15 October 2005

Statehood? Not A Chance

I lived almost 20 years in the U.S., spanning states from Nebraska to Texas to Mississippi. I traveled extensively through the South and Midwest, visited 31 states for at least a few days each and have spoken about Puerto Rico to people in virtually every state I visited. My appearance and name are those of a White, Anglo-Saxon Protestant, the proverbial W.A.S.P., and to this day, I am often taken for “American,” sometimes even while I’m speaking “boricua.”

I can assure you of two things: The average American doesn’t know about or care a thing for Puerto Rico. And that as soon as I disclosed I was Puerto Rican, not “American,” many of them visibly changed their attitude towards me in a negative way. They didn’t need to think it through: it just happened. And that reaction consistently--sadly--permeates the entire fabric of the country.

To you statehooders whose “knowledge” of the U.S. is little more than a month’s visit to the Bronx or a couple of trips to Disney World: shut up. Just shut the hell up. You know as much about the U.S. as the average worm knows about nuclear physics. Understand this: the U.S. will not grant statehood to Puerto Rico. Ever. It is not a “right” We have earned, it is not a “debt” the U.S. has to pay and it is not their "obligation" to take on a nation (a concept you shamefully deny We have) as part of their republican federation because of a simple reason: it’s their house and they can say who comes in and who doesn’t.

The ignorance the average American has about Puerto Rico will quickly change to expertise based on a single issue: We are not like them. To the average American, We are not Americans. We are outsiders. Strangers. Parasites even. For though the U.S. was founded on humanistic ideals and principles, in fact, the ideals and principles are often expressed as “If you ain’t one of us, you don’t count and we don’t want you.”

If Puerto Rico ever descended to the level of asking for statehood, an act equivalent to kissing beneath the wallet that has bought us, the system says 37 States (three-quarters majority) have to approve the petition. It’s easier to find 37 States to vote against it. First off, no Southern state would approve. Strike Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, North Carolina and South Carolina from the list. If you have to ask why, you’ve obviously never spent any time in those States.

Then take the large Western states, like Montana, Idaho and Wyoming. These states are famous for having a strong sense of freedom, “America First” sentiment and a bewildering array of militia radicals. Their vote would be a resounding NO with nary a split-second’s thought. That makes 12, so one more “No” would scratch the infamy of statehood from consideration.

Take your pick: states in the extreme northeast—-Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire--as conservative as the winter is long. States such as North and South Dakota, or Minnesota or Kansas or Nebraska or Iowa or Oklahoma or Utah (lowest minority population of any state) that would see their puny representation overwhelmed by Puerto Rico’s in the House of Representatives, where the number of Fools is determined by population, not State seniority.

Which brings up the point about the House, whose number is set at 435. Unlike the Senate, which could rise to 102 Senators, Puerto Rico’s "representatives" would be taken from high-population states, namely California, New York, Florida, Texas, Illinois and Pennsylvania. These states have high Hispanic minorities, but would the peoples of these states allow one of “their voices in government” to be taken from their control to be given to a fledgling state with a comparative poverty level that makes Mississippi look like Monaco?

And let’s not ignore the question of race. It matters. It matters a lot. Maybe 50 years from now, when the majority of the population of the U.S. is non-white, maybe it won’t matter as much. Or then again, it will, as the difference between “Them that have” and “Them that don’t” could very well make the race issue seem trivial by comparison.

The Jenius thinks it is time We moved beyond all this statehood crap. For deep down, it isn’t a matter of pride or heritage or history or anything lofty: it’s a matter of money. They have it, they know we want more of it, and they don’t want—or have—to share it. On that alone, they will reject the request for statehood. And they should.

Because We can do better.

Except that most of Us don’t believe—or don't want to believe—that.

Not becoming a state is not Our loss; not knowing how to be Ourselves is.

The Jenius Has Spoken.


Gabriel said...

