Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Rudof Agaga' Gui'eng-na


I didn’t grow up singing any Chamorro Christmas songs. There was little to no Chamorro in my house growing up in Mangilao. We celebrated Christmas, but didn’t do it in the way that many Chamorros do it. Where it involves a bilen, the creation of a nativity scene, the making of bunelos dagu, or the singing of Chamorro Christmas songs, the majority of which are Catholic in nature. So learning about Chamorro Christmas experiences, the stereotypical, more general kind is bewildering in a way. I am coming into traditions that people who sometimes know far less Chamorro language than I do and much much less Chamorro knowledge or history than I do, know more intimately than I do. To them these experiences are commonplace, are normal, are kind of boring. For me they are interesting. While for most of my students the idea of gathering material for a bilen is irritating and frustrating, it is intriguing to me. Something I would like to do one day, not because of any affection for the nativity scene, but because it would be fun walking around the jungle looking for moss and sticks to build something with my kids.

As part of the UOG Chamorro classes, each December, we organize Puengen Minagof Nochebuena, a central part of which is the singing of Chamorro Christmas songs. The first time I participated in this, I was lost, knowing none of the songs, except for those that were translated from English Christmas songs that I was familiar with. Now, after several years, I know a couple songs by heart and can sing along in a choir with others. This week I joined the Young Men’s League of Guam or YMLG or Inetnon Lalahin Guahan and sang for the sick in GMH. It was lots of fun. I got to join others in belting out a variety of songs, the diversity of which, reminded me of something which always bugs me this time of year.

The “holiday” season nowadays is familiar to all. It is something now embedded into the collective consciousness here. Some of it is spurned on by the same capitalistic fervor that drives other places. Some of it is spurned on by a colonial and Americanizing desire. But ultimately, during the last two months of the year we have a series of rituals and ceremonies that are not intimately tied to people here, but have only been so for a few generations. Thanksgiving was not celebrated by Chamorros as a people prior to World War II. Thanksgiving was something that was taught in schools and was promoted by the US Navy, but it wasn’t something that stopped or dictated the rhythm of Chamorro life. Students were forced to celebrate it in schools, dressing up, even before the war as pilgrims and native Americans. Christmas as we celebrate it today is almost totally unfamiliar to the “Christmas” celebrations of the past. Christmas was primarily a religious celebration and the commercialism and the materialism that inundates life today was absent primarily because of the lack of money on the island. Those wanting to Americanize would try to copy the way things were celebrated in the US, but for most Chamorros, that was a hollow, empty celebration, that was missing what Christmas is supposed to be about, the celebration of Christ’s birth.

I find it both fascinating and depressing as to how fast Chamorros shifted their entire cognitive calendar not to match their own culture, their own history, their own values, but simply to match the way things are done in the US, as part of their desire to assimilate, to prove that they were worthy wards, that they were good and loyal enough to be minor Americans. This is a discussion that few people want to have because of the way it opens up things they would rather take for granted and rather not think about. You can argue that the “spirit” of Christmas is in line with the Chamorro values of gineftao and giving. You can argue that celebrating Christ’s birth is important because of that being a founding myth in Christianity and Catholicism. All of those things can be given, can be accepted. But why take Christmas songs from other places? I understand that certain songs come into Guam via religious beliefs, but why would people on Guam sing songs about snow? Songs about winter wonderlands? Why do people in Guam import and buy Christmas trees from the states? These things only make sense in a rather pathetic assimilationist context. They only make sense if we see Chamorros not really thinking about anything but just wanting to copy American style, do American things, pretend and act like they are Americans.

This is why, I am not sure how I feel about the translation of those ridiculous songs into Chamorro. On the one hand I don’t like it because it is just another way of bringing in colonizing artifacts, but with more local flavor. It is way of ingesting colonialism, but giving it a nice local touch so it doesn’t feel as bitter or silly. But, as someone who translates lots of songs that have nothing to do with Chamorro culture, history or language into Chamorro, the taking of those songs and making them Chamorro is also exciting and interesting. When I look at many of these songs that have been translated, they rework the imagery, the metaphors, the contexts and make them fit within a Chamorro tradition or framework. For example, many of them abandon their original scenery of snow or Christmas elsewhere and focus on Chamorro familial closeness and gatherings. Some however resist this shifting, such as the one below, “Si Rudof” a Chamorro version of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. While the story of Santa and Reindeer is just plain stupid, especially when people try to fit it in a Christian framework when Santa has more to do with Odin than Saint Nicolas, I have to admit that just singing a familiar song in Chamorro and seeing the language wrap around it is fun.

Here are the lyrics below, translated by Joe Peredo.

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


RUDOF
(Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer) Trinanslåda: J. Peredo

Rudof agaga' i gui'eng-mu
lålamlam kada puengi,
ya kada ma attan i gui'eng-mu,
sigi hao di ma kasse,

todu i mangga'chong-mu,
sigi hao di ma kasse,
sa' hågu ha' nai na binådu,
sasahnge yan na'ma'se'.

Pues un chi'op na puengi,
måtto si Santa Klos,
ha faisen si Ru-dot-fu,
para u giha i karetan gigipu,

Manmagof todu i binådu,
ya ma guaiya ta'lo si Rudof,
put i gui'eng-ña ni kulot agaga',
siempre ma onra hao gi manmamaila'.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

I Malago'-hu Para Krismas

Ti este i minagahet put i minalago'-hu para Krismas. Guaha mas malago'-hu para i familia-ku para i manguinaiya-ku siha. Lao gi este na tiempo, anai fihu manstrinessed hit todu, maolek na ta hahasso este na siniente, i nina'chalek gi kuttura-ta.

Gi minagahet sen ti ya-hu bunelos dagu. Ga'o-ku todu i otro klasin bunelos kinu este. Ya-hu bunelos manglo, bunelos aga', bunelos manha, bunelos mangga, bunelos pina. Lao ya-hu na rumhyme dagu yan hagu gi fino' Chamoru. 

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Teaching Privileged White Kids


This Is What It Means For Me To Teach Your White, Privileged Kids

Written by Linda Chavers
11/30/2014
http://damemagazine.com/2014/11/30/what-it-means-me-teach-your-white-privileged-kids


I'm an educator. I teach English at one of the top independent boarding schools in the world. I'm also a Black woman. With a Masters in English, which qualifies me to teach it, and a Ph.D. in African-American Studies from Harvard University, which, among other things, scares the shit out of everyone.

Yet, here I am, in rural New England, teaching the literature of my choice and with an interdisciplinary bent (read: African-American) and how to write the personal essay to a mostly White, upper-class population.

And this is a good thing.

When applying to grad schools I wrote in my personal statement that my presence in a classroom is a revolutionary act. I fill a space of authority that is still very much White, male and very, very privileged. When I visited my current school's campus and saw the alumnae list full of governors, Supreme Court justices and presidents I felt emboldened. What ran through my head would become a recurrent mantra since my time here, “I'm here for the White boys.”

In August, a month, before starting my job I'd visited Ferguson. I snuck into Governor Jay Nixon's first press conference to address the recent riots following the killing of Michael Brown. I watched him speak. It was one of the saddest and most enraging scenes I've ever witnessed. I won't even address the things he said or, rather, didn’t say. By now, we're aware of his urging for townsfolk to "go to sleep" while the National Guard took control. His body language at the press conference was just as offensive. There was a moment where he seemed to hide behind one of the Black officials. He never made eye contact with any actual human present.

I remember thinking, This man has never dealt with a Black person in his life.

I'm sure he's existed among Black people: The people who clicked his ticket on the train, put his items into the grocery bag, panhandlers on the street as he as his driver waited for the light to change.

I remember thinking, He has never had anyone like me in his life in a position of authority, in a position higher than his.

