As an active journalist for over four decades, I was fortunate to have been right in the cusp of historical events here and throughout Micronesia. I could scribble a book on contemporary politics in the region, the follies of leadership, my saluting the brightest and best minds or cream of the crop. It was really a rare learning experience from folks with vision, eloquence, timeless wisdom, and foresight capable of seeing beyond the years. However, this personal assignment would come later.
But the dream of an island nation composed of the entire sea of islands Micronesia-wide quickly fizzled when reality set in: divvying money between state governments or wealthiest and poorest. There wasn’t any room to resuscitate it. It died quickly in 1975 at what was the Micronesian Constitutional Convention. By then, the NMI was well on its way to securing its permanent political relationship with the U.S. In fact, President Ford signed off on U.S. law putting into motion the Covenant Agreement on the same year.
It was said that the NMI was different from the rest of Micronesia. If anything, it was the least strongest in its cultural traditions over her Micronesian peers. But it wasn’t a scaffold used to bolt out of the Micronesian union. The lone ranger journey started in the ’60s. That she opted to go it alone makes it a special case for the U.S. to demonstrate the benefits of a permanent relationship with the most powerful country in the world.
There were questions from inquiring minds about the wisdom of the relationship. Was it based on a genuine desire to be U.S. citizens ready to embrace the responsibilities of citizenship or was the motive other than real partnership? Not sure exactly what it was our elderly saw, but governance voted by over 78 percent to approve the Covenant Agreement that permanently established our political relationship with the feds. I still venture to assert that it was the elusive dollar we’ve chased since the ’60s. We thought we’ve caught the dream under the terms and conditions of the agreement.
Consciously or otherwise, the reliance on the agreement for that elusive dollar became the tool that permanently trashed our traditional way of life of farming and fishing. We substituted it with public and private sector jobs. It was the easier means to hauling in the bacon over working the farm fields and the lagoon from dawn to dusk. So we adopted the money economy and headed out the front door in hopes of domesticating the challenges of modernity. Did we part with tradition a bit too hastily? Shouldn’t we have given rock solid fundamentals on farming and fishing a chance? It’s the only two resources we have had since time immemorial.
The dream of that elusive dollar providing for a chicken in every pot, two cars in the garage and attaining the “dream” hardly pan out. Take a glimpse around you and see what the simple folks in the villages have to say about life in what’s supposed to be their paradise. Over a thousand folks have upped and gone to Guam, Hawaii, and the U.S. mainland in search of greener pasture. Obviously, they never found their dreams right here at home. Paradise has become their hellish hole. Misalignment of strengthening our democratic institutions drained their hopes and confidence in local leadership bringing them out of economic slavery.
Uncle Sam’s special project was well intended though far removed from attaining the “dream.” We’re still confused, incapable of navigating the true responsibilities of self-government. We’ve made headway, though, fostering an understanding that government operations must be self-sustaining. But the drain of foreign capital in recent past has left a void so woefully hard to replace. We once boasted an annual budget upwards of $256 million that has spiraled downward to about $102 million this year.
Thus, the special project has failed in providing for a “progressively higher standard of living.” It’s equally our fault for chasing a dream based on superficial reliance on the hard earned nickels and dimes of U.S. taxpayers. No wonder it isn’t sweet dreams but an apparent nightmare! We did it to ourselves too. Paradise is in shambles!
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The agreement included the application or non-application of constitutional laws or first principles that are at best, contradictory. For instance, every U.S. xitizen is guaranteed (under the Bill of Rights) the right to own property. But the agreement included Section 805 that alienates land, limiting ownership to the indigenous people. Where then is the spirit and substance of our rights as citizens to own property? Why would the equal protection clause be compromised? Is it a set up to take these issues on that meandering and long journey to the U.S. Supreme Court? Isn’t the approval of Section 805 a violation of the U.S. Constitution? If so, did the U.S. Congress overreach its authority by literally amending the Bill of Rights of the U.S. Constitution through Section 805 of the agreement? Procedural error?
The founding fathers should have set the record straight from the outset. This would have eliminated bigoted discussions among citizens who memorize their rights like the back of their hands but now pitted against a discriminatory provision. But this is where the new generation of leadership must step in to set the record straight once and for all with finality. It would grant us more room to work on beneficial networking with friends across the country via the two major parties and members of Congress. By then, the tenor of our discussion would focus on what would work in our favor by working alongside friends via fully established networking relationship. Believe it or not, it helps by leaps and bounds.
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To keep sanity in check, I would defer to good novels and read into the lively and descriptive language and poetic expressions of visionaries and their lasting literary contributions to mankind. This and a mix of humor take me through another day and that spiritual commitment at dawn. What a way to immerse one’s self into timeless wisdom from Thomas Jefferson and James Madison in the writing of the U.S. Constitution to basic tenets about first principles from my favorite author Ayn Rand’s Atlas Struggle. It’s also a pleasantry delving into the plight of our Hawaiian brothers and sisters in their endless fight to return the dignity of their people from the historical wrong committed by the U.S. And the list goes on interminably. Have a good one this weekend.