Monday, January 22, 2007

How do you say "enough already" in Portuguese?

It appears that we're overdue for a reality check.

I've already blogged about the brewing brouhaha regarding the potential closure of two Portuguese consulates in Southeastern New England. You may recall that I declined to offer much of an opinion on the subject since the matter doesn't really affect me one way or another.

I've changed my tune following a rally held yesterday at Kennedy Plaza in Providence to protest the closures. The Providence Journal has the story here, but I'll go ahead and vent my spleen for a bit anyway by getting to some of the more outlandishly stupid comments that were made at this rally.

Let's get the ball rolling by highlighting a statement made by a man who's a veritable fountainhead of stupid statements, Congressman Patrick "Patches" Kennedy, who breathlessly told the crowd:
"This consulate is so important because the people of Rhode Island are proud of their heritage, and the people of Rhode Island want to stay in touch with their families in Portugal. That is why we are here today.”
Rhode Island certainly has a large number of Portuguese Americans, a great number of whom are third (or higher) generation families who don't need consular services from the Portuguese government whatsoever because they're American. What's more, foreign consulates don't play much of a role in helping Americans stay in touch with the families in Portugal. As Portugal has long since been a European Union member state, all Americans visiting Portugal are issued a 90 day travel visa upon entry to Portugal. That's it. This covers the vast majority of vacation and business travel between the United States and Europe right off the bat, and doesn't require a moment of consular service.

You need a consulate to contact people in Portugal? Have we forgotten how to use the goddamned telephone? I'll grant you that, perhaps, once upon a time in the old country, the Portuguese had to resort to pinning letters on goats and send them village to village to stay in touch, or resort to launching a golden age of discovery, or even rely on telling their unfortunate slaves to deliver messages. That's not the case now, and we all know it.

The next groaner comes from Gloria Chaves of East Providence who reportedly held up a sign saying "if the consul is closed, the Portuguese will be forgotten"

Bitch, please. If the Providence and/or New Bedford, MA consulates are closed, it means people from Rhode Island may, god forbid, have to travel 45 minutes each way to Boston to visit a Portuguese consulate. Period. The Portuguese are even keeping their consulate in Waterbury, CT open for chrissakes! Does this stupid woman seriously believe for a moment that if they close the Portuguese consulate, non-Portuguese people in Rhode Island will be scratching their heads and ask "What-u-geese? Who?"

By contrast, other ethnic groups in Rhode Island have not turned out en masse to complain that a lack of convenient consular services has destroyed their ethnic identity. Italian Americans are still the largest ethnic group in Rhode Island - one in every five Rhode Islanders is an Italian American. Oh God, it appears that they actually have to travel to Boston or New York to visit an Italian consulate! Funny, though - we haven't seen Italians taking to the streets bitching and moaning about this, have we? Indeed we have not. A cynic might conclude that the Portuguese have much to learn about how to handle life's minor disappointments from their Italian friends and neighbors.

Does it get worse? Oh, indeed. Next up, John Marques of Central Falls who moaned, "if they close this [the consulate], we will lose our connection to home".

According to the Journal article, Marques immigrated to the United States from Portugal 37 goddamned years ago. 37 years! Look, John: after 37 years, America is your home. If you had any doubts about where home is, you should have settled them since the Nixon administration.

The article goes on to describe the crowd chanting "
a people united will never be defeated" in Portuguese, while waving Portuguese flags, and generally bitching and moaning, but nobody quoted in the article seems to ask, for a second, why the Portuguese government - who have 14 consulates in the United States - really need four within driving distance of one another. This goes especially for most Portuguese Americans who are not, and who have never been, citizens of Portugal, and don't pay a dime in Portuguese taxes. Shouldn't this issue be left to the duly elected representative government of Portugal? Secretary of State Ralph Mollis didn't think about it either, and put this cherry on the shit sundae of stupidity:
"We have to question the government’s decision to close the consulate in the state with the highest concentration of Portuguese-Americans"
We do? Who you calling we, white man? Why do we need to question a rather logical cost saving decision by a foreign government that will, at worst, mildly inconvenience people in this country?

It's an encouraging sign that people in this country have so few legitimate grievances that we can take the streets and make such an enormous stink about such incredibly trivial matters, but Jesus people, you're embarrassing me.