So while it was absolutely jarring to go from this—from scenes of razed buildings, burned-down gas stations, and from the memorial site where a boy's dead body lay bleeding on the street under the blue sky for four-and-a-half hours to a nearly 300-year-old, billion-dollar-endowed institution and sit in meetings where colleagues happily discussed their child's first bike ride or another's trip down South to discover his forefather's Civil War roots, I felt a strong resolve that I was in the right place. That I was there for the White boys.

I'm here for the Black girls and boys, too, so that if, for nothing else, they can see a Black woman exerting authority in a manner and in a space not traditionally filled by us. This particular institution is faculty led. The administration is also the faculty, decisions are not passed down—they are shared. In other words, I am not just an English teacher, I'm among the keepers of the gates.

And they need to see me here for the White boys.

Sure, Whites see us putting on Band-Aids to scraped knees, pushing baby carriages, herding the very, very small children of others, doling out their peas and carrots and Happy Meals. In fact, around here, usually other Whites tend to fill these roles. That doesn’t mean the kids see Whites in more diverse roles—they do but it's not registered that way. Rather, Black people become completely disappeared in their surroundings and their imaginations.  The students go home and see Blacks in our usual lesser-than spaces or they simply don’t see us at all. Maybe they see us on screens dancing, running, singing, and every once in a while, one of us as a head of State.

This position I'm in is fraught with anxiety—of constantly wondering, of fretting—that every single statement I make, movement I make, facial expression I let loose—is just right. Such a nervous state is nothing new. At 32, most minorities in mixed spaces have become professionals at this chameleon effect.

What is not as typical is when this—the pricelessness of mastering how to be Black in White spaces, spaces that can and do deny my existence—is duly recognized by Whites.

My advisee's father, a White man, told me it was important to him that I was his son's advisor because he wanted his son to have exposure to people's different perspectives and backgrounds before he's in college, specifically before he was 19 years old. In my 32 years here I was faced with a man who was not asking me to teach his son about blackness, no. Rather, he was sharing with me his desire that his son be exposed and guided by that which he could not offer him in their hometown: In short, that his son see difference differently. By age 19, a young adult's thinking becomes more abstract and less tied to reality. This man wants his privileged White son to have me in his imaginative and mental maps as part of his developing basis for his future decision-making.

This was a father expressing a deep need for his son to grow into a White man who might just rise above his race and to be a global citizen; to have empathy, to question more than answer, and to have a Black woman be his guide. It was as uplifting a moment for me as it was humbling.

That was in October. It is now a week since Darren Wilson was not indicted by a grand jury for shooting and killing Michael Brown. A week since he testified that he felt as if Brown was an “it,” “a demon” that would not die. A colleague tells me she and her husband are taking their 1-year-old son apple-picking. An old high-school friend posts pictures of a warm, wholesome Thanksgiving dinner. I want to scream, Fuck your apples! Fuck your turkey! Fuck your holidays! Fuck your smiles! Fuck you! Fuck. Your. Children. Since the grand jury's announcement I've been simultaneously addicted to and repulsed by social media. Professionally, I have no business on Facebook when there are stacks of papers to grade. Yet, that's also what feeds my ire: How can I do anything, how can anyone do anything remotely normal like motherfucking apple-picking?

How can I teach at this world-renowned private institution to these privileged White kids? What does that even do?

As a follow-up to our meeting I'd emailed the parents thanking them for such a rewarding exchange. The mother wrote me back: "The lack of diversity of religion, race, and opinion in rural Vermont has been a real concern for both of us. I am pleased to hear that your advisory group has discussed the situation in Ferguson (which echoes situations across the country and across the world). [Our son] has the opportunity to hear from fellow students in advisory who have a variety of backgrounds both international and domestic, Black and White. I do not know what other diversity is present in your advisory group, but I hope that his experience on campus causes him to think frequently about other people and expands his worldview beyond that of Vermont, America, White, and male. We are a very privileged group. It's one thing to know it intellectually. We have to hear other people's stories to begin to internalize what that really means and how we can effect real and significant change in this world. Thank you for helping my children to grow as human beings by mentoring them, by teaching them, by facilitating their experiences, by sharing part of who you are with them."

I keep returning to this note, to help remind me that what I'm doing is worth it, worth the pain and frustration.

This essay has been particularly painful and frustrating to write. And I cannot articulate exactly why. I can say I am deeply anxious that, in telling this, White people will feel good about themselves. You'll read that encouraging note from a White family and think, See, that's how I feel, too. Yes, we are good people, doing good things. My fear is that when White people feel good about themselves you think that the problem is solved. It is not.

Remember, it's only once you start feeling uncomfortable that we're getting anywhere. Remember, Darren Wilson had a defense fund. Remember that what you will not see are the many White folks who will shake his hand.

So I share that heartfelt message with you and then I want to remind you that it also doesn’t mean shit.

Linda Chavers is this week's guest columnist for "What's Going On."
- See more at: http://damemagazine.com/2014/11/30/what-it-means-me-teach-your-white-privileged-kids#sthash.moJYnYr
This Is What It Means For Me To Teach Your White, Privileged Kids
Written by Linda Chavers
http://damemagazine.com/2014/11/30/what-it-means-me-teach-your-white-privileged-kids
11/30/2014 

I'm an educator. I teach English at one of the top independent boarding schools in the world. I'm also a Black woman. With a Masters in English, which qualifies me to teach it, and a Ph.D. in African-American Studies from Harvard University, which, among other things, scares the shit out of everyone.

Yet, here I am, in rural New England, teaching the literature of my choice and with an interdisciplinary bent (read: African-American) and how to write the personal essay to a mostly White, upper-class population.

And this is a good thing.

When applying to grad schools I wrote in my personal statement that my presence in a classroom is a revolutionary act. I fill a space of authority that is still very much White, male and very, very privileged. When I visited my current school's campus and saw the alumnae list full of governors, Supreme Court justices and presidents I felt emboldened. What ran through my head would become a recurrent mantra since my time here, “I'm here for the White boys.”

In August, a month, before starting my job I'd visited Ferguson. I snuck into Governor Jay Nixon's first press conference to address the recent riots following the killing of Michael Brown. I watched him speak. It was one of the saddest and most enraging scenes I've ever witnessed. I won't even address the things he said or, rather, didn’t say. By now, we're aware of his urging for townsfolk to "go to sleep" while the National Guard took control. His body language at the press conference was just as offensive. There was a moment where he seemed to hide behind one of the Black officials. He never made eye contact with any actual human present.

I remember thinking, This man has never dealt with a Black person in his life.

I'm sure he's existed among Black people: The people who clicked his ticket on the train, put his items into the grocery bag, panhandlers on the street as he as his driver waited for the light to change.

I remember thinking, He has never had anyone like me in his life in a position of authority, in a position higher than his.

So while it was absolutely jarring to go from this—from scenes of razed buildings, burned-down gas stations, and from the memorial site where a boy's dead body lay bleeding on the street under the blue sky for four-and-a-half hours to a nearly 300-year-old, billion-dollar-endowed institution and sit in meetings where colleagues happily discussed their child's first bike ride or another's trip down South to discover his forefather's Civil War roots, I felt a strong resolve that I was in the right place. That I was there for the White boys.

I'm here for the Black girls and boys, too, so that if, for nothing else, they can see a Black woman exerting authority in a manner and in a space not traditionally filled by us. This particular institution is faculty led. The administration is also the faculty, decisions are not passed down—they are shared. In other words, I am not just an English teacher, I'm among the keepers of the gates.

And they need to see me here for the White boys.

