By Howard Hills
Opponents of statehood in Puerto Rico are committed to preventing a federally recognized democratic vote on statehood. A yes or no vote on statehood was allowed for most of the 32 U.S. citizen populated territories that have already become states. Still, the “autonomists” in Puerto Rico who oppose both statehood and independent nationhood want continuation of territorial status on undefined terms to be on the ballot in any vote.
That three-option ballot in the past with an unknown “enhanced status quo” spoiler choice prevented either known permanent status option from winning majority in multiple status votes. That changed in 2012, when 54% voted to end the current status and 61% voted for statehood. Statehood continues to be the most popular option in polls, and historically that means statehood is inevitable. It’s just a matter of time.
That is why some “autonomists” are giving up on the current “commonwealth” regime of “autonomous” territorial government that delivered Puerto Rico into bankruptcy, suspension of the local constitution by Congress, and appointment of a federal control board to oversee local government administration of civil affairs in the territory.
This implosion of the “commonwealth” regime of failed territorial civil administration was in part due to lack of federal and local preparedness for catastrophic hurricanes that struck in 2017. The causes of an inadequate response to natural disaster included a lack of defined responsibilities for emergency response, and ambiguous federal or local accountability under the “autonomist” model of territorial government.
Anti-statehooder turns anti-American
In that context, it is interesting that NBC News recently featured the story of a Puerto Rican who in the past chose statehood in the mainland over life in the territory. Now this beneficiary of freedom to live in the territory or a state is leaving America to escape a new found fear of racism and tyranny and live as an expatriate in a foreign country.
Susanne Ramirez de Arrellano apparently doesn’t see the emergence of a statehood majority in Puerto Rico as a path to empowerment of her fellow U.S. citizens in the territory. Indeed, she is giving up on not just statehood but America and leaving the U.S. altogether. “As a Latino,” she writes, “I no longer feel safe in Trump’s America. So I’m leaving it.”
Ramirez is a journalist who writes for the anti-statehood newspaper El Nueva Dia, which panders to pseudo-nationalist “autonomist” ideology. She conflates her opposition to statehood, commingled fear and hatred of Trump, along with some pretty conspicuous daddy issues, all combined in her assertion that she is no longer “safe” in America.
Accordingly, she declares that she must leave America, including Puerto Rico, both of which she seems to disdain along with her father who loved and in her view prosaically idealized America.
The editorial policy of El Nuevo Dia is to refer to Puerto Rico as a “country” and “nation,” and to report on the cause of the “autonomists” faction that rejects statehood. Although aligned with that cause, Ramirez now rejects the territory, Trump, her father, and the U.S. as virtually one and the same.
The narrative of despair over Trump and America ignores any sense of historical realism and truth.
The idea Ramirez has that America was good and is going bad is the exact opposite of reality. Racism was worse in the past, in the days of legal segregation. Talk about the country being divided? Ever hear of the Civil War? If President Trump has spoken disrespectfully of Puerto Rico, to be sure President Taft often said much worse.
At a time when Puerto Rico is finally making its first serious bid for statehood based on democratically expressed political will, she wants Puerto Ricans in the territory to get in the back of the bus, or, better yet, jump off the bus with her.
Spanish is the second most widely-spoken language in the United States, right after English. The Hispanic community is large and influential. Trump’s rhetoric doesn’t change the reality. Nativism and xenophobia do not define or win out in America. The American idea is bigger than any one man or woman, or ethnic identity politics.
Trusting the U.S. Constitution
What makes NBC think Ramirez somehow represents the Puerto Rican dilemma? It reminds us that so many in America today don’t understand or trust the Constitution.
The organizing principle of the Constitution is that a bad king can be controlled and even removed by the people. A bad law can be changed. Ordinary people have rights, and can stand up for them to people in power. Instead of fighting the good fight, Ramirez is ignoring the democracy underpinning the American way and imagining that some unspecified other country will be more accepting of her.
More perfect is not perfect
More perfect is never going to be perfect because people are not perfect. Ramirez will find that is true wherever she goes.
She should honor her father by working to make Puerto Rico more perfect instead of running away. As for me, I am staying, and working to make Puerto Rico part of a more perfect union.
The USA does wrong, makes mistakes, does evil, but also does the greatest good for the greatest number of people compared to any other nation in the history of mankind. Don’t blame your dissatisfaction on Daddy, Trump, racism, or Spanish language bias. Especially if you can’t also give America credit for bilingualism, our love of Latino people and their contributions in all fields of endeavor to the success of our nation.