By Lisa Watson (*), published in The Telegraph - Having a neighbor like Argentina is like living next door to your stalker – someone who terrorizes you but then tearfully berates you for rejecting their advances.
On hearing the news Monday that the United Nations has adopted an Argentine proposal to extend its territorial waters around the Falkland Islands, an Argentine man tweeted me with the message “U R surrounded.” When I pointed out that his message was menacing, but that we were used to being threatened, he pleaded: “But Argentines love you.
The thing is, the Argentine people really do live in a stalker-like fantasy land when it comes to the Falkland Islands – and the Argentine government encourages them to. In fact it rules that they do so. The pursuit of sovereignty over the Falklands is confirmed in their constitution. It’s the only thing that the country, long divided by political factionalism and social strife, can agree on.
From the day they are born, the Malvinas” myth is poured into innocent little Argentine ears. They are poked and prodded at school with concepts like “British colonialism”, “stolen lands” and “piratical usurpers” . Presumably at no point are Argentines reminded that their own country came about through Spanish colonialism; that their beautiful lush lands once belonged to a slaughtered or subjugated indigenous population; that the Falklands had no indigenous population and that the people there now have just as much right (if not more) to be in their little corner of the world as Argentines do to be in theirs.
I honestly think Argentines believe the first language to be spoken in South America was Spanish. “You are so far from Britain” they cry to me “go back there.” It almost seems rude (clearly I haven’t lost all of my ancestral characteristics) to point out “You are so far from Spain … how about you go back there mate?”
My son Jacob is a seventh-generation Falkland Islander – my family came to the Islands in 1840. The irony is that most of the Argentines who abuse me on Twitter are only second- or third-generation South Americans. The other irony is, they bawl us out for the British military presence, but then threaten our oil company and fishing company partners and do all they can to undermine every part of our economy by castigating other South American countries who wish to trade with us.
But you know sometimes I almost pity them. I pity their passionate, self inflicted foot-stamping, frustration. I watch them with that helpless feeling you have when a toddler screams and chokes and cries for absolutely no logical reason.
And it is illogical. Gigantic Argentina does not need the Falkland Islands. It wants them because it thinks they will make them feel better. I have tried so very hard to find the right words to explain to Argentines that from their point of view it just doesn’t matter – but from our point of view it means everything. How can I make them see that if the Islands were to become a province of Argentina that after an initial burst of ecstasy, the lives of Argentines would simply go back to normal? But my world, and my son’s world, would be turned upside down.
Right now we are an economically self-sufficient (apart from defense) well adjusted, law abiding, overseas territory. We elect our own government, we run our own industries, we do everything we can to be a peaceful, hard-working little asset in a world that seems hell bent on tearing itself apart.
But if we were to be booted into the arms of the Argentine government we would instead be owned by a culturally alien, politically chaotic and ultimately uninterested and uncaring giant. We would become nothing more than an Argentine colony.
Argentina should take a deep breath, grow up, and respect the political choices of a long settled and peaceful little people. Sadly, the new UN ruling makes that unlikely. Even though the judgment makes it clear that it does not “consider and qualify,” those parts of the Argentine submission subject to dispute, including the Falklands, it is being greeting with ludicrous, hysterical spin in Buenos Aires. This stalker needs therapy. Until the treatment works, we should never let our guard down.
(*) Lisa Watson is managing editor of the Penguin News, Falklands’ weekly