wants that bill to fail. He is rolling back the ACA provision that required employers to include the cost of contraceptives for women in their health benefits package, and funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) is due to end at the end of the year, effectively cutting millions of poor children out of the loop for health care.
He clearly cares only about this base of angry, resentful white people; no matter what he does or says, they are completely loyal to him, and as long as that is the case, he doesn’t give a damn about the rest of Americans – here or in the US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.
His “drained” swamp includes high ranking cabinet members who think nothing of using taxpayer dollars to support lavish and extravagant lifestyles. He is slapping “the rest of us” in the face on a daily basis by turning his gaze away from government waste being practiced by his own crew.
The efforts of both the House and the Senate to “repeal and replace” the ACA would have left over 20 million Americans without health care – and this president is still working to try to get a “repeal and replace” measure passed. He is pushing a tax bill that will reportedly most benefit the very wealthy, in spite of his promises that that is not the case. His administration has said that it is OK for employers to fire gay people because of their sexuality.
Immigrants are being more and more minimized, dehumanized and diminished by this administration.
The president went to Puerto Rico and offended them by throwing rolls of paper towels to people, many of whom have no home, no food, no fresh water and no electricity. He threw paper towels to a people whose sick cannot get adequate medical care because the hospitals are running on generators. He threw paper towels to people who have lost everything.
But his action in Puerto Rico might be viewed as a metaphor – because by his actions, words and policies, he is throwing paper towels to the vast numbers of Americans of all ilks who are not a part of his precious, white nationalist base.
He is not the president of all Americans. He is not and has no intention of being so.
We might do good to use the symbolic paper towels to wipe our hands of the expectation of anything better from this administration.