Always Forward, With A Little Help From My Friends

I want to thank all of you who have publicly or privately expressed your support during the last few months. It wasn’t an easy time. In fact, this whole year has not been a picnic either.

I recently got much backlash because of the PRSA and WAAPR controversy and my public comments. Some of my colleague and friends disappeared completely from the radar- I guess, so they would not be “guilty by association”- I get it. That is OK.

I got a ton of hate mail and Facebook-flaming- that is OK too.

I got “invitations” to “join” the conversation but somehow, they never arrived. Those who know me know that I don’t run away from a fight, especially if I started it. They also know that I don’t hesitate to admit when I’m wrong and when I wrong others.

The thing is that, even though some close people disappeared, I got more support than expected. After all, my career in academia has been about to end several times. Many scholars hate my topic and subject of study, or find it suspicious. How come Puerto Ricans in the military have their own agency? How come they are not cannon fodder? How come they are not poor idiots without a recourse, or vende patrias? How dare you say that PR vets have a much higher standard of living than their civilian counterparts? How dare you say that PR soldiers and vets built modern Puerto Rico? I must be an imperial apologist- or I simply don’t know enough; I’m unaware of my own colonial subordination. I haven’t read X and Y ( yes I have but…) I haven’t done the research (yes I have but…)

My take on Nationalism and my openness about it offend scholars who ignore the most basic academic standards and when it comes to it simply create false dichotomies, the old good versus evil story. I don’t, I can’t, I won’t do that.

In my early academic days, I could not get a paper published regardless of the quality. There was always someone who hated it my work and would write one single sentence or phrase- “unpublishable”  “reject” “not worth publishing” without giving  a single reason or comment explaining why. Simply put, this is unethical, just like giving an F to a student because you don’t like him or his topic.

In those days, I could not get an invite to a campus visit regardless of accomplishments. At least not to places where I could actually without leaving my family behind.

Several friends told me: “Drop your military experience from your CV.  No one is going to call you for an interview after reading that. I know I wouldn’t.”  “Change the way you talk about your topic- do not mention the military.” But that is my topic!  “But no one wants to hear it.” I refused for years to do it- and I didn’t get the calls.

I finally dropped my military service from the CV and got the interviews. Sometimes I was the putz, you know- they already have a candidate for the job and you go and do your song and dance but no matter what, you are not getting that job.

That happened very recently at the beginning of this year.

That one stung because I was by far the best and most accomplished candidate and I rocked the campus visit. It also stung because the person making the decision seemed to have enjoyed closing the door. I received a PDF automatically-generated 2 line rejection letter “We can’t offer you employment at this time,” (something I think no person who actually made a campus visit has ever received). The day after sending the email that person attended a panel in which I was speaking. He/She turned the other way when I went to greet her/him. But that is Ok too. I learned volumes about him/her that day. In fact, it eventually made me feel better knowing that personal, not professional reasons, were behind the rejection.

I did get other offers- and I’m at a good place. I’m appreciated, respected and supported by my new colleagues at Bloomfield College just like it was when I was at the Center for Puerto Rican Studies.

Why this long blog-rant-blog?

I’m always posting my publications, accomplishments and accolades (I also post my friends’ and colleagues’). I have become a shameless self-promoter. I do that because I want to highlight the positive so I can stay positive. But make no mistake. It ain’t easy. I have been rejected, doubted, questioned way beyond what constitutes academic inquiry to the point that I have been about to call it quits several times. But here I’m, going forward without having to compromise my personal and professional ethics. I didn’t do it alone.

To all of you who have helped along the way- by inviting me a to panel, by taking the time to read my work and offering feedback, by writing letters of support, by simply reaching out via texts or emails, or calling me to have a drink after a long day, THANK YOU! You really make a difference and it does not go unnoticed.

Pa’ lante.

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