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Lin-Manuel Miranda on Trump and Puerto Rico: ‘I Don’t Run Well on Anger’

Hamilton” mastermind Lin-Manuel Miranda has been among the most vocal agitators raising awareness about the devastation Hurricane Maria has wreaked upon Puerto Rico. He’s been outspoken in the press and on social media to help raise funds for recovery, and he pulled together an all-star lineup of Latin artists from across genres and generations, including Jennifer Lopez, Gloria Estefan, Fat Joe, Luis Fonsi, Rubén Blades, Camila Cabello, John Leguizamo, Rita Moreno and Marc Anthony. The song, which includes the names of 78 towns and municipalities in Puerto Rico, was released early this month, with all proceeds benefiting hurricane recovery for the island. (Click here to listen and donate.)

More aggressively, Manuel, whose parents were born in Puerto Rico, responded to President Trump’s tweet that islanders “want everything handed to them” by saying he is going “straight to hell” for his failure to address the disaster more thoroughly than he has. While he dialed back his response a bit to the New York Times (“That’s not how I talk,” he said, adding “Then again, I’ve never seen a sitting president attack the victims of a natural disaster. It  was the only thing I could think to say in the face of an attack on a people already besieged”)

On the red carpet for the Tidal X concert Tuesday, where Miranda was a presenter, he spoke effusively of relief efforts showed by citizens and artists for his single, for the concert (for which all proceeds went to disaster relief in the Gulf and Mexico) and across the country — “Every day on my Twitter feed is like the last scene of ‘It’s a Wonderful Life,’ if the response of the American government were commensurate to the response of the American people, we’d be on the road to recovery so much faster.” But Variety asked him a more pointed question. Three days after Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast in 2005, there was widespread outrage against the president and the government. Where is the outrage over Puerto Rico? (Note: this interview took place before Trump gave himself a 10 out of 10 for his administration’s response to hurricane damage in Puerto Rico.)

“The outrage is there and it’s real, I think you sense that and I think the president’s poll numbers reflect that,” he said. “But I also believe there’s a lot of outrage to go around, and I think our job as artists is to keep Puerto Rico in the conversation, because there’s no shortage of things [in the news] to make you mad — and yet there are 3.5 million Americans [in Puerto Rico] who have no electricity, there are no stoplights or streetlights. That needs to keep being part of the conversation, and if that’s my job for the next little while, then that’s my job. But I’ve been overwhelmed by the generosity of artists and everyday people.”

Asked if his charitable efforts have helped to channel his own outrage, he said, “I don’t run well on anger and outrage. I think of it as a fuel source — so are joy and love. Rage is a great fuel source — you’ll go real fast, but it’ll blow up the vehicle, at least for me. ‘Almost Like Praying’ is written from such a place of love for the island, and I think the artists involved responded to that. I think that will do more good in the long run than an angry tweet will — and an angry tweet is good, if it’s justified and righteous. But that’s not my comfort zone, which is to work from a place of love. That’s what I try to do every day.”

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