September 11, Puerto Rico and the Racism of Callous Indifference

September 11, Puerto Rico and the Racism of Callous Indifference
September 11, 2018
by William Rivers Pitt

It’s been 17 years since the September 11 terrorist attacks and one year since Hurricane Maria tore through Puerto Rico. The death tolls from the two crises are nearly equivalent, but the official US responses to these calamities have been starkly different.

After 9/11, the US government memorialized the victims while pouring trillions of dollars into the process of making millions of new victims by way of permanent war. In the case of Hurricane Maria, the US government has all but washed its hands of the Puerto Ricans — US citizens, all — who still struggle to recover from the storm. Taken together, the aftermath of these two tragedies opens a window on some grim truths the country has yet to face.

Everyone has their own 9/11 story. Mine is tamer than most. Seventeen years ago today I was a teacher on the first day of school. I happened to be grazing through the morning newspapers online before classes started when Flight 11 hit the North Tower of the World Trade Center.

An hour later, students who had gathered around televisions in the library were wall-eyed with fear when the towers finally fell. It was all over, I soothed them … but as I heard the low growl of fighter jets flying racetrack patterns over the city of Boston, I realized I was lying to children. It had only just begun.

Seventeen years.

High school seniors today have never known anything but a country at war, at several wars up front and by proxy. Those wars have eaten their future. I wonder if they know it yet.

I would like to think we’ve learned something in that wrenching, blood-soaked span of time, but that clearly isn’t the case. The last presidential election saw a Democratic nominee who had voted in favor of the calamitous Iraq war and the total surveillance of the PATRIOT Act. Her opponent, the Republican nominee, was for the war before he was against and then later for it again. Along the way he was also a bombastic liar, proud racist and sexual predator whose only credentials were five bankruptcies and a TV show.

The historical record states 2,996 people perished on September 11, 2001, hijackers included. There remains a lingering doubt as to the final accuracy of that number, as there were reportedly scores of undocumented immigrant workers in the building at the time of the attack, but their families did not inform the authorities they were missing for fear of being deported themselves.

Seventeen years later, and that fear is as present now as it was then, thanks to a president whose policies are grounded and founded in xenophobia and racism. We haven’t learned a damn thing.

One year ago this month, Hurricane Maria tore the island of Puerto Rico to shreds. On September 6, 2017, as the monster storm approached, Donald Trump spoke to the media during a meeting with members of Congress. Addressing the potential dangers represented by the oncoming storm, he said, “Hopefully we can solve them in a rational way, and maybe we won’t be able to.”

The latter half of that sentence has proven prophetic. Puerto Rico has yet to recover from the aftermath of Maria, due in no small part to the barking negligence of the administration and the man who pretends to lead it on TV.

Trump visited Puerto Rico in the immediate, catastrophic wake of the storm, telling Puerto Ricans who were complaining bitterly about wildly insufficient assistance that they “have to give us more help.” This was after he called them “politically motivated ingrates.” During the visit, he threw paper towels at storm victims and fished for compliments wherever he could find them. “I hate to tell you, Puerto Rico, but you’ve thrown our budget a little out of whack,” he said. “But that’s fine, because we’ve saved a lot of lives.”

Odd comment, that. The Trump administration put the death toll in Puerto Rico at 64 people, and that number stayed put as the bodies piled up. Finally, in July of 2018, nearly a year after Maria, the official death toll was revised up to 2,975 people. A scant 21 fewer than September 11. Subtract the terrorists from the equation and the margin drops to two … and, like September 11, that final number is far from firm.

One day after Puerto Rico’s governor added 2,911 names to the victim’s list, Donald Trump praised his administration’s response to Maria in glowing terms. “I think we did a fantastic job in Puerto Rico,” he said. “I think most of the people in Puerto Rico really appreciate what we’ve done.”

