Friday, May 22, 2015

Quest for Decolonization #4: The Most Famous Chamorro of All...

My students often ask me, "Who is the most famous Chamorro?"

Meaning which Chamorro has achieved the most, has achieved fame or stardom? Which Chamorro is a household name, not just in Guam or the Marianas, but in the world? Are they any Chamorros out there who can represent the island, the culture and the people to the billions of people who aren't Chamorro and don't even know what Guam or a Chamorro is?

There are lots of Chamorro musicians, some of whom have achieved minor fame outside of the Pacific, such as Johnny Sablan and Pia Mia. There are Chamorro athletes, many of whom are baseball players, but with the rise of fighting culture on Guam, we have seen some Chamorros truly shine in that regard. There are even a few Chamorro actors and filmmakers out there, although it can be hard to miss them when they appear in the periphery of major films. There are even Chamorros that have won Grammy Awards and Pulitzer Prizes.

But who should receive the honor as the most famous? The most well-known? The Chamorro that would appear the most on Google? The one with the longest Wikipedia page?

 As a joke, I sometimes tell them that the most famous Chamorro in history is a former President. A historic head of state. Students freak out trying to figure out which US President was Chamorro and the most random answers ensue, with students wondering if that is why Bill Clinton visited Guam (he was visiting his home). They heard at one point that Barack Obama is a Pacific Islander and while they assumed he was "Hawaiian" they now know that he is actually Chamorro. One student once joked that John F. Kennedy must have been Chamorro because of his love life and his many infamous achakma' siha.

But the most famous "Chamorro" isn't a US President, but a former President...of Nicaragua. Violeta Chamorro was one of the first female heads of state in the entire world when she was elected in 1990. She has no "Chamorro" blood in her as far as anyone knows. Perhaps someone has at one point asked her the question, if she is somehow connected to the mysterious people of the Marianas. Hekkua'. Many a Chamorro spending nights searching the internet for random Chamorro mentions have come across entries on VIoleta Chamorro and others who have Chamorro as a surname. 

This fact that "Chamorro" is found in Spanish, as a surname for various Latin American peoples and is also a word found in the Spanish language itself, is part of the structure of invisibility and impossibility that haunts Chamorros today. It is part of that powerful discourse that makes Chamorros feel as if they don't exist or seems to give credence to that terrible colonizing idea that the colonizer people are just a mere effect of colonization and only exist because of that violence. The idea that the word Chamorro is "Spanish" in origin provides an everyday talking point to this effect, even though, as I have argued in many other places that there is more evidence that Chamorro is derived from a mishearing of Austronesian terms than Spanish visitors giving the people this name because they were bald or had large calves. 

Violeta Chamorro is not at this seminar as she is no longer in power and her political opponents are. But one of the representatives of Nicaragua that is present actually does have the surname Chamorro. Whenever she walks by me, she points at herself and than me and says "Chamorro!" and laughs. 


Quest for Decolonization #3: Small Lands, Big Dreams

The person in charge of this year's UN Regional Seminar is Xavier Lasso Mendoza, Chairman of the Special Committee, who is from Ecuador. He gave a short speech which began the first day, where he outlined the tasks we hope to accomplish and gave us some words of encouragement. He quoted part of the poem "Retorno" by Nicaraguan poet Ruben Dario. The words have stuck with me the entire time I've been here.

"Si pequeña es la Patria, unu grande la sueña"

This translates to, "If the homeland is small, one dreams it large." 

This is an important reminder for the Non-Self-Governing Territories or colonies of today, as many of them are small islands, with small populations who by the way most people (including those in those islands) tend to see the world today, are far too small and too faraway to ever become independent or achieve decolonization. As colonies we are bred to see ourselves as the stuck, dependent, lower end of every binary and regardless of what we have to offer the world, see ourselves as being "ti nahong" yan "dikike' dimasiao." Not enough and too small. We have been told these things for so long and even begun to teach ourselves these limiting lessons, that we forget that they are not reality, they are not intrinsically true.

To see yourself as incapable of surviving because you are a small island is to see yourself through the eyes of another. To see your future and your possibility as dictated by the prejudices or interests of another. In terms of sustainability for islands like us, what matters are your dreams. Can you see the future as open and ripe with possibility? Or do you see it as a wasteland that is just waiting to be filled with your failures?

Independence is not a dream in which you get everything that you want. It is not akin to those dreams where all things you desire fall into place before you or appear in your hands the moment you need them. But in one way, independence is meant to be an awakening. A rising up from a colonial slumber. From the comfort of having the world colored by another and determined by another. But the awakening gives one the chance to dream again.

Below is the text from Ruben Dario's poem.

*********


RETORNO

El retorno a la tierra natal ha sido tan
sentimental, y tan mental, y tan divino,
que aún las gotas del alba cristalinas están
en el jazmín de ensueño, de fragancia y de trino.

Por el Anfión antiguo y el prodigio del canto
se levanta una gracia de prodigio y encanto
que une carne y espíritu, como en el pan y el vino.
En el lugar en donde tuve la luz y el bien,
¿qué otra cosa podría sino besar el manto
a mi Roma, mi Atenas o mi Jerusalén?

Exprimidos de idea, y de orgullo y cariño,
de esencia de recuerdo, de arte de corazón,
concreto ahora todos mis ensueños de niño
sobre la crín anciana de mi amado León.

Bendito el dromedario que a través del desierto
condujera al Rey Mago, de aureolada sien,
y que se dirigía por el camino cierto
en que el astro de oro conducía a Belén.

Amapolas de sangre y azucenas de nieve
he mirado no lejos del divino laurel,
y he sabido que el vino de nuestra vida breve
precipita hondamente la ponzoña y la hiel.

Mas sabe el optimista, religioso y pagano,
que por César y Orfeo nuestro planeta gira,
y que hay sobre la tierra que llevar en la mano,
dominadora siempre, o la espada, o la lira.

El paso es misterioso. Los mágicos diamantes
de la corona o las sandalias de los pies
fueron de los maestros que se elevaron antes,
y serán de los genios que triunfarán después.

Parece que Mercurio llevara el caduceo
de manera triunfal en mi dulce país,
y que brotara pura, hecha por mi deseo,
en cada piedra una mágica flor de lis.

Por atavismo griego o por fenicia influencia,
siempre he sentido en mí ansia de navegar,
y Jasón me ha legado su sublime experiencia
y el sentir en mi vida los misterios del mar.

¡Oh, cuántas veces, cuántas veces oí los sones
de las sirenas líricas en los clásicos mares!
¡Y cuántas he mirado tropeles de tritones
y cortejos de ninfas ceñidas de azahares!

Cuando Pan vino a América, en tiempos fabulosos
en que había gigantes, y conquistaban Pan
y Baco tierra incógnita, y tigres y molosos
custodiaban los templos sagrados de Copán,

se celebraban cultos de estrellas y de abismos;
se tenía una sacra visión de Dios. Y era
ya la vital conciencia que hay en nosotros mismos
de la magnificencia de nuestra Primavera.

Los atlántidas fueron huéspedes nuestros. Suma
revelación un tiempo tuvo el gran Moctezuma,
y Hugo vio en Momotombo órgano de verdad.
A través de las páginas fatales de la historai,
nuestra tierra está hecha de vigor y de gloria,
nuestra tierra está hecha para la Humanidad.

Pueblo vibrante, fuerte, apasionado, altivo;
pueblo que tiene la conciencia de ser vivo,
y que, reuniendo sus energías en haz
portentoso, a la Patria vigoroso demuestra
que puede bravamente presentar en su diestra
el acero de guerra o el olivo de paz.

Cuando Dante llevaba a la Sorbona ciencia
y su maravilloso corazón florentino,
creo que concretaba el alma de Florencia,
y su ciudad estaba en el libro divino.

Si pequeña es la Patria, uno grande la sueña.
Mis ilusiones, y mis deseos, y mis
esperanzas, me dicen que no hay patria pequeña.
Y León es hoy a mí como Roma o París.

Quisiera ser ahora como el Ulises griego
que domaba los arcos, y los barcos y los
destinos. Quiero ahora deciros ¡hasta luego!
Porque no me resuelvo a deciros ¡adiós!

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Quest for Decolonization #2: Statement from the UN Secretary General


The Secretary-General of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon wasn't able to attend the Regional Seminar in Nicaragua this year, but he did send a statement which was read by Josiane Ambiehl who is the Chief of the UN's Decolonization Unit. In the statement she referenced several issues that would be recurring themes at this year's seminar. 