Sure, Whites see us putting on Band-Aids to scraped knees, pushing baby carriages, herding the very, very small children of others, doling out their peas and carrots and Happy Meals. In fact, around here, usually other Whites tend to fill these roles. That doesn’t mean the kids see Whites in more diverse roles—they do but it's not registered that way. Rather, Black people become completely disappeared in their surroundings and their imaginations.  The students go home and see Blacks in our usual lesser-than spaces or they simply don’t see us at all. Maybe they see us on screens dancing, running, singing, and every once in a while, one of us as a head of State.

This position I'm in is fraught with anxiety—of constantly wondering, of fretting—that every single statement I make, movement I make, facial expression I let loose—is just right. Such a nervous state is nothing new. At 32, most minorities in mixed spaces have become professionals at this chameleon effect.

What is not as typical is when this—the pricelessness of mastering how to be Black in White spaces, spaces that can and do deny my existence—is duly recognized by Whites.

My advisee's father, a White man, told me it was important to him that I was his son's advisor because he wanted his son to have exposure to people's different perspectives and backgrounds before he's in college, specifically before he was 19 years old. In my 32 years here I was faced with a man who was not asking me to teach his son about blackness, no. Rather, he was sharing with me his desire that his son be exposed and guided by that which he could not offer him in their hometown: In short, that his son see difference differently. By age 19, a young adult's thinking becomes more abstract and less tied to reality. This man wants his privileged White son to have me in his imaginative and mental maps as part of his developing basis for his future decision-making.

This was a father expressing a deep need for his son to grow into a White man who might just rise above his race and to be a global citizen; to have empathy, to question more than answer, and to have a Black woman be his guide. It was as uplifting a moment for me as it was humbling.

That was in October. It is now a week since Darren Wilson was not indicted by a grand jury for shooting and killing Michael Brown. A week since he testified that he felt as if Brown was an “it,” “a demon” that would not die. A colleague tells me she and her husband are taking their 1-year-old son apple-picking. An old high-school friend posts pictures of a warm, wholesome Thanksgiving dinner. I want to scream, Fuck your apples! Fuck your turkey! Fuck your holidays! Fuck your smiles! Fuck you! Fuck. Your. Children. Since the grand jury's announcement I've been simultaneously addicted to and repulsed by social media. Professionally, I have no business on Facebook when there are stacks of papers to grade. Yet, that's also what feeds my ire: How can I do anything, how can anyone do anything remotely normal like motherfucking apple-picking?

How can I teach at this world-renowned private institution to these privileged White kids? What does that even do?

As a follow-up to our meeting I'd emailed the parents thanking them for such a rewarding exchange. The mother wrote me back: "The lack of diversity of religion, race, and opinion in rural Vermont has been a real concern for both of us. I am pleased to hear that your advisory group has discussed the situation in Ferguson (which echoes situations across the country and across the world). [Our son] has the opportunity to hear from fellow students in advisory who have a variety of backgrounds both international and domestic, Black and White. I do not know what other diversity is present in your advisory group, but I hope that his experience on campus causes him to think frequently about other people and expands his worldview beyond that of Vermont, America, White, and male. We are a very privileged group. It's one thing to know it intellectually. We have to hear other people's stories to begin to internalize what that really means and how we can effect real and significant change in this world. Thank you for helping my children to grow as human beings by mentoring them, by teaching them, by facilitating their experiences, by sharing part of who you are with them."

I keep returning to this note, to help remind me that what I'm doing is worth it, worth the pain and frustration.

This essay has been particularly painful and frustrating to write. And I cannot articulate exactly why. I can say I am deeply anxious that, in telling this, White people will feel good about themselves. You'll read that encouraging note from a White family and think, See, that's how I feel, too. Yes, we are good people, doing good things. My fear is that when White people feel good about themselves you think that the problem is solved. It is not.

Remember, it's only once you start feeling uncomfortable that we're getting anywhere. Remember, Darren Wilson had a defense fund. Remember that what you will not see are the many White folks who will shake his hand.

So I share that heartfelt message with you and then I want to remind you that it also doesn’t mean shit.

Linda Chavers is this week's guest columnist for "What's Going On."
- See more at: http://damemagazine.com/2014/11/30/what-it-means-me-teach-your-white-privileged-kids#sthash.moJYnYrA.dpuf


Friday, December 12, 2014

Klas Mamfok

This semester I was very excited to offer a new course, Tiningo' Tinifok at UOG, which focused on teaching the basics for weaving. We had 12 students for the class, who learned how to weave a variety of objects in both hagon niyok (coconut leaf) and akgak (pandanus). I look forward to offering more courses like this in the future, which focus on material culture and traditional knowledge and make academic connections between the two.

Here are some images from the class:





Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Hellraising in Hagatna

 Even though almost everyone in the world will probably tell you that democracy is the greatest system of government in the world, that doesn't mean that people don't loathe it. People will generally loathe their own particular forms of democracy and only praise or love it when its existence is being shaded or overshadowed by some competing alternative. But even though they may loathe the ideas of Senators, Mayors, Governors or Presidents as being positions that are often held by cheats and liars, they tend to either tolerate or like the people who actually hold those positions. In a purely commonsensical level you might assume that since Congress is so incredibly unpopular, people would be in a hurry to vote out all incumbents and bring in fresh blood. You may think that since nearly everyone on Guam complains about Senators or Governors as being self-interested crooks who don't do anything more than wave by roadsides, no one in Guam's history would ever get re-elected. You would be completely wrong on both accounts. The unpopularity for the governing body or irritation with the system doesn't always affect the leaders themselves. Often times people like them or connect to them, even if they are spitting fiery tirades at the system they belong to.
 
This has come to mind because of the recent controversy over pay raises for elected officials and cabinet members. You can check out the articles and statements below to learn more about what is going on.

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

Pay raise flap not over: San Nicolas to reintroduce bill in next Legislature
by Shawn Raymundo
Dec. 11, 2014
Pacific Daily News

During the next Legislative term, Sen. Michael San Nicolas, D-Dededo, will reintroduce a bill to repeal a recently enacted law that gives elected and appointed officials pay raises.

Bill 435-32 was aimed at repealing Public Law 32-208, which raised the annual salaries of the governor, lieutenant governor, cabinet members and senators based on recommendations from the Competitive Wage Act of 2014. In addition to their raises, the officials will receive retroactive payment dating back to January.

San Nicolas introduced the proposed legislation Tuesday.

Vice Speaker Benjamin Cruz, D-Piti, and San Nicolas were the only lawmakers in favor of the bill. The nine remaining senators voted against it.

Speaker Judith Won Pat, D-Inarajan as well as Sens. Tina Muña Barnes, D-Mangilao, and Mike Limtiaco, R-Tamuning, were absent from Tuesday night's session.

"We always ask 'where are we going to find the money?' But yet we can find it when we're talking about raises and pay being retroactive?" San Nicolas asked Tuesday, referring to sessions held in the past over funding issues with various agencies.

San Nicolas said, although his bill had minimal support at the end of this term, he would like to hear input from the new senators who will be part of the upcoming Legislature.

The four new senators and other incumbent lawmakers will be sworn in next month.

"I think it will be good for us to get the perspective of the newly elected senators and weigh in on it," he said.

Unlike the pay raise bill, which senators passed on Nov. 21 in a 10-1 vote, San Nicolas said he will make sure his bill in the 33rd Legislature goes through the proper procedure of introduction, public hearing and then deliberation on the floor.

"We're definitely going to put that through the full course," San Nicolas said.

San Nicolas slammed lawmakers Tuesday night for not holding a public hearing prior to passing last month's bill. He wanted his bill to receive the same treatment.

Implementation

Under the new law that Lt. Gov. Ray Tenorio enacted late last month, senators received a nearly 40-percent raise, as they will soon be taking home an annual salary of $85,000. The governor and lieutenant governor now have their salaries set at $130,000 and $110,000 respectively.

