Tuesday, October 16, 2007
More than Heroes, Less than Citizens
By: Phillip Arroyo
Upon recent days as I grabbed the daily paper on my way to work, I was staggered and dismayed to once again read of yet another Puerto Rican American life lost at the expense of the war in Iraq. Having been raised in Fayettteville, North Carolina during my elementary school years, a son of a Green Beret Special Forces soldier, I used to always feel proud to see my father arrive from work everyday. I remember him carrying me in his arms, while I stared at him, clutching on to his dog tags in curiosity. I always felt like I had a superhero as a father when I was a kid, and in way he is, because he served our country proudly and was always willing to put his life on the line for our great nation.
Nonetheless, as I grew up and began satisfying and quenching my thirst for knowledge, I began to reach some startling conclusions in terms of Puerto Rico's relationship with the United States. Slowly and surely I started to learn about how the Puerto Rican people and Puerto Rican soldiers' political rights as American citizens were shortchanged by the very nation that sent them to war in defense of the "freedom and democracy" that our nation now preaches in Iraq. The fact that thousands of Puerto Rican soldiers have been desenfranchised from our nation's political decision making process despite having American citizenship and more importantly despite the fact of fighting overseas, should be an embarrassment for the United States worldwide. As our island's ex democratic governor, Carlos Romero Barcelo once said, " It is like preaching in your underwear, to talk about bringing freedom and democracy to Iraq and at the same time have 4 million disenfranchised American citizens in Puerto Rico."
I am without a doubt proud to be a part of the United States of America, and I still believe that it is the greatest nation in the world in terms of its structure of democracy, yet there are some imperfections in our system that must be remedied and can never be overlooked. The 4 million American citizens of Puerto Rico deserve the political and socioeconomic equality that our nation's 50 states enjoy. For years, members of Congress have looked the other way, concentrated more on their districts and as many of them have evasively expressed, "Let the Puerto Rican people decide." Ironically, Congress has NEVER facilitated the people of Puerto Rico with a federally sponsored self determination process for them to finally decide, once and for all, their political fate.........Until now!
A piece of legislation coauthored by Puerto Rican Democratic Congressman Jose Serrano (NY) HR 900 proposes a federal sanctioned self determination process to be executed via direct vote during a status plebiscite to be held in 2009. As we speak, votes are being lobbied within the House Sub Committee on Energy and a markup is rumored to me made on October 23rd, 2007. If this measure is brought to the House and Senate floor and approved, Puerto Rico will then have the final say in regards to their political future with the United States. That moment is nearer than ever. It is now time for our nation's leaders to finally exclude the common political rhetoric of the past to evade Puerto Rico's political status issue. It is their golden opportunity to follow their hearts on this very important issue, for the vast majority our members of Congress know that Puerto Rico's current political status is unfair and unjust. Supporting HR 900 is just plain and simply the right thing to do!
All of us as American citizens should lead the voice in support of this legislation and in support of equality among all American citizens. Civil rights and political leaders like Dr. Martin Luther King, Bobby Kennedy and Abraham Lincoln were great leaders becauseue they followed their hearts on what they knew was the right thing to do. America needs more leaders like them to restablish America's image worldwide. Our fallen Puerto Rican American soldiers do not deserve less. Let us never forget what they stood for and what they died for. They were more than heroes, but less than citizens....................................