Alt-Facts: Far-I-Ners

A foreign country, far, far away, full of far-i-ners, seems to want our help. At least that’s what about half of Americans seem to believe – possibly including our President, at least up until he was briefed on the fact that Puerto Rico is, in fact, part of the US. Since he used to golf there, you’d think he’d know better. A recent poll (by morning Consult, cited in The NYT) found that only 54% of Americans knew that people born in Puerto Rico are US citizens. And ratings on the Weather Channel – which set records during hurricane Irma – attracted roughly 1/7th as many viewers for Maria coverage, even though the decimation may be more extreme. In fact, the 3.4 million people living there, citizens since 1917, would make it the 30th most populous state, if we could break that 50-state barrier. This perception by Americans that our island-based countrymen are “other” makes a difference – that same poll found that more than eight in 10 Americans who know Puerto Ricans are citizens support aid, compared with only four in 10 of those who do not. And a fair number changed their minds about supporting aid when they found out.

The damage to the electrical infrastructure will leave much of Puerto Rico dangerously in the dark for weeks or months. That doesn’t mean the country needs to voluntarily stay in the dark about what’s happening there.

In other news about fear of “others” gaining unfortunate traction, Germany has joined France, Britain and America in being completely blindsided by the popularity of conservative anger in their political make-up. Of course, when it’s Germany, history makes it that much more frightening and disconcerting – but welcome Deutschland to the club of divided Western nations, as their far right AfD party grabbed the votes of 13% of Germans, proving that a healthy economy is no protection against xenophobia.

In local facts, we have better news than on the national front: The RI Oyster fest went off on a beautiful Saturday a week ago, where Providence Oyster fans, including Mayor Elorza and his dad and a full set of Motif writers, managed to consume several boatloads – over 13,400 oysters, according to co-head-shellfish-wrangler Frank Mullen. On the same day, Providence’s Open Door project blew away their own expectations, with a self-reported more than 4,100 participants taking a peek into the normally restricted nooks and crannies of the capital city. Too bad Puerto Rico couldn’t be included on the tour, or more folks might realize it’s part of the country.

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