A question I ask all pro-statehood fanatics I meet: What do we bring to the table? What added value would we give the US in order to justify spending billions replacing flags etc.
All pro-statehood arguments are about what the US would give us, never what we would give them. Its stupid, would you give a seat in the board of directors of your company to the beggar down the street? No! We really need to get our act together and start taking care of our own or we are due for a real rude awakening.

Anonymous said...

I live in Texas, and I believe that Gil's logic is correct. Americans by and large are unaware of what goes on beyond the borders of their state, much less their country. Many Americans couldn't find Puerto Rico on a map.

A colleague was working in New York. Someone noticed his accent and asked where he was from. He replied, "I'm Spanish, from the Basque region." The New Yorker exclaimed, "What a coincidence! I was in Tijuana once." Unfortunately that New Yorker's geographical ignorance has lots of company in the US.

Sadly, Gil, you are correct.

James said...

That's absolutely right. Puerto Rico's status means nothing to Americans. To Puerto Ricans, it means everything.

We need to pull our political parties' collective asses from platforms directed toward the esoteric (statehood, status quo, or independence) and get them to address the ISSUES of poverty, education, crime, unemployment, etc clear of all this useless hand-waving over status.

Bah, status is as irrelevant for those in the states as it is for us here.

Anonymous said...

I must respond to the comments provided by Gabriel. Gabriel I believe that it is important to look beyond what Puerto Rico can offer in its inclusion into the Union. We, as a nation, must also take into account how Puero Rico has enriched us as a colony for over a century. It is time that a debt be paid that is long overdue.

Teófilo de Jesús said...

A mildly interesting post, Mr. Schmidt, rife with prophetic certainties and presumptuous omniscience. Perhaps the whole rant should be more accurately described as your perception rather than as "the facts" on Anglo-American attitudes about statehood for Puerto Rico.

Not all Puerto Ricans who have lived in the states for extended periods of time think like you, have had the same experiences, or haven't met multitudes of Anglo-Americans who, after being informed of Puerto Rico's situation, become open to the idea of statehood.

I suppose, though, that if you did approach them with a chip-on-your shoulder-attitude, you probably opened yourself to a lot of negativity.



Sorry if this one comes out doubled: I'm not sure if it posted the first time.

Anonymous said...

Puerto Rico is a nation,it is a fact that you can hide, ignore or deny but it is there like an elephant in the living room. US knows PR is a nation and that the anexation thesis crashed and burned in the late 30's and 40's. It was the strategic geopolitical factor that lead the US to retain PR a little longer under different circumstances (no longer a classic colony, now a Commonwealth with UN approval) . Its just a matter of time when US declares PR sovereign but assuring its economic power over the island.

La Ventanita said...

I have had very different experiences with Americans than Jenius: I've never gotten the condescending attitude you mention even after saying I'm Puerto Rican. I do agree that a lot of Americans have no clue, and that it's very possible that statehood would die in the Senate or the House. However, if you are thinking "independencia" or the infamous "republica asociada" that will not happen either, unless of course they do not have a need for us....and I don't see that happening anytime soon. Statehooders want their full rights as Americans that we are, Populares want to maintain the Status Quo, while the Left Wing of the Populares leads to a similar goal of Independentistas.....what I am trying to say, la esperanza es lo ultimo que se pierde. Unless an unbiased study comes out with the pros and cons of the different status, Puertorricans will not budge. Americans however, leaving out African Americans, are very open to discussing the idea. But in the end, until the US wants to solve the "status" issue it will remain as is. I think currently Puerto Rico has BIGGER problems than the status quo, and should concentrate their efforts on those.

jay_jay26 said...

What can PR bring to the US? MORE RETAIL WASTELAND!!! In case you guys forgot, every time a business is failing, it will open more branches in PR so it will stay open for a longer period of time and to increase their profit. Puerto Rican people are (we are 'cause I'm from PR) consumers by nature. That's why retail loves PR so much . In PR, there's a shopping mall like five to ten minutes away from each other. What does PR brings to the US? MORE CONSUMERS!!!!!