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19 May 2015
SG/SM/16764-GA/COL/3276

Secretary-General, at Caribbean Decolonization Seminar Opening, Says Constructive Engagement, Sustained Efforts Essential to Fully Eradicate Colonialism

 Press Release
UN Secretary-General

Following is UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s message, as delivered by Josiane Ambiehl, Chief of the Decolonization Unit, Department of Political Affairs, for the opening session of the Caribbean Regional Seminar on the Implementation of the third International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism:  the United Nations at 70 — taking stock of the decolonization agenda, in Managua today:

It gives me great pleasure to send my greetings to all the participants gathered in Managua for the Caribbean Regional Seminar on Decolonization.  I would like to express my deep appreciation to the Government and people of Nicaragua for their generous hospitality in hosting this important event to take stock of the decolonization agenda on the occasion of the United Nations seventieth anniversary.
In celebrating this milestone, we also mark 70 years in advancing the decolonization agenda.  Since the founding of the Organization in 1945, more than 80 nations that had been under colonial rule, with 750 million inhabitants, have joined the United Nations as sovereign States.  In 1946, there were 72 Territories on the list of Non-Self-Governing Territories administered by eight Member States.  Today, 17 Territories, with a total population of 1.6 million people, and administered by four administering Powers, remain on the list.  Much has been achieved, yet we have not completed the task of decolonization or reached the goal of eradicating colonialism.

The fulfilment of the objectives of the third International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism is a common endeavour for all concerned — the Non-Self-Governing Territories, the administering Powers and other stakeholders in the decolonization process.  This requires their constructive engagement, sustained efforts and political will, with the support of the Special Committee on Decolonization.  The international community has an obligation to ensure that a full measure of self-Government is achieved in the remaining Territories, in accordance with the United Nations Charter and relevant United Nations resolutions.

In recent years, it has been encouraging to witness the signs of rejuvenation in the work of the Special Committee.  Partnership between the administering Powers and the Special Committee is increasing.  I thank the current Chair of the Committee for his dedicated efforts in this regard.

This Seminar provides opportunities for the Special Committee to engage with all involved, along with experts and members of civil society, on the situation of the individual Territories and issues of concern to the Territories.  This is also an occasion for all participants to present their recommendations to the Special Committee so as to assist this body in considering its way forward in completing the decolonization processes for each Territory as mandated by the General Assembly.
In addition to the United Nations seventieth anniversary, this year also marks the midpoint of the third International Decade.  At this juncture, I urge all participants in this seminar to identify concrete and implementable steps that could help us reach the noble goal of the eradication of colonialism before the end of the International Decade in 2020.  As Secretary-General, I stand ready to assist you in the remaining part of this journey.  In that spirit of partnership, I wish you a productive and successful Seminar.

Rich White Families

Racism is such a difficult thing to discuss.

Wait, nangga un ratu. It isn't a difficult thing to explain necessarily.

Esta meggai matuge' put este. Guaha diferentes na theories put hafa este na fuetsa gi lina'la' taotao.

We can clearly explain its role in creating structures of inequality and normalizing systems of violence.

Lao hafa i minappot?

I patten tinaotao.

Racism is not difficult to explain. Ti mappot maeksplika.

It is difficult to discuss, because discussion assumes a conversation and this is limited by what the person you are talking to is able to process or able to admit to.

I mina'mappot i diniskuti i chi-na i hinasso i ume'ekungok yan i kumukuentos tatte.

Discussing racism means engaging in a number of topics that people would rather not address.

The idea of post-racism today is predicated on the belief, hope that if we just don't mention it, all is well.

Ya humuyongna, ayu i manangan put rasa pat rinasa, guiya i "racist."

The strangest manifestation of racism is the way that people who are oppressed or marginalized by racist systems, will themselves refuse to recognize it.

Kada sistema mafotma gi oriya un suhetu (subject). I bali para ayu na sistema ma chule' ginen ayu na suhetu.

Para ayu na sistem i lina'la' pat i tahtaotao ni' gaibali pat taibali dipende kao umayau gui' yan ayu na mismo suhetu para i sistema.

So people racialized within a system may actually resist challenging the system because of the way it may interfere with their own desires to become that subject, to acquire traits of that subject.

Inapa'ka or whiteness is what drives racial systems in the US. You can see some variations of this, but as a whole, the subject supposed to matter, subject supposed to have value, the subject supposed to have reason and autonomy, it is almost always white.

*********************

"The Pathology of the Rich White Family"
by Chris Hedges
Nation of Change
Truthdig
5/19/15

"There is no decadence like the decadence of rich white people." Rich white families have the license and the power to amass unimaginable wealth at our expense and it permits the rich to inflict poverty on growing circles of the population.


The pathology of the rich white family is the most dangerous pathology in America. The rich white family is cursed with too much money and privilege. It is devoid of empathy, the result of lifetimes of entitlement. It has little sense of loyalty and lacks the capacity for self-sacrifice. Its definition of friendship is reduced to “What can you do for me?” It is possessed by an insatiable lust to increase its fortunes and power. It believes that wealth and privilege confer to it a superior intelligence and virtue. It is infused with an unchecked hedonism and narcissism. And because of all this, it interprets reality through a lens of self-adulation and greed that renders it delusional. The rich white family is a menace. The pathologies of the poor, when set against the pathologies of rich white people, are like a candle set beside the sun.

There are no shortages of acolytes and propagandists for rich white families. They dominate our airwaves. They blame poverty, societal breakdown, urban violence, drug use, domestic abuse and crime on the pathology of poor black families—not that they know any. They argue that poor black families disintegrate because of some inherent defect—here you can read between the lines that white people are better than black people—a defect that these poor families need to fix.

Peddle this simplistic and racist garbage and you will be given a column at The New York Times. It always pays to suck up to rich white families. If you are black and parrot this line, rich white people are overcome with joy. They go to extreme lengths to give you a platform. You can become president or a Supreme Court justice. You can get a television talk show or tenure at a university. You can get money for your foundation. You can publish self-help books. Your films will be funded. You might even be hired to run a company.

Rich white families, their sycophants opine, have tried to help. Rich white families have given poor people numerous resources and government programs to lift them out of poverty. They have provided generous charity. But blacks, they say, along with other poor people of color, are defeated by self-destructive attitudes and behavior. Government programs are therefore wasted on these irresponsible people. Poor families, the sycophants tell us, will not be redeemed until they redeem themselves. We want to help, rich white people say, but poor black people need to pull up their pants, stay in school, get an education, find a job, say no to drugs and respect authority. If they don’t, they deserve what they get. And what the average black family ends up with in economic terms is a nickel for every dollar held by the average white family.

Starting at age 10 as a scholarship student at an elite New England boarding school, I was forced to make a study of the pathology of rich white families. It was not an experience I would recommend. Years later, by choice, I moved to Boston’s Roxbury neighborhood when I was a seminary student. I lived across the street from one of the poorest housing projects in the city, and I ran a small church in the inner city for nearly three years. I already had a deep distaste for rich white families, and that increased greatly after I saw what they did to the disenfranchised. Rich white people, I concluded after my childhood and Roxbury experiences, are sociopaths.

The misery and collapse of community and family in Roxbury were not caused by an inherent pathology within the black family. Rich people who treated the poor like human refuse caused the problems. Layers of institutionalized racism—the courts, the schools, the police, the probation officers, the banks, the easy access to drugs, the endemic unemployment and underemployment, the collapsing infrastructures and the prison system—effectively conspired to make sure the poor remained poor. Drug use, crime and disintegrating families are the result of poverty, not race. Poor whites replicate this behavior. Take away opportunity, infuse lives with despair and hopelessness, and this is what you get. But that is something rich white families do not want people to know. If it were known, the rich would have to take the blame.

Michael Kraus, Paul Piff and Dacher Keltner, social scientists at the University of California, did research that led them to conclude that the poor have more empathy than the rich. The poor, they argued, do not have the ability to dominate their environments. They must build relationships with others to survive. This requires that they are able to read the emotions of those around them and respond. It demands that they look after each other. And this makes them more empathetic. The rich, who can control their environments, do not need to bother with the concerns or emotions of others. They are in charge. What they want gets done. And the longer they live at the center of their own universe, the more callous, insensitive and cruel they become.

The rich white family has an unrivaled aptitude for crime. Members of rich white families run corporations into the ground (think Lehman Brothers), defraud stockholders and investors, sell toxic mortgages as gold-plated investments to pension funds, communities and schools, and then loot the U.S. Treasury when the whole thing implodes. They steal hundreds of millions of dollars on Wall Street through fraud and theft, pay little or no taxes, almost never go to jail, write laws and regulations that legalize their crimes and then are asked to become trustees at elite universities and sit on corporate boards. They set up foundations and are admired as philanthropists. And if they get into legal trouble, they have high-priced lawyers and connections among the political elites to get them out.
You have to hand it to rich white families. They steal with greater finesse than anyone else. If you are a poor black teenager and sprint out of a CVS with a few looted bottles of shampoo, you are likely to be shot in the back or sent to jail for years. If there were an Olympiad for crime, rich white families would sweep up all the medals; blacks would be lucky to come within a mile of the first elimination trial. I don’t know why black people even try to compete in this area. They are, by comparison, utter failures as criminals. The monarchs of crime are rich white people, who wallow in their pilfered wealth while locking away in prisons a huge percentage of poor men of color.

