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.