I’m not sure if, outside of wartime, anything compares with the destruction visited upon the Bahamas, and specifically Abaco island, in last week’s hurricane. One meteoroligist compared Dorian to a tornado fifty miles wide but stationary, blowing 180 m.p.h. winds over the same spot for over two days. Some gusts may have reached 220 m.p.h.—an F-4 tornado stuck in place. The storm surge reached twenty feet. Three feet of rain fell.
There is no perspective in which to put this, but the Bantam tornado (1989) was an F-2, last year’s tornado outbreak in Beacon Falls and Oxford, et al., comprised F-1 tornadoes. They did damage and caused misery, but they were there and gone in minutes—seconds. The Windsor Locks tornado in 1979 may very well have been an F-4. The photos from that storm are chilling, but pale by comparison with last week’s onslaught in the Bahamas.
The Bahamas do not belong to the United States. And even though many wealthy Americans hide their money there, we are not beholden to the indigenous population—except that Bahamians, like us, belong to the brotherhood of man. Now I realize that to people like Stephen Miller, Jeff Sessions, and Donald Trump, that’s a quaint phrase that may hark back to olden times but has no relevance in the twenty-first century. But as is true of most of their callous behavior, they're wrong.
But sometimes we just think like members of the human race, and so when Customs and Border Protection head Mark Morgan declared that endangered Bahamians could seek refuge in the U.S., Donald Trump immediately fell back on his old prejudices against dark-skinned people.
“We have to be very careful,” he said. “Everybody needs totally proper documentation. Because, look, the Bahamas had some tremendous problems with people going to the Bahamas that weren’t supposed to be there. I don’t want to allow people that weren’t supposed to be in the Bahamas to come into the United States — including some very bad people and very bad gang members.”
We don’t have to seek irony in an act as cruelly vile as requesting documentation from people whose homes have vanished, but there is some: eighteen years ago in the same month, nation after civilized nation rallied to the defense of America after the events of September 11. In the days following 9/11, while Trump lied about donating money to the clean-up and rescue, a shaken country took comfort in the well-wishes of our allies and friends. In Trump's America, no one takes comfort.
Ascribing a cause to Trump’s misanthropy can remain the province of others. Most of us are well past shock at this point. But even his followers—even his so-called base—can recognize arrant cruelty when they see it. And as more and more of them turn against him, he will find himself on an island too—one even more remote than Abaco, much less beautiful than Abaco was, and much more desolate than Abaco is. Here's hoping he has his passport with him.