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Did They Do It To Us?

By Francisco Javier Cimadevilla

September 20, 2001
Copyright © 2001 CARIBBEAN BUSINESS. All Rights Reserved.

Or did they do it to them?

What do you think? How did you feel last Tuesday? Your answer might solve the riddle of Puerto Rico’s ultimate destiny.

The unprecedented terrorist attack on New York and Washington last week changed the course of history. We grasped that even as we watched the horrific events unfold. The fiction that only Hollywood could fathom is real. And the world we knew is no more.

The feelings of disbelief, utter loss, and sheer anger swept across the country. In tragedy, the Nation, became one.

And the world stood by its side. In a rare display of purely human solidarity, the nations of the world expressed their empathy and condolences for the more than 5,000 Americans massacred in New York, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania.

America’s allies throughout the world and even her traditional adversaries–admittedly with varying degrees of sincerity–joined in her sorrow.

Sadly, incomprehensively, official Puerto Rico stood alongside with the world, not with the Nation.

"My first words, in the name of the people of Puerto Rico, are of solidarity with the North American nation ,.. . .I trust that God will help the North American people to recuperate from this terrible tragedy," the Governor of Puerto Rico, Sila Calderon said in an official statement from La Fortaleza on that day.

The "North American nation," not the rest of our nation? The "North American people," not our fellow Americans?

These were the words of foreign heads of state, not U.S. governors across the nation. With her words, the governor compounded the sorrow of the great majority of us who are so very proud of the fact that Puerto Rico is a part of that great nation.

But sorrow turned to shame when a few days later the government of Puerto Rico ran paid advertisements in major dailies in Washington and New York–where we so often go to ask for increase federal funding, favorable ratings for our municipal bonds, and a whole host of other favors–to proclaim the generosity with which we had assisted "our fellow Americans." Shameful double talk.

After the Governor thus spoke, it was free for all. And it got much worse.

Comments by the Mayor of Ponce, Puerto Rico’s second largest city, reported by the local dailies were cynical and crass, apparently a personal trait. "The U.S. is alienating itself from the whole world," he was quoted as saying. "The tragedy that the United States has experienced should lead you and your Cabinet to profound reflection on the foreign policy of the U.S.," Cordero wrote to President Bush.

Well, thank you Mr. Mayor, they were just waiting for your advice back in Washington. Perhaps you will consider returning the federal funds your municipality receives every year in protest against "their" foreign policy.

It was not surprising that the usual group of pseudo intellectual leftists-cum-political analysts that regularly spew their anti-American filth on radio and on paper would fail any attempt to contain their enthusiasm at America’s tragedy.

Comfortably protected by the privileges and immunities the U.S. constitution bestows on them, and all of us, as U.S. citizens–including the First Amendment right that allows them to insult with cynicism and insensibility the government and the country that helps feed their children–some of these bards, including former government officials and learned professors of law, had the gall to declare shamelessly, that the U.S. got what it had coming and had only itself to blame for it.

Former Muñoz Marin aide and dean of local political pundits, friend Juan M. Garcia Passalacqua, displayed the very best in his pitiful arsenal of scare tactics: "the people of Puerto Rico must understand that the least secure country in the world today is the United States, and the citizenship that affords the least protection is the U.S. citizenship."

But it was a former Education Secretary who stole the prize of crass anti-American insensibility. Last week Celeste Benitez wrote: "This century, a human race tired that throughout the 19th and 20th centuries the U.S. has waged its wars beyond North American national territory, will take the war to the U.S.’s own front yard. . .The U.S. is starting to have to swallow the first gulps of the medicine it had been shoving the rest of the world for the past two centuries." Thus wrote the universitarian who just five years ago, aspired to represent us in the U.S. Congress as our Resident Commissioner. We should thank God she never got there.

Even Puerto Rico Independence party officialdom had more decorum in the aftermath of the tragedy.

There’s no possibility to over dramatize the import of these statements. Yes, their pettiness is obviously and sadly inspired in the all-consuming grind of local status politics that so evidently handicaps otherwise working minds.

But their effect is to feed and reinforce a feeling of total disconnect between the people of Puerto Rico and the rest of the nation of which we are citizens.

That disconnect is real. Make that surreal. While network and even local affiliate T.V. stations across the country broadcast continued coverage or extensive special programming of the events in New York and Washington, one could flip to the local channels only to find the familiar couple of mustachioed comedians in drag, gossiping the familiar vulgarities. In Puerto Rico, as in most foreign countries, we suppose, regular evening news coverage and occasional bulletins were enough. After all, the tragedy was not here; it was over there.

So, what do you think? How did you feel? When cowardly terrorists bent on annihilating the U.S. and all it stands for attacked Washington and New York last week, did they attack "us," or only "them"?

Were the victims North American people, or our fellow Americans? Were our brothers and sisters in the tragedy only those of Puerto Rican and Dominican descent? Or were they all our brothers and sisters in citizenship?

Do you believe the terrorists attacked the Twin Towers and the Pentagon because they were filled with blond people whose native language is English? Or do you realize that the object of their hatred is the American way of life that we also enjoy here in Puerto Rico, including the freedom to consume the product of our work, or the government largess as the case may be, both of which we have a right to, under U.S. law?

Do you believe the active participation of island and mainland-born Puerto Ricans in the U.S. armed forces–against which the terrorist wrath was so poignantly directed last Tuesday–is just another job opportunity? Or do you realize that their patriotic service in every U.S. war since the First World War is rooted in and exclusive to those who share the common bond of U.S. citizenship?

Do you believe that the American citizenship you hold is just a convenient way to travel or a claim ticket to receive a $17 billion annual gift? Or do you understand it as a guarantee of equal protection under the law and the embodiment of the constitutional rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, for all Americans including us in Puerto Rico?

Don’t be fooled. They did it to us, to Puerto Rico, part that we are of this great, most generous nation in the world.

We at CARIBBEAN BUSINESS, are deeply saddened by the enormous tragedy befallen all of us, but especially the thousands of families across our country who are suffering the irreparable loss of loved ones. We harbor unspeakable anger and contempt at those who committed such barbaric acts, especially the masterminds who are still alive. May God have pity on their souls. And as our country and the world prepare to wage a definitive war against terrorism, may He deliver us to victory, so that Puerto Rico and the rest of our country may forever be spared.

May God bless America.

This Caribbean Business article appears courtesy of Casiano Communications.
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