Splinter News collected letters from people directly affected by the storm. “I remember seeing the Mayor of San Juan,” wrote one survivor, “trying to help her city and those in desperate need all over the island. The help never came and when it did sometimes it was too late, some had died. My God how can we let this happen.” There are many such letters.

The difference in the US responses to the 9/11 attacks and to Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico is stark. While the death count was the same in both cases, the responses were dramatically different. That difference cannot be chalked up simply to the fact that the former tragedy was an act of will, while the second was an act of nature.

After September 11, the US unleashed two ill-conceived wars that killed, maimed or displaced millions of innocent people, all in the names of those killed in New York and DC. In the 17 years this country has spent bombing the rubble in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria and elsewhere, few here bother to spare a thought for those suffering the immediate consequences of our incoherent wrath.

After Hurricane Maria, in contrast, the US dragged its feet and hesitated to take the most minimal actions for the people of Puerto Rico as thousands perished. Given Trump’s calling-card disdain for those who aren’t a whiter shade of pale, the government’s lack of response to the yearlong disaster in Puerto Rico should come as no shock.

The core calamity, however, goes far beyond one man. In every way that matters, the victims of Hurricane Maria suffer from the US government’s negligence in much the same way the victims of the 9/11 vengeance tour do: Both are targets of indifference born of a strain of racism that goes bone deep and all the way, in both cases, to the White House.

It is all the same carcass to the carrion crows: The war profiteers redoubled their fortunes in Iraq and Afghanistan after September 11, and Wall Street hedge fund pillagers feast on Puerto Rico’s post-Maria debt. George W. Bush, like Donald Trump, walked away from the debacle virtually untouched.

Seventeen years since September 11. One year since Maria and Puerto Rico. We haven’t learned a damn thing.

the scary part

i’ve reached the scary part of computer upgrades: that part in between the point where i’ve got everything backed up (except for the invisible directories in ~/home which are waiting until the last possible moment), i’m reading up on what i should do if the worst happens, i’ve downloaded the operating system, but i still haven’t bought the drive, or actually done anything to move the project forwards.

apart from backing up all my data, for the first time EVER… which is a big thing, i suppose…

tomorrow i am going to refill my water bottles, hopefully with my mother-in-law, nancy, in attendence. then, if there is time, i’m going to buy the drive. if there isn’t time tomorrow, then it happens tuesday. this means that some time between tuesday and friday, or so, next week, i should have a new operating system, and, hopefully, working email addresses and an existent contact list.

so far, i don’t have any reason to believe that it won’t happen exactly the way i have stated.

if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it

a wise old linux guru told me this, a few years ago, and i’ve found myself smack in the middle of what happens when you follow that maxim… and it doesn’t feel entirely comfortable, at this point.

i have been happily running kubuntu trusty since 2014, which means that, now, there are TWO LTS releases to bring me up to date… Bionic Beaver, and the interim release, Xenial Xerus, which had some notable problems that were notable enough that i decided that… IF IT AIN’T BROKE, DON’T FIX IT.

now, i’ve actually heard some good things about the new LTS release, and, strangely enough, Amarok broke about two weeks ago (and the amarok user list has gone quiet the past few months, which makes me wonder who to contact), so i’ve been having to resort to qmmp to play music… so i decided to upgrade.

i’ve had some AWFUL experiences upgrading operating systems, and linux is no exception. the last time i upgraded linux, it took me three days to get my computer back. in an attempt to avoid that possibility this time, i have finished uploading my ENTIRE /home directory to the cloud, and am in the process of uploading my ENTIRE music collection to the cloud.

then, on the advice of the linux gurus over at Kubuntu Forums (who have saved my ass more than once), i’m going to go out and get a 2TB SSD on which to install bionic.

the only problem is that i still am not completely sure that my email is going to transfer, because i know that kontact was one of the notable problems i read about with xenial that made me want to avoid upgrading… and i’m not sure the standard “back up everything including the hidden directories from /home” is going to work this time, because i’ve heard that bionic uses something other than akonadi, which was, apparently, the source of the problems with xenial… which would mean that potentially i could lose 7 years worth of email and contact information. 😒

so, we’ll just have to see how it goes… 😐

george

i met george today.

