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Sunday, April 20, 2014

Who are the true ‘personae non gratae’?

For the second time in recent weeks I’m moved to offer my thoughts, some facts and opinions, and to ask some questions publicly, this time through this newspaper.

In recent history, the exercise of free speech and public expressions of discontent with government practices have been used to exert pressure on a government—the U.S. government—to the extent that the U.S. was compelled to yield to negative public opinion and to cease participation in its war in Vietnam. The call to civil disobedience is a time-honored American institution. It dates to pre-American Revolutionary days, has found literary expression in the writings of Henry David Thoreau and others, and derives from the First Amendment right of free speech and from the right to promulgate even unpopular ideas and to act overtly in expression of ones dissenting views.

It seems that the recent H.R. 15-219 denouncing Mr. Ron Hodges may be a defensive reaction, a fearful twinge of conscience, by those in the Legislature with something about which they might rightly be ashamed themselves, namely the passage into law of H.B. 15-38. H.B. 15-38 is the same law that prompted Mr. Hodges’ adamant metaphoric "call to action" in the first place. It should also be noted that contrary to the Legislature’s alarmist resolution which decries "fomenting anarchy" and which labels Mr. Hodges a "persona non grata" in the CNMI, no laws were broken by Mr. Hodges’ writing, nor apparently have any illegal acts been known to have been committed by anyone as a result of his writing.

Additionally, declaring that a fellow American citizen with whom the government differs politically should leave its territory for expressing dissent is as ludicrous as having one U.S. mainland state demand that a fully franchised but discontented, law abiding, politically opinionated, economically productive fellow citizen get off its turf, out of its territory and that he move to another state. Such political nonsense should not, does not, and cannot happen in an American jurisdictions where principles of just governance are observed.

Furthermore, if there is an onus for public distribution of the adamant sentiments attributed to Mr. Hodges, it falls equally, if not exclusively, on the Marianas Variety for publishing the comments. Newspapers have editorial control over the content printed on their pages. No newspaper is obligated to print any letter or article it deems improper. If a newspaper editor considers remarks to be "outrageous," he or she has no duty to publish them. The Marianas Variety must certainly, then, have properly construed Mr. Hodges remarks to be satirical and metaphoric statements of moral outrage and not to be a literal and preposterous call to "anarchy." Any wise and rational reader would certainly come to the same conclusion.

If "inflammatory, despicable, irrational, disgraceful and racist" sentiments are afoot in the CNMI, as H.R. 15-219 exaggeratedly asserts in regard to Mr. Hodges, certainly even greater nefarious, abominable, miscreant, treacherous, depraved and detestable notions are present in H.B. 15-38... the oft-recycled so-called "Labor Reform" law that at least one reputable local attorney has openly criticized as the "Omnibus Contract Worker Enslavement Act or the End of the Law Abiding Commonwealth Business Act...or some combination of the two."

Furthermore, the U.S. Federal Labor Ombudsman, James Benedetto, who was recently commended and re-appointed by his superiors in the U.S. Department of the Interior, has described H.B. 15-38 "as mean-spirited and punitive...[a law] which will only reinforce the reputation of the CNMI as a place where workers are subject to rampant abuse."

Therefore, I ask, in good conscience: What say you, fellow citizens, guests and workers of all origins in the CNMI? Who are the true "personae non gratae" of the CNMI? Are they those who openly seek justice for the disenfranchised many, and who oppose bigotry and servitude, and who advocate for fairness, dignity and human rights in justifiable strong terms? Or are they those who would author inequity, legislate and codify injustice and legalistically affirm racism and bigotry in the name of "labor reform?" All said as a matter of rightful free speech as one man’s opinions in support of some and in disagreement with others in the open forum of ideas as intended and allowed by the Constitution of the United States of America.

Kenneth F. Hodson O’Harnett
Son of U.S. aviator, Lt. Kenneth F. Hodson, USAAC, who died in November 1944 flying a B-29 from Saipan during WWII while fighting in defense of fairness, decency and American democracy and to free these islands from foreign and domestic tyranny of ALL kinds.
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