All posts by George Cassidy Payne

I am an independent writer, domestic violence counselor, social justice activist, and adjunct professor of philosophy. I live and work in Rochester, NY.

Saved by Faith: Buddhism and the Thailand Cave Miracle

Miracles are miracles because they don’t happen. When one does happen, we should take time to study it, learn from it, and appreciate it with all of our might.

The Thailand cave rescue was a miracle. What comes to mind when I think about this dazzling outpouring of ingenuity, resilience, and collective hope, is how the boys and their coach managed to stay alive. There were certain things that they did not have access to, and those things proved to be non-essential when it came to saving their lives. Many of these things are seen as the most important items in our highly commercial and industrialized society. Truth be told, some of the things that they did not have access to, many of us in the “developed” Western countries could not bear to part with. I jotted down a cursory list: colored and perceptible light, cooked and fast food, iPhones, the Internet, television, newspapers, warm beds, clean sheets, air conditioning, showers, plumbing, and toilets.

Here is what they did need- or, as I should put it, here are the things that they had possession of and used to keep going during the most trying moments of the ordeal: They had mineral water; they had each other; they had hope and faith; they had the attention and prayers of the world; they had experts working around the clock; they had science and technology; they had an innate human capacity to adapt, cope, and go inward to find untapped resources of strength; and they likely had some form of religion.

Regarding this last possession, the Christian dominated worldview of the West should not distort what this means. Most likely, they did not have Christianity. The trapped boys and their coach were most likely saved by the practice and teachings of Buddhism. Thailand is 93.6% Buddhist, and almost entirely Theravada Buddhist. What kept the boys and their coach alive were the skills and rituals passed down by the Buddha. What they had more than hope in Jesus and subservient prayers to the Holy Father, was mindfulness, meditation, the ability to see in and through the dark, and a radical compassion for all beings-even those cave dwellers that crawl, bite, and suck in the middle of the night.

That said, as a reared Christian from the Baptist denomination, let me add that God did not cause this tragedy to occur. If there is a God, we would all want him/her/it to be such a being that allows young boys and their soccer coach to explore caves. God is the freedom to explore even when that exploration may get us killed.

We would also want him/her/it to be a God that brought rain when it mattered most and stopped it when it needed to be stopped. The God that I believe in was present every waking moment with those trapped souls in that natural dungeon. The God who kept the cave below 100 degrees and saved them from overheating is the same God who kept mineral water dripping along the walls. The God who came floating through those tunnels with the training of soldiers and the marine aptitude of seals, is a God that deserves praise more than blame. If a God who is both just and good does exist, then that God was in Thailand.

George Cassidy Payne

 

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Environmental Racism and the Ultimate Losers of the We Are Seneca Lake Victory

After nearly 9 years of intrepid opposition waged by environmental activists, business owners, and concerned citizens throughout the Finger Lakes region, Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration has finally rejected a long pending plan to store propane gas in salt caverns on Seneca Lake’s western shore, denying the Houston based Crestwood Midstream Partners’ push for a permit. Yvonne Taylor of Gas Free Seneca said it best, “Don’t ever let anyone tell you that David can’t beat Goliath.”

By all accounts, this was an extraordinary achievement for a grassroots movement that began with a few individuals holding signs and linking arms. Over the past 8 1/2 years, it took hundreds of demonstrations, countless letters to the editor, petition after petition,  giant caravans to Albany, and remarkable acts of civil disobedience. In the end, the people prevailed. As Basil Seggos, the New York State’s environmental conservation commissioner issued in a 30 page ruling “The project is not permittable because it is inconsistent with the character of the local and regional Finger Lakes community”- a precedent setting decision that could impact communities all across the country.

Impressive as this victory certainly is, and as delighted as I am to see the serenity and pristine quality of Seneca Lake preserved for future generations, as someone who is constantly thinking about the role of race in politics and social action, I could not help but wonder if this outcome would have been different if it were not primarily organized by white, middle and upper class individuals.

A January 21, 2016, New York Times article by John Elgin asked a very provocative question about environmental racism and the water crisis in Flint, Michigan. Elgin wrote: “If Flint were rich and mostly white, would Michigan’s state government have responded more quickly and aggressively to complaints about its lead-polluted water?”

After months on the ground, Kathleen Falk, President Obama’s point person to examine the crisis (as a U.S. Health and Human Services Regional Director), answered Elgin’s question directly. “The water was not safe. They knew that it was not safe and they let them drink it…When asked if environmental racism was a factor, I came up with an unreserved and undeniable yes.”

With Flint as our symbol, what if an Ithaca, Rochester, or Syracuse contingent of the Black Lives Matter movement made Seneca Lake a rallying point for the national issue of environmental racism and injustice? What if young black students were lined up at the gates of the gas storage facility rather than retired white teachers and wealthy winery owners? Would their trespassing charges have been dropped so easily? Would they have been treated with the same care and respect by the state troopers and local police officers? Would they have been tolerated to the same degree by the managers and employees of the gas industry?

And what about the mainstream media? Would they have covered the movement with the same tone of seriousness, accurate representation, and sympathy? Or would they have chosen to disparage the protesters? Perhaps they would ignore them all together.

Would the DEC have come to their aid with time consuming and expensive reports aimed at stalling the proposal or shrug them off as reactionary and politically biased demonstrators who do not understand the geological and economic complexity of the issues?

What about the governor? Would he have rushed to their defense or would he have been apt to take the easy road and seek out the short-term profits of Big Oil?

Are these not legitimate questions?

To be fair, the reason that this campaign was successful had to do with its original players; its sophistication, mass support from all sectors of the Finger Lakes community, and courageous endurance. Why do I present a hypothetical that does not relate to the actual circumstances of the movement and the reasons why it succeeded?

But why is so much of the Finger Lakes region dominated by white people with white interests? Why are black and brown people not in control of their own clean drinking water sources? Why was Crestwood ultimately willing to look somewhere else to store their millions of gas barrels? Will they find a community that they view as less sophisticated, less committed to the cause of environmental health, and less resourced? Will they look for a community that is poorer and darker? Isn’t that what all corporations try to do until they are told not to? What role did race play and not play in the outcome of the We Are Seneca Lake victory? When it’s all said and done, who will  pay the highest price for their win?

 

George Cassidy Payne

Rochester, NY

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Criminalizing Sleep: Why We Must Do More to Address the Homelessness Crisis

Going inside is something most of us take for granted all day long. Most of us can go inside a cafe to buy a cup of coffee without causing an awkward situation. We can go inside buses and trains without being stared at contemptuously.  We can go into stores without being judged by the owner. We can go inside hospitals without being treated like a charity case statistic. Most of us are not told-either verbally or sub-consciously- to stay outside like animals on a leash.

On any given day in Monroe County, New York, people are forced to stay outside. At night, they are forced to build hidden makeshift beds in darkened parking garages, abandoned subway tunnels, church steps, bridge underpasses, park benches, ditches and ridges along the Genesee River, and anywhere else they can find a little warmth and softness. (I have been informed that just three sheets of cardboard can make the difference between sleep and agonizing restlessness.)

Even more concerning, according to a significant study by the Catholic Family Center and WXXI Center for Public Affairs, the number of children staying at the agency’s two women’s homeless shelters is increasing at an alarming rate. The CFC says the organization is currently serving around 75 children every night. The children range in age from newborn to 17 years old. And according to a  2017 report by the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, “There were 2,459 students who were considered homeless at some point in the 2016-17 school year…making up 8.8 percent of the total student body. That is up from 1,685 in 2011-12, an increase of 774 children. An additional 139 charter school students are homeless, up from fewer than 10 in 2011-12.”

We must do better. The days of persecuting people without homes, as second class citizens, must come to an end. Every member of our community deserves to be treated with human dignity and human rights. Even the act of calling someone “homeless” begins a subconscious process of dehumanization that has far reaching consequences. As I see it, there is no such thing as a homeless person; there are only persons who have been denied stable, safe, and affordable shelter by governments, a basic entitlement that was first proclaimed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, and then codified in the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) in 1966.

Speaking of human rights, consider this tragic result: in the city of Rochester, which aside from a select few is not unlike every other city in America, on any given night, some citizens will be told that they are not allowed to go to sleep. For those unfortunate souls who have been sanctioned by the Department of Human Services, which basically means they are denied access to shelter beds for violating a rule or regulation in the past, they have been warned not to fall asleep in public. If they happen to fall asleep on a bench or under a bridge, for example, they are subject to be woken by the police, asked to leave, issued a ticket, or even arrested. Because all of the parks close around dark, and no legal tent city exists for them to seek refuge, they have no choice but to hide or just keep walking. Its 2018 in America- the richest nation in the world- and people will face criminal punishment if they close their eyes and start dreaming.  Is that not a travesty of social justice? Is that not an act of State- sanctioned torture?

Although it will not be a panacea, one thing Monroe County and/or the City of Rochester can do right away to address the homelessness crisis is pass a Homeless Bill of Rights. The HBR movement began as a coalition of more than 125 social justice groups that came together with lawyers and people living on the streets; it has become a major statement of human rights that state legislators can address through social policy.

Essentially the bill aims to ensure that homeless people can move freely and sleep in public spaces, sleep in a parked vehicle, eat and exchange food in public, obtain legal counsel, gain access to hygiene facilities at any time of day and, if in criminal prosecution, be able to use “necessity defense”  which asserts a defendant had no choice but to break the law. A Homeless Bill  of Rights won’t solve the problem in its entirety, but it’s an important step in the right direction, a step that all of us should be morally compelled to take.

In the words of Illinois Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky, “There is a lot that happens around the world we cannot control. We cannot stop earthquakes, we cannot prevent droughts, and we cannot prevent all conflict, but when we know where the hungry, the homeless and the sick exist, then we can help.”

https://www.democratandchronicle.com/story/news/2017/10/11/homelessness-rochester-new-york-schools/753703001/

 

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Pangaea

Don’t they know that there
was a super-continent? It existed
around the time of the first
dinosaurs. The All Earth happened.
That was a time when borders
did not exist. The only border was
the ocean. They called it Panthalassa.
Where do these borders come from?
The plates below shake them out
of their places far too much to be a line.
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Photo by George Cassidy Payne

Trump’s Family Separation Policy and the Thai Cave Rescue

Tonight, as I try to write this critique of Trump’s policy to separate families at the border, I can’t help but think about the trapped Thai soccer team in that terrifying cave. It’s Saturday, July 7, and there is still no indication that these boys and their coach will ever see their families again. A Thai Navy Seal has died because he ran out of oxygen trying to save them. These are boys, not Navy Seals.

I am thinking about these boys because they are scared. Tonight they will go to sleep again in the darkness of their despair. They will dream of a reunion that has not happened yet. They will whimper for the comfort that has not arrived. They will scream. They will break down. They will pass out. They will throw up. They will forget that their is hope. They will turn to and on each other. They will hold each other. They will try anything to survive. Tonight they are away from everyone that they want to be with. In this night of not being rescued, they are at the mercy of rain and the God who brings it.

How similar are these boys in Thailand to the young children-in some cases infants-who have been torn away from their family and put in the cave of a detention center, army base, or even foster home? To be taken from the mother who gave birth to you and given to a complete stranger is like being trapped in a cave that is slowly building with water until it is impossible to escape. The feeling of being taking from your loved ones is just like being suffocated by the darkness of a cave with only mazes as doors. There is no opening. There is no one way out. The way out keeps changing everyday. The way out is up to forces beyond their control. The way out is enough to kill a Navy Seal. The way out feels impossible.

The policy of separating children is so wrong because it is so avoidable. Who can blame that coach for wanting to show his team something magical? He never intended for this catastrophe to happen. But Trump intended it. He ordered it. He is still defending it. Even as he retreats from it, he is trying to rally his base support around it. Trump is the cave that keeps these children held hostage from their parents. Trump is the darkness that covers their hope. Trump is the great risk that they need to go through in order to escape death. Trump is the rain pouring into the cracks.

 

A Report Back From the 2018 International Restorative Justice Conference

From June 28-30, 2018, I had the opportunity to attend the International Restorative Justice Conference in Burlington, Vermont. The conference was entitled “Global Unity and Healing: Building Communities with a Restorative Approach.” It was sponsored by the Center for Justice and Reform at the Vermont Law School.

All over the world, individuals and organizations are engaged in a trauma informed conflict prevention and response method called restorative justice. As a human practice of conflict transformation and peacemaking, restorative justice dates back at least 60,000 years. Many of the practices and frameworks that modern restorative theories are based on have been shaped by indigenous concepts of engagement, empowerment, community, and agency. Appropriately, the conference was attended by-and guided by- Native Americans from the Abenaki and Navajo nations. Judge Robert Yazzie (Navajo) delivered the keynote address for the closing ceremony. Other notable speakers over the three days included Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy, who gave a ferocious rebuke of Trump’s attack on judicial independence, Burlington City Mayor Miro Weinberger, social justice philosopher and legal expert Adam Foss, domestic violence scholar Leigh Goodmark, and President Obama’s point person for the Flint, Michigan water crisis Kathleen Falk. Every speaker was passionate, informed, and purposeful with their remarks. Some gave riveting addresses that will have ripple effects for years to come.

As all of these dynamic thinkers outlined in their talks and workshops, at its core, restorative justice is a response to social and personal harm that views all participants-both actors and receivers/ perpetrators and victims/abusers and survivors-as possessors of inherent dignity and value. This is a basic but essential truth about restorative justice that makes it different than the current system based on blame, judgement, punishment, division, dehumanization, and extreme forms of pain.

Like the current system that favors punitive methods such as zero tolerance laws, mandatory sentencing, mass incarceration, “enhanced interrogation,” state sanctioned torture, the militarization of the police, racial profiling, the school to prison pipeline, and the death penalty, restorative systems are multifaceted, ever growing, and sometimes loosely defined; their scope also influences everything from elementary school disciplinary policies to international acts of war and genocide.

Unlike the current system, restorative justice strives to achieve a set of goals that has a number of significant consequences antithetical to the status quo. For example, the restorative model approaches each “case” as an individual with unique experiences. The restorative model assumes that all human beings have freedom which allows them to shape their own future. Even the worst criminal in the world is endowed with certain inalienable rights. Moreover, every single human being-no matter what crime they have committed-has the potential to learn, adapt, grow, and become a meaningful part of the life experience within a community. Regardless of incarceration, the actor and the receiver of a crime have a right to shape how they are responsible for what happened, in what ways they can move forward despite what happened, and why certain decisions are made concerning their future.

Ultimately, restorative justice systems are based on the belief that all humans are instinctively creative, relational, communicative, self-reflective, and responsible for their actions. Generally speaking, proponents of restorative justice ask: What does a justice that heals looks like? What would responses to injustice look like that don’t involve criminal justice assumptions and protocols? It is key to see that this is not about abolishing all prisons, getting rid of our law enforcement apparatus, or forgiving people for committing heinous acts. It is about restructuring prisons-and every other facet of criminal justice-to be more interpersonal, cost effective, productive, and safe. It is about following the findings and lessons of sociology, psychology, jurisprudence, social work, and common sense to provide genuine opportunities for reform. Whether coming from the perspective of an academic looking at sexual assault, a social worker in child protection, or a family counselor from New Zealand, the theme of the conference was utterly compelling: for a variety of reasons, a system primarily based on punishment and retribution is bound to fail and has been failing terribly for decades.

The current system often treats people as merely representing groups in a symbolic fashion rather than being viewed as individuals with customized needs and evolving goals. The current system arrests, judges, and imprisons as knee jerk responses to conflict; it cuts off relationships as a mode of “rehabilitation,” and takes away the ability for all parties involved (besides the State) to have a voice at the table. Conversations and negotiations are mediated by those who know the least about the participants experiencing the conflict. In other words, from the prosecution of a crime to the enforcement of laws to the sentencing of the accused, the goal of the criminal justice system is to deny and suppress self-agency in the decision making process and to take away personal responsibility from the equation.

Perhaps the most troubling result of the criminal justice system has been an appalling mass incarceration epidemic. The U.S. has less than 5% percent of the world’s population but 25% of the world’s total prison population. In fact, the United States has more African-Americans incarcerated today than the South had slaves throughout the American Civil War.  By any measure, the staggering economic and social costs incurred by the current system is unsustainable and immoral.  Many of the conference presentations went straight to this point. Some examples included: “Restorative Responses for Cases of Social Media Hate and Harm in Educational Institutions: Theory to Practice,” “Take Back the Streets: Improving Public Safety and Health Through Peacekeeping,” and “Restorative Work with Unlikely Players: The Feds.”

Other workshops highlighted the broad reach of restorative justice initiatives and projects as an alternative to the paradigmatic operations within criminal justice today. “Decriminalizing Domestic Violence: Restorative Justice as Part of a Balanced Policy Approach to Intimate Partner Violence ” and “Confronting Sexual Violence in Tribal Nations: The Limits of Legal Pluralism and Restorative Justice” were two that stood out for this participant.

Important to note, the restorative justice model is not predicated on the belief that people are intrinsically spiritual, ethical, or genetically predisposed in any way. It says nothing at all about the proven reality of a soul, let alone the probability of an afterlife. These are questions for theologians to debate.

Nor does restorative justice assume that race, gender, sexual orientation, or class are determining factors when it comes to receiving or giving justice. The pursuit of a justice founded on collaborative dialogue, mutual awareness, personal courage, public interest, and creativity is not bound by social constructions and ethical preconceptions. All that matters in a restorative justice practice (and system)-whether it be a talking circle, family conference, peer mediation, or truth and reconciliation commission- is the lived experience of individuals: their healing, sense of safety, and increased understanding. Imagine it: justice can be when the universal needs and feelings of everyone involved are honored and cared for with the highest level of humility and intention. In the words of Desmond Tutu:

Your ordinary acts of love and hope point to the extraordinary promise that every human life is of inestimable value.

 

For more information about restorative justice and organizations doing restorative justice work, please visit: Home – NACRJ – National Association of Community and Restorative Justice,  Vermont Law School | Vermont Law School, and  Bay Area RJ Organizations | Restorative Justice Center at UC Berkeley

 

 

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My Adirondacks: a photomontage from a native son

What a beautiful task lies in prospect before art:
to prepare the future.” – Piet Mondrian

 

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The Central Adirondacks

 

My great-grandparents grave site in Cedars Rapid Cemetery (Indian Lake, NY)

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My cousins’ business near Inlet, NY
 
The earliest written use of the name, spelled Rontaks, was in 1724 by the French missionary Joseph-François Lafitau. He defined it as tree eaters. In the Mohawk language, Adirondack means porcupine, an animal that may eat bark. The Mohawks had no written language at the time so Europeans have used various phonetic spellings. An English map from 1761 labels it simply Deer Hunting Country and the mountains were named Adirondacks in 1837 by Ebenezer Emmons

 

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Lake Champlain sunset from the Waterfront Park in Burlington, VT. The Adirondack Mountains provide a stunning backdrop.

 

Without doing,
these mountains
blanket the planet
with purpose.
Just being,
they add mass
to the universe.

