26 November 2008

Answering Our Tough Status Questions

So I write a post about Our status and then MC Don Dees comes along and drops like a metric ton of questions on Our heads, questions well worth asking, and thus, well worth answering.

Although the sub-text of the questions tends towards "Status is no big deal; stop making it so," the fact is that too many of Us revel in status pettifoggery and headless-chicken racing about it. But the questions are valid, so here We go:

++Why is it important for Puerto Rico to solve the status issue?

If nothing else, to stop its mindless use as an excuse, distraction, cover-up, deception, conspiracy platform and rumor mill. On a more fundamental level, to end Our colonial limbo.

++What are the injustices or needs or freedoms that would be solved (removed/added) by solving the status issue? (Ask an easy one, okay?)

We are a captive market, forced more often than not to buy from the U.S. of part of A. or twist Our economy to fit its goals. We are led by elected political office holders for which We have no vote (President, Congress). I believe self-government is like being an adult: it is a right you earn, not because of age, but because you've shown by your actions you are an adult. Morality and law support the idea that everyone deserves a chance to be an adult; I state We should have that chance. We would lose the overt "safety net" of the U.S., but We'd be in no danger of some armed invasion. (Who would try? Why would they try?) We'd be free to estalish Our own identity, whatever that might be.

++With the exception of the travesty in Vieques, has the US done anything to Puerto Rico like Russia recently did in Georgia?

Agent Orange was tested in Our western mountain ranges, without notification or Our consent. (Exactly like property.) A sterilization campaign as a means of population control was federal government policy in Puerto Rico until the late 1970s. A medical researcher used Puerto Rican patients for cancer testing in the 1930s--pre-Tuskegee Institute--killing all 13 subjects. The doctor was later the namesake for the "exemplary scientist" award of the American Association for Cancer Research. Aside from that--and more--the question implies that unless a surprise armed invasion happens, We have nothing to complain about. We do. What happened in Vieques outright killed two people in 60+ years; unethical military, medical and scientific "research" have killed/maimed hundreds of Us, most likely thousands and U.S. political policy has essentially marginalized Us for decades. At least with an armed invasion, you can shoot back at a clear target.

++If we don't pay taxes to the US, what is it that they are doing to us through their continued colonization of Puerto Rico?  

Raking in the dough. In one word: Profits. Back in 1905, the estimated percentage of profits leaving Puerto Rico--to U.S.-based companies--was 65%. That was considered a problem for Island growth. In 2003, the estimate was that 67% of  the profits generated here were going out, mainly to U.S. companies. That was considered "business as usual." We are a captive customer, a larger client of the U.S. than Canada and a home to over 550 Fortune 1000 U.S. companies. They aren't here for the weather.

++If free trade is a potential reason for sovereignty, what is it that we have that is worth trading that would sustain our economy?

What We have now: human resources, favorable mid-Americas location and a stable sociopolitical climate. Would We have to ramp up Our advantages and create new ones? Certainly. But that's part of being an adult: you have to work hard, with discipline and focus, to earn your way. On a more practical level, Our economic infrastructure--as developed by the U.S.--offers a known level of sophistication that would attract investors, provided We created the proper tax structures and incentive plans.

++If Spain kept Puerto Rico as a colony for 400 years, why isn't there the same level of animosity towards Spaniards as there is towards Americans?

The distance of history, theft and propaganda. Barely anyone alive remembers the Spanish occupation and We barely discuss it in schools, to the point where We don't learn that Spain granted--through negotiation, not arms--a level of autonomy to Puerto Rico in March of 1898 that was more favorable than the mutant hybrid status We have now. As for the "theft" part, the U.S. stole Us from Spain without reason, unless being a bully to an aging whore of an empire 300 years past its glory is a reason. No one likes to be manhandled, and Europe is much older than the U.S., so We tend to revere the "classic" over the "modern."

++If we reject American culture because of its colonization of Puerto Rico, why do we embrace our Spanish culture? Didn't they keep Puerto Rico enslaved for 4 times longer?

We "gained Our identity" with Spain, who brought themselves, Negro slaves and wiped out Our Indians to forge Us. No different than the U.S., whose folks came in from England, brought in Negro slaves and pretty much wiped out their Indians to forge their people. People in the U.S. show a fondness for English things, so why not Us for those of Spain? "Bygones be bygones" and all that, don't you know. And given the way We don't study Our history, We don't really know how bad Spain treated Us. And your question also implies that the U.S. is keeping Us enslaved.

