We have been hit. Hard.
These past few weeks of what seems like constant storms, constant devastation, have left us out of breath, out of energy to really address any specific area without our vision fogging up. How can we focus our time and resources toward one place over the other when it feels like so many are in desperate need all at once?
It’s overwhelming. It’s left us numb to the reality so many are now facing in the hurricanes’ aftermath. Without basic necessities like food, water, and shelter. Without means of communication or electricity. I cannot even begin to fathom what these people are going through right now, and my heart goes out to them.
But what really frustrates me is a governmental effort to provide humanitarian relief. Yes, we as individuals and communities have come together to truly make a difference, once again showing how innately good humanity is despite our many flaws. In most cases though, what really is crucial for development and support in places like Puerto Rico is a national initiative to help.
The United States, in recent news, just now might be making progress. The Trump administration announced they would waive shipping laws to Puerto Rico under the Jones Act so the country can actually send off supplies. Until this point, we really haven’t been able to do much, but my question is, why did it take us so long to even waive this century-old law, fully knowing the fragile state Puerto Rico is in?
Luckily at this point more regional centers across the country are making resources and supplies available, including food, water, and gas. These supplies will hopefully end in up in the cities that have become completely isolated from the world. The main problem is the lack of reliable transportation from ports to reach the people in need. It doesn’t seem like a complicated process to put boxes on a ship and set sail, but politics tend to be effective barriers.
I remember seeing on the morning news one day how reporters were in Puerto Rico and at American ports with huge crates full of goods meant for disaster relief, but they were stagnant. Nobody around. Desolate besides the news coverage. If you can get people with cameras and microphones at these places, why aren’t others coming, too? Or are at least aware of the status quo so they can make the conscious decision to act?
But, contrary to what the public would like to believe, it’s complicated. Foreign aid and international relations aren’t just a simple dialogue between two world leaders who shake hands and help each other out. There are so many factors at play, many that I am not overly familiar with, so I’m not about to pretend I’m an expert.
That should prove the need to have an expert explain this to us in honest terms. We build emotional connections to people we’ve never met but know through the images of those waving their arms and shouting from rooftops, stranded in flooded streets. Media tugs our empathy, but the actual news drops our hopes for progress. We feel so distant from our own neighbors, in a world that has become so interconnected.
I am probably talking in circles. Again, it’s hard to find focus right now. We’ve had Harvey and Irma already, but those are yesterday’s news. We don’t even talk about what just happened, in the United States even which is appalling to realize how close-minded we become in our everyday worldview, what to prioritize when there is so much going on at once.
That’s why I’m grateful for what I’ve learned working for the Borgen Project, and knowing how important it is that we as individuals should not be the only ones looking for answers. We should be utilizing our government to take action, to put our anxieties to rest at least somewhat. Prioritizing foreign aid should be automatic, especially with the natural and human disasters occurring right before our eyes.
Our idea of help should not be closed crates sitting on a dock, full of goods that people need, right now. But we wouldn’t stand for this standstill (ha) if this involved the military and weapons were stuck in crates for a war overseas. We have the resources. We have the transportation and means of getting those resources where they need to be. People are reaching with all their might for some sort of hope, some help, some basic sustenance to persevere, and we are failing them.
Sorry for the downer of a Friday, but I do hope this situation can bring about change. A change in how we view foreign aid and supporting others beyond our borders, and the government’s role in doing so. With strategic, focused policies that target areas of concern like disaster relief, we would see overwhelming benefits compared to sitting idle, a crate on the dock.
I’d love to hear your own thoughts about Puerto Rico, Hurricane Maria, and foreign aid. It’s complicated, but we need to shed light on these issues. We need to become informed citizens driven to improving the lives of others. I challenge you to do some digging, really find out what’s going on. Reach out, and be a part of the solution.
Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie