It Takes A Village – VNV Tuesday: Puerto Rico Is Us 10/10/17

San Juan, 1901
Today’s post is prompted by this tweet and the accompanying article:

Too many of us were educated in a system that shies away from words like colonialism, imperialism, or racism when talking about our country. And yet, the evidence is readily available if one is willing to look. Today, we’re looking.

Our colonial acquisitions were typically portrayed as unruly children needing our care.

Kindly Uncle Sam will take care of the poor, beleaguered children.

Anti-imperialism voices existed…

…but they were often drowned out by jingoism and white supremacy.

Anti-imperialists pulled no punches…

“School Begins. Uncle Sam (to his new class in Civilization): Now, children, you’ve got to learn these lessons whether you want to or not! But just take a look at the class ahead of you, and remember that, in a little while, you will feel as glad to be here as they are!” (On the blackboard: The consent of the governed is a good thing in theory, but very rare in fact. — England has governed her colonies whether they consented or not. By not waiting for their consent she has greatly advanced the world’s civilization. — The U.S. must govern its new territories with or without their consent until they can govern themselves.)

…but “American exceptionalism” prevailed as a point of pride.

So when we see things like this…

…or this…

…or this…

…it’s an undeniable part of who we’ve been and who we are, BUT not who we have to be.

About DoReMI 165 Articles
Now a Michigander, by way of Ohio, Illinois, Scotland, Rhode Island, and Pennsylvania. Gardener. Sewer. Democrat. Resister.


  1. Good morning, Pond Dwellers and thanks, DiReMi for the double, different posts. I just can’t get over the way Puerto Rico has been treated…from FEMA ignoring the mayor’s tweets to the POS mocking themnwith a phony accent. How can the decent remain so complacent and do nothing? It breaks my heart to see this.

    It also breaks my heart to see the fire storms in California and know that we probably won’t get any assistance because “democratic voting state like PR”. Also, while we burn, he’s challenging Tillerson to an IQ test. Really.

    50 degrees out with an afternoon high of 83. A great week for walking puppies and getting outside. Now? Let there be coffee.

    • I hadn’t planned on different posts, but DK5 struck again. The minute I use graphics that don’t fit their pre-determined scale, it becomes impossible to lay out neatly (for me…I suppose someone with more computer savvy could figure it out).

      The firestorms in CA are hard for me to wrap my head around; as a Midwesterner through and through, I just can’t envision them. But what I can envision is the devastating impact of fire. When I was a little kid, a lumberyard near my grandmother’s house went up in flames, and I remember walking with my parents to watch the firefighters work on containing it. I was terrified by it and was sure we were going to die; my poor parents hadn’t anticipated that reaction and felt terrible for taking me along, even though we stayed several blocks away. There was just something so alive about the fire that I’ll never forget the unpredictable power that I felt.

      • Someone else may have a better suggestion but I simply plan to center every graphic. The align left or right options are a snare and a delusion. :)

        Thank you for the wonderful diary here, I will hop over to DK in a sec. But this one is outstanding, so Imma tweet it. :)

        • I’ll have to pay better attention next time I try a post at DK; I’m embarrassed to admit I don’t remember seeing the align options. This is the point where I usually tell my family that it’s a good thing I’m cute…!

  2. Good morning and thank you DoReMI for the different perspectives. We need courage as well to discuss PR and keep it in the news when everyone seems to be trying to get it to “go away”.

  3. {{{DoReMI}}} – Seriously thank you for the double duty. From the Puritans who came here not for religious freedom but for the freedom to force their rigid white-male-dominance religion on everybody else to the resurgence of the White Male Supremacists today, there has always been a strain of this evil in America. They have never been the majority but by the simple expedient of making White Male Supremacist propaganda both the religious and the educational information in this country they’ve frequently gotten the majority of votes.

    This is slowly changing. Too slowly for the lives, health, and well being of all people of color and women of any color in this nation. And we’ve just has about the most severe backlash/setback the country has known combined with the most severe national emergencies that require the opposite. But we will persist, resist, block, push back – and recover from this Evil to go forward again. {{{Moose Village}}}

  4. DoReMI, did you see this article in Slate about the Insular Cases that are the underpinnings of the current attitude towards Puerto Rico? I found it fascinating:

    The devastation wrought by Hurricanes Irma and Maria has reawakened many Americans to the existence of Puerto Rico as well as the archaic laws and domineering bureaucracies that continue to burden the island. News outlets have scrambled to explain the Jones Act, the 1920 law that restricts shipping between U.S. ports, the PROMESA board that Congress set up last year to oversee Puerto Rico’s finances, and the fact that territory residents can’t vote for president.

    But beneath these data points lurks something deeper and more problematic, yet rarely discussed: the Insular Cases, a series of Supreme Court decisions from the early 20th century. When we talk about the differences between states and territories—and when we ask why the United States even has territories in 2017—we’re really talking about the legacy of the Insular Cases. The recent controversies are, in fact, the latest iteration of a conversation about American empire that goes back more than a century.

    The earliest Insular Cases were decided by the same Supreme Court that allowed “separate but equal” segregation in Plessy v. Ferguson in 1896. That case was overturned, but the Insular Cases, which are built on the same racist worldview, still stand today.

    Legal scholars disagree about how many Insular Cases there are—some say six; others include more than two dozen—but the general view is that they begin with Downes v. Bidwell in 1901. Up to then, the U.S. government considered territories to have the complete protection of the Constitution and a clear, straightforward path to statehood. This was true for all of the territories that existed on the North American continent at the time—Oklahoma, New Mexico, Arizona, and Alaska. But as the new century dawned, the federal government’s definition of what it meant to be a territory was shifting rapidly, as manifest destiny morphed into empire-building. President William McKinley and other leaders of the day aimed to bolster U.S. global stature by following the template of European powers: controlling the oceans by controlling islands, holding them not as equals but as colonies, as possessions. […]

    Downes v. Bidwell was the codification of McKinley-Roosevelt mindset. The case, which centered on a question of whether shipments from Puerto Rico to New York were interstate or international, established a new hierarchy of territories: They were now either “incorporated” with the United States or “unincorporated,” with only the former having the full protections of the Constitution. The court reasoned that Puerto Rico and the other new territories were “inhabited by alien races,” so governing them “according to Anglo-Saxon principles may for a time be impossible.” These islands, then, were “foreign in a domestic sense.”

    This needs to be fixed. When Democrats take back Congress and the White House, we need to remedy this vestige of our racist past.

    (By the way, you (and the other Village authors) can remove the “It Takes A Village” from your titles so that they are more to your topic and less housekeeping. The Category does a fine job of identifying it!)

    • The language used in the court opinions of the Insular Cases is horrifying. (I hadn’t seen the Slate article [thank you!], but read through some of the case language prior to posting this.) To some extent, I agree with the viewpoint that we can’t use a 21st century lens to judge earlier times, but I firmly believe we can use our 21st century sensibilities to correct the wrongs of the past. Obviously, the problem we have currently is that too many people currently in power want to maintain or go back to those old ideas, rather than leaning into the arc of justice and equality.

      And thanks for the tip about shortening the title; now I just have to remember to click the Village box (I had to go back this morning, because I initially forgot!)

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