01 March 2006

Statehood: Our Illusion of Choice

My recent koan-like posting ("What is the power of choice?") fostered an interesting exchange with Aníbal Freytes, a.k.a. The Information Soldier. At one point he asked Me "Isn't choice an illusion?" My response was (in part): "Choice can be an illusion, in the same way that some ideas are concrete and tangible and others are mere dreams. What often happens is that we confuse reality with illusion..."

It struck Me as odd that I wrote "...confuse reality with illusion," rather than "illusion with reality". Could be mere semantics, or as Carol used to say "Six of one or a half-dozen of the other."

In any case, confusing reality with illusion is exactly what I meant and the clearest example We have here on Our Island of Enchantment is called "statehood".

Statehood exists. If you want to go beyond the 50 in the U.S., check out Mexico. States exist, they are real and they were often created by choice. Statehood for Puerto Rico is not real and will never be real because it isn't Our choice that matters, but theirs--the "Americans"--and to them, the option of statehood for Puerto Rico is nothing but an illusion. It simply is not--cannot--be real.

It's been previously argued here that the U.S. simply doesn't want Us. Leaving that aside, on what argument could a petition for Puerto Rican statehood be based?

1) Merit, the idea that somehow We "earned" it. Uh-huh. We could argue that the U.S. took Us as war booty and exploited Us, so We "deserve" statehood. It could be argued and it often is. But The Jenius bets that a hefty percentage of the so-called Third World countries would take being "exploited" as We have. If the merit is money-based (an always slippery notion), We have the highest income per capita in Latin America and the highest level of consumer good purchases.

Forget that.

If it's based on services rendered (the idea that the U.S. took advantage of Our ignorance), We have the highest level of college and post-graduates in Latin America, the lowest percentage of poverty-level citizens in Latin America and the broadest industrial base (all directly or indirectly achieved by U.S. investment).

Forget that.

If it's based on a combination of the two--commercial exploitation--yes, Puerto Rico is the 4th-largest buyer of U.S. goods, for though it is small in population, it is a captive client. But look around you, My Fellow Puerto Ricans: We're buying almost all this stuff because We want to, not because We have to. (Argue all you want: it boils down to that simple indisputable fact.) I can almost hear some pot-bellied Senator from a Southern state listenin' to this facetious merit argument and sayin': "Well, lookin' aroun', seems to me you came out ahead in this here deal!" So let's forget that one, too. (And anyway, let's not forget that Spain wasn't exactly Mother Teresa-like during its 390+ years of basically ignoring Puerto Rico.)

2) Blood, as in We "paid" for statehood by fighting in U.S. wars. This is a particularly insidious piece of demagoguery, for it cruelly juxtaposes the pain of Our losses with an irrational and unrelated reward. Liberty is not a gift one can ignore: it has to be defended in order to keep it. As citizens with liberties few in the world enjoy, fighting in U.S. wars was simply part of Our compact with them. We are free to disagree with fighting in those wars, We can choose to be conscientious objectors (what We should be doing in Iraq right now), but We preserve the liberties We have by defending them in times of need. (Even if they are fabricated from whole cloth by a subnormal puppet of special interests.) Statehood does not proceed from that because We have enjoyed and do enjoy the rare privileges of civil liberties, and fighting in wars has nothing to do with statehood...unless We fought a war specifically for that purpose. As far as The Jenius knows, that would take a specific agreement that has never existed.

3) That We fulfill some geopolitical or socioeconomic "need". The original 48 States were simply filling in a landmass; there could have been 74 or 11, so long as the right area was covered between Canada and Mexico. Alaska and Hawaii had military and economic value for the U.S., exploited at the time and then consolidated after World War II. What value does Puerto Rico have? Military? Nuh-uh. Modern warfare doesn't require "local toeholds" anymore: you can make them with technology, if they are needed at all. Geopolitical, as in influencing a region or making some form of policy statement? The Caribbean is not exactly a hotbed of ideogical struggle, the Cold War is over and Puerto Rico (thanks in large part to its 500+ years of colonialism) is not even a major regional player. Economic? Nearly every State has been an opportunity bonanza, but that doesn't apply to Us anymore: Our greatest growth has already happened and it will never be exceeded under the current status and would cost the U.S. too much under statehood. You know who would fit the three criteria and thus would be admitted as the 51st State in months, if they "choose" to: Cuba. On all fronts--military, geopolitical and economic--it would serve U.S. interests to the proverbial T. Mark My words: it would only take a year from Castro's death if the Cubans chose to try.

So what's left? "We want it!"? Yeah, right. The Southern pork-bellied Senator would just lean back and smile waspishly: "Well, son, there's plenty of people out there that want things they ain't gonna get. Isn't that right?"

Yeah, that's right. Choice as an illusion, whether it's a toy too expensive for the family's Christmas budget or statehood. Oh, sure, there's always the choice of blowing the budget for the toy, but is there a chance of statehood for Puerto Rico? As the large-bellied Southern Senator would say: "That dog don't hunt." And if We try anyway, when the negative response comes back, Our massive Dixie-based 1% of the Senate, while sipping Jack Daniel's in some smoky room somewhere, will grunt in satisfaction and choose to rumble: "That'll break them from suckin' eggs."

Would that We don't give him that choice.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

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