Saturday, June 27, 2009

Occupation and representation

Every so often I am reminded of Puerto Rico. It comes up in political discussions, and I've known a few people from there, or who have family from there. And every time it comes up, I wind up feeling like there's something wrong.

A dozen generations ago, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Paine, and company were grumbling about being subject to a sovereign who they had little influence on. Parliament representation was not for mere territories.

Now, here we are, continuing to return the favor. I know - Puerto Rico gets a lot out of its relationship with the US. But it's a real affront to democracy for us to be sitting here on the mainland and handing down decrees. It's not a pressing security issue or some kind of wartime emergency; we just own it and rule the 4 million or so people there in a state of legal limbo - neither an independent country nor one of the states making up the United States proper.

There's also Guam, American Samoa, the US Virgin Islands, and the Northern Marinaras, which are a good bit smaller - between the four of them, they have a little less of a population than Wyoming. Each is individually large enough to be admitted as states under the Constitution, of course. And while many people on both sides of the affair find the status quo a reasonable compromise, I don't.

If we're ruling over you, you deserve representation in our government. "Territory" should always be a temporary status, and it should be one that's revisited regularly. Puerto Rico was taken over by the US about the same time as Hawaii and the Phillipines. Hawaii has been a state for fifty years; the Phillipines were granted independence sixty three years ago. Puerto Rico deserves to get its hands on either full statehood or independence; so, too, do the four smaller territories I mentioned.

As small as they are, Guam, American Samoa, the Northern Marinaras, and the US Virgin Islands still deserve to participate in every level of government they are subject to.

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