Lefty said...

Interesting observations Roger.

No Rhode Island Italian consulate? Is Boston really too far?

In light of reports that the New Bedford consulate is not going to close, it would seem that Providence is an overkill.

Anonymous said...

More than one person has suggested that if at least one consulate has to be closed that the Providence and New Bedford consulates be merged into a new office located in Fall River. Fall River is roughly midway between the two existing consulates, is convenient to the Rhode Island's Portuguese population concentrated in the eastern part of the state, convenient to the Portuguese population on the South Coast and according to census figures both in percentage and actual numbers has the largest Portuguese population of any city in the United States.

Dr. Momentum said...

Not that anyone asked me, but I think one consulate in Fall River is better than two consulates, one in Providence and the other in New Bedford.

I bet the people in the consulates aren't thrilled to be in Fall River, no matter what makes the most sense.

Like I said, nobody really asked me.

Anonymous said...


GET OVER IT ALREADY!!! What my great-great-great-grandfather might have done (or not) to Africans "like selling them to British Colonists" in America is none of my concern. Perhaps I could claim bigotry is enslaved in one pea size brain intelect and not skin color?!!!!

Iz said...

By the way, California has a large Portuguese community, we got one consulate in San Francisco for the whole huge fricken state. It's a big state, it's what we got. :-P I cope.

Daniela said...

I find it really disgusting how blatantly disrespectful you are of ethnicity. America is considered the great mix of races, ethnicities, ideals, religions, etc. Saying there is to be no consulate is like saying there shouldn't be a synagogue. Now, should all the Jewish people in New Bedford and Providence have to travel to Boston for a temple?

Anonymous said...

You are just a racist. God forbid we get in the way of your affairs. how does this concern you anyway?

Roger Williams said...

What the fuck is it with our local Lusitanian idiots, anyway? Fine, I give up. Let the government of Portugal spend all of their money building consulates three blocks from each other in New England for all I care. This doesn't change the fact that:

1) Eastern New England's Portuguese were already served by a greater number of consulates than almost any other group of foreign nationals anywhere else in the United States

2) Judging by the comments left here, some of them are the biggest crybabies in these United States

Case in point, Daniella's simultaneously imbecilic and thin skinned notion that having a consulate is akin to Jews having synagogues, forgetting the fact that the need for secular and religious buildings are driven by completely different needs, and are handled separately when it comes to private versus public funding. If Daniella has a spiritual need for Portuguese consular service, she's in deeper trouble (spiritually and politically) than any other human being I can think of.

All of these comments beg an even greater question: if there's such an overweening need to stay in continuous contact with Portuguese officialdom without having to face any inconveniences whatsoever, why the hell are you in the United States in the first place? Having lived abroad, I can assure you that Americans do not enjoy such a density of American consulates anywhere abroad as the Portuguese have in New England in any country, from Canada to China. Nor would we expect to find American consulates outside major cities (emphasis added) abroad, as this is, unbelievably it seems, the norm, even for relatively large expatriate communities. If any of you crybabies polluting my comments section want to live somewhere you can interact with the Portuguese government without having to exert any effort, I strongly suggest moving back to Portugal where you can interact with Portuguese officialdom as often and as easily as you'd like.

("But Rooooogeeerrrr, we want to earn US dollllarrrrssss!" - tough shit)

Lastly, as if any of you haven't already figured it out, I've largely abandoned this blog. It was used, mostly, as a photoblog, but I decided to simply post in Flickr instead. So stop bothering me here, and start bothering me there is this ancient blogpost still has anyone so hot under the collar.

Anonymous said...

#1. you're an asshole
#2. I think that POrtuguese people have as much right here as you do
#3. Italian's are not the most populated european culture in Rhode Island. Portuguese are the most populated immagrants here in Rhode Island were all proud of IT!
#4. You are a racist Bastard!!!!!

Roger Williams said...

Congratulations! You're objecting to points I never even tried to make. Remember! The point is to show everyone how outraged you are, because anger is better than intelligence, amirite?

The question is not whether the Portuguese have a "right" to be here, but whether they need twice the number of consulates other immigrant groups do (hint: they don't).