Wednesday, October 18, 2017

These Trucks Don't Float

My grandfather climbed poles for Ma Bell his whole adult life. And after hurricanes, he would travel to restore phones and electricity -- climbing poles by hand. 

Weston Tolls

It's easier now with bucket trucks, but not exactly easy. I remember driving through the town of Weston a few years ago, just before a major storm was to hit the Boston area. As I approached an overpass that connects Interstate 90 (Mass Turnpike and NY State Thruway) to Boston's ring road 128, I saw a caravan like this one pouring into Boston from the west. 
I knew what those men and women would be doing for us, and that they had traveled all night to do it. I almost wept at the sight.

When this happens on an ISLAND, even more effort is needed. Ships, cargo planes, whatever it takes. BEFORE Irma and BEFORE Maria, those trucks should have been in motion, headed to the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. We should do the same for other islands in our hemisphere, but we absolutely must do it for those islands that are U.S. territory.


Instead, such efforts were hindered by red tape and a century-old law to protect the profits of shipping countries.


I am astounded at the heroic work of local and federal employees on the ground in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, but also disgusted that they are not given full support by Congress or the White House, as such workers would be in any mainland territory, from Boston to Brownsville, in hurricane season.


The government is getting away with this neglect -- which has genocidal overtones -- precisely because geographic literacy is so poor that many constituents either:


a) Don't know these are U.S. territorie
b) Don't care
c) Don't know how islands work, or
d) all of the above
Our feeble response to Puerto Rico is an indictment of our society in many ways, of which our neglect of geographic education is just one.

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