Rich white families are also the most efficient killers on the planet. This has been true for five centuries, starting with the conquest of the Americas and the genocide against Native Americans, and continuing through today’s wars in the Middle East. Rich white families themselves don’t actually kill. They are not about to risk their necks on city streets or in Iraq. They hire people, often poor, to kill for them. Rich white families wanted the petroleum of Iraq and, by waving the flag and spewing patriotic slogans, got a lot of poor kids to join the military and take the oil fields for them. Rich white people wanted endless war for the benefit of their arms industry and got it by calling for a war on terror. Rich white people wanted police to use lethal force against the poor with impunity and to arrest them, swelling U.S. prisons with 25 percent of the world’s prison population, so they set up a system of drug laws and militarized police departments to make it happen.

The beauty of making others kill on your behalf is you get to appear “reasonable” and “nice.” You get to chastise poor people and Muslims for being angry fanatics. You get to spread the message of tolerance with a cherubic smile—which means tolerating the crimes and violence of rich white people. Compare a drive-by shooting in Watts with the saturation bombing of Vietnam. Compare a gangland killing in Chicago with militarized police shooting a person of color almost every day. No one else knows how to churn out corpses like rich white people. One million dead in Iraq alone. And the rich and powerful kill staggering numbers of people and never go to prison. They can retire to a ranch in Crawford, Texas, and paint amateurish portraits of world leaders copied from Google Image Search.

There is no decadence like the decadence of rich white people. I knew a billionaire who in retirement spent his time on a yacht smoking weed and being catered to by a string of high-priced prostitutes. The children of rich white families—surrounded by servants and coddled in private schools, never having to fly on commercial airlines or take public transportation—develop a lassitude, sometimes accompanied by a drug habit, that often leads them to idle away their lives as social parasites. Mothers never have to be mothers. Fathers never have to be fathers. The help does the parenting. The rich live encased in little kingdoms, one guarded by their own private security, where the real world does not intrude. They are cultural philistines preoccupied with acquiring more wealth and more possessions. “Material success,” as C. Wright Mills wrote, “is their sole basis of authority.” They meld into the world of celebrity. And the organs of mass media, which they control, turn them into idols to be worshiped solely because they are rich. Public-relations specialists manufacture their public personas. Teams of lawyers harass and silence their critics. Acolytes affirm their sagacity. They soon believe their own fiction.

Daniel Patrick Moynihan in 1965 wrote what is known as the Moynihan Report, or “The Negro Family: The Case for National Action.” The report concluded that “at the heart of the deterioration of the fabric of Negro society is the deterioration of the Negro family.” The oppressed were to blame for their oppression. Social programs alone could not save the poor. The report offers a classic example of a neoliberal economic model repacked as an ideology.

The pathologies of the rich will soon drive us over an economic and ecological cliff. And as we go down, the rich, lacking empathy and understanding, determined to maintain their privilege and their wealth, will use their Praetorian Guard, their mass media, their corporate power, their political puppets and their security and surveillance apparatus to keep us submissive. “The secret of a great success for which you are at a loss to account is a crime that has never been discovered, because it was properly executed,” Honoré de Balzac wrote of the rich in his novel “Le Père Goriot.”

The rich executed a coup d’état that transformed the three branches of the U.S. government and nearly all institutions, including the mass media, into wholly owned subsidiaries of the corporate state. This coup gives the rich the license and the power to amass unimaginable wealth at our expense. It permits the rich to inflict grinding poverty on growing circles of the population. Poverty is the worst of crimes—as George Bernard Shaw wrote, “all the other crimes are virtues beside it.” And the ability of a rapacious power elite to let children go hungry, to let men and women suffer a loss of dignity and self-worth because there are no jobs, to abandon cities to decay and squalor, to toss the mentally ill and the homeless onto the streets, to slash the meager services that give some hope and succor to those who suffer, to lock hundreds of thousands of poor people in cages for years, to wage endless war, to burden students with crushing debt, to unleash state terror and to extinguish hope among the least fortunate exposes our wealthy oligarchs as the most dangerous and destructive force in America.

Quest for Decolonization

I'm in Nicaragua now for the most recent UN Regional Seminar the Third International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism from the World. I'll be testifying on the state of affairs in Guam and also answering questions from the member state that attend the meeting. I have never been to Nicaragua before and probably never would have ended up here save for this invitation by the United Nations.

This year is different than any other year that I have visited the UN and its various entities. Over the years I have testified before the Fourth Committee in New York City (2007), visited the UN as a tourist (2008) and attended two regional seminars in Ecuador (2013) and Nicaragua as an expert. This trip represents by far the most interesting experience out of all the others. There is much more dialogue and discussion this year and I am learning far more than I have before.

This time around I've decided to share some of what I've learned via this blog. I was torn over what to title this series of insights, but eventually settled on the harmless, yet possibly inspiring "Quest for Decolonization." For the next week or so I'll be posting various information, quotes, photos and so on. 

Look for the tag Decolonization Quest to find all my posts on this topic.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

The Importance of Being Bilingual

For the Importance of Second Language Learning Forum that I helped organize a few weeks ago, we were honored to have a very diverse and exciting panel. Coming at it from different angles, they covered a number of way, some more philosophical and others more practical, as to how learning a second language can be important and as a result, something that should be required at UOG. 

The panel featured the following guests:

Kenneth Gofigan Kuper, a Ph.D. student in Political Science at UH Manoa and former student of mine. He is a young activist who has taken up both the banner of decolonization and language revitalization. I've been working with him on a number of projects such as Ha'anen Fino' Chamoru Ha' and the upcoming Lalahen Sinahi project. He took Chamorro as his second language requirement at UOG and it changed the course of his life. 

Ronald T. Laguana, the current director of the Division of Chamorro Studies in the Guam Department of Education. He is a founding member of the group Nasion Chamoru and is also one of the people behind the popularization of the Inefrei written by Dr. Bernadita Camacho Dungca. He is a proud and active member of the Inetnon Lalahin Guahan, YMLG. 

Toyoko Kang and Clarisa Quan are both professors at UOG. Kang is a Japanese language professor and Quan is a Linguistics and English professor. Both of them have been critics of the dropping of the second language requirement at UOG. 

Dr. Laura Souder Betances is a pioneering Chamorro scholar. She was the one who first connected the academic ideas of feminism into Chamorro scholarship. She is the author of Daughters of the Island and the co-editor of the volume Chamorro Self-Determination with Robert Underwood. She and her husband are consultants for diversity and education.

With the help i nobia-hu Elizabeth Kelley Bowman, we gathered together some of the main quotes by the panelists. I'm sharing them below for people to see. As you can see, it was a very interesting discussion. This may have been part of the reason why the overwhelming majority of people who attended the event and who completed a survey, supported keeping the language requirement in place. 

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I took Chamorro 101 to fulfill the language requirement.  I didn’t really care about the Chamorro language.  There was nothing in it for me.  . . . There was so much evidence of internalized racism and internalized colonialism, but what happened was that I ended up taking a few courses, with Chamorro language being a pivotal one, with Siñora Teresita Flores . . . and I learned a lot.  We would come to class and I would learn words that I used to remember hearing my grandmother speak when I grew up.  . . . You have just given me the gift, siñora, of understanding something that I never understood my entire life.  I got more and more involved with this, based off of taking a random class, because it was a GE requirement. 

I really had no interest in the Chamorro language four years ago, when I was twenty.  I’m twenty-four now.  And so, it was so important that I took that course, because sometimes the best things in life tend to hit you over the head when you least expect it.  And that’s why I support having second-language requirements as a GE, because we should not take away the opportunity for another person to have the story that I have.  To have the story of reconnecting with their roots as a Chamorro, no matter if you’re taking Tagalog classes, you’re taking Chinese, there’s so much reconnection to who you are, because through language, you can see the worldview, hear the worldview, the epistemology of your ancestors.  And there’s nothing that should take that away from you.

Kenneth Gofigan Kuper, M.A.

Yanggen para taiguini pa’go, na mafunas ya para mungga machule’ I Chamorro guini, pat maseha hafa na suhetu, Chapones, Tagalog pat maseha hafa, insuttu enao! Para guini gi tano’-ta gi este i eskuela-ta. I Unibetsedat Guahan i mas takhilo’ na unibetsedat guini gi Pasifiku.

Ronald T. Laguana


Language learning, teaching, shares some category of the learning process of critical thinking.  For example, . . . in [Japanese] 101 they are really completely beginners.  So they can’t analyze each word vocabulary particle, or prepositions; they have to analyze, and then, to get the meaning, they have to synthesize.  . . . Students have to learn how to analyze the information and to synthesize and then find out, evaluate, those information . . . Those kinds of learning process occur in second-language learners.  For example, each language has different concepts or realizations. . . .

To learn culture, to just read about Japanese culture in English, I don’t agree.  I don’t agree. Learn through the language, and learn to use it.  Otherwise they cannot use it. Learning should be used.  . . .  So that means students got deeper perspective. 

Toyoko Kang, Ph.D.


When I heard that they wanted to take away the second language requirement, I said, “Huh?”  We live in an island that’s multilingual, that’s multiethnic, that’s multicultural, and they want to take it away?  And Guam, I think, reflects the world as it is today.  We’re living in an increasingly multilingual, global world where multilingualism, multiculturalism, are the norm, rather than the exception.  And for you to take it away is ridiculous.  Or even to kind of reduce the requirement for it.  Second-language learning is cultural learning as well; learning modern languages is to learn the cultures as well.  . . . It promotes cultural awareness, it promotes criticism of ethnocentrism, believing that yours is the only correct one, superior one, it promotes acceptance of other people, other cultures, and I think it is very, very important. 

Clarisa Quan, Ph.D.


To the members of the faculty senate, who may be listening, who may be eavesdropping: it’s important that these voices, our voices, be heard.  . . . As Dr. Underwood said, “Siña mantulaika este na recommendation,” no?  And that’s the thing to remember.  Sometimes we make logical decisions, and they lead us to wrong destinations.  And we have the opportunity here to change course.  And to defy logic, because sometimes things are simply not logical, especially when they belong to matters of the heart. . . .

Universities exist to universalize students.  And how do we universalize students?  We universalize them by providing them with different universes in which to learn, to make decisions, and to operate, and to be successful.  One of the things that Sammy [Betances] and I have been doing lately, in the Marianas, in the Northern Marianas, and in Palau, is that we have been talking about the global-island divide, and how do we bridge that divide?  . . . If we’re going to operate and be successful in the global reality, we need to know more than one language.  Fortunately, many – most – of us are bilingual.  But we need to know many languages, because in order to be successful, you have to negotiate in many parts of the world.  In order to have an economic future, we need to be able to speak the languages of the people that we are trading with.  . . .

So that’s very important, from a language perspective, from a global perspective, from a university perspective.  Diminishing the capacity of students to learn more than one language, than the lingua franca which is English, is diminishing the capacities of universities to fully function as universalizing places for students. . . .

So that’s one aspect of language.  And I’d like you to think about another aspect of language, and that is language as the umbilical cord of culture.  Language connects us with culture.  And ladies and gentlemen, we don’t need to be reminded of this.  The Chamorro language and culture exists here, on this island, and these islands, of the Marianas.  Nowhere else on earth, nowhere else on earth, do we have the sovereign right to speak and live as Chamorros except in the Marianas.  So we have another responsibility.  This is not just about making available languages.  We’re not talking about just any language.  We’re talking about our indigenous language.  We’re talking about the responsibility that we have to protect the sovereignty of our language and our culture.  Nowhere else will anybody do this for us. 

This is our game.  These are our decisions.  . . . It is our responsibility to stand up, and that is why this kind of gathering is so important, because we need to make our voices heard.

Laura Torres Souder Betances, Ph.D.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Chamorro Public Service Post #27: Two Blasts from Guam's Decolonial Past

They say that what makes humans different than most other living creatures is their ability to visualize. To act not based on instinct or need or reaction to stimuli, but to hold within their mental processing an amalgamation of temporal moments, some of which have already happened and some of which could or never will happen. Humans therefore have the ability to strategize and adapt better than others, potentially. It also means they have a greater ability than any other species to lie to itself, to trick itself out of seeing obvious things and believing obvious things. To form intensely and exhaustively convoluted explanations for things, in order to keep them from being realized or understood, to suppress truth, to find ways to twist and neuter it.

People become so attached to the current moment, in the same way the white at the crest of a wave feels dependent upon the particular form of the wave in order for it to exist. This attachment makes them see everything they can behind and before them as a teleological game, where the goal is to find a way for everything to just make sense. It leads to a sense of forgetting, where the essential can be easily forgotten and the arbitrary is infused with a sense of inevitability.

For me, after being involved with conversations around decolonization, self-determination and Chamorro activist for more than 10 years now, it is interesting to see how peoples' memories work. How they arrive at the 10 word opinion they have about something. How they develop an ideological position in relation to something, generally in order to protect themselves or some social secret they don't want revealed.  How discursive space opens up and then closes, and although the fractures remain, the traces of fissures still present, people don't recognize them, let them float beneath their gaze.

Below are two articles from the 1990s which are interesting reminders, that many of the conversations we have today, we have had before. They are also an interesting reminder of how bad media can be at doing its job and also the importance of having media that comes from different perspectives, as it can help to reveal shadowed discursive that all others are committed to neutralizing and talking around.



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American Culture Engulfs Guam

May 24, 1992|RENE PASTOR | REUTERS
 
AGANA, Guam — Move a typical sleepy middle-American town to the middle of the Pacific Ocean. The result could be the island of Guam.

Fast-food chains such as McDonald's and spacious shopping malls dot the landscape. Sports cars race down Marine Drive as if it were a California freeway.

But some on this south Pacific island are not content with the hamburgers, milkshakes and gun clubs catering to hundreds of thousands of Japanese tourists yearning for a taste of the U.S. Wild West.
Native Chamorros who call Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands home are worried the pervasive U.S. influence will eventually overwhelm their culture and language.

"American colonialism is tearing our nation apart," said David Lujan Sablan, a 44-year-old Vietnam veteran and artist who has renounced his U.S. citizenship to support his call for the island to be given more control over its affairs.

"We Chamorros are doomed to be slaves in our own land to the United States," said Sablan, whose head is shaved, leaving only a tuft in the traditional Chamorro male hairstyle.

Jose Leon Guerrero, an education professor at the University of Guam, fears the next generation of Chamorros is rapidly losing the ability to speak the native language, a lyrical combination of Spanish and Polynesian.

Many children speak a combination of Chamorro and English and have difficulty understanding the purer version of the language spoken in the Northern Marianas, he said.

"It sounds like pidgin Chamorro and the kids laugh when they hear themselves say it because of the wrong grammar," one elderly Chamorro said. "It's worrying."

"The Americanization of the people has something to do with it. Look at me, I can read Chamorro but I cannot write Chamorro. If you lose your language, you're going to lose a chunk of your culture," Guerrero said.

Lt. Gov. Frank Blas said the government is trying to reverse the trend by encouraging a renaissance of the Chamorro language and culture and an end to decades of neglect in the island's schools.

Bilingual programs are being implemented, a Chamorro language commission is being set up and cultural shows are being sponsored to boost awareness of the island's heritage, he said.

Sablan is not optimistic. He believes his people "are going to be in deep trouble" as more migrants from the Philippines flood into the island.

Filipinos now make up a third of the 140,000 people in the U.S. territory, about 1,500 miles east of the Philippines. Chamorros constitute about 40%.

Demographic officials expect the Filipinos to become the biggest group by the year 2010 as migration of Chamorros to the United States increases.

"The Chamorro people and culture will slowly become extinct," Sablan said. "If it was up to me, I would choose independence for Guam," he said.

But one official who declined to be named said it was too late to win independence or some other form of self-rule for the Chamorros.

Few want to rock the boat, fearing a messy battle over independence might scare away the Japanese tourists who pump more than $1 billion into Guam's economy each year.

"Self-rule is something we could have fought for 20 or 30 years ago," the official said. "(But) everybody is satisfied now with the way things are going. Nobody is thinking of independence anymore."

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Guam's Chamorros Are Trying To Reclaim Their Cultural Identity -- Their Language Was Suppressed For Decades

AP
11/19/1997
 
TUMON, Guam - Cathy Cruz Guzman's parents wanted their daughter to succeed in life. So they banned their native Chamorro language from the home and brought her up speaking only English.
Now a mother herself, Cruz Guzman says she won't make the same mistake - her children will speak Chamorro.

"I lost my language," said Cruz Guzman, 35, mother of two elementary-school girls in this U.S. territory. "Now I feel it's really important for my kids. I want my kids to know what their culture is about."

She is not alone. After hundreds of years under foreign control - by the Spanish, the Americans and briefly the Japanese - the Chamorro people of Guam are searching for their identity.

The growing interest in the Chamorro language is only part of it. High-school boys cut their hair like ancestors before the Spanish came - sides shaved, top in braids. Parents name their children after ancient Guam chieftains.

Chamorro is related to the Malay and Indonesian languages, and there are clear influences from Spanish. That is no surprise, since Spain ruled the Pacific island for more than 300 years, hence the Spanish names of Guamians.

The language has no traditional literature. But local songwriters are increasingly composing in Chamorro, and the island has a playwright working in the language. A prominent magazine, Latte, features a Chamorro page.

Cruz Guzman, who like many of her generation was encouraged to adopt American culture, is pushing her two daughters, ages 7 and 8, to learn fluent Chamorro. She has also enrolled them in traditional dance classes.

"If I'm Chamorro, I want to know what it is, to feel that identity," she said while watching her daughters rehearse their lines at a local TV studio for a series of one-minute spots on local legends.
It wasn't always like this.

Chamorros were encouraged to learn English after the United States took over the island from Spain in 1898. Chamorro came under more attack after the short Japanese occupation during World War II, when the U.S. military built up its presence and Guamians became American citizens. Those speaking Chamorro in public buildings were threatened with fines and jail terms.

"The American government, in its effort to get the people as Americanized as possible . . . hampered the use of Chamorro," said Bernadita Camacho-Dungca, director of the Chamorro Teaching Degree Institute at the University of Guam.

The Chamorros themselves also drove the language underground. Many parents thought that to get ahead, their children should concentrate on English. Many forbade the use of Chamorro in their homes. Students were slapped with rulers for using the language in schools until the late 1960s.
Camacho-Dungca, whose institute opened five years ago, credits the U.S. government with eventually helping to revive Chamorro through programs encouraging minority languages starting in the late 1960s.

That started a trend. In 1974, the territorial legislature voted to make both English and Chamorro the official languages, and four years later Chamorro began to be taught in the public schools. It's now a required subject.

Interest has been building in recent years, especially as the generation that grew up in the 1950s and 1960s has begun raising its own families, said Anna Marie Blas, director of the Chamorro Language Commission.

"It's a form of identity - it's a resurrection of our people," said Blas, who learned Chamorro from her grandmother. "With all the colonization we've had, we as a people want to stand up."
The boom in the language comes at a tough time for Chamorro identity. Chamorros now make up only 47 percent of the island's 150,000 inhabitants, and the thriving tourist industry has brought a flood of visitors and workers - and their languages.

Around the island's hotel district, Japanese signs are everywhere, and workers in hotels and restaurants speak the language with well-heeled tourists. On TV, Filipino programming is widely available, but there is no all-Chamorro channel.

Guamians say they have to get over the sense, pounded into them for decades, that to be Chamorro is to be second-class.

But Cruz Guzman said she has no fears that her daughters, Tonnie and Nonnie, are wasting time on learning Chamorro that could be better spent polishing skills in English or studying something else.
"They'll be rich in culture," she said. "They'll be rich in language, growing up bilingual."

Copyright (c) 1997 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Feingold 2016

Feingold 2016
Nadia Prupis
Common Dreams
5/14/15

Former U.S. Senator Russ Feingold, Democrat from Wisconsin, on Thursday announced plans to run for reelection and regain the seat, setting up a rematch with Republican Ron Johnson, whom Politico describes as "one of the most vulnerable incumbents on the 2016 Senate map."
Feingold represented Wisconsin in the U.S. Senate for 18 years before he was defeated by the conservative Johnson in 2010's "Tea Party wave." However, as Politico points out, Feingold appears to have an advantage even two years ahead of the election, with a Marquette Law School poll conducted last month giving him 54 percent of the vote.
In a video announcing his run, Feingold singled out money in politics as a major factor in his campaign.
"People tell me all the time that our politics in Washington are broken and that multi-millionaires, billionaires and big corporations are calling all the shots," he stated. "They especially say this about the U.S. Senate, and it's hard not to agree."
The Senate needs "strong independence, bipartisanship, and honesty," Feingold said.
While in the Senate, Feingold "was the Democrats' leading campaign finance scold—and he "lived up to his principles in practice," writes National Journal political editor Josh Kraushaar. "He refused any outside spending from the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee in his unsuccessful 2010 campaign, and from any other outside super PACs... Feingold is a favorite of progressives, and his candidacy would be a reliable way to energize the grassroots base."
His announcement is seen as a solid development for the progressive wing of his party. Grabbing an endorsement from the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee almost immediately, DSCC chairman Jon Tester called Feingold "a tenacious champion for the people of Wisconsin throughout his career."
In an email heralding Feingold's announcement, the Progressive Change Campaign Committee said that should the former senator win, "Elizabeth Warren will have another bold ally by her side."

*********


Saying his "desire to serve is stronger than ever," Democrat Russ Feingold announced Thursday a bid for his old U.S. Senate seat against the Republican who defeated him four and a half years ago — Ron Johnson.
A Johnson-Feingold race would be a rare rematch of Senate opponents, offer voters a stark ideological contrast and easily rank as one of the top Senate races in the country in 2016, fiercely contested by both parties.
Feingold made the announcement in a short video shot at his Middleton home, saying he wanted to "bring back to the U.S. Senate strong independence, bipartisanship and honesty."
He did not mention Johnson in the video or lay out his campaign message in any detail. He said he was focused on the worries people in Wisconsin have about "their economic well-being." He also raised a familiar Feingold theme — the role of money in the political process.
"People tell me all the time that our politics in Washington are broken and that multimillionaires, billionaires and big corporations are calling all the shots. They especially say this about the U.S. Senate. And it's hard not to agree," Feingold said.
In a statement, Johnson said:
"I welcome Russ Feingold into the Senate race. While I was building a small manufacturing business and creating real jobs in Oshkosh, Russ was building Washington into the gigantic, debt-ridden, tax-eating, unresponsive, and freedom-squashing government we have today. Russ Feingold wants more Washington, a more expensive Washington, and a more powerful Washington. I want to empower people. This campaign will give the people of Wisconsin a real choice."

Served three terms

Feingold was first elected to the Senate in 1992 and served three terms until Johnson defeated him 52% to 47% in the Republican wave of 2010.
Since his defeat, Feingold has written a book, been a visiting professor at several law schools and served for 18 months as a U.S. envoy to the troubled Great Lakes region of Africa. Feingold left that temporary assignment in March, amid broad speculation that he would mount another Senate campaign. He is teaching a course on central Africa to law and graduate students at Stanford University in California that ends early next month.
Senate rematches are a rarity. Wisconsin has never had one. It's also rare for a senator to return to the chamber after losing office.
But in a poll taken last month by the Marquette University Law School, Feingold led Johnson 54% to 38% among registered voters in the state. He was also better known than Johnson and had a more positive rating. In the Marquette poll, Feingold was viewed favorably by 47% of registered voters and unfavorably by 26%. Johnson was viewed favorably by 32% and unfavorably by 29%.

Race called a tossup

Johnson has acknowledged that he faces a tough re-election. The nonpartisan Cook Political Report rates Wisconsin one of four Senate tossups in the country, and one of just two tossups being defended by GOP incumbents.
But while Feingold used the language of a Washington outsider in his announcement — complaining of a broken political system — Republicans will attack him as a veteran of Congress with the baggage that goes with that.
"Feingold's tax-and-spend ideology has driven America deeper into debt and made it more difficult to achieve the American dream. We've rejected Feingold once for good reason, and we can't afford him in the U.S. Senate," said Joe Fadness, executive director of the Wisconsin GOP.
Feingold is not expected to face serious competition within his own party. The D.C.-based Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee endorsed him immediately Thursday, calling him a "tenacious champion for the people of Wisconsin."
Politically, Feingold has at least one important factor operating in his favor this time. Democrats have been performing better in presidential cycles — when the electorate is bigger and more diverse — than in midterm elections. Feingold nearly lost his seat in the 1998 midterm against Republican Mark Neumann and was defeated by Johnson in the 2010 midterm.
But 2016 will be a presidential cycle. Republicans in Wisconsin haven't won a U.S. Senate seat in a presidential year since Bob Kasten defeated Gaylord Nelson in 1980.
Just as important will be how the two parties' presidential nominees perform in the state next year. Ticket-splitting in major races has declined markedly across the country and especially in Wisconsin since Feingold's first election in 1992.
If that trend holds, it will be difficult for either Feingold or Johnson to markedly outperform his party's candidate at the top of the ticket. And there is at least a plausible chance that the candidate on the GOP side could be the state's governor, Scott Walker, which would set up another epic election struggle in a state that has experienced so many in recent years.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

One of Our Fellow Unsinkable Aircraft Carriers

I collect nicknames for Guam. In fact I usually begin every Guam History class by filling a white board with different names the Spanish, the Americans, the Japanese and others have given Guam over the years. One of the most interesting one that few people here remember is "unsinkable aircraft carrier."

Guam is not alone in terms of being given this designation. Other places such as Israel, Diego Garcia, Hawai'i and even Okinawa are all considered to be of similar strategic value to the United States. I have heard many different explanations as to where this term comes from and why it is apt for Guam. Think about it for a moment and come up with your own interpretation. 

