October 1, 2017

Nuance: Two Things Can Be True About Aid to Puerto Rico

San Juan City Wall Puerto RicoNo rational person can deny that the Trump administration is providing assistance to Puerto Rico. FEMA and other federal agencies are there, after all. Claims that the federal government is doing "nothing" can easily be discarded as inaccurate. On the other hand, I'm not sure any rational person can deny that more help is desperately needed. Too many people, especially those in the rural areas, have been suffering without aid. Claims that that the situation in Puerto Rico is under control or that the assistance efforts have been a great success can easily be discarded as inaccurate.

The key thing we need to remember here is that two things can be true at the same time. That is, the Trump administration can be providing considerable aid to Puerto Rico and the people of Puerto Rico can need far more assistance than they have received so far. Both of these things can be true simultaneously.

I am not writing this to discourage anyone from criticizing the federal response to the disaster in Puerto Rico. As far as I'm concerned, the response has been woefully inadequate. It should be criticized. More importantly, I think it is high time that we become far less tolerant of the pain and suffering of our neighbors and get serious about pressuring our government into making significant improvements in their response to disasters. There is little we can do about the disasters themselves, but we can sure as hell demand far more effective responses than what we in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina and what we are now seeing in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria.

I think it is important to acknowledge that there has been a federal response to Puerto Rico. We have been providing aid. And that while it has been much better than nothing, it has also been far from adequate. It isn't that we aren't doing anything; it is that we need to be doing much more. It is also that we should have started doing more some time ago.

Recognizing that two things can be true at the same time is part of what one might call nuance. It is an important consideration, and like other aspects of freethought, the recognition of and appreciation for nuance helps us resist tribalism, polarization, and conflict. Nuance is in short supply and something we would do well to cultivate.