Gov. Eddie Calvo told members of the media yesterday he would like to see the retroactive payment and paychecks reflecting the raise go out before Christmas.

He said, however, it all depends on when GovGuam's fiscal team completes its financial review of the raises.

"I'm waiting for my fiscal team; I told them just get it calculated," Calvo said. "And I told them I'd like to do it before Christmas."

The fiscal team includes the Department of Administration and Bureau of Budget and Management Research.

Calvo added that he, along with his appointed officials, deserve a raise and added that his Cabinet members were cheated earlier this year when lawmakers excluded themselves and the appointed officials from the Wage Act raises.

The Wage Act, submitted to senators in January, included recommended pay raises to government of Guam employees.

"I think my people deserve a raise," Calvo said, adding, "I believe I do deserve a raise."

Calvo said he plans to use the raise to help pay for his kids' college education and would also contribute to various charities.

Calvo also said he instructed Tenorio, who was acting governor, to call the Legislature into special session last month because senators weren't moving forward with legislation to get Cabinet members their raises.

"I've been preaching on this since January, since (senators) first tinkered around with it. I've always been wanting to get this thing on the floor," Calvo said. "Obviously no one's moving on it so I decided moving on it."

Public reaction

On Tuesday, San Nicolas cited several issues around the island that should be addressed before the elected officials and Cabinet members receive raises. He pointed out that the transit system is underfunded, and there are many roads in need of repairs.

Island resident Pauline Gumataotao, who works as a clerk in Piti, agreed with San Nicolas that elected officials shouldn't be getting pay raises while the island faces issues with its infrastructure.
"There's a lot of stuff that needs to be fixed up," she said, such as "buildings that are eyesores and roads that need to be fixed."

She said only Cabinet members who can prove to the public that they have been working hard to make improvements to the island deserve a pay increase.

Resident Jared Aguon, a 24-year-old delivery driver for Luen Fung Enterprises, a food supply company, doesn't agree with the raises either because he said they already earn enough money.
"I don't like it," he said. "I don't think they need the pay raises. The wealthy is already wealthy."
Even with the pay raises, Calvo said GovGuam is in position to take care of the needs of the island. He added that during his first term in Adelup, he has been able to improve government agencies such as Guam Memorial Hospital and the Guam Police Department.

"This doesn't mean we neglect the goals of those agencies," Calvo said.

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

Hafa Adai,
My name is Shannon Siguenza and I am a 28 year old resident of Agana Heights. I teach psychology at the high school level and dedicate much of my time to community rugby and other community organizations to improve our island and restore balance to an island that is far from healthy. This is not my first time writing to the 32nd Guahan Legislature. Through experience, I’ve found that not all of my messages make it into the hands of their intended recipients; that, or as a regular everyday person, my concerns weren’t important enough for your time or energy. It is truly my hope that these words meet the eyes of each member of the legislature. I pray these words sit in your conscience and that your hearts make decisions as quickly as your hands emptied our pockets.
A servant is a devoted and helpful follower or supporter. It is my understanding that being a public servant would require helpfulness and support that benefits the public. After all, it was only through the people’s help that you possess any power at all. Our island is in need of so many things, it is no secret to anyone. YOU are the people the island depends on to support us in our needs, to help us in our struggles, to devote yourselves to improving the island for generations to come.
Our public school system is failing! FAILING! Proof that you are aware of this too, is the number of you in the government who send your children to private schools. And you ask us to trust in the public school system that you won’t send your own children to? Teachers are working with few resources, if any, while sports and afterschool programs lack attention and funding. A few weeks ago, I watched a heart breaking video of a boy slamming a girls head on a sidewalk. More disturbing than the act itself, was the fact that someone stood there and FILMED it, instead of calling for help or assisting in some way. Education dictates the movement of a people! The improvement, the growth and restoration of our island depends on our youth being knowledgeable and empowered! How have you devoted yourself to helping us achieve this?
The Guam Memorial Hospital and Behavioral Health and Wellness Center are hurting so badly. The vicious cycle that is created through a lack of education and a lack of community support is poisoning every part of our daily lives. As you continue to fail us, the uneducated and struggling members of our community live each day without purpose, unproductive and at risk for substance abuse which leads to an array of more problems. What have you done to provide our people with better health and behavioral wellness options?
Culture and language education and perpetuation programs also have the power and ability to restore a society that is barely hanging on to its last thread and yet, these programs have been neglected too. Not only do these programs restore identity and empower individuals, they also help with tourism, which is widely known to be our islands main source of income. What have you done to help our people with opportunities to know their culture and history and to share that unique heritage as a means to sustain the island?
As leaders, you often blame the failures in our broken systems on a lack of funding. There is no funding to give each teacher more than a ream of paper each quarter. There is no funding for sports programs. There is no funding for medical professionals and programs. There is no funding for behavioral health professionals. There is no funding for culture and language perpetuation and education. There is no funding.
As a public servant, someone who is supposed to support us in our needs, help us in our struggles, can you truly justify your recent legislation for pay increases? Are these pay raises part of your devotion to us? Do they, in any way, fulfill the promises that you made when you were asking for our help in the way of votes and support? Do these pay raises help the island? There is no doubt in my mind that you know the answer just as well as I do. I’m calling on you to be that servant that you promised you would be. Taking those raises is plainly as evil as stealing the food off a starving child’s plate.
I know that some of you work extremely hard and that some of you deserve better pay for the work that is done for the island. We all deserve better, but the larger question is CAN WE AFFORD IT?
Please consider all that is truly good for Guahan and her people and take appropriate action concerning the law to raise wages. Introduce a new law re-appropriating that money toward a greater need in our government, like the hospital, behavioral health and wellness, or schools. I am also appalled by the fact that many of you denied the pay raise earlier this year to save our government money and ensure that other government workers received their raises. If you did this in good faith, then why should you also be given retro pay for this time in which you refused a raise? I urge you to also repeal your retro pay.
I close with a reading from Matthew 25: 35-40:
For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.
The righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison to visit you?
The King will reply, ‘Truly, I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
Be greater than those that came before you, because there are thousands of futures that lay in your care. I hope that your decisions will move the entire island and her people in a direction that is good for ALL of us.
Saina Ma’ase’,
Shannon Siguenza


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

Raises show imprudence, greed

Dec. 4, 2014

Season's Greetings from The F.I. Report. Here we go again; a special legislative session was convened at the request of Lt. Gov. Ray Tenorio. Our senators voted to give themselves (and other elected and appointed officials) fat, retroactive pay raises.

Do you recall if there was a public hearing to discuss the merits of the bill? I don't. It was passed and signed into law in record time and without shame it seems. Man tai mamalao.

Two years ago, senators voted themselves a raise from $55,000 to $65,000. Now it will be $85,000 a year -- with back pay.

The governor's pay will go from $90,000 to $130,000, while the lieutenant governor's will go from $85,000 to $110,000.

Wow!

Host of problems

Our kids are brawling on campuses, classrooms are vandalized and we can't seem to improve school security. Our health care system is substandard and GMH cannot pay its bills.

Our streets become increasingly unsafe because of a shortage of police officers. Police cars and fire engines need regular maintenance, but there is no money for oil changes. The Department of Corrections is vastly overcrowded and ever so closer to federal receivership.

Our educators are struggling to meet student demands and often have to dip into their own pockets for supplies. The air conditioners and vehicles need maintenance, but there is no budget for the basics.

The Hagåtña library is closed because of a failed air-conditioning system, while they await a $600,000 grant from the Department of Interior.

All these failings are evidence of continuing fiscal problems. They don't fund necessities, yet blithely delude themselves that we are operating in the black.

How can they justify the fat, retroactive pay adjustments? Are they imprudent or just greedy?

