Hurricane Maria ravaged Puerto Rico and the Lesser Antilles on Sept. 20, and President Donald Trump has already suggested that we pull aid. Just weeks before, Hurricane Harvey blasted Texas and the Caribbean. Both hurricanes caused devastation, but the response from the White House could not be more different. According to an Aug. 31 CNN article, Trump commendably donated $1 million of his own money to aid relief efforts in Texas, yet remarked in a backhanded series of Tweets that we cannot aid Puerto Rico “forever.” Throughout his campaign and his first nine months in office, Trump has sneered at anything outside of the 50 states; apparently, that includes U.S. territories and their residents. 

“We cannot keep FEMA, the Military & the First Responders, who have been amazing (under the most difficult circumstances) in P.R. forever!” tweeted Trump on Thursday, Oct. 12. Well, what does forever mean? Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rican capital San Juan on Sept. 20, about three weeks ago. According to an Oct.13 report from the Los Angeles Times, 85 percent of the island still lacks power, and 40 percent of the island lacks access to safe drinking water. Removing aid at this time could devastate the 3.4 million residents, according to 2016 U.S. Census data. An Oct. 13 Washington Post article asserts that “overcrowding, poor sanitation and lack of health care,” make post-Maria Puerto Rico a breeding ground for communicable diseases. These three problems are exactly what Federal Emergency Management Agency and other responders address. By providing potable water and keeping health care professionals on the ground in the aftermath of any natural disaster, we avoid death and disease, and communities can mobilize.

The negative health impacts do not stop in Puerto Rico. The island manufactures more than 25 percent of all U.S.-exported pharmaceuticals, according to a Sept. 25 Marketplace report. This means a prolonged debilitation of Puerto Rico would not only hurt its residents but also the American economy at large. It could also cause drug shortages across the Caribbean and the rest of the world, says the report. 

According to a Sept. 6 CNN article, the emergency response to Hurricane Harvey in Texas was backed by bipartisan political and popular support, as it should be. According to FEMA data, it is the largest disaster response in Texas state history. The $1 million that Trump donated was distributed between the Red Cross and several Christian organizations, according to an Oct. 12 Newsweek article.  J.J. Watt, defensive end for the Houstan Texans, created an online fundraiser which totaled $37 million for victims in the NFL star’s home state, according to a Sept. 15 article from CBS Sports.  

In a country that remembers the lethargic response to Hurricane Katrina, it is heartening to see Americans passionately volunteer and donate to disaster relief. Since Katrina, social media has become instrumental in generating not only buzz, but also aid. Many of the donation funds generated for Harvey relief were raised online. That’s where the stories of victims were told, and that’s where communities came together.

Since the president is notorious for his use of social media, he wields the power to emphasize issues just by posting about them. Trump “tweeted or retweeted 25 times about Hurricane Harvey in the days leading up to the storm and the 48 hours after it made landfall,” doing the same for “Irma 23 times during that timeframe,” reported USA Today on Oct. 12. By contrast, “For Maria: the president sent two tweets.” The president broke with his tradition and refrained from bringing attention to Puerto Rico despite dire circumstances.

But why? Sure, Trump doesn’t much care for anyone outside our borders — save for Putin — but Puerto Rico has been a U.S. territory since 1898. The island has twice as many residents as Manhattan and contributes substantially to the American drug industry. Ultimately, it comes down to Trump’s fundamental lack of sympathy for those who don’t fit his ideals of strength. According to his Oct. 12 tweet, he views Puerto Ricans as an unsuccessful people suffering from a financial crisis “largely of their own making.”  The Puerto Rican people cannot vote in the general election for president, and if they could, it’s unlikely Trump would have won; twice as many Democrats as Republicans voted in the Puerto Rican primaries. Therefore, just as John McCain wasn’t a war hero because “he was captured,” Hurricane Maria is not a tragedy because it happened to Puerto Rico. Welcome to the (im)moral meritocracy.