++In today's globalized economy, aren't all economies so closely linked as to be considered tightly integrated into a world economy? Can Puerto Rico sustain itself as an independent economy?

The simple answer to both questions is "yes," but simple answers can lead one astray. Many economic sectors are not directly affected by globalization (local non-professional service industries, specialized retail sales, personal health and legal services, short-run manufacturing, transportation) and thus can serve as launch points to build bridges into a more globalized economy. As for whether Puerto Rico can do it, that's the question independentistas have never been able to answer with any degree of validity, not because there isn't an answer (other countries with less money, fewer people and more limited infrastructure have done well), but because they can't break through their own lust for U.S. greenbacks and convince Puerto Ricans that "Yes, We can." (Catchy slogan, by the way. Make a good political catch phrase, I'd say...

++Many people say that our colonial status, "perceived" lack of identity, or the unconcluded self-determination of status are the reasons we suffer from the effects of drug trafficking, crime, poverty, and government corruption, why do most other independent Latin American countries suffer from the same issues?

Because they are wrong. Our status has nothing to do with drugs, crime, poverty and corruption. Our status is simply the environment in which these ills flourish by personal choice. Dictatorships in Central and South America have the same problem, as do democracies and whatever the hell Venezuela has. However, one ill can be laid largely at the U.S. of part of A.'s doorstep: its insatiable need to buy drugs is what fuels that ill around the world. And again, that ill arises from personal choice. This queston illustrates part of the deception, fraud, lying and demagoguery that surrounds Our status hullaballoo.

++What does it mean to be free? Free from what? Why is it so desirable to be a free country? Does freedom mean that we'll be safe?

"To be free" is very much a subjective definition, depending on the person defining it. "Free from what"--again--depends on the individual. The reason it is desirable to be a free country is to be able to fulfill one's potential in one's own way, a notion that applies to individuals as well. And no, freedom doesn't mean We or anyone will be safe. Safety is a separate issue, but freedom is a right that requires vigilance and sometimes a struggle to defend it.

++Is the desire to be free idealogical or is it based on the motive of what's best for the majority of the people who live here?

To Me, this is the crux of this exercise. Our struggle for self-determination, to be free from outside impositions, is ideological and it is not what's best for the majority of the people who live here. The reason it isn't what's best for them is simply because the majority can neither conceive, believe in or act toward anything better, unless it's handed to them on a silver platter loaded with cash. In other words, without a major, obvious, personal benefit they can receive with little or no effort, Puerto Ricans will not--ever--make the effort to be adults.

++If our motivation is idealogical would it be worth thrusting upon the majority of our citizens the hardships that becoming independent would most assuredly cause?

Yes. But then again, I'm a Jenius and I know better than they do. Another argument is that all growth requires effort and stasis is the low road to extinction. A third argument is that Our settling for less harms everyone while benefiting outsiders and those who suck up to them. A fourth argument is that there is more dignity in standing on your own two feet than loafing at the foot of your master, whether that master is a benevolent parent or an indifferent government. And a fifth argument, for those who say you can't eat or clothe a family in dignity: Have We tried?

++Recently, most Latin American countries have been experiencing economic growth between 6 and 10% annually. Isn't that because most were previously considered under-developed nations?

Could be. It's easier to grow at 10% when you go from $100 billion to $110 billion, rather than growing at 10% trying to go from $1 trillion to $1.1 trillion. Another factor could be that these economies have leap-frogged expensive intermediate steps (in telecommunications and manufacturing) and gone for lower investment/higher return modern options. And a third factor could be the globalized economy that allows for greater (exponential) returns to economic and sociopolitical actions. And yes, by G8 standards, they were under-developed.

++If we're considered (by our own government) to posess a first world infrastructure, where would our economic development come from if we've already risen from third world status?

From that very same infrastructure and what We can build upon it and around it. The question, added to the one above, seems to imply that "high" economic growth comes from being under-developed. That's like saying that great weightlifiting comes from malnourished athletes. Sustainable and socially-enhancing economic growth can happen at a 3-4% annual rate, provided sociopolitical stability is maintained and wealth distribution isn't concentrated in a tiny percentage of the population. The infrastructure We have gives Us the tools to build a present and future economy. It's what We have and it will do... if We choose to use it to the best of Our abilities.

++If we are already proud to be Puerto Rican why do we abuse the island environmentally or abuse our fellow citizens?