The pay raise will cost additional millions of dollars but the lieutenant governor does not know how much. He responded to a KUAM interview question concerning the cost of the pay increase, plus back pay: "It's not a single, well it is going to cost $5 million, but will cost X but we don't know the X yet but we'll get that answer to you."

Are you confused like I am? Bad move for a gubernatorial hopeful who might plan to run in four years.

Shouldn't salary increases be a reflection of good performance? I'm searching but don't see it.

What'll be next?

I can't help but wonder what's next. Borrow more money to pay for operational expenses?

I suggest that the pay raises be axed and that some courageous senator introduce a bill to retroactively reverse the fat pay checks.

I applaud Sen. Mike Limtiaco for voting against it. He cast the one and only opposing vote.
We are not out of the financial woods, folks -- we have borrowed to the maximum allowable limits and the monthly payments of additional millions of dollars is just around the corner.

During the urgent "special session," Vice Speaker Benjamin J. Cruz inquired about the funding source for these raises. According to KUAM, my old friend Tony Blaz said, "We're very confident, vice speaker, we're very confident we'll work within our resources and we have our due diligence at BBMR we're going to do our part."

Did Tony answer the question? I think not. Just how are we going to pay for the early Christmas presents?

All about timing

"Timing is everything!" my FBI recruiter once said to me as I hesitated at his recommendation for me to report to the FBI Academy the following week.

For this maneuver, their timing was exceptional. The call for the special session, the vote without a public hearing, the vote to pass and the quick signing of the bill into law was accomplished within days after the General Election.

Matson lines just announced a rate increase, so the cost of rice, Spam and ramen will go up. Our wise leaders will be eating steaks and lobsters while the rest of us count our pennies.

By next election, we will have forgotten about their slick maneuver. They are counting on poor collective memory, but we shall remind them.

I welcome your comments.
Frank Ishizaki is a retired FBI special agent, chief of police, Homeland Security adviser, director of Corrections, senator and CSI. He can be contacted at friendscrimelab@live.com.

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

‘Pay raises deserved’

GOV. Eddie Calvo yesterday said the recent pay raises for elected officials and political appointees established by P.L. 32-208 was a move he supported, and he believes he and his appointees deserve a raise.

“I believe my people deserve a raise,” Calvo said. “I do believe I do deserve a raise but a raise that was not calculated by me but by a group that the government of Guam paid good money for.”

On Dec. 3, Simon Sanchez High School teacher Andre Baynum started circulating a petition online pleading with politicians to repeal the new law with respect to elected officials.

More than 800 people yesterday signed the petition as of 7 p.m. Baynum wrote that the law is “an affront to the general public on Guam who continue to endure substandard results on social and economical issues facing the island.”

Baynum told Variety he thought the pay raises are “unconscionable.”

Calvo, however, said the pay raises are deserved for the people in the government and are needed to stabilize inequities among the wages between autonomous agencies and line agencies.

The timing of the bill, Calvo said, was to ensure the issue was not politicized as it was in the beginning of the year. “Unfortunately, Sen. (Michael San Nicolas) has politicized the issue again.”

San Nicolas introduced a bill to repeal P.L. 32-208 on Tuesday but the measure failed to pass during Tuesday’s special session.

Not forgotten

Calvo said he has not forgotten about the other issues on Guam, including dilapidated roads and the condition of Guam Memorial Hospital. He said under his governance, he’s been able to repair roads, add police equipment, add police officers and improve conditions at the hospital.

“Rome was not built in a day,” Calvo said. “I’m seeing improvement and obviously we have to do a lot more but it also means as we improve, we pay the people the fair worth of their salt.”

All the government employees received wage increases according to the Hay Group’s study completed in 2010 and the elected officials were initially taken out at the beginning of this year. Calvo said he has been fighting for this raise since the beginning of the year and he advised the legislature in February not to tinker with the Competitive Wage Act of 2014.

However, now that the act has been tinkered with, Calvo said continued tinkering will further cause inequities among government employees’ salaries. “My recommendation is this: If they’re going to continue to fool around and kill off the portions that we put back, then maybe we should consider everything,” Calvo said. “Then maybe we consider just taking everybody’s pay increase away and look at autonomous agencies and start from square one. I don’t think we should do it but in order to create harmony and equity, to ensure we don’t cause an imbalance.”

Calvo said he’ll donate his salary as he and his wife decide.

On retroactively paying the salaries, the governor also said they should have been paid since the beginning. “I think these hard-working government employees that were excluded in January were cheated,” he said.

Sunday, December 07, 2014

Photoshopping Keira Knightley



Body Matters
 Keira Knightley's latest photoshoot is a protest against all the Photoshopping she's ever received
 Kit Steinkellner
November 4, 2014
 
When you think of a protest, you tend to think of picket signs, sit-ins, rhyming chants,and so on and so forth. What you usually DON’T think of is a topless celebrity photo shoot. However, that’s exactly what actress Keira Knightley had done with her recent photo shoot for Interview—she turned her shoot into a protest. She posed topless for the magazine on the condition that Interview would not enlarge her breasts in post-production, something that apparently happens to Knightley’s photographs constantly.

Case in point, check out the (virtual) boob job Knightley received when she was featured as Guinevere on the poster of her 2004  film King Arthur.


18jh4ejc3j75ijpg-1

That is a cup size difference for sure. If I were Keira Knightley I’d be weirded out by my body always looking like someone else’s body every time I did publicity shoots for films or posed for magazine shoots.

Not only is Keira Knightley taking a stand in her un-retouched topless photo shoot for Interview, she’s also got some powerful words to back up her actions.


keira+knightley copy 2

“I’ve had my body manipulated so many different times for so many different reasons, whether it’s paparazzi photographers or for film posters,” Knightley told The Times of London. “That [Interview shoot] was one of the ones where I said: ‘OK, I’m fine doing the topless shot so long as you don’t make them any bigger or retouch.’ Because it does feel important to say it really doesn’t matter what shape you are.”

This is obviously a personal issue for Knightley (and girl is not asking for much, she just wants her photographed boobs to look the same as her real-life boobs, for crying out loud!) but Knightley as a public figure also recognizes the influence her image exerts and how detrimental digital retouching is for women on the whole.

“I think women’s bodies are a battleground and photography is partly to blame,” Knightley told The Times. “Our society is so photographic now, it becomes more difficult to see all of those different varieties of shape.”

Knightley’s absolutely right. We are absolutely inundated with digitally altered images of women and it’s all too easy to look at these retouched-to-the-point-of-ridiculousness photos and believe that this is how women are actually supposed to look. It’s all too easy to feel inadequate in real life without software constantly following you around changing out your filters and adjusting your proportions in real time. It’s so important for women who wield power in the public eye to take a stand and be transparent about what they look like in real life, and moreover, to be proud of what’s real about them. Big ups to Knightley for wanting the world to see her as she really is and loving everything that is real about her body.


Kit Steinkellner 

In her online life, Kit is a contributing editor for the websites Book Riot and Food Riot. She also writes about film and television for the Santa Barbara Independent newspaper, and her work is featured on Huffington Post and xoJane. She writes the high school-centric webcomic Aces which her genius artist sister Emma illustrates.

Saturday, December 06, 2014

Sakigake Chamorro #6: Attack on Titan


I haven’t done this in a while, but I’m traveling this week and so it gives me quite a bit of down time on planes, with little to do other than get airsick. A few years ago I was watching quite a bit of anime and one thing I really enjoyed doing was taking anime theme songs, from shows like Gantz, Naruto and Cromartie High School and then translating them into Chamorro. Each translation was an interesting experiment, since although many of these shows are considered to be low-plebian culture, pop culture animated shadows on the cave wall for the masses, the lyrics to the theme songs tend to have a very epic and sophisticated feel to them.  These songs presented interesting challenges since translating them directly would be difficult and not necessarily match well with Chamorro. But finding ways of expressing similar epic thoughts in Chamorro, while trying to maintain a sense of the language would be fun and worthwhile.

