What is going on?

Seriously, we’ve all lost our minds, even those of us in the office.

US citizens — the people who live in Puerto Rico — are without food, clean water, power — and that’s not the central issue of the day or week.

Our president took a shot at NFL players. Really? This is the most newsworthy event? A billionaire president blasts athlete millionaires for taking a knee during the national anthem  and this is more important than a US island commonwealth — and yes, US citizens — suffering?

On Tuesday, the president mentioned Puerto Rico for the first time since Hurricane Maria hit the island more than a week before. He plans to visit the island in another week.

Another week?

The president tweeted about Puerto Rico and talked about how the island was deep in debt and needed help financially — and more now — but the island was in distress. Why would anyone mention the financial crisis of Puerto Rico instead of talking about the devastation of two hurricanes hitting back-to-back?

Let’s be clear about a few things. First, athlete millionaires have the right to kneel during the national anthem. Do I like it? Nope. Do they have the right? Yep.

The athletes want attention paid to a racial divide in this country. They want to confront racial injustice in the shootings of unarmed black people. They are not protesting against the US flag, veterans or the military.

Second, it’s clear our president was making a statement to rile up a crowd of his ardent supporters. He didn’t care about cameras rolling. He was going for the crowd’s support and he was in Alabama — one our nation’s most patriotic and conservative states.

Third, what the heck? This should be our focus?

Now, I know racial issues still exist in this nation. It’s obvious. I have a good friend in South Florida who is African-American. He explains the things he goes through as a black man in America. I’ve seen it. I’ve faced it just being in the same car as him in the past. It’s real.

Is it better than it used to be? Probably. Will it continue to improve? It should. We’re all Americans and all humans. Will it change quickly? Well, it’s been 40 plus years since Martin Luther King, so my guess is no.

Take issues further back. Women didn’t vote until the 20th Century. As recently as the 1950s, most women didn’t work. They were housewives and mothers.

Change in our culture takes decades, not days. Sorry, but that’s the history and that’s the truth.

It’s also part of a conversation we should be postponing until the residents of Puerto Rico get some bottled water and bagels.

Let me be clear. The conversation needs to happen on a national level. It shouldn’t be forgotten or pushed aside. It needs to stay on the stove, but pushed to a back burner while we take care of our own.

I say our own because the residents of Puerto Rico are US citizens. They vote. They have candidates in beauty pageants. The only difference between them and our citizens in Hawaii is statehood. Hawaii is a state, Puerto Rico is not.

That makes them different? There’s no travel restrictions between the US and the island. Many residents have family members in the US, especially in southern Florida and New York City.

When Hurricane Harvey destroyed the Houston area of Texas, people helped, the president visited. When Irma traveled the length of Florida, destroying Key West, flooding Miami and Jacksonville, help arrived quickly to restore power, make sure people had rations.

When Irma traveled to the mainland, it hit Puerto Rico. Hurricane Maria hit a couple of weeks later. As a nation, we haven’t done enough. There was a better US reaction to other natural disasters in other nations than to the response we’ve had to Puerto Rico.

Is this Trump’s fault? Who cares?

Helping US citizens in a time of crisis should be a priority for the president and the US government. Health care? Secondary. Transgenders in the military? Secondary. Millionaires taking a knee during the national anthem? Secondary.

Taking a shot at Puerto Rico? Dumb, but secondary.

The key is to help the island recover. Give them fuel, food and water. Help them get to next week when they can visit with Trump personally (unlikely) as he visits the island. I’ve seen several reports suggesting the president didn’t know Puerto Rico was connected to the US. I don’t believe that, surely someone on the White House staff informed him.

My issue with this is the president chooses a fight with NFL players with an issue that’s more than a year old at this point. Why start it again? What’s the chance of talking, finding a common ground and fixing the problems? Why create more division in a nation where we still have racial tension?

What did Will Smith say in Independence Day? "Don’t start some, won’t be none."

But, the president went a whole nine days without mentioning Puerto Rico and the devastation. Instead of pleading with the nation to help, he’s picking a fight with the NFL, its players and, to an extent, its fans.

Meanwhile, every living former president, from Jimmy Carter to Barack Obama, is coming together and asking for help for Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico.

All of them — Bill Clinton, George Bush, George W. Bush, Carter and Obama — all 36 years of presidential experience are doing what our president wouldn’t. The ex-presidents added Puerto Rico to their call for help immediately after Maria hit the island.

To recap: US citizens in dire need of help on an island. President doesn’t mention Puerto Rico for 9 days and, when he does, mentions the island is in dire financial shape. President picks fight with NFL players inflaming a nation while US citizens suffer more.

Let’s find a way to help those in need on Puerto Rico. Let’s focus on what matters most in this nation. Leave politics, personal opinions and everything else out of it. Help our citizens who are suffering. If Hawaii was hit as bad as Puerto Rico, the response would have much bigger, more pronounced.

The people of Puerto Rico are US citizens. Let’s not pretend they’re not. Let’s not act like they matter less.

We can always go back to our regularly scheduled madness at a later time.

 

Roger Bluhm is the managing editor of the Dodge City Daily Globe. Follow him on Twitter @roger_dcglobe or email him at rbluhm@dodgeglobe.com.