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Protests Growing in Okinawa Over U.S. Military Presence
Jon Letman
4/03/15
Huffington Post

If you live in Hawaii, you probably have more exposure to things Okinawan than most Americans. According to the University of Hawaii Center for Okinawan Studies, an estimated 45,000-50,000 Hawaii residents, including Gov. David Ige, have Okinawan roots. Local festivals and community events provide the chance to experience the culture of this once independent kingdom formerly known as Ryukyu.

Before it was annexed by Japan in 1879, Ryukyu played a unique role between its powerful and almost equally distant neighbors, China and Japan.

Today Okinawa prefecture includes dozens of inhabited and many more smaller uninhabited islands, yet in total it occupies only about one-seventh the area of the Hawaiian Islands. Okinawa island (by far the largest), is about 20 percent smaller (466 sq. miles) than Kauai but has a population over 20 times greater (1.4 million).

Add to this dense population U.S. military bases. By official counts (that invariably vary), Okinawa has more than 32 U.S. military bases or installations and nearly 50 restricted air and marine sites designated for military training. Japan's poorest and smallest prefecture shoulders 75 percent of all the U.S. bases in the country. Almost 20 percent of the islands of Okinawa is held by the U.S. military.

Okinawa, which makes up less than 1 percent of Japan, is home to around 24,000 U.S. military personnel -- about half of all those in Japan. That might not sound like much if you live in Hawaii but remember, those are foreign soldiers whom Okinawans understandably see as an outside occupiers.
Most people in Okinawa have long been opposed to the high concentration of military bases for many reasons, chief among them: crime (especially rape and sexual assault), robberies, traffic accidents, military crashes, noise, widespread severe environmental contamination, and a general opposition to being used by Tokyo to bear the burden of Japan's military pursuits. Many Okinawans, especially older generations, also resent the role their home is forced to play as a launching point for U.S. wars.
For anyone who lives in Hawaii and recognizes the negative environmental impacts of militarism (think Makua and Waikane valleys, Pohakuloa, Kahoolawe, Red Hill and Ke Awa Lau o Puuloa to name a few), Okinawan's objections to 70 years of being used as an "unsinkable aircraft carrier" should come as no surprise.

But most objectionable of all may be the subjugation and long-term occupation by foreign powers. Ask Okinawans and they will tell you they are not Japanese, they are Uchinanchu (the people of Ryukyu). So when Tokyo and Washington agree to more bases in Okinawa, that's an agreement made by two outside powers who are using Okinawa for their own purposes.

This month marks 70 years since the battle of Okinawa in which over 120,000 people -- between a quarter and one-third of the population at the time, perished in enormous bloodshed that killed many Japanese and Americans, as well. Okinawans, especially the older people, know all too well the cost of war -- particularly when it is someone else's war fought on your land.

Now, after decades of protests and a sense that they've become second-class citizens in their own islands, Okinawans are standing firm, brave and strong, in the face of overwhelming military and police force. The governments in Tokyo and Washington are largely in agreement about relocating the long-disputed U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in the densely populated city of Ginowan to a less crowded area at Cape Henoko near Nago city in the northeast of the island.

But opposition to Henoko (and other sites) grows as local citizens, many in their 70s and 80s, try to disrupt construction of the new base. Protesters have been buoyed by Okinawa Gov. Takeshi Onaga who was elected last November promising to oppose Henoko base construction. In March, Gov. Onaga called for construction work to stop at Henoko. Onaga's move was quickly countered by Japan's Fisheries Ministry, sparking what may become a protracted legal battle.

Meanwhile base protesters continue a 24/7 presence outside the construction site and in tiny boats on the waters of Oura Bay which they say is gravely threatened by a new base. One only need look at photos of the 10-45 ton concrete blocks being placed on the seafloor to appreciate the concern for the area's biodiverse coral, seagrass and other marine habitats which are recognized as among the most pristine in the world.

Henoko is not the only hotspot of anti-base demonstrations in Okinawa, but it is arguably the hottest. To the north of Henoko is the subtropical Yambaru forest. This is also the site of U.S. Marine Corps Jungle Warfare Training Center. The U.S. military plans to expand its helipad landing sites in the remote area which locals say will bring danger, noise and militarism to a forest recognized for its biodiversity. Okinawa's Ryukyu Shimpo newspaper reports the U.S. plans to conduct over 2,500 annual flight training exercises for the MV-22 Osprey, bringing the hybrid aircraft well-known for its checkered safety record and exceptional noise levels to Yambaru.

On April 29 Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will become the first Japanese head of state to address a joint session of Congress. Presumably he will speak glowingly of the controversial Trans Pacific Partnership and increased militarism (both Japanese and American) in northeast Asia. But what Prime Minister Abe should explain to his American audience is how ignoring the overwhelming will of Okinawan people who reject the militarization of their islands is consistent with Japan's "peace constitution" and the Democratic ideals both Japan and the U.S. claim to hold so dear. Don't hold your breath.

Instead, watch for a more meaningful exchange when Gov. Onaga visits Hawaii this July and next October when Gov. Ige reciprocates. The visits come on the 30th anniversary of establishing the "sister state/prefecture" relationship between Hawaii and Okinawa.

Meanwhile, as Americans, and especially as residents of Hawaii, the very least we can do is to recognize how our military presence impacts Okinawa's people and environment. If we truly are a nation that respects basic human rights and Democratic principles, we need to acknowledge that our seven-decade military occupation is a tremendous burden imposed unjustly and unendingly on the people of Okinawa.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Religions are but islands in a sea...

I miss teaching history. Guam History and World History were my teaching for for close to five years. I've only recently started teaching Chamorro formally at UOG, and although I enjoy it, for many years teaching history was my passion. I loved the way that history provided a means of probing and opening students' minds by revealing to them the invisible and unknown things that exist within them. The way that a word could be traced back in time and attached certain meanings that might have been unfathomable before. The way a word, a custom has been adapted and altered over time, and how it may unintentionally reflect and refract previous areas without people today realizing it. My most enjoyable experience was to root in the earth and in human meaning, things which people accept to be untouchable, natural, unquestionable. Perhaps not in the sense that they would refuse to entertain any questions about something, but rather the way that thing might persist in their consciousness without certain fundamental questions or critical thoughts being required. This is why World History was fun for me to teach. The roots of the global hegemony over certain ideas could be discussed. How it came to be that people might accept something as being normal, when long ago it was the opposite.

Religion was the most fertile ground for these conversations. All religions are filled with a wide spectrum of engagement. There are those who take their sacred texts, their foundations seriously. Those who don't. A massive middle of people who keep up a pretense but may lack any inner, substantive motivation. The religion is like a hulking skeleton of ideology that always hangs over, casting shadows, seeming to give form to the world. But it crumbles so quickly if touched. That is the approach I love to take in my World History classes, talk about what the infrastructure of belief actually entails. What it is comprised of. Many people may talk about the Bible, but how many actually read it? Or know what it says. When we follow those lines of inquiry we get unexpected things. We get complications aplenty. We get students who end up having to either shut off their brains or interrogate the very things they say they are without knowing what they are really committing to.

Take for example, Santa Claus. I have a lecture in my classes on the origins of Santa Claus and then ask the question as to whether or not Christians should use him in their celebrations of Christmas. The answers are very surprising as we go back in history and see the ways that Santa Claus has evolved in religious and secular means. How he is a prime example of the compromises and adaptations that religions make as they expand, something that people who are "true" to their faith should take note of. To look at Santa Claus means to look at Christianity as not a simple and whole truth, but as a continent of ideas that has borrowed and subdued the cultures and thoughts of others. Santa Claus can be a helpful way of illuminating how Christianity as a religion as evolved and taken form, but it doesn't help those who are seeking a way to not ask questions.

Below are a list of 5 deities that were conceived of before Jesus Christ was born, but bear amazing similarity to his story. I leave it to you, to imagine what these similarities mean in terms of the "truth" and "wholeness" of Christianity.

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5-Near Identical Jesus Myths that Predate Jesus
By Lottie Richard on March 17, 2015
http://www.liberalamerica.org/2015/03/17/5-near-identical-jesus-myths-that-predate-jesus/

I studied history in college, and spent a lot of my time researching ancient civilizations and comparative religions. As an agnostic, I am fascinated by religion and the idea of faith and belief, across all religions spanning the entirety of human existence. Some of the most fascinating projects that I did in college involved comparing ancient mythology to modern religious beliefs, finding similarities and multiple parallels. For example, anyone who has ever read The Epic of Gilgamesh will know that many biblical stories are plucked straight from the story, including the flood myth and the virgin birth myth.

