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It’s Time For Puerto Rico To Define Itself

by Arturo J. Guzman

March 31, 2000
Copyright © 2000 THE SAN JUAN STAR. All Rights Reserved.

In a society that appears to thrive upon political contradiction and controversy, the latest episode to captivate public attention has been a decision by New Yorkers of Puerto Rican descent to honor Pedro Albizu Campos in their annual Puerto Rican Day Parade. Unfortunately, after all that has been written and spoken, I must confess that I am confused!

What is Mr. Albizu being honored for? Is it for the attempt on the life of Governor Muñoz and his family, or is it for ordering an attempt against the life of President Truman? Is the attack on unarmed members of the United States Congress his major deed? Or perhaps he is being honored for being such a proud Puerto Rican, that during his days as a student at Harvard University he wore a turban to try and pass for an East Indian. Who knows? A person’s life and actions cannot be dissected and separated and they must be judged as a whole, so I presume he must be being honored for all of the above...and much more!

But my confusion is being nurtured by the expressions of our local politicians and politicians-to-be who have taken the fine art of demagoguery and hypocrisy to such a high level that most of the time we the people have great difficulty in differentiating their individual political preferences and ideologies. Take this issue as an example, and you’ll find sympathizers of Commonwealth defending Albizu in spite of the fact that he tried to kill their party’s founding father. Or pro-statehood leaders defending the father of terrorism against the nation they want to join as a state of the union. Or pro-independence leaders, of the sort that want to continue being U.S.citizens after independence, justifying Albizu’s acts of violence on one side and bitterly denouncing the Navy exercises in Vieques on the other.

I am confused but not surprised in this era where "political correctness" and electoral expediency take precedence over moral and principle. How can one celebrate or honor the sponsorship of violence in a democratic society? I would like to know the answer particularly from those that bitterly denounce the state for creating "carpetas"- an inherent duty of any society to defend its populace precisely from the terrorism Albizu spoused.

Of course, the pro-independence sector will scream indignant that they are persecuted and singled out, and I will be obliged to ask who were the pro-Commonwealth, or pro-statehood activists that attempted against the life of unarmed U.S. service personnel, placed bombs in a Wall street tavern, were caught manufacturing bombs in Chicago, or hijacked a Wells Fargo truck? But of course, those that honor and by their silence acquiesce to celebrate the life of Albizu will always try and seek with the bullet what is denied them by the ballot.

But these forces need not despair nor recur to violence as "born-again nationalism" is patent daily in Puerto Rico. It is winning the game of perception and it has made great advances in portraying us all as rabid anti-Americans. Witness that for any individual to state his or her pride in being an American is to deny being Puerto Rican. Repeatedly our people are being told, and they have believed, that they must be one or the other, know one language or another, have one flag or the other.

Ignorance and induced confusion have become an essential part of the plan. Being an American, will deprive you of being a Puerto Rican, and who knows, maybe it will also deprive you of your gender. Real "machos" by definition are "independentistas"...These valiant "machos" inhabit in the widows and orphans of terrorism the world over. They inhabit in the empty eyes and stomachs of the children who had to be sacrificed through generations so that the greed and false pride of the "messiahs of independence" could be satisfied at any and all cost! It’s an old story...!

The message to the "silent majority", is propagated by omission not commission, and by suppression: They are to remain silent so that the minority can rule and impose their will! The media and society assuring that they remain "politically correct" and go along for fear that they be labeled adversaries, enemies, or "pitiyanquis"! And the "silent majority" obediently follows at the expense of creed and convictions, ignoring the labors and values of their lives and those of their predecessors, and particularly gambling on the future of their children! And they do it without protest, like the proverbial sheep being led to slaughter gleefully and with their implicit consent.

They do it affirming that the right to independence is a right inherent to any people, but failing to recognize that the right to liberty and freedom, including the liberty and freedom to live in peace and safe from violence and terrorism, is a right inherent to all people. No worthwhile ideal or noble goal can be attained on the life and limbs of innocent fellow human beings.

It has been a long time to decide what do we want to be when we grow up! Do we want to follow the example of Albizu? Or do we want to follow the path of those who wake up every morning work hard and sacrifice their lives to better themselves and to educate their children so that they can in turn enjoy democracy and freedom in peace and in full pursuit of their happiness? Where are the civic and religious leaders to guide us? Or are they so transparently selective that violence can only be condemned if it comes in English?

I reiterate my assertion that the time has come to take-off the masks and define ourselves. Let us do it in a dignified and honored manner worthy of our ancestry and particularly of our future, but foremost without celebrating bloodshed! Let us decide if we want to continue tolerating the double-standards, the hypocrisy, and the demagoguery. Let us decide if we wish to be remembered by history as supporters of terrorism and terrorists, or if we wish to prevail as a peaceful and law-abiding people regardless of our political and economic condition. The time is long for us to us define ourselves and demand the same from our leaders, before others define us. There is no need for revisionism- we can still write new history!

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