Monday, October 1, 2007

144. Surprising Agreement-Counting Blessings

I rarely agree with Anthony Pellegrino. I've gotten to the point where I usually read the first paragraph of his columns or letters and move on. So I'm surprised to read his column today and find that I agree with all of it.

I was here before the Covenant became "fully" effective, when people in the CNMI were "interim U.S. citizens." The choice to become U.S. citizens and have a Commonwealth in political union with and "under the sovereignty of" the U.S. was still being embraced as a great deal, the right choice, a happy beginning to a new era.

As with all new ventures, when the honeymoon is over, reality seems worse than it really is. We've learned that "local self-government" is not the same as total control and sovereignty. We've come up against some demands and limitations that some among us don't like. But we don't need rose-colored glasses to appreciate the benefits that come from being a Commonwealth in political union with the U.S.

A benefit Tony forgot to mention: our U.S. citizens here can move freely to the U.S. and live, work, attend school and participate fully in life (including voting). While our neighbors from the FSM, Palau and Marshall Islands can live and work in the U.S., they cannot vote, cannot have a voice, and are perpetual "guests."

BTW, our U.S. passports are dark blue, not black, I think. Whatever the color, though, the benefits that go with our citizenship are enormous--not just sharing in the fiscal pie, but having a set of rights that include freedom of press and freedom of religion and other rights that some nearby neighbors in Asia do not enjoy. And with those benefits come some responsibilities--not too onerous, not back-breaking, spirit-sucking responsibilities, just ones that include a bit of respect as we question authority, a bit of recognition for all that we've got as we decide whether to reach for more or share the wealth, and a little effort to live up to the promise of our constitutional freedom.

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