I still read manga regularly even if I don’t watch any anime anymore, and one manga that I have being storing up for almost a year now, since I want to binge read later, is Attack on Titan. For those not familiar with this show it can be pretty gritty and pretty bleak. Humanity at some point in the future is forced to live in giant walled cities to protect themselves from Titans, huge humanoid figures that eat humans. Some of them are just 10 feet tall, while the largest can be more than 100 feet in height. The show follows characters who are trying to defend humanity against this threat, and use a unique grappling hook system with giant exacto blade knives to hit the weak spot on the back of their necks. I won’t give away too much, although what starts off as a truly compelling story in my opinion, eventually descends into ridiculous twisty turny plot shifts that make it incomprehensible at times.

The theme song for the show is “Guren No Yumiya.” It is a call to arms. The lyrics try to stir up a fiery passion in those listening, to fight and die if necessary, but not to slip quietly into oblivions by try to take destiny into their own hands. Here first is the Japanese version.

fumareta hana no namae mo shirazu ni
chi ni ochita tori wa kaze wo machiwabiru
inotta tokoro de nani mo kawaranai
ima wo kaeru no wa tatakau kakugo da

shikabane fumikoete susumu ishi wo warau buta yo
kachiku no an’nei kyogi no han’ei
shiseru garou no jiyuu wo!

torawareta kutsujoku wa han’geki no koushi da
jouheki no sono kanata emono wo hofuru jäger
hotobashiru shoudou ni sono mi wo yakinagara
tasogare ni hi wo ugatsu guren’ no yumiya

As usual this isn’t much help to me since I don’t read Japanese or understand it at all. Interestingly enough finding good English translations of the lyrics was very difficult. I found so many variations, it was quite confusing at first. Eventually I realized what was wrong. Many of the translations weren’t true translations, they weren’t meant to reflect what was being said, they were meant to be sung, in the same tune as the original Japanese lyrics. This is something I am no stranger to, I do the same normally when I translate songs that someone wants to sing with the same tune. But a faithful translation is lost in this process, because what may actually take 10 words to say, it reimagined in a very different way in order to say something kind of similar in five words. This often leads to a shifting in metaphors and imagery as one moves to find the most appropriate but efficient way to say something.

Here are the English lyrics that I settled upon, which matched closely the official translation that the show would use in its English subtitled.

Sie sind das Essen und wir sind die Jager!

Our names won't be remembered
If we die like trampled flowers
I refuse to be forgotten
Written off as less than worthless

Scream and cry
But none will hear you
Plead and beg
But none will help you
You no longer live as cattle
Will you rise and join the battle?

There are beings that live off of fears
And their words are like knives
As they play with our lives
They'll try to control you
As if they own you
Will you let them steal your freedom?

Channel the anger swelling inside you
Fighting the boundary 'till you break through
Deep in your soul there's no hesitation
So make yourself the one they all fear

There is a wild fire inside you
Burning desire you can't extinguish
Your crimson arrow
Rips through the twilight
This is the moment for war

Here is the Chamorro translation I came up with. Which in some ways fits faithfully with the original, but in others takes things in a new direction. Sometimes it is reducing the number of subjects or objects in a thought to make it simpler. Sometimes it is changing it to something in Chamorro that would be more commonly used instead of simply translating the English idiom.


Kao hita i kinenne’? Ahe’ hita i kekenne’.

Siempre maleffa i na’ån-ta
Anggen matai kulang flores magacha’
Lao Guahu ti bei sedi este
Na mayute’ hit sin båli

Essalao yan kate
Lao ni hayi u hungok este
Fanggagao gi dimu-mu
Lao hayi pau ayudu?
I mangekematai na poyitos?
Kao para un tachu yan mumu?

Ma kakanno’ i ma’a’ñao-ta (li’hån-ta)
Ya i kuentos-niha kalang sapbla siha
Manhugagando ni lina’la’-ta
Ma kekehoske hit
Ma fa’iyon-ñiñiha hit
Kao para un sedi i sinakke’ i libre-ta?

Sotta i binibun-miyu
Esta ki un yamak i chi-mu
I minatatnga gi korason-mu
Sina muna’fanlu’han todu

Enao na guafi gi sanhalom-mu
Ti chaguayon na minaipe
I agaga’ na acho’ atupåt-mu
Ha chachak i trankilun långhet
Måtto på’go i gerå-ta

Some notes for my Chamorro. Most Chamorros use “sapble” for sword, borrowed from the Spanish word. For some reason, my grandmother used the word “sapbla” at times and so this is what I ended up learning and use til this day.

The first line is often translated to, “Our we the prey? No, we are the hunters!” In Chamorro this presents an interesting possibility. In English there isn’t a close etymological relationship between hunter and prey in the same way you find between interviewer and interviewee. In Chamorro there are several options for expressing this. I ended up going with “konne’” and using it in two different ways. Konne’ means the take a human somewhere, but when used for lower creatures such as animals it means to catch. Kinenne’ in most cases is translated to “catch” or literally the thing that was caught. “Kao Hita i kinenne’?” means “Are we the thing that was/is caught?” From here there is a choice. Most people would then use “peskådot” to mean “hunter.” I preferred to use something that had a connection to the word konne’, two options were kumokonne’ and kekenne’. The first means “the one who is doing the catching” the second means “the one that catches.” I chose kekenne’ although it is not commonly used, because it fit better in the rhythm of the line.

The prefix “e-“ which is used to indicate someone who hunts or looks for something, but I would this cumbersome to use for this song, and dedicated to go with the above instead.

And as usual, now we take what was translated from English to Chamorro and translate it back into English to see what we have come up with.

Are we the catch? No we are the one that catches!

Our names will surely be forgotten
If we die like stepped on flowers
For me I will not allow this
That we get thrown away without value

Scream and cry
But no one will here this
Beg while you kneel
But who will offer help?
The chickens about to die?
Or will you stand and fight?

They are eating our fear
And their words are like blades
They are playing with our lives
They are trying to oppress us
They are pretending we belong to them
Will you allow the theft of our freedom?

Release your rage
Until you break your limits
The bravery in your heart
Can make them all afraid

That fire inside you
A flame that cannot be extinguishes
Your red sling stone
It cuts the silent sky
Our war has now arrived


Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Colony of Warriors

PBS recently did a short documentary about Guam and veterans here as part of their program America by the Numbers. It was a pretty good piece. I was interviewed for the program at the WWII Memorial Asan Overlook as seen in the picture for this post. The interview was pretty long covering a whole range of topics. As usually happens with these sorts of things, very little of it was used in the actual interview. I still think it was a good piece even if I was barely in it, although there was a glaring, but expected lack of discourse around Guam's political status.

The issue of Guam's colonial status is always something that mainstream media in the states have difficulty with. You can describe it in a hundred different ways, talk about it from this angle, that angle, give a wide range of options for how to approach it, but ultimately it is for your average media person, something they can't engage with. It would require too much discursive muster, it would consume any piece and the piece would end up having to be solely about Guam the colony. This is always the limitation with media. If something doesn't lie within the accepted frame of reference, frame of discourse, then it either has to be ignored or be neutralized since there isn't enough space or time to deal with it. This isn't only a problem with those who produce the media but also those who ingest and consume it. People watch the news expecting learn new things that follow a familiar structure. They don't want a new structure to their lives, to the way they see or feel or experience things. They just want new data to fill the slots. They want to know the latest corrupt politician. The latest tech trend. The latest feel good story. The latest can't miss court case. If anything challenges the foundation people tend to tune it out. It bounces off of them. They end up blaming the messengers for giving them things they didn't have the easy frame to understand. It sometimes leads to a sparking of curiosity, but generally, the fact that they don't know it becomes a reason to resist it.

