We believe in free speech. We allow people to speak their minds and while we may correct factual errors, we don’t usually argue with the opinions of commenters.
We’re seeing a rash of comments that promote a false narrative, though. Here’s an example:
“Bro you can’t even mobilize voter turnout or a decisive vote decision on the subject and you’re saying the US is holding you back? Lmao good one. You’ve had like 6 attempts to make a decision and still haven’t in like 40 years. Why we keep wasting our time is my real question.”
This may be a sincere comment from a visitor. But it’s also an intentional tactic of colonization.
It’s pointless so why try?
The House of Representatives passed the Puerto Rico Status Act. This surprised a lot of people, because the common story was that this bill had no chance of being passed.
When someone tells you your goal is impossible so there’s no point in your even trying to reach that goal, it’s the opposite of empowerment. This message makes people feel helpless. Say it often enough as people are growing up, and you can end up with adults who see no value in working toward their goals.
We’re all adults, but we recognize this tactic and we know that it can work. Note that Congress recently passed a law, the Respect for Marriage Act, requiring states to accept same-sex marriages from other states. In 1996, the Defense of Marriage Act defined marriage as a relationship between one man and one woman and said that no state had to acknowledge same-sex marriages. There was no way to predict in 1996 that the Respect for Marriage Act would be passed in 2022. It required a change in the majority views of the American people and a strong national movement.
Equal rights for Puerto Rico may require the same kinds of changes. We believe that it will happen, though, with the same kind of public support. 32 territories have already become states. Puerto Rico can do the same.
Division, not unity
One of the most impressive things about The Puerto Rico Status Act is that it brought together the people on all sides of this issue.
Puerto Rico’s status is a very divisive issue, and it gives malicious actors an opportunity to divide and conquer. As long as we spend our time bickering, we won’t band together to make change.
HR8393, which allows the voters of Puerto Rico to choose from the three viable options for non-territorial political status, was negotiated by Republicans and Democrats, people from the Island and people from the states, supporters of free association and of statehood. We can all support this approach, and in unity we can take action together.
Not good enough
The commenter says “you can’t even” and “you say the US is holding you back.” “You’ve had like 6 attempts to make a decision,” he continues, ignoring the fact that all three referenda during this century have had a majority in favor of statehood.
During the HR8393 debate on the floor of Congress, we heard Rep. Tom McClintock say, “So how does it benefit America to admit a State that would be the most indebted, uneducated, poorest, and least employed State in the Nation?” Disregarding the fact that most territories have been in exactly this position, McClintock suggests that Puerto Rico isn’t good enough to become a state.
There are three points that should be made here:
- 32 territories have already become states. All of them have become more prosperous after they became states. The two most recent states, Alaska and Hawaii, were both impoverished as territories. Both are now among the most prosperous of the 50 current states.
- Puerto Rico’s poverty is to a great extent caused by territory status. While we see false claims that “They get more benefits and aid from the government than any state has ever received,” and “The US Territories would lose some of their freebies if they became a state,” these are statements based on ignorance. Puerto Rico routinely receives less in federal benefits than any state, and much less than it would receive if it were a state.
- Puerto Rico regularly produces exceptional work in the arts and sciences, has a phenomenal degree of biodiversity and natural beauty, and is more integrated into the United States than any previous territory on the verge of statehood. There is no rational reason to oppose Puerto Rico’s admission as a state.
Congress must take action. Please reach out to your representatives in Congress and urge them to take their place on the right side of history.