Trump's Inferno: Hell Is Now For Puerto Rico

Is Donald Trump going to hell for his callousness and incompetence toward Puerto Rico?

Lin-Manuel Miranda, the creator of “Hamilton,” certainly thinks he is, and he thinks this will happen especially for Trump’s attacks on San Juan’s mayor, Carmen Yulin Cruz, for daring to call out this administration’s slow and inept response so far to the devastation caused by Hurricane Maria.

Mayor Cruz made an impassioned plea for faster and better help for her people.

I am done being polite, and I am done being politically correct. I am mad as hell because my people’s lives are at stake.

She asks the media to “send a mayday call.”

We are dying here. If we don’t solve the logistics, we are going to see something close to a genocide.

Genocide has been called A Problem from Hell. Puerto Rico’s people are in peril of their lives and health; so many of them are desperately imperiled, in fact, that the death toll could reach genocidal proportions. It’s that critical. Mayor Cruz is right.

Instead of responding compassionately to this heartfelt appeal, however, Trump lashed out in anger, unjustly criticizing Mayor Cruz for “nasty” comments and slamming her “poor leadership ability.”

This prompted Lin-Manuel Miranda, the creator of “Hamilton,” to tell Donald Trump on Twitter that he will go “straight to hell” for his unjust attacks on Mayor Carmen Cruz.

As a professor of theology, I think Lin-Manuel Miranda’s insight is on target. Trump should be condemned in the strongest possible terms, and consigning someone to hell certainly does that, because today Puerto Rico is hell on earth for most of its people. And the callous and incompetent response of Trump in particular, but also his administration, is in now great part to blame. And, just to add condemnation upon condemnation, this administration deserves great blame for the hellish consequences of the climate change denial that it fosters in order to protect those who pollute the environment with fossil fuels. Warming oceans due to accelerating climate change make hurricanes larger and more destructive. It’s the science, stupid.

Mayor Cruz is “mad as hell” and Lin-Manuel Miranda is consigning Trump to hell. I realized, in reading these stories, this could be straight out of the Inferno, the political and religious allegory by Dante, the 14th century poet.

Dante was not just speculating about the afterlife. He wrote a complex symbolic poem about the fact that life in Florence, where he lived, was hell on earth for him and for many of the people.

In the Inferno, Dante maps out Hell’s organization in concentric circles. He saves the circles of hell closest to Satan for corrupt politicians. The lower circles of hell are also reserved for violence, fraud and treachery.

It has always struck me as important that Dante’s vision of hell is not the popular fiery imagery we so often see (as in “burn in hell”). Dante portrays hell as cold as ice. The worst inhabitant of hell, the fallen angel, the “emperor” Satan, huge as he is, is mired in ice, as if cut off from all human ties, all the warmth of human relationship.

The emperor of the despondent kingdom

so towered from the ice, up from midchest,

that I match better with a giant’s breadth

than giants match the measure of his arms.

[Inferno, Canto XXXIV]

There’s a reason Dante reserved the worst level of hell for those who were frozen, incapable of the warmth of feeling empathy for other people. This is the worst hell has to offer.

I feel this is why Miranda reacted to Trump’s callous threat by invoking hell. Trump’s response was cold as ice.

For the rest of us, empathy for Puerto Rico, and for all those who have been affected by these devastating hurricanes, is an imperative.

I have given both to Volunteers of America and to United for Puerto Rico. There are many other fine organizations helping right now.

I tell you truly, I pray Donald Trump’s frozen heart thaws and he too responds with warmth and aid for all those in Puerto Rico and beyond who need the help of the United States.

But suffering people can’t wait to see if that happens.

Please do what you can right now. This hell on earth is real.