When media tangles or bumps up against colonialism, they also water it down and weaken it down to become mere "discrimination" or "lack of fair treatment" or "disrespect." These become things which you can easily just ascribe to someone feeling like they are being mistreated rather than there being a system of inequality and marginalization in place. Even if people are discussing potential evils or sins or wrongs that the United States, its citizens, its government, its military is committing, they tend to pull back from actually engaging in what colonialism is and means, and instead reduce things to misunderstandings, where a slight shift in perspective or a quick fix can solve all problems. In the case of the discussion of "colonialism" in this documentary, the problem is that you can watch it and assume that if only the US gave more money to veterans on Guam than everything would be ok. This is how most people assume you can fix problems like this, if only the US would do more, give more, but all of this obscures the fact that inclusion/exclusion is the problem. What good does it do to constantly demand inclusion and respect when you exist as part of a system in which your island is not including and not supposed to be respected? Everything is fine until you realize that everything that you are basing your demands or your political argument upon is based on a fiction. Guam is a colony. Whether or not it is the best treated colony in the world is irrelevant, it is still a colony.

This is the problem with so much discourse around war reparations, the military buildup and even the way most people conceive of decolonization. There is a fundamental misunderstanding about the relationship between Guam and the United States. The difficulty of the media in the states in addressing the fact that the US has been a colonizer for a long time and even prior to that participated in genocide and the wholesale displacement of millions of indigenous people, means that they aren't much help either.

This documentary does better than most media coverage about Guam, but it remains problematic in the same way. Here's some coverage from the Washington Post of it below.

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

Guam: A High Concentration of Veterans but Rock Bottom in VA Funding
Josh Hicks
Washington Post
October 29, 2014

Guam has a small population of about 200,000 residents, but it’s home to one of the highest concentrations of military veterans among U.S. states and territories. One in eight adults on the Pacific island have served in the armed forces.

Despite those numbers, the island ranked last in the country for per capita medical spending by the Department of Veterans Affairs in 2012, with an average of $822 for each former service member. Virginia had the next lowest rate with a much greater $1,275 per veteran.

PBS recently explored whether Guam veterans are receiving the care they deserve in a documentary called “Island of Warriors,” part of an “America by the Numbers” series that examines shifting U.S. demographics and the significance to the nation.

Journalist Maria Hinojosa talked with Guam veterans about why they serve in the military and the level of treatment they receive when they return home.

The VA opened a new outpatient clinic for Guam veterans in 2011, but the island still lacks the kind of specialized treatment facilities available in other locations. The nearest intensive program for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is located more than 3,000 miles away in Hawaii.

“For me, that’s why I just stay home,” said Roland Ada, a Guamanian who was diagnosed with PTSD after serving two tours in Iraq as a combat medic. The veteran said he rarely socializes any more and thinks about ending his life several times a day.

The documentary also looked at U.S. Census data, which shows that about 8,000 former troops live in Guam. Many politicians and veterans advocates on the island suspect that the numbers are inaccurate and causing a lack of VA funding for the territory.

Hinojosa asked the VA’s Guam facility planner, Craig Oswald, whether the clinic’s two certified psychiatrists are enough to serve the territory’s veteran population.

“I think right now we’re doing quite well,” he said, adding that the clinic recently added more mental-health staff, including social workers and nurses.

Oswald agreed that Guamanians should have access to the specialized care they need, but he rejected the notion that the VA has overlooked the island.

“I think Guam is very well-known to ‘Big VA,’ to Washington, D.C.,” he said. “Our particular health-care system has actually received several million dollars … that’s being spent directly on veterans in the Pacific.”

But Guam Gov. Eddie Calvo disagreed, saying the Senate cut mental-health funding for the territory two years in a row.

“The federal government has not done their part to assist the very patriotic group of American citizens fighting in so many distant lands, in areas that have never tasted democracy,” Calvo said. “Yet these American citizens of Guam really have not felt what true democracy is all about.”
At the height of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan last decade, four of the Army’s top recruiters were from Guam, and enlistment on the island doubled while it was falling almost everywhere else in the nation, according to the documentary.


"It’s a family tradition to do it,” said Sfc. Gonzalo Fernandez, a recruiter for the Army National Guard who won recruiter of the year awards three times in a row during that span.
Fernandez also attributed the high numbers to a sense of patriotism among Guam residents. But University of Guam history professor Michael Bevacqua said recruits may be attracted to the “shininess and the niceness” of the military, which offers economic opportunities they may not otherwise find outside the armed services.

Guam’s unemployment rate is 13.3 percent, whereas the the national average is 7.5 percent; and nearly 23 percent of residents there live in poverty, compared to about 15 percent of Americans overall, according to the documentary.

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Race and the War Machine

One of these days I'll be able to sit down and try to write out all my thoughts about what is going on with in Ferguson. It is difficult because so many issues around race, militarization, government, surveillance, privilege, oppression, justice and others are involved. There are few easy ways of unpacking it all and so one argumentative point easily leads to another and to another and to another. The few times I've tried to write out my thoughts it is like popping only a single bubble in bubble wrap. An almost impossible task to accomplish as one bubble popped easily leads to another and then another and then another and soon it is difficult to know where you started.

For a poetry group that I am part of, we are planning to write poems that refer to what is happening in Ferguson. Tonight I decided to try to jot down some of my majors thoughts, and I have ended up swinging back and forth in my writing, between poetic language and theoretical language. At one point I'll start with imagery that I have been seeing in the media but eventually I'll descend into some poststructural sermon about power and ideology. Eventually I decided I needed to write something on my blog to help make sense of all my thoughts.

One of the things that I have appreciated from Ferguson is the way that it is helping, albeit in frustrating ways, to inform the public about the militarization of the domestic police force. The US has been a serious major military power for quite some time. All the trivia about the amount the US spends on its military being more than most of its allies and enemies combined is not hyperbole. The US is addicted to war. Chalmers Johnson referred to militarism as the new colonialism, and that in order to understand the US and its relationship to the world today we need to look at it through its most basic imperial unit, the military facility. The casualness through which the average US citizen sees their country as having the ability to invade anything, bomb anything, kill anything on a daily basis is the height of imperial banality. But while the rest of the world is seen as a map of everyday violence, within the US people see such things as exceptional of course.

But all things that are repressed find ways of returning and hence the billions spent on creating hardware for the American war machine elsewhere have trickled their way back into small and big towns across the country. Police departments get body armor, battle ready guns, even tanks to manage their populations. It is interesting because the critique in all those Robocop movies is not necessarily that humans will become cyborgs and blend the line between man and machine. That is part of it, but not the most fundamental message. It is instead a commentary on how because of corporatization, because of capitalist mercilessness, because of the things that make America America, the domestic sphere will become a battlefield and it will be militarized and money will be made off of it the same way it is made overseas. The reboot of the franchise took this further than the others by focusing on the drone technology aspect and how that which is used to oppress others eventually rears its end back home.

An interesting shuffling of power and violence is taking place and unless you are paying attention it is easy to miss. I find it almost unnerving how people of many different colors insist that race isn't as much of an issue anymore, and that their way of dealing with issues of racism is to hate those who mention race and argue almost obsessively that racism is not a real issue anymore since there is a black President in real life and not just in disaster movies. The US seems to lead the way in terms of tolerance and colorblind wishful thinking. This is one thing that drives the US in terms of re-imagining its feelings of superiority, by giving it that tolerant cultural dimension, where people here are better because they are more free and see each other as real humans and not as genders or skin colors. But what has accompanied all of this back-patting over racial harmony and alleged exorcising of the ghosts of racist pasts? Is that while everyone constantly wants to point out that things are MUCH better now, in terms of just the everyday reality of co-existing with a police force, things have gotten much worse and much more problematic.

