They say that the pen is mightier than the sword. Or at least it might have been, one day. When so few people read anymore, the pen's ability to influence, create controversy, or change minds is drastically reduced. So, in an effort to give these words more power, more possibility, and more force, I'm going to use a VERY creative license to emphasize my point. Do I really want what I'm about to say? No. Do I want the impact that I describe within this discussion? Absolutely! Why else would I be spending my own free time to share this with you?
As I setup in my last discussion with you, Puerto Rico is afflicted by a culture with has very little respect for the law. Whether it is tragedies caused by breaking traffic laws, vendors with roadside pulgueros or selling bacalaitos that don't file taxes, or politicians signing contracts in order to get a kickback, none of us are too far removed from the impact of lawlessness. If we are the not the lawless, then we are their innocent victims. There is literally no aspect of Puerto Rican life that is not impacted by people for which the law holds no rule.
Regardless of your opinion of the United States, the democracy won by the Americans in the American Revolution is a beacon of freedom. While that democracy is currently under attack by right wing fanatics who want to spread their distorted flavor of freedom, it should not diminish the freedoms and rights established by the early Americans. If you've never read the Declaration of Independence, the Consitution, or the Bill of Rights I STRONGLY encourage you to do so. Never before in the history of man has a more beautiful statement of ideals been written.
While under the oppressive rule of the British, the early Americans could not decide if it was worth fighting for their independence. The tipping point in the American Revolution was "Common Sense" written by Thomas Paine. It was "Common Sense," which was self-published and distributed amongst the leaders of early America, which ultimately lead to their collective decision to fight against the British for their freedom.
Within this document, there is one phrase which could not be more appropriate to our current situation. Paine writes:
" the world may know, that so far as we approve of monarchy, that in America THE LAW IS KING. For as in absolute governments the King is law, so in free countries the law OUGHT to be King; and there ought to be no other."Puerto Rico is now stuck in no-man's land. After suffering through over 400 years of rule by the King of Spain, we finally gained wide freedoms never before seen here when we adopted a Constitution based on that of the United States. And while we still meet the "definition" of a colony, I submit to you that the daily activities conducted in Puerto Rico are driven by the freedoms guaranteed by our Constitution. I'm not here to debate whether Puerto Rico is a free country. However, I will submit that we are not governed by a King and the United States does not govern our actions like a King. However, unfortunately we are not governed by the laws of Puerto Rico.
Again, I'm not here to debate the powers exercised by elected officials of the United States (remember they are politicians too...), but I am stating that nearly all of the laws of Puerto Rico are the laws we ourselves would choose. Whether we are a colony of the United States or not, we must have laws against murder, stealing, corruption, and laws which aim to protect our citizens, such as traffic laws, labor laws, and environmental laws.
So while the king is not law in Puerto Rico, neither is the law king. Here, the law is more like the court jester; to be mocked, laughed at, and ignored at our whim. This must change! This has too change! How many more of our children must die due to criminals? Why are we so emotional about 60 Puerto Ricans who have died fighting in a war they voluntarily chose to join, when hundreds of our citizens die ever year at the hands of criminals? Why should even one more child die because someone ran a red light or because of a drive by shooting?
If we as a society can not rise to the rule of law, then we must return again to the rule of king; A king with the totalitarian power strong enough to strictly enforce the rule of law. If not a king, then a dictator. A dictator that would form a police force large enough to get us to respect the the law. On the feet of this police force would be the one technology to save us: boots. We need a king's police force to collectively and figuratively place the heel of their boots upon our necks until we surrender to the rule of law. Only then can we truly take our place amongst the civilized countries of a global economy. Only then would the world be willing to conduct business here. Only then could we feel the peace provided by knowing that our children were not vulnerable to the whim of criminals.
If you've made it this far, I want to once again say I don't actually believe that we need a king or a dictator. However, more than anything do I not want to sit by the phone worried sick when my teenager learns how to drive and she ventures out into the world to fend for herself. While you might think I've got nothing more to say about this, in my next post I'm going to explain what we all can do to form a society ruled by law. I'm going to do that by making a connection between the smallest of our decisions and how they create a culture where the lines between responsible behavior and crime become blurry, and how that creates a society which can not be ruled, can not be governed, and is therefore doomed to rot in a cesspool of pity, vanity, immorality, and lawlessness.