In my penultimate blog, I wrote about the TV series, “Timeless.” At the end, I mentioned Puerto Rican nationalist-revolutionary Oscar Lopez Rivera, and how the opposition to honoring him in the 2017 Puerto Rican Day Parade is connected to “Timeless,” in that “Timeless” revolves around protecting history, especially the “little” white lies, as we know it.
Oscar Lopez Rivera was part of FALN, Puerto Rico’s Fuerzas Armadas de Liberacion Nacional (Armed Forces of National Liberation). Between 1974 and 1983, FALN was responsible for about 120 bomb attacks on United States targets that killed five people and injured several others. U.S. law enforcement officials have labeled FALN a terrorist group, as well as labeled Lopez Rivera a terrorist, even though he was not convicted of a violent crime. (Note that U.S. law enforcement officials have never labeled the Ku Klux Klan a terrorist group, even during its heyday of the 1860s, 1920s and early 1960s, and even though it is responsible for far more than five killings of mostly Black people on American soil.)
In a statement, the National Puerto Rican Day Parade, Inc. acknowledges that “while Lopez Rivera is undoubtedly ‘controversial,’ he is nevertheless an extremely influential Puerto Rican.” It went on to say, “Some people call him a terrorist while others think of him as a freedom fighter, as was the case with Nelson Mandela.”
We are familiar with the saying that one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter. Indeed, all of the revolutionary Founding Fathers were considered at least rebels by the British – today, perhaps they would be labeled terrorists; the Confederates during America’s Civil War were considered rebels by the Union – history should remember them as domestic terrorists –yet today Southerners still put up a fight to preserve monuments and statues and the treasonous Confederate flag of these rebels; and prior to the creation of Israel in 1948, the British considered the following Jewish paramilitary groups terrorist groups: Haganah, Irgun and Lehi (also known as the “Stern Gang”) – Irgun was responsible for the bombing of the King David Hotel in Jerusalem on July 22, 1945, and the Deir Yassin Massacre on April 9, 1948. Note that many of Israel’s Prime Ministers were affiliated with or led these groups, including Israel’s “founding father,” David Ben Gurion, and Yizhak Shamir who, at 5’ 0”, earned the sobriquet, “the little murderer.”
History is not timeless. It is not etched in stone. It is like re-reading a book at different stages of your life. You are bound to see things differently, assuming you have more knowledge and have become more enlightened. This “seeing things differently” might be called “revisionism” by some because we are looking at history with different eyes. Indeed, read different accounts of history, not just the accounts of the victors, and obviously you will see at least two sides of history. A case on point is Christopher Columbus. His supporters would say that he “discovered America,” his detractors that he was nothing but a pirate and set in motion the genocide of the indigenous people in the “Americas.”
When we look at the Puerto Rican Day Parade, let us not forget how it became a territory of the United States. America defeated the Spanish in the Spanish-American War in 1898, and as a result of that acquired, among other things, Guam, the Philippines, and Puerto Rico.
In the final analysis, Lopez Rivera bowed out of being honored, and will simply march in the parade as a proud, regular Puerto Rican. Say what you want about the man. He stood for what he believed, then and now, and that’s…timeless.