Puerto Rico is a small Caribbean territory of the United States forsaken by presidents and Congress.
“Although Puerto Ricans were granted U.S. citizenship in 1919, America continues to exploit, oppress and war on its people,” Mark Karlin of Truthout writes. “It was liberated by Spain only to be subjugated by America.”
Nelson Denis, author of “War Against All Puerto Ricans: Revolution and Terror in America’s Colony,” documents racist, military and economic rhetoric justifying colonization.
He relates the early lie told by the New York Times: “It’s much better for Puerto Rico to be under the beneficent sway of the United States than to engage in doubtful experiments of self-government.”
Some beneficence! In 1897 Spain granted Puerto Rico the right to a constitution, legislature, tariffs, treasury, a monetary system and international trading. But actually the U.S. controls everything on the island: foreign relations, customs, immigration, postal system, radio, TV, military service, transportation, banking, judiciary, tariffs, trading and Social Security. (And doubtless the Internet too.)
The control was so fierce that under a U.S. law in force from 1948 to 1957 the islanders could not utter a word, sing a song, whistle a tune or say anything against the U.S. without being subject to 10 years in prison for “seditious conspiracy.” Other U.S. crimes: laws prohibiting the teaching of any language but English and displaying the Puerto Rican flag.
In 1922 the U.S. Supreme Court held that the U.S. Constitution did not apply to Puerto Ricans. The U.S. minimum wage and other federal protections, privileges and immunities were denied.
And so Puerto Rico’s Gov. Garcia Padilla recently announced its inevitable insolvency: unable to pay its $73 billion debt.
Its people pay taxes to the United States but have no vote in presidential elections, no representation in the Electoral College and no members of Congress.
It should have been granted statehood decades ago but has always been stymied by a don’t-care Congress and Republican congressional fear that it would always elect two Democratic senators.
In short, a forgotten land: burdened with debt and possessing 3.5 million Americans who demand equality but can’t get it. It is being strangled economically and politically by America.
In the irony of all ironies, Orwell’s “1984” became an instant bestseller in America while at the same time the U.S. was running a totalitarian, Orwellian colony in Puerto Rico.
Pedro Pierluisi, a Democrat, is Puerto Rico’s nonvoting delegate in the House of Representatives. He points out in a New York Times op-ed article that 5 million individuals of Puerto Rican heritage live in America.
“Yet as conditions deteriorate, my constituents are leaving for the mainland at a rate of 50,000 a year,” Pierluisi writes. “The main reason is inequality.
“Congress routinely mistreats Puerto Rico. Its health care system is a shambles. Federal funding for state Medicare is open-ended but capped in Puerto Rico. The only solution is statehood. Until then, Puerto Ricans will be second-class citizens.”
Polygamy and freedom
America is in a never-ending battle for the freedom of outliers, people with different standards, values and desires. The Supreme Court recently approved gay marriage. The next logical step is sanctioning polygamous marriage.
William Baude, University of Chicago law professor, admits that polygamous marriages are patriarchal but concluded that “massive objections to polygamy today become trivial matters decades later.”
Jake Highton is an emeritus professor of journalism at the University of Nevada, Reno. (firstname.lastname@example.org)