i was getting gas in my car, and this tall, weedy, semi-suspicious looking guy came up to me and said “tell me about your bumper.”

inevitably, this means that he’s a “christian” who is offended by the message of my bumper sticker, which says JESUS IS A GATEWAY DRUG, but i feigned ignorance, partially because there was a HUGE line of people waiting behind me. but then he left no doubt, by pointing at it and reading it out loud. i responded by saying that it was a pretty simple message, and what more did he want to know.

so he started to say “i’m a christian, and…”, at which point i interrupted him, saying “i’m a christian, too”, at which point he asked me if i was jewish “because of your license plate” — i guess he hadn’t seen, or hadn’t been able to identify the huge picture of panchamukhi ganesha on the hood — but i said, no. i learned about jesus, and that gave me the opportunity to learn about all of the world’s religions, and i learned that they are all the same, and all point towards the same God.

at that point, i was done pumping gas, and, as i was taking the hose back to the pump, he said something that i didn’t hear, but it started with “no…” so i probably didn’t miss much…

180905 gonowtogeorge
180905 gonowtogeorge
then he handed me a card, and said “this is my web site”. so i handed him one of my own cards — the one that says “Bounded Chaotic Mixing Produces Strange Stability” — which he stood and stared at until i got in my car and drove off.

check out his web site… it’s hillariously “old school” (complete with dark-coloured background and rainbow-coloured font) and is, literally, “George’s Links To The World” in that, if it’s on internet, and george has read it and agrees with it, it’s on his site, somewhere. it’s not quite as single-focused as Time Cube, but it’s just as entertaining.

a few years ago, i was driving through south-of-seattle afternoon traffic, and i saw, on the car ahead of me, a bumper sticker that said “TRY JESUS”, and, immediately, i thought “that guy’s a ‘pusher'”.

then i thought about my own experiences with jesus, jeezis and “christians”, and i thought, if that guy is a “pusher”, then, in my experience, at least, jesus is a gateway drug: i learned about jesus, then i learned about other religions, then i learned that they are all the same… but my initial exposure to all of this was jesus.

thus, the bumper sticker.

i wish i hadn’t been so flustered, because i would have really liked to explain that to george. it is my impression that it would have blown his mind even more than it already was. 😈

idea

thurible
thurible
recently, i’ve been incensing the neighbourhood.

i’ve been taking my thurible outside (because, realistically, that’s the only place i can use it without setting off my smoke alarm), drinking beer, smoking pot, listening to frank zappa, and burning frankincense, benzoin and copal resin — rather like the ethiopian family that lived next door to us, where we used to live, in renton, did…

although i’m reasonably sure that the ethiopian family didn’t smoke pot, drink beer, and listen to frank zappa… 😉

but, basically, i really like burning incense, i really like burning frankincense, because it has the scientifically-proven ability to calm my anxiousness, and i really like “sharing” the good smells with my neighbours… whether they like it or not… 😈

which got me to thinking, yesterday…

i also REALLY like playing music for people. particularly, i really like playing my overtone flute at the oregon country fair, where people passing by have the possibility of hearing my music, but not knowing exactly from where it may be coming.

so, i thought, why not combine the two, and put together a “performance” or a “concert”, or something like that, where i set up somewhere, incense the whole place, and play my overtone flute?

it would have to be an outside venue, because nobody would want “concert” like this inside, where it would be extremely likely to set off smoke alarms, but that’s okay, because if it’s outside, there’s more of a possibility that people will experience the scent and not even be able to tell from where it’s coming… possible places are greenlake, volunteer park and gasworks park.

i would probably also want to set up a sign, or something, letting people know what i’m doing… but it would also be interesting to do that sort of thing without any clues, just to see how people might respond…

the enlightened rantings of a brain damaged freak