Historians and religious scholars know that religious texts are made up of a series of myths (that’s not to say they are not true, but just that they are mythical stories). These myths appear across different religions and eras, and the same stories repeat themselves over and over again throughout history. Today, I will present to you five near-identical “Jesus” myths that predate Jesus.

Please note that many of these stories have differing translations and interpretations, some of which tell different stories. The main idea of this list is to remind you that the story of Jesus is rooted in ancient myth.

1.. Horus

Horus was one of the many Egyptian Gods. This is probably one of the best-known and contested deities that is often compared to Jesus. Some translations and Egyptian myths say that he had 12 disciples, and was born of a virgin in a cave. His birth was announced by a star, and was attended by three wise men. He was baptized at age thirty by Anup the Baptizer. Horus performed miracles, including rising at least one person from the dead and walking on water. He was crucified, buried in a tomb, and resurrected, just like Jesus.

2. Buddha (563 B.C.)


 Buddha’s mother, Queen Maha Maya, had a dream that a white elephant with six tusks entered her right side, impregnating her. As was tradition in this time, the mother left her husband’s kingdom to give birth near her father. She did not make it the entire way, though, and gave birth while traveling. Buddha was born in a garden beneath a tree. In addition to this birth story, Buddha, like Jesus, also performed miracles, healed the sick, walked on water, fed 500 men from a single basket of cakes, was transfigured on a mount, and taught chastity, temperance, tolerance, compassion, love, and the equality of all. There are also some texts that say he was crucified, spent three days in hell, and was resurrected. That is not what killed him, though, as he died in his old age from what is believed to be food poisoning.

3. Mithra (2000 B.C.)

Mithra was an ancient Zoroastrian deity, and along with Horus has some of the most striking similarities to Jesus. Yet another example of virginal birth, Mithra was born to the virgin Anahita on December 25th. He was swaddled and placed in a manger, where he was tended to by shepherds. Like Jesus and Horus, he had 12 companions (which can be interpreted as disciples). He also performed miracles, identified with both the lion and the lamb, sacrificed his life to save the world, was dead for three days before being resurrected, and was known as the messiah, the savior, and “the Way, the Truth and the Light.” His religion also had a Eucharistic-style “Lord’s supper.”

4. Krishna (around 3000 B.C.)

Krishna, a Hindu God, was born after his mother was impregnated by a God. His birth was attended by angels, wise men, and shepherds, and he was presented with gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Like Jesus, when Krishna was born, a tyrant had ordered the slaughter of all newborns. In addition, he was baptized in a river, performed miracles, raised the dead, healed the deaf and blind, used parables to teach charity and love, rose from the dead and ascended to heaven, and it is believe he will someday return to earth to battle the “Prince of Evil.”

5. Osiris (around 2500 B.C.)

Osiris was the son of one of the many Egyptian Gods. Like Jesus, Osiris was portrayed as a bearded man, and his myth says that he was killed and the resurrected after three days in hell. Also like Jesus, Osiris performed miracles, had 12 disciples, and taught that people could be born again through baptism in water. In addition, Osiris had many titles, including “Lord of Lords,” “King of Kings,” and “Good Shepherd.”

There are many more religious figures who have multiple similarities to Jesus, including Odysseus, Romulus, Dionysus, Heracles, Glycon, and others. Mythical stories depicting the virginal births of the sons of Gods go back millennia, most likely predating the advent of writing. Ancient myths neither prove nor disprove the existence of the Christian deity Jesus, but they certainly bring about some interesting questions, and I’m not sure that any of these questions will ever be answered.

Saturday, May 09, 2015

The Lost Latte

The latte stones that we find at Angel Santos Memorial Latte Stone Park in Hagatna are some of the most iconic on Guam. They are larger than most on island and found in a central location in the historic Hagatna area. Tens of thousands of tourists visit them each year. The late Angel Santos, a Chamorro human rights activist and Maga’lahi of Nasion Chamoru loved to meditate around those stones. When Nasion Chamoru first came into being as an activist group, they declared their existence in a ceremony at that very park, surrounded by those latte and the spirits of the Chamorro aniti or ancestors that they represented. A statue of him will be unveiled soon, which helps to mark the space as not just one of commemoration, but one of transformation and possible critique.

While for so many these stones represent the minesngon of the Chamorro people, and their history, their culture, like remnants of a lost time, they represent so much more than that. There is a sign there next to the latte that sums up their existence. Although to so many they connect these latte to the village of Hagatna, they are not from Hagatna. They come from the ancient village of Mepo, which is in the Fena Area in the South. This is known today as Naval Magazine, a military facility known for storing weapons for the US military.

These latte were moved to Hagatna during the construction of Naval Magazine, at a time when a huge number of Chamorro artifacts were destroyed. These latte however were spared and were brought to Hagatna as a gift for the Chamorro people. They are as much a testament to the tragic and violent history militarization of this island as they are to Chamorro culture. They are also a continuing statement on the displacement and dispossession of the Chamorro people on Guam and how this history is continually erased in order to create the impression of us just being “Guam USA” or the “Tip of the Spear.”

It is perfect in a way that these latte be there as they provide a perfect example of what Angel Santos and others were fighting for and also fighting against. They were fighting for the preservation of Chamorro culture and values and lands, but they were also trying to counter the displacement that has happened over the past few generations because of Americanization and militarization. 

Thursday, May 07, 2015

Chamorro Language Elimination

The Forum on the Importance of Second Language Learning that I helped organize last week at UOG was a huge success. We had a massive crowd of students and members of the community. The comments that were made came from all types of people. Some students spoke about how important it is to requires students to take second languages because it will provide them so many long term benefits that they may not be able to perceive yet. Some community members spoke about how this idea of English-only or focusing the education at UOG on a single language was like a slap in the face to the dozens of languages that are spoken daily in Guam. Some business owners talked about the need for more languages to be taught at UOG and that more languages make you more intelligent and marketable. Some teachers talked about how students who know more than one language perform better in school than those who are monolingual. The conversation was fantastic, we stayed an hour and fifteen minutes beyond our scheduled time to accommodate more voices.

I'll be posting more about this issue I'm sure, but in the meantime I wanted to share the article below by Peter Onedera, who was a champion of Chamorro language at UOG and in the community for a long time. He shares his thoughts on the idea of not requiring languages, such as Chamorro at UOG.

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Ta'lo ta fana' i dinirogan i fino' Chamoru
Pedro Onedera
PDN
5/5/15

Senmaolek i ha'åni siempre yanggen i fino' CHamoru ha' ma månda para u ma usa guini gi iya Guåhan. Guinifi ha' este para guåhu sa' hu sentungo' gi i taddong kurason-hu na ni' ngai'an na u ma sedi este gi i lina'lå'-hu.

Ti pidason imåhina este sa' ha fåna' i isla i hinasso ta'lo put para Fino' Engles ha' u ma mantieni nu i takhilo' enstetosion i isla yan i uriyå-ta sigun ginen priniponi para u ma na'suha i prigråman mina'dos lengguåhi na hinekka.


Ginen i fineddå'-ña put inifresen akademiku ni' u kåtsa yan tollaiyi humanidå, i inestudion lina'la' siha, teknålayi yan i uriya siha, ma na'danña' i fino' CHamoru yan i fino' Tagålu, fino' Franses, fino' CHapanes, fino' Españot, fino' Mandarin yan fino' CHukis ni' hagas ha nåna'i estodiånte siha ocho kreditu para u kumple ginagao idukasion hiniråt ni' u nahong para grayu'asion tåtkumu digri. Guaha priniponi para u ma na'fañuha este siha sigun ginen inadaggao.


Bengbeng este gi i talanga-hu gi kåsi 2010 annai hu pripåpara para i Inacha'igen Fino' CHamoru. Ha na'engkebukao yu' lao hu disidi para bai hu famatkilu ya bai hu nangga kao para u magåhet. Ti måtto ha' piot annai hu dingngu i lugåt gi sigente såkkan. På'go sa' maloffan kuåtro åños, gaige gi sanme'na na asunto annai esta ma chochonnek i prugråman Inestudion CHamoru ni' ma nå'i mubimento para u fanufresi digren bachelor's ni' ginen empedasitu na minot ha' sigun ginen fuetså-ku yan si Doktora Evelyn Flores yan si Doktora Anne Perez Hattori.


Gof na'triste este ta'lo ya basnak siñente-ku put i kurason kotturå-hu ni' hagas ha na' bråbu i isla. Para u ma honño' piot annai esta måtto chi-ña di dañuyan yan tai'uson entre i mineggai taotao. NGai'an na u fåkpo' este?


Sigi ha' ma tråta i fino' CHamoru tåtkumu na'massa, na'mamahlao, gof menos gi hinasso ya esta ginen ha sangåni' yu' un palao'an na "debi i taotao Guåhan di u tungo' na' sentåya esta CHamoru." Annai ha sangåni yu' nu este, ha na'famaisen maisa yu' kao ha rifeferi put i tinaotao osino i fino' taotao? Ti hu kuestiona gui' mås sa' hu pega gi i hinasso-ku na ti bai hu agramento sa' hu tungo' na taisetbe yanggen ti hu ekungok yu'.