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The author overlooking Lake Pleasant in the Central Adirondacks

 

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It’s in the genes. Mendon Payne beginning his exploration.

Old Bear Mountain

From old Bear Mountain’s dusky brow
I view the landscape round:
I see the mighty wilderness;
I see the deep profound.

My wond’ring eyes I northward turn
And view the distant shore,
Where once I used to moor my bark.
Some three decades or more.

But still I do not see the same
That once I saw before—
The evergreens that girt the strand—
The bright and pebbly shore—

For man hath razed with cruel hand
The beauteous trees of yore,
That once were seen in living green
Along the winding shore.

And now I turn me to the west,
And view the mountain chain,
Extending from the waters bright
Unto the desert plain.

Old Indian Mountain (chief of all)
In this far western range,
Brings back the memory of the past
To me, so wond’rous strange!

Me thinks I see the dusky forms
Of warriors brave and true,
Who once have trod this wilderness,
But now have passed from view.

Yet here they sleep in graves unknown,
No slab, no stone, to trace
(Of all the Adirondacks brave)
Their final resting place.

And as I stand upon this mount
And view the broad domain,
I would that I could linger here
As long as life remain.

And when I’m dead and in my grave.
And all of me is o’er,
This vision still will be the same,
Just as it was before.

Cornelius Carter

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Spectacle Lake in the Central Adirondacks

Life Comes From It

Jazz is the birth

canal of American wisdom;

it opens up

passageways in the cavities

of sentience. Life comes from it.

Those joyful repetitions

like trees signalling

each other through the roots.

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Miller and the Other Sinners. Have you heard them? Jazz meets Blues meets Rock meets Funk meets Soul meets Swamp. Good stuff.

 

 

 

 

 

Dignity Mirror

She used the term “dignity mirror,”

 I like that. These stories are

shaped through the clothes we wear

and the words we speak. To know that

we cannot walk away from who we are,

she invites us to move closer.

But why am I here?

Remembering all of my relations.

Beauty below. Beauty above.

With everything out of my mouth.

Holding on. Passed on. Breathed on.

Beauty before me. Beauty after me.

Holding onto what we have together,

impossible to define in a paragraph.

 

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Lewey Lake in the Central Adirondacks (Photo by George Cassidy Payne

 

 

Now is the Time to Bring Major League Baseball to San Juan

 

Any narrative that portrays Puerto Rico as a poor, battered, and inept Commonwealth has never met someone from Puerto Rico. They are vivacious, intuitive, hardworking, and self-reliant. In the most creative and exuberant ways, Puerto Rico is home to a people who can accomplish anything that they put their minds to. They are anything but desperate.

With that said, it is time to finally bring Major League Baseball to San Juan. For decades the idea has been lobbed around but rarely given a fair chance. For various reasons, the vast majority of people in the baseball world do not believe that this idea can happen. Economists and international relations experts are even more skeptical. These detractors say it is too costly for teams to travel to the island. They say that the country is too poor and cannot afford to attend games. They say that there is no infrastructure, including a modern MLB stadium. They say that this is an economy that had 46 percent of its population living under the poverty line before Hurricane Maria. They say that the household median income is 19 k less than Detroit and that their collective debt exceeds 70 billion. They say that Puerto Rico does not have a corporate base that can support a team, nor the ability to secure a cable deal that will make the franchise profitable over the long run. Logistically speaking, they say that the closest city to San Juan is Miami, which is 2.5 hours by plane. Finally, they say there is too much corruption, too many vulture funds, too many municipal boards, and too few people paying taxes.

Although these are all reasonable arguments against bringing MLB to the island, if approached in the right way, every one of the skeptics’ arguments can be viewed as lucrative opportunities. As I see it, when it comes to bringing Major League Baseball to San Juan, all of the reasons not to do it actually reinforces the case for why it is a great idea.