Because in many ways, We're not proud to be Puerto Ricans: We're vain to hide insecurity. It's pretty much the same difference between loving someone--defects and all--and lusting after someone for having a great body or a fancy car. Lust and vanity are ignited  by external (extrinsic factors) and are fed by insecurity, a feeling of not being worthy, whereas love and pride flow from internal (intrinsic) factors based on feelings of self-worth. The first are fleeting sparks, and though fierce, fade quickly. The second run deep, flaring occasionally, but burning bright through dark and light. 

++What does it mean to be proud to be Puerto Rican? What exactly are we proud of? Sure there are achievements, I'm not speaking of that. If we are so concerned with what our families, neighbors, and friends think about where we live, what kind of car we drive, or what brand of clothes we wear, why doesn't that same concern for self-image expand to what other countries think of Puerto Rico when they visit or observe the island?

I'll start at the end and work My way back. We don't care about Our image abroad, or what We show visitors here, because We think of them as We think of Ourselves: not worthy. The "keeping up with the Rivera's" syndrome is part of every society; in that We're no different than the "Joneses" in the U.S., the "Humphries'" in Great Britain or any number of examples dating back to antiquity. As for what it means to be proud to be Puerto Rican, it means--albeit to Me--to acknowledge Our differences, Our culture and achievements, while also acknowledging Our place in the world. It's not "Puerto Rico, love it or leave it," but "Puerto Rico, love it for what it is and could be."

As for what We are proud of...Roberto Clemente, danzas, Rafael Hernández, Luis Muñoz Marín, Rafael Cordero, Richard Carmona, plenas, Pedro Albizu Campos, "La llamarada," Enrique Laguerre, Ramón Frade, José De Diego, Sylvia Rexach, Carlos Delgado, Head Start (conceived and implemented in San Juan by Mayor Felisa Rincón), José Ferrer, Teodoro Moscoso, the Ponce Art Museum, Julia De Burgos, Raúl Juliá, José Celso Barbosa, Ramón Frade, Rita Moreno, Justino Díaz, Antonio Paoli, Pedro Flores, Juan "Pachín" Vicens, Rosario Ferré, Antonio Barceló, Eugenio María de Hostos, Ramón Emeterio Betances, ay bendito, "La carreta," René Marqués, Taínos, abolishing slavery sans bloodshed, Esmeralda Santiago, Luis Lloréns Torres, bombas, Juan Antonio Corretjer, Benicio Del Toro, Luis Palés Matos, J-Lo and Marc Anthony, Evaristo Ribera Chevremont, Antonio Barasorda, Chita Rivera, Tito Rodríguez, Gigi Fernández, Tito Puente, Marisol Malaret, el cuatro, the Casals Festival, José Feliciano, Manual G. Tavárez, reggaeton, Ednita Nazario, Antonia Coello Novello, Ricky Martin, Ana G. Méndez, María Celeste Arrarás, Agustín Ramos Calero (Our most-decorated WWII soldier), Jorge Otero Barreto (most-decorated Army soldier of the Vietnam War), los seis, Gilberto Concepción de Gracia, Luis Muñoz Rivera, Manuel Zeno Gandía, Ernesto Ramos Antonini, Carlos Manuel Rodríguez, Wilfredo Gómez, Edgardo Martínez, Alejandro Tapia y Rivera, fiestas patronales, Iván Rodríguez, José Gautier Benítez, Chi Chi Rodríguez, Rebekah Colberg, Virgilio Dávila, misas de gallo, the Vatican's select coffee, Bacardi, José Campeche, Angel Botello, Sixto Escobar, Luis Cardinal Aponte Martínez, Nydia Velázquez, Agustín Stahl, Miguel García Méndez, Daddy Yankee, Sonia Sotomayor, salsa, Medal of Honor winners (Eurípides Rubio, Fernando Luis García, Héctor Santiago-Colón), Roberto Alomar, Carlos Arroyo, Antonio Martorell, Lorenzo Homar, Hermán Badillo, Modesto Cartagena (most-decorated Hispanic in U.S. history), Benjamín Marcantoni, Giannina Braschi, Fernando Rodríguez Vargas, Hila Levy, Sor Isolina Ferré, Lisa Fernández, Francisco Oller, Antonia Pantoja, and so so much more...

The Jenius Has Spoken


Anonymous said...

That was a lovely post, Gil. Very passionate. It should be required reading for anybody wishing to discuss status, disagree or not.

Antonio Santiago said...

Hi Gil: Given that Im independentista myself and Wilfredo Gomez is my favorite sports person, in all of sports, in history, do you by any chance know if he's Independentista too? He always rofessed to be so proud of our PAIS!