Democratic Underground

Oppressive Enemies?
July 28, 2001
by Anonymous of Puerto Rico

As I was growing up throughout numerous military bases all over the world, I knew there was something different about me than the other kids. At home we spoke a different language, ate different foods, and said different things. Even my relatives looked different than those of my friends. I can remember numerous incidents where I was treated differently, sometimes negatively for reasons that I could not put my finger on at the time. Quite a few instances people who couldn't understand what I was saying badmouthed my parents. Long after I stopped speaking Spanish, my parents retired from the military and settled down in a conservative white suburban neighborhood. Only than were my eyes opened and I learned what I really was: A Puerto Rican.

Aside from the fact that Puerto Rico was my birthplace, I spent my entire life in United States military bases. Every summer my family and I would take a vacation to visit family and friends in Puerto Rico. Even though my family kept strong ties and contacts with our relatives back home, the fact that I was a Puerto Rican did not sink in until my later years. It wasn't until I began a search for a cultural and national identity that I started tacking Puerto Rican flags and maps onto my walls, reviving the language that I once spoke, and wearing little flag necklaces. I was known as "the" Puerto Rican guy at school. It seemed that the more pride and identification I had towards my island, the more criticism and harassment I received from a handful of schoolmates and strangers walking down the street.

Wall mounted Puerto Rican license plates and T-shirts did not suit my passion for long. When I got into my later years of high school I began reading books by the dozens on Puerto Rican history, culture, politics, and sociology. My summer (and now holiday) visits to Puerto Rico became more passionate and lengthy. Despite my geographical distance from the island, I became quite educated and active in my island's independence movement. With my previous pride being fueled on the feeling that I was a part of something, my love towards my island was now amplified by my respect for its cultural significance, colorful history and unique people.

You know that gut-turning feeling that you had when you fell into your first middle school crush? I had that same feeling each and every time I listened to the high-pitched sounds of the Puerto Rican cuatro guitar. I fell in love with every available photograph of my island's tropical scenery and historical buildings. A popular Puerto Rican singer from a traditional Plena group, Plenéalo, summarized what I feel quite accurately in one of his songs. "There are three things that I love in my life - God, my mother, and my flag."

The political freedom of my island became my main objective. I felt that as a pro-independent Puerto Rican living in the United States I was a hypocrite. I was living in the same country that I wanted my nation to be free from. I felt like Thomas Jefferson would if he was living in Britain during the American Revolution. I had to return - I had to study and advance socially so that I may better my people - I had to contribute my vote.

After my mother's death, I no longer felt obligated to stay in the United States. I decided to relocate to Puerto Rico without hesitation. Once there I quickly became active in the Vieques and independence movements. I refused to accept U.S. federal scholarships for my education, usage of military shopping centers, and any other type of federal benefits. My rejection of U.S.-sponsored items did not stop there. Soon my 18th birthday caught up with me and I received a tardy Selective Service form in the mail. After reading the information on the card, I promised myself that I would object to its signing at all costs. The federal government that I make a point to receive nothing from wants me to sign my soul away to use at the disposal of their selfish wars? The only response I had was summarized into a laugh - which literally went on for a few long minutes.

My reason for objection was not due to the concept of a draft. Even though I think such a thing is silly, if an independent Puerto Rican government implemented one, than most likely I would sign away. I am one to believe that the defense of one's country should be a duty and responsibility. One catch: the United States is not my country. No matter how long I've lived in the U.S., I refuse to accept it as my country. When I turned 18 and still lived in the States, I even looked into the citizenship programs of quite a few foreign countries. If it weren't for the fact that I could not vote on my home island without it, my U.S. citizenship would have been long gone.

Even if I did have allegiance to the United States, there is no way I would sign a contract that states I am at their disposal to be used as cannon fodder in "its" wars. When you think about it, the U.S.'s conflicts are not even their own - they belong to Kosovo, Kuwait, and Taiwan. I have my own independence struggle to worry about.

As the months passed, the ignored Selective Service kept sending their forms. Each time, the small print "or else" lines were highlighted, underlined, or circled. Not wanting to stir up a long and violent battle, I just tossed the cards in the trash. I can admit that I am scared of the punishments for my objection, but I am willing to accept them for what I believe in. Until the day they come to my doorstep ready to take me away, I will get on with my life and discard their presence.

"They'll never call you to a war" - "Just sign the card and if there is ever a war, dodge the draft" are two things that I am constantly told. No. I do not care how slim the chances are of me being dragged into a U.S. war, I refuse to sign their card. I'd rather die than contribute to the number of "reserved reserves" they have at their disposal.

Without my selective service card, I cannot receive domestic Puerto Rican government-sponsored scholarships. I cannot have a public job, such as teaching, police work, or public labor - all of which I have considered doing. Even though these jobs are paid by domestic Puerto Rican municipal and commonwealth dollars, I must look to the private market, an area of employment that does not better my communities as much as those of the public sector.

Because of the Selective Service, I cannot have the job that I want, I cannot study without withdrawing from the pockets of my family, and I soon will not be able to qualify for a Puerto Rican drivers license. Aside from that, they wish to toss me in jail for a decade and fine me into oblivion. This is oppression. I am being punished, persecuted, and politically discriminated against because I reject the colonial grip that the U.S. hold on my island. The U.S. uses the fact that many of the enemies it goes to war with are "oppressive" to justify and maintain its position in international conflicts. Those oppressive enemies aren't too far from home.

 
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