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SAN JUAN STAR - PERSPECTIVE
Redefining The Meaning Of "Patriot"
By Arturo J. Guzmán
April 29, 2002
A couple of days ago while driving to my office I was listening to a morning political talk show on a Spanish language radio station. A call from an advocate of independence was aired during which he bitterly denounced a previous callers criticism of Lolita Lebrón.
The caller pursued an argument which I have heard in the past stating that anyone who admired George Washington could not condemn Lebrón because she was also a hero fighting for the "liberty" of her country. Rather than replying verbally, I thought the argument deserving of a more permanent written reply.
First of all, there seems to be a pervasive intention on the part of many advocates of independence for Puerto Rico to purposely interchange the terms "independence" and "liberty". Puerto Rico, an un-incorporated territory of the United States is subject to the plenary powers of the U.S. Congress and thus is not a nation, or an independent state. Nonetheless, as American citizens Puerto Ricans enjoy full freedom and liberty as guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution but in contrast there are many independent nations whose people have neither freedom nor liberty.
Secondly, to try and equate the acts of Lolita Lebrón and others like her to those of George Washington and the patriots who fought in the American war of independence, is not only ludicrous fanaticism but demonstrate either ignorance or disregard for truth. To the best of my knowledge, George Washington never traveled to England to shoot either King George III or any of the members of the English Court. Washington, nor any of his followers ever placed bombs intended to kill, hurt or maim innocent men, women and children. In essence George Washington never committed a single terrorist act.
Patriots who fought for American independence never cowardly ambushed and killed unarmed British troops, dealt in drug traffic to finance their war, assaulted banks or stagecoaches or committed ordinary crimes in the name of their cause. George Washington is admired for never telling a lie, not for consistently lying.
Neither Washington nor his followers ever spoke of odious and divisive nationalism, nor socialism or communism that would oppress the people and deny them precisely their independence, liberty and freedom. Instead, they brilliantly wrote and proclaimed the same Bill of Rights and Constitution that eventually served to free from jail Lebrón and other Puerto Rican terrorists.
Perhaps the most fundamental of differences is in the fact that Washington and the American founding fathers had the moral standing and conviction, honor and valor to issue a declaration of independence before even the first shot of the war for independence was fired. Washington was certain of priorities, and never created deceitful "national" parks, sports teams, pageants, unions, or any other "national" entities until a true sovereign and independent nation was created.
Paradoxically, it is Washington and not Lebrón who should serve as inspiration and example to the advocates of Puerto Rican independence. Today more than ever it is he who should be their role model more so because no act of war, violence or terrorism is required. I renew a challenge to all Puerto Ricans seeking independence: stop the rhetoric, the "make-believe", the self-demeaning acts, the illusory nation and act like men and women of stature, dignity, and integrity have acted throughout History. They must come to recognize that it takes cowards to commit terrorist acts, but that it takes great courage and valor to issue a simple declaration of independence and present it to the President and the United States and to the Congress.
The cause of independence will have surprising support from many in the United States and the international community who are envious even of our imperfect society and will rejoice at having Puerto Rico joining them as yet another poor Third World nation. Once independence is declared they should fear not persecution, but prepare for acclaim and relief by many in the United States who are growingly tiring of the absent patriotism, ever taunting selfishness and ungratefulness; tiring of the overwhelming expense to the nations taxpayers in exchange for not even loyalty. Tiring of an absent majority whose silence has bred complicity in allowing that it be defined by the will and agenda of a minority.
Those that join in declaring independence should not despair in vilifying and renouncing their American nationality and citizenship because for each one that does there will be countless millions the world over awaiting for the opportunity to take their place. Finally it is my hope that for the benefit and success of the new independent republic that the new generations of Puerto Rican nationals and citizens are raised like George Washingtons and not like Lolita Lebrons.
Arturo J. Guzman can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org