Kneeling for Puerto Rico and surviving the survival politics of Donald Trump

I’m kneeling.

But not for the NFL, and not necessarily for my free speech rights (witness, I still have them). Most certainly, I am not on bended knee for Donald Trump (more on the NFL issue later).

No, as a good Catholic, I’m kneeling in prayer for Puerto Rico.

It could be the 51st state, after all.

But as I write, the people there continue to suffer like second class citizens ever since the day Hurricane Maria ripped through the island on Sept. 20.

There’s still no power for most of the residents. Water, food, and gasoline remain scarce.

Hospitals are barely functioning. For the 3.4 million people of Puerto Rico, it’s life and death, no matter what Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Elaine Duke and Donald Trump say.

This is not a “good news” story.

And while there’s concern for all those in Puerto Rico, let’s not forget the certainly under-recognized micro-minority of Asians on the island.

There are an estimated 21,000 Asian Puerto Ricans, from China, India, the Palestinian territories, Jordan and Syria.

You don’t see any of them on cable news. But let’s definitely make sure we add them to our growing group of 21 million Asian Americans.

An astonishing fact from last week is that only 54 percent of Americans even knew Puerto Ricans were U.S. citizens, according to a poll in The New York Times.

And when you don’t know that fact, you just don’t care about Puerto Rico.

But that’s what the Trump administration is all about.

Ignorance is bliss. Ignorance of facts, of history, of context.

It lets Trump get away with his slowness to react and his less than empathetic response when asked about Puerto Rico on Friday. That’s when, without a blush, he said, “Things are going well.”

Of course, it doesn’t square after seeing the mayor of San Juan Carmen Yulin Cruz on television pleading, “I am begging, begging, anyone who can hear us to save us from dying.”

Her truth was countered not by compassion, but by an ugly series of tweets by Trump on Saturday, who blamed Yulin for poor leadership and her inability to get their workers to help.

“They want everything to be done for them when it should be a community effort,” Trump tweeted. “10,000 federal workers now on Island doing a fantastic job.”

This is our government’s leader. Instead of a compassionate call for unity in a time of crisis, he thinks of himself first, defending his honor and slow reaction time. He points a finger instead of reaching out.

More despicable is how his tweets imply the stereotype of the welfare dependent, government-sucking folks who can do nothing for themselves. Forget the natural disaster, Trump once again shows no sympathy for people of color made desperate through no fault of their own.

But Trump gets away with it because, as we all know by now, he is always talking to his “base.”

Who are these “base” people? They aren’t necessarily the blue collar workers orphaned by the rise of technology. Most don’t blame technology; they blame “illegal immigrants” and all those DACA folks. So most are white. Are they racist? Only coincidentally.

Trump’s base is made up of those who believe in guns, the Second Amendment, and government getting out of the way. They believe in the military, but think the military is too restrictive. They believe in themselves. They know when the apocalypse comes, they have to do it all on their own. They are ready to survive. They wear camo.

The situation in Puerto Rico, and before that, the natural disasters in Texas and Florida, is ready made for the Trump base to carry old 45. The situation speaks directly to the soul of all survivalists. No one waits for a handout. Hungry? Go shoot a squirrel and drink from a stream. No problem. Everyone else is a pantywaist. Sympathy from a president? Please.

Meanwhile, Trump is using these cretins to develop his own brand of “survival politics.”

In an attempt to prop up a flagging presidency that arguably has no major accomplishments, Trump is his own best press secretary. He’s always putting himself in the best light. So of course, “things are going well.” He doesn’t need to bring in Sarah Huckabee Sanders or Kellyanne Conway to lie for him.

Playing to his base of survivalists who prefer him to be rough and tough, Trump keeps his numbers from hitting rock bottom.

Therefore, we will continue to see a delusional, cold hearted Trump carry on in this style–on everything.

After nine months of this, you should have developed some survival skills of your own by now–like continuing to speak out.

The louder the better. And please don’t fatigue. True survivalists don’t.


Another survivalist trait is love for country and love for the flag. So draping oneself around the flag is a common go-to and justification for anything. It’s an impregnable shield against all logic. My country, love it or leave it, right?

And that’s where this NFL knee, and overall sports knee issue, seems to be mired.

I was all in support for the boycott of the NFL this year before the Trump appropriation of this. (What else can you call it? He has taken the protest and made it his own).

Last year at this time, I was firmly behind Colin Kaepernick’s stance.

This year, I was in full support of Kaepernick, disgusted by how the NFL has blackballed the quarterback simply for speaking out. His protest was never about criticism of the flag, or even country, but over how people of color have been treated by police and by society in general.

After appropriating and reframing the situation as a flag issue, Trump has successfully scrambled the original debate.

Kaepernick remains unemployed, but there’s been some unity among players and owners, and rightly so. Trump calling players who kneel “sons of bitches” is a disgrace. It’s even more so when you consider Trump said it at a rally in the South where calling out African Americans who stand their ground hits a nerve.

The NFL and any other sports league can solve this easily by simply nixing the anthem from sporting events. There’s no good reason for it to signify the start of a game. None. Why not sing the anthem at the start of the workday at U.S. government offices? Or to end the workday before hitting Happy Hour?

But if we must continue to debate kneeling/not kneeling at pro sports events, then it’s still just about free speech, the Constitution, and what it really means to be American. And that is to create a unity out of all the dissonance. Not to make the dissonant shut up.

Or shut up and stand.

That’s what the bully Trump wants. As the saying goes, “Free speech for me, but not for thee.”

That’s not American.

CNN came out with a poll that shows a deep divide. Are athletes wrong to kneel during the anthem? 43 percent said they were right. 49 percent said wrong.

Should the professional sports leagues require them to stand? Yes: 49 percent; No: 49 percent.

Trump must like all those numbers. It creates a wave worth riding for the survivalist Trump. He will keep this simple issue alive because it’s easy and polarizing.

This is what you get from a reality star pres who knows exactly how to manipulate an audience.

Great for ratings. Not so great for democracy.

Image by AALDEF

Emil Guillermo is an independent journalist/commentator. Updates at Follow Emil on Twitter, and like his Facebook page.

The views expressed in his blog do not necessarily represent AALDEF’s views or policies.

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