This sort of discursive shell game is a common facet of life. Violence moves to another realm. Power becomes concealed and invisible, but still exists in the structure of life. Systems of displacement and disenfranchisement persist albeit with different skins and with different rationale. For so many people they are desperate to not see this bait and switch. They are desperate to imagine that things have just simply gotten better. That race is not a real issue today, that if we just don't talk about it or don't see it, it doesn't affect us. I was amazed at how so many people on Guam, who were Filipino and Chamorro seized upon the idea that when a white person is shot by a black cop in the states it isn't as sensationalized, but when vice versa happens, the media explodes. For them, they wish that race didn't play a role in this and accept even ridiculous strategies if it will somehow give them that peace of mind. It is ludicrous to somehow think that somehow discovering that equalizes things or makes the issue where colorblindness is the way to go, but if you want to deny the fact that you are either benefiting from or being oppressed by racist systems, then you will say and pretend to believe anything to escape that truth coming into contact with your truth.

But the very militarization of the police shows the way in which race, as a dividing concept, as a marker that does not only differentiate but also stigmatizes is alive and well. Race, throughout much of human history was a marker that allowed a whole different set of rules, legal, discursive, ideological, psychological rules to apply. Even if someone was your neighbor, if they had the same amount of limbs as you, same ability to speak, to love, to get sick, to die, etc. race was something that made it so that even someone who might be just like you, could be treated like an enemy, a stranger, an evil person, and that violence could be set upon them and used with impunity upon their bodies. Race is something that marks those who should receive the violence of the state, the hatred of a community. Race is a way in which a community identifies those who can be killed, but not murdered, those for whom the calculus of their lives and their dreams and their aspirations are sometimes a little bit less and other times a lot less. Race is what marks those who are supposed to rape, to loot, to commit crimes, versus those who just make mistakes or are just trying to get by. Race is like a target upon domestic bodies that authorizes the war machine, something supposedly reserved for outsiders, for foreigners, for strangers, to be used against them.

This is why it is interesting to see so much effort go into denying the significance of race today, when the militarization of the police shows how race is still incredibly significant. How if race was less important than there wouldn't be as much of a need for the cloaked violence to war to be unleashed against people within the country. Because they would be seen as bodies that make mistakes but ultimately do matter.

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

Obama aims to avoid 'militarized' police culture


By Nedra Pickler

Associated Press POSTED:
LAST UPDATED: 08:46 p.m. HST, Dec 01, 2014




WASHINGTON » President Barack Obama said Monday he wants to ensure the U.S. isn't building a "militarized culture" within police departments, while maintaining federal programs that provide the type of military-style equipment that were used to dispel racially charged protests in Ferguson, Missouri.
Instead, the president is asking Congress for funding to buy 50,000 body cameras to record events like the shooting death of an unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown and look for ways to build trust and confidence between police and minority communities nationwide. He announced the creation of a task force to study success stories and recommend ways the government can support accountability, transparency and trust in police.

Attorney General Eric Holder announced on Monday new Justice Department plans aimed at ending racial profiling and ensuring fair and effective policing.
"In the coming days, I will announce updated Justice Department guidance regarding profiling by federal law enforcement, which will institute rigorous new standards -- and robust safeguards -- to help end racial profiling, once and for all," Holder said in Atlanta.

With protests ongoing in Ferguson and across the country, Obama spoke to reporters at the end of a White House meeting with police, civil rights activists and local leaders and acknowledged the participants told him that there have been task forces in the past and "nothing happens."
"Part of the reason this time will be different is because the president of the United States is deeply invested in making sure that this time is different," Obama said. He said he was upset to hear the young people in the meeting describe their experiences with police. "It violates my belief in what America can be to hear young people feeling marginalized and distrustful even after they've done everything right."
At least for now, Obama is staying away from Ferguson in the wake of the uproar over a grand jury's decision last week not to charge Darren Wilson, the police officer who fatally shot Brown. The U.S. Justice Department is investigating possible civil rights violations that could result in federal charges, but investigators would need to satisfy a rigorous standard of proof. Justice also has launched a broad investigation into the Ferguson Police Department.
Obama is proposing a three-year, $263 million spending package to increase use of body-worn cameras, expand training for law enforcement and add more resources for police department reform. The package includes $75 million to help pay for 50,000 of the small, lapel-mounted cameras to record police on the job, with state and local governments paying half the cost. Estimates vary about the precise number of full-time, sworn law enforcement officers in communities across the U.S., though some federal government reports in recent years have placed the figure at roughly 700,000.
Brown's family wants to see every police officer working the streets wearing a body camera. The Rev. Al Sharpton told reporters afterward he would convey to Brown's parents what had occurred in the meeting and expressed confidence it would bring change because Obama put his "full weight behind it."
"What happens after the meeting will determine whether we just had a feel-good session or whether we're moving toward change," Sharpton said.
Cameras potentially could help resolve the type of disputes between police and witnesses that arose in the Ferguson shooting. Some witnesses have said Brown had his hands up when Wilson shot him. The officer who shot him said he feared for his life when Brown hit him and reached for his gun. But there are issues to be worked out -- including privacy concerns for police, suspects, victims and bystanders; legal questions over who has access to the recordings; and training to make sure officers are using the cameras and don't have them turned off at a critical time.
The White House said those are the types of concerns that could be addressed by Obama's newly created Task Force on 21st Century Policing, which will include law enforcement and community leaders. The task force is being co-chaired by Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey and Laurie Robinson, a professor at George Mason University and former assistant attorney general at the Justice Department.

After the Brown shooting and resulting protests in August, critics questioned why police in full body armor with armored trucks responded to dispel demonstrators. Obama seemed to sympathize when ordering a review of the programs that provide the equipment. "There is a big difference between our military and our local law enforcement and we don't want those lines blurred," Obama said in August.
White House press secretary Josh Earnest said the president concluded he does not want to try to repeal the programs that are authorized by Congress because they have proven to be useful in many cases, citing the response to the Boston Marathon bombing. "But it is not clear that there is a consistency with regard to the way that these programs are implemented, structured and audited, and that's something that needs to be addressed," Earnest said.

The White House review shows the wide scope of the programs -- $18 billion in the past five years from five federal agencies, including the departments of Defense, Justice, Homeland Security and Treasury, plus the Office of National Drug Control Policy. The report says most of the equipment the programs provide are routine -- like office furniture, computers and basic firearms -- but about 460,000 pieces of equipment primarily used for military purposes have been provided to local police, including 92,442 small arms, 44,275 night-vision devices, 5,235 Humvees, 617 mine-resistant vehicles and 616 aircraft.

Obama said he will issue an executive order that will require federal agencies that run the programs to consult with law enforcement and civil rights and civil liberties organizations and recommend changes within four months to make sure the programs are accountable and transparent.
"We're going to make sure that we're not building a militarized culture inside our local law enforcement," Obama said. He said the goal instead is to ensure that "crime goes down while community trust in the police goes up."

Demands for police to wear the cameras have increased across the country since Brown's death. Some officers in the St. Louis suburb have since started wearing the cameras, and the New York Police department became the largest department in the U.S. to adopt the technology when it launched a pilot program in early September.

A report from the Justice Department, which had been in the works before the Ferguson shooting, said there's evidence both police and civilians behave better when they know there are cameras around. In a recent Cambridge University study, the police department in Rialto, California -- a city of about 100,000-- saw an 89 percent decline in the number of complaints against officers in a yearlong trial using the cameras. The number of times the police used force against suspects also declined.

LinkWithin

Related Posts with Thumbnails