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A 51st state?
November 14, 2012 - Stephen Browne
On Nov. 6 Puerto Rico held one of those periodic referendums they have asking voters whether they want, to continue their U.S. unincorporated territory status, or to chose between three alternatives: 1) to become a U.S. state, 2) independence, or 3) to become an associated state.
I had to look that last one up. It means a nation that is in a sort of junior partnership with another state. It avoids un-PC post-colonial terms like "protectorate."
I used to have to explain this to my students abroad who thought it was kind of weird. Well it is. The U.S. owns a very few overseas territories populated by people who do not strictly identify as Americans. Puerto Rico, Guam, the Virgin Islands, the Northern Marianas Islands, and a short list of uninhabited islands.
In the case of Puerto Rico and the other inhabited places, we've made it plain they can have independence, in whatever form, any time they ask for it.
They don't. Mostly they seem to like it just fine, and why should they not? They get all benefits of U.S. citizenship, except representation in congress, some generous subsidies, and few of the responsibilities.
They've had this kind of referendum before, most recently in 1998, but this time was different, this time 61 percent of those who voted on the second question (809,652) voted for statehood.
Oh my, this is a bit awkward.
Puerto Ricans have been U.S. citizens since 1917, but their main language is not English. They have a small but active independence movement that has in the past taken to terrorism.
And one might wish the sentiment for statehood could be a bit higher than 61 percent, perhaps around 90 percent. Statehood is not to be undertaken lightly.
But the real question is, how would we fit an odd-numbered start onto the flag?
Then again, a Texas petition to secede from the union just reached the status necessary for a response from the White House, 25,000 signatures within 30 days. Perhaps Puerto Rico could have Texas' star.
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