Hunggan, siña ha' ha mementa put i dos sa' yanggen ma chånda unu pues sumaonao ha' lokkue' i otro gi parehu na hinasso. Esta minagåhet este gi i lina'la' yan hunggan, bula taotao ti u ma pikura nina'setben i lengguåhi osino manmalago' na u faneyak yan ta'lo ti u ma tungo' kao CHamoru pat Guamanian siha. Ti inayek esta este sa' yanggen ma petsigi i fine'nana manmaleffa ha' ni' i tatatte put i glorian kinalamten put påtten kottura entre i isla siha gi iya Mari'ånas.

Hunggan, dumångkolo yu' hulo' entre ayu na hinirasion ni' manma saolak inaki'om kannai-måmi ni' sase' ginen ma'estra ni' CHamoru sa' put i fumino' CHamomoru yu' gi kuatto. Gi magåhet, mamfino' CHamomoru ham yan i eskuelånte siha gi iya Sinajana Elementary School ya todu ha' ham manma kastiga ni' sase' yan guaha pumalu siha ni' ma na'fanmutta singko osino di'es sentimos kada biåhi. Hu hasso tapbleru siha ni' mangahulo' gi i isla gi lugåt pupbleko na ti siña mamfino' CHamoru i taotao.
Pues, meggai na tinilaika ma susedi ya ti åpmam in siente na måtto di na'mamahlao fumino' CHamoru ni' hagas ha' ha sostieni ham gi todu i isla gi noskuåntos siklo na tiempo. Kinalamtini este na hinasso yan fedda' siñente na prubidu fumino' CHamoru ya i fino' Engles ha' måtto di gof gloria gi todu ma prisentå-ña. Enfin, påtte yu' ni' este na hinirasion ya este na ha tutuhon umannok i hinanao-ña påpa' i ma na'setben hula' natibu.


Eståba yu' gi fine'nana na påtten eskuelan talo' annai un ma'estra ni' å'paka' ha na'mamåhlao yu' gi me'nan kåsi sitentai-singko na siete grådon famagu'on tåtkumu prugråman dinanña'-fina'någue ni' nuebu guihi na tiempo. Manaitai yu' un tinige' William Shakespeare ginen estorian egge' "A Midsummer Night's Dream" ya gigon monhåyan yu' ilek-ña na fresko para guiya para u hungok fino' British ma prisenta gi tonådan fino' CHamoru. CHakka' chalek-ña ni' duru ya despues mañålek lokkue' pumalu manma'estra yan kontodu i estodiånte siha ni' mañålek ha' lao ti mansiguru håfa ma chachatge enlugåt di put i tinaitai-hu. Ayugue' na hu siente minamåhlao put håyu yu' na CHamoru yan i lengguahi-hu. Måtto di ha senyamak sanhalom-hu.

Didide' adumidide', bula pumikura na u fanmaolek mamfino' Engles. Hu tuthon umekungok gi iya KUAM na rediu, ya hu e'eyak umadda' ayu i mamfifino' Engles, sa' putfin, manå'paka' na taotågues ni' manmaolek sunidon bos-ñiha yan lokkue' sumaonao hu hungok si Madeliene Bordallo ni' guiya mumentutu'i i "Women's World" yan si "Kapitan Kokonåt" sigun gi iniså-ña na påpet siha ya i mañaosaonao famagu'on isla ni' ha na'embediosu yu' sa' malago' yu' na bai hu gaige guihi. Mañatsaga famagu'on CHamoru para u fañaonao guihi sa' ti ma tungo' taimanu para u fanhånao para i estasion rediu ni' gaige gi iya Otdot.

Såkkan siha gi despues, annai gaidigri yu' gi Komunikasion yan minot gi fino' Engles, hu sodda' maisa na maolek yu' fumino' Engles sin håfakao na tonåda ya hu tutuhon kumuentos gi me'nan pupbleko taiguihi inetnon, silebrasion, hunta yan komferensia asta grayu'asion eskuelan takhilo' siha. Bumanidosu yu', hu fafatta estao-hu ya ti fumifino' CHamoru yu' sa' hu li'e' na tåya' rason-hu. Todu gi uriyå-hu mamfino' E'engles. Guaha na biåhi, in tutuhon kombetsasion gi i fino' CHamoru lao ti åpmam despues humunaoguatu asta fino' Engles ya ensegidas ha' na mumento este.
Para u ma kontenuha este gi mamaila' na lucha.

English translation:

Again, we are faced with the elimination of the CHamoru language

It will be a great day when CHamoru becomes the only language to be spoken on Guam. This is wishful thinking because I know deep in my heart that this will not happen, never, at least, in my lifetime.


It isn't even a figment of my imagination anymore as the island is once again embroiled in the bitter campaign of whether to just promote an English-only mentality with the island's and the region's only institution of higher education proposing to do away with the second language acquisition program.
From its vast array of academic offerings that will bridge and build humanity, the sciences, technology and the environment, the CHamoru language is lumped in along with Tagalog, French, Japanese, Spanish, Mandarin and Chuukese in a curriculum that will earn students eight credits toward fulfillment of general education requirements leading to graduation with an undergraduate degree. A proposal to eliminate them is currently being debated.

I was first aware that this was going to be happening sometime in 2010 when I was in the midst of preparing for the annual CHamoru Language Competition. I was alarmed but I decided to keep quiet and wait out the outcome. It didn't come about even as I made my exodus the following year. Now, four years later, it's at the forefront just when the CHamoru Studies program has heralded a major move to offer a much needed bachelor's degree that initially began with a minor offering, something that Evelyn Flores, Anne Perez Hattori and I spearheaded at the time.

 This is so sad and I am truly disheartened that the soul of my culture that makes the vibrancy of the island so much alive is further catapulted into oblivion with an ever-increasing threat of endangerment and non-usage among the vast population. When will this ever end?The CHamoru language continues to be treated as a scourge of mankind, an embarrassment, an afterthought, and something that as someone told me, "the people on Guam should get over the fact that there is no such thing as CHamoru anymore." When the person who told me said this, I wondered if she was referring to the peoplehood or the language? I didn't' bother to question much further as I resigned myself to thinking that it would be best not to argue for I knew that my point will not get across.

Yes, it has to be both because when one is not regarded as much then the other is also included. It's a fact of life and yes, many people don't bat an eyelash about speaking the language or wanting to learn it, much more identifying with being a CHamoru or being a Guamanian. It isn't even a choice anymore as one promotes the latter with forgetting the former in all its past glory of existence in the islands of the Marianas.Yes, I grew up in the generation of being spanked with pursed, outstretched hands with a ruler by a CHamoru teacher because I spoke CHamoru in class. In fact, my classmates and I did speak to each other in the indigenous language at Sinajana Elementary School and we were all punished, some with the ruler, others with a 5- or 10-cent penalty payment. I remember the signs that went up all over the island in public places that forbade the speaking of my native tongue.

Then, many rapid changes took place and it wasn't long before we were made to feel shameful about speaking the language that had been here in the islands for thousands of years. A sweeping mental state took over as suddenly CHamoru was forbidden and everything that was English was presented in all its glory. So, I was a part of that generation that also began to see the decline in usage of my native tongue.I recall being in the first year of junior high when a reading teacher who was Caucasian humiliated me in front of over 75 seventh graders in a piloted team-teaching program because I read a passage from William Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream" and how she made a comment that it was refreshing for her to hear British cockney spoken with a strong CHamoru accent. She broke into raucous laughter that spread to her teacher colleagues and echoed simultaneously by a wave of unsure seventh graders who reacted out of bewilderment rather than amusement. And it was then that I felt ashamed of who I was as a CHamoru as well as that of my language. It tore me apart.

And little by little, speaking English flawlessly became an innate motivation for many. I began listening to KUAM radio at the time, mimicking those English speaking, and obviously, Caucasian announcers and deejays who had nice, pleasing accents, including Madeliene Bordallo, who hosted "Women's World" and "Captain Coconut," whose puppet and audiences of brown kids were the envy of many wannabe CHamoru kids who had no means of making their way to the radio station located in Ordot.


Years later, with a degree in communication with a minor in English, I found myself speaking English quite well, without a trace of accent, and I soon began a stint of being keynote speaker at many functions that ranged from organizations, celebrations, meetings and conferences to high school graduations. I was basking in that glory of newfound fame and I hardly spoke CHamoru for I didn't find any reason anymore. Everyone around me spoke English. Sometimes, conversations began in CHamoru but it would soon shift to the English language and it came automatically.
This will be continued at the next column.

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