Missing in Our Response to Puerto Rico: Attention, and Generosity | Sojourners

Missing in Our Response to Puerto Rico: Attention, and Generosity

Last week, the island territory of Puerto Rico was devastated by Hurricane Maria. Our response to the devastation following the hurricane is the latest test of this country’s character.

The cumulative effects of an explosive hurricane season in Puerto Rico, the U.S.’ largest, most densely populated unincorporated territory, have garnered some attention at the highest level. But since Hurricane Maria made landfall, nothing more has been forthcoming regarding President Trump’s intention to visit the island.

Meanwhile, Puerto Rico remains flooded and without power. The aftermath of the storm continues to unfold as the damage builds upon itself, forcing hundreds from their homes. Without electricity, cell service, or reliable communications, the situation on the ground is difficult to imagine for Americans living on the mainland.

Puerto Rico is a commonwealth of the United States — a title it shares with four incorporated states — and its people are U.S. citizens. Unlike their stateside counterparts, Puerto Ricans rely upon a D.C.-based oversight board to oversee their current financial crisis — a committee appointed by a Congress in which Puerto Rico has no voice.

As the people of Puerto Rico emerge from the rubble of Hurricane Maria into an ongoing quagmire of debt and corruption, they are now met with neglect and delay from Washington. News yesterday indicated that the White House’s proposal for emergency aid would be up for congressional approval as late as the second week of October. This is simply too late.

Delay and inaction may be the hallmarks of our current government, but these are not the province of a Christian people. If the government’s resources are limited, surely our generosity is not.

There is no shortage of opportunity to help.

Beyond this, one of the most precious resources we have to give is our attention. To confer dignity — to affirm the inherent dignity — of the neglected, marginalized, and ignored. This is the measure of our character.

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