For starters, it is indisputable that there is a wildly passionate fan base for the game in Puerto Rico. The Marlins and Reds have dismal attendance in America. That would not happen in Puerto Rico. Each night would be the hottest ticket in town. Truth be told, it would be the hottest ticket all over the Commonwealth. From the west coast to the east coast, Puerto Ricans would find a way to see their national team go up against America’s best, including numerous expatriots. The team would take on a national identity that would make each game feel like a World Cup match. Boxing, surfing, chicken fighting, and tennis are popular on the island, but there is no other entertainment that would be more fun to watch on television, attend in person, or listen to on the radio. The potential for internet streaming is immense. The fact that San Juan has less than 400,000 people irrelevant. Every game would draw Puerto Ricans from every metropolis in the region. By bus, car, train, ferry, and plane, people would come from nearby islands just to be around the action. Almost overnight, San Juan would go from being a historic and charming resort destination, to an international hub of cultural and sporting enthusiasm.

Tradition-wise, this enterprise makes perfect sense. Imported around the turn of the century by plantation owners as a leisure activity for coffee and sugarcane harvesters and slaves, beisbol quickly caught fire. Today the game has an illustrious legacy that has produced a number of legendary players including Ruben Sierra, Roberto Clemente, Roberto Alomar, Bernie Williams, the Molina brothers, and young, contemporary superstars such as Francisco Lindor. (In fact, 25 percent of active MLB players are from the Caribbean.)

Regarding the distance problem, San Juan is closer to Houston and Arlington than Seattle is. Conceivably, the league could schedule 6 game series (instead of 3 or 4 game series) in San Juan, and then send teams to relatively nearby American cities such as Arlington, Houston, Miami, and Atlanta. The traveling involved would be no more intense than what some MLB teams already go through. Not to mention, air travel and sea travel is getting more sophisticated each year. What if there was a hoover craft that could take people from Miami to San Juan? How about a tunnel? The future is wide open for those who are not afraid to dream.

The most immediate incentives would be economic reward potential. As an addition to the current proposed Marshall Plan for Puerto Rico, this is about jobs. Stadium construction and operation jobs. Marketing and sales jobs. Tourism jobs including hotels and restaurants. Transportation jobs. Jobs for baseball players, managers, trainers and other people connected with running a professional franchise. Every franchise has a farm system that creates hundreds of jobs. Perhaps each farm team could be located in a major Puerto Rico city such as Ponce, Bayomon, and Carolina (places that already have well established professional teams). Thinking outside of the box, a Triple A team could be located in Havana or Mexico City.

MLB in San Juan would create thousands of good paying and stable jobs; it would also bring corporate investment that comes with its own safeguards, oversight procedures, and transparencies. Bacardi and Goya could be founding sponsors, and other corporations would inevitably jump at the opportunity to open up new markets. Telemundo and ESPN could provide the cable deal.

Economics aside, let us not lose sight of the symbolic power behind this venture. The plan would help MLB expand the game in a way that is more global than Toronto, which is the only team currently outside the states. For the first time, the baseball season would truly be about reaching the World Series.

Politically, this would be an incredible boost to U.S.-Puerto Rico relations at a time when they have been fractured. The back-and-forth commerce, travel, cultural exchange, diplomatic cooperation, and free-market ingenuity could make this one of the most daring projects between these two nations ever carried out. At the risk of hyperbole, I believe that it has the potential to be one of the most dynamic federal-private-commonwealth partnerships ever devised.

Of course, this may require the U.S. government and Major League Baseball to subsidize the building of a stadium, lend the use of technology and building materials for other infrastructure projects, and open up access to American resources including lines of credit, scientific and technological research, and savvy advisers with media experience. It may mean that the U.S. government and Major League Baseball will need to subsidize tickets, parking, food, and even hotel packages for fans all over the island and beyond. The point is to spend an astronomical amount of money in order to achieve astronomical profits – and not just in terms of capital gain. The potential that this plan has to make the whole cultural ecology of the western hemisphere more self- sufficient, self-determined, and exciting to partner with is worth almost any price tag.