08 October 2007

Ay Bendito Revisited

Happy Birthday, Vi Marie!

My previous comments about Our Ay bendito--that so-personal phrase that encompasses so much--drew a bit of praise and some brickbats.

Praise, I deserve. Brickbats? Well, those might be deserved as well. One particular point was brought up by Liliana, who wrote (and I translated):

Our Ay bendito is not a way to enjoy someone else's suffering. It is not infinite tolerance. It's something good that has always characterized Our people and that We've been losing, in part because, some years ago, the phrase began to be criticized and ridiculed. Ay bendito is compassion and solidarity. It continues to exist despite efforts to eradicate it. Ay bendito is what compels Us to rush in and help Our neighbor and those affected by disaster or crime. It also makes Us reject the death penalty because it is a definitive punishment that leaves no margin for forgiveness and spiritual growth.

Viva the Puerto Rican Ay bendito.

Liliana's right, but she brings three points to the discussion that I didn't cover:

1) "Infinite tolerance": The fact that Ay bendito implies (or can imply) a level of tolerance so vast it is nothing more than bovine passivity is what eventually sparked a cynical reaction to its use. Spilled milk? Ay bendito. Injustice? Ay bendito. Outright thievery and thuggery? Ay bendito. Liliana is right: There is a difference between compassion and indifference. I didn't point out the compassion part, but focused instead on the pretense of compassion.

2) "Rush in and help Our neighbor": Time and again, Puerto Rico is amongst the most generous providers of food, clothing, medical supplies and volunteers for practically every disaster in this hemisphere. On a per capita basis, We often provide twice as much aid as any other country, despite some of them (listen up, U.S. of part of A. and Canada) having much vaster resources at the per capita and national levels. Stick that in your Ay bendito discussion.

3) "Efforts to eradicate it": As above, Ay bendito has been made to represent a negative--passivity--rather than a host of positives. I don't think it was a concerted "plan," but rather a reflection of comparison. When Puerto Rico was isolated in its misery, Ay bendito may have been the only "glue" to keep Us together. Exposure to "American" ways, growth and lifestyle, all as part of cultural mores that are different from Ours , may have engendered or exacerbated a sense of inferiority that was neither real nor necessary. At that point, Ay bendito may have been seen as the slogan of Our past rather than the basis for Our future. Alternate and parallel theory: Things have gotten so bad for so many of Us that We use Ay bendito as criticism while waiting for someone (else) to solve the problems. Think passivity plus cynicism.

And We're (almost) back to My original argument. Should We "eradicate" Our Ay bendito? It can't be done, so trying to is useless. Can We stop people from using it as a mask of hypocrisy? Ditto. Can We stop seeing it as a negative and base Our truest potential for growth on its spiritual power? I don't see as We have a choice.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

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