Puerto Rico Is Still In Peril

Puerto Rico Is Still In Peril

Dead bodies continue to turn up.
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Did we forget that Puerto Rico is still in crisis?

It seems like immediately after Hurricane Maria, every American was up on their soapbox about how terrible it was—then come November, it was like the idea collectively left our minds. Hurricanes got buried under tax plans and sexual assault allegations. As long as hurricane damage with Irma was a problem in Texas, hurricane damage around the world was a really big deal to Americans. Now, not so much. We’ve got net neutrality and taxes to worry about.

It shouldn’t matter whatsoever that, in a territory that is populated by U.S. citizens, stuff still looks like this:

Aguadilla, Puerto Rico -- Posted 12/21/2017. Photo by ActivateNow

The photographer that took this shot, Ed Higgins, is currently in Puerto Rico operating as a representative for the newly-formed independent party, a journalist and a humanitarian. He ran a live Facebook audio Thursday about what he has seen firsthand and what exactly the people need.

Potable water, according to Higgins and Puerto Ricans themselves, is one of the biggest concerns at this point. Higgins said it has been “bleached so badly it’s not really drinkable.” Power in the region in which he is staying is supplied mostly through generators.

Some FEMA workers are also allegedly not doing their jobs; Higgins has heard that they are “being paid to hang out at casinos [and] hotels,” and that they are doing the loan and housing checks but not much else.

Over the phone, Higgins also described a man that was paid $20 to climb trees in the middle of the island and search for dead bodies. In a single day, the man reportedly found over 200 of them.

The apagón, the blackout that is currently affecting Puerto Rico, is the “longest and largest blackout in modern American history.” Since most of the water is under boil order, people can’t drink it without electricity to heat it.

The United States is the tenth wealthiest country in the world, yet citizens are still without clean drinking water or power two months after hurricane Maria hit. Dead bodies are still stuck in trees.

How many news articles have you read on any of this?

The thing is, Puerto Rican newspapers are covering hurricane recovery; we just don’t see it here in the U.S. We’re too busy with our tax plans and accusations of who sexually assaulted whom to focus on the actual welfare of our citizens.

That may sound biting and for that, I apologize. Tax plans and sexual assault are also important issues. All I'm saying is that most of the people reading this are privileged enough to not have to worry about basic necessities. We need to realize that this is not so for all United States citizens.

We're not a perfect country. We've got people hurting. Let's step up and quit pretending we don't.

Cover Image Credit: NY Mag

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An Open Letter to the Person Who Still Uses the "R Word"

Your negative associations are slowly poisoning the true meaning of an incredibly beautiful, exclusive word.
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What do you mean you didn't “mean it like that?" You said it.

People don't say things just for the hell of it. It has one definition. Merriam-Webster defines it as, "To be less advanced in mental, physical or social development than is usual for one's age."

So, when you were “retarded drunk" this past weekend, as you claim, were you diagnosed with a physical or mental disability?

When you called your friend “retarded," did you realize that you were actually falsely labeling them as handicapped?

Don't correct yourself with words like “stupid," “dumb," or “ignorant." when I call you out. Sharpen your vocabulary a little more and broaden your horizons, because I promise you that if people with disabilities could banish that word forever, they would.

Especially when people associate it with drunks, bad decisions, idiotic statements, their enemies and other meaningless issues. Oh trust me, they are way more than that.

I'm not quite sure if you have had your eyes opened as to what a disabled person is capable of, but let me go ahead and lay it out there for you. My best friend has Down Syndrome, and when I tell people that their initial reaction is, “Oh that is so nice of you! You are so selfless to hang out with her."

Well, thanks for the compliment, but she is a person. A living, breathing, normal girl who has feelings, friends, thousands of abilities, knowledge, and compassion out the wazoo.

She listens better than anyone I know, she gets more excited to see me than anyone I know, and she works harder at her hobbies, school, work, and sports than anyone I know. She attends a private school, is a member of the swim team, has won multiple events in the Special Olympics, is in the school choir, and could quite possibly be the most popular girl at her school!

So yes, I would love to take your compliment, but please realize that most people who are labeled as “disabled" are actually more “able" than normal people. I hang out with her because she is one of the people who has so effortlessly taught me simplicity, gratitude, strength, faith, passion, love, genuine happiness and so much more.

Speaking for the people who cannot defend themselves: choose a new word.

The trend has gone out of style, just like smoking cigarettes or not wearing your seat belt. It is poisonous, it is ignorant, and it is low class.

As I explained above, most people with disabilities are actually more capable than a normal human because of their advantageous ways of making peoples' days and unknowingly changing lives. Hang out with a handicapped person, even if it is just for a day. I can one hundred percent guarantee you will bite your tongue next time you go to use the term out of context.

Hopefully you at least think of my friend, who in my book is a hero, a champion and an overcomer. Don't use the “R Word". You are way too good for that. Stand up and correct someone today.

Cover Image Credit: Kaitlin Murray

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No Offense, Swifties, But We Shouldn't Need Celebrities Coaxing Us To Vote

Honestly, why did you wait for your favorite singer to tell you to register?

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The midterm election will be taking place this November and many people have been trying to encourage others to register to vote. Unfortunately, not many young people take advantage of their voting rights. According to the United States Census Bureau, roughly only 12% of people who range from 18- to 24-years-old voted in the 2016 Presidential Election. These previously low numbers have been inspiring campaign ads to push the youth to vote for the upcoming election. Celebrities are also taking the matter into their hands and are speaking out about voting. Icons like Taylor Swift and Rihanna have recently used their platform to encourage their young audience to vote.

But honestly, why did you wait for your favorite singer to tell you to register?

As much as I admire these celebrities for taking the initiative to persuade fans to vote, I'm a bit bothered at the fact that people are only voting because their idols told them to. Why are people suddenly realizing voting is important once their favorite stars open their mouths about the matter? As young adults, we should already be paying attention to national news and wanting to make a difference.

Buzzfeed News reported the number of voters who registered after Swift urged her audience. A statement from Kamari Guthrie, director of communications for Vote.org, quotes, "... 65,000 registrations in a single 24-hour period since T. Swift's post." While this appears to be great news, it's concerning knowing that those 65,000 citizens only registered after Swift's public announcement.

There are more important reasons why you should practice your right to vote.

Voting should be taken seriously. It's a privilege and a responsibility that all American citizens have. Our ballots direct us to what our future will look like, so it's imperative to consider your choice wisely. Our decisions will impact issues revolving healthcare, education, unemployment, foreign policies, etc.

These are huge subjects that can't be taken lightly. In order to fully grasp what each problem entails and what each party wants to do regarding them, we need to do heavy research. Sure, maybe it's not fun. But you know what's not fun? Letting other voices control your future.

People assume that our voices won't be heard because of the electoral college or that their one vote won't make a difference. That's not true. And it's that type of mindset that puts poor leaders into office. We need you guys at the polls in November. I know you vent on Twitter or complain to your friends about what's happening in the world right now, so why don't we start making the change?

YOUR VOICE MATTERS! Remember that.

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