Monday, October 08, 2018

Veterans for Decolonization

I have been traveling for the past few weeks and struggling while conducting research and giving a variety of presentations, to also finish up a couple of articles. One of them is based on the research I did for the Guam Humanities Council a few years ago for their exhibit Sindålu: Chamorro Journey Stories in the US Military. It was an exciting and interesting project on a variety of levels. I got to share some interesting stories that I've come across in my archival and oral history research, some of which haven't really ever been publicized before. I also got to tackle some issues in terms of understanding or unpacking contemporary Chamoru identity. The veteran subjectivity is so pervasive and somewhat hegemonic in Chamoru culture today, that it ends up taking a great deal of space, even for those who aren't veterans themselves. How many people when talking about issues of decolonization and demilitarization feel a inner need to curb their potential voice, their potential statements, because of a feeling of not wanting to upset or challenge not just the US military itself, but also those related or connect to them who serve in it?

This is part of Guam's reality as a heavily militarized space. Where the web of militarized connections extend out to even those who aren't directly connected to the US military presence, but nonetheless make them feel like the bases or the military is necessary for their existence, necessary for their to be order or property on the island. In colonial situations, there is often a generalized sort of discourse of this nature, that focuses on the civility of the colonizer in terms of providing that foundation for stability and eventual progress. In Guam however much of that discourse is dominated by the explicit military presence. Rather than people arguing that we need the US because we wouldn't be modern or we wouldn't be civilized if they weren't here, they argue that if the military wasn't here, we wouldn't be here. We would be speaking Japanese or we would have been wiped out by Japanese brutality in World War II. It is an interesting phenomena to say the least.

But the pervasiveness of any discourse ultimately means that its own dissolution nonetheless lurks around the edges. As with any powerful discourse, it's potency also bears potential seeds of its disintegration. The ways in which the military presence empowers and takes form, can also end up creating resistance and creating opposition. We have seen this most prominently in terms of tåno' and the way land has come to radicalize or give Chamorus a position from which to assert an oppositional identity to their most recent colonizer. But there are most possibilities than that, and that was more than anything, what I enjoyed about the Sindålu exhibit, was exploring the ways in which Chamoru experiences in the US military did not only lead to increased feelings of Americanization, but also deep critiques that in turn helped shape modes of resistance to Americanization and the American military presence from the 1990s up until today.

Below is a short excerpt from one of the articles I'm working on, a section titled "Veterans for Decolonization."


But this patriotism was heavily tainted with colonial narratives that preached Chamorro inferiority and American supremacy. Because of this Chamorros, even if they now had adopted a patriotic framework for their relationship to the US, did not see themselves as proper American subjects, but minor, limited American subjects. The feelings of gratitude for the US return in World War II that forged this patriotic connection also established a relationship in which Chamorros did not become an equal part of the US, but had now been included in the American circle of belonging, but remained beneath their white counterparts, and still feeling the need to prove themselves to be worthy of their new status. Military service was one of the key ways Chamorros attempted to prove their worth, but silence was another strategy as well. Although the passage of the Organic Act improved Guam life in a number of ways, it did not settle the basic questions Dr. Ramon Sablan had posed decades earlier. What was Guam in relation to the US and what as a result were Chamorros? The Organic Act provided the basis for a far more benevolent and cooperative relationship, but Guam remained a colony and the new system of self-governance was a mirage provided by an act of Congress. But during the 1950s and 1960s Chamorros in general, but primarily those who served in the US military grappled with these issues, but did not feel they could speak out against them and assert that their treatment or the treatment of their island was unfair or unjust. Regardless of any outward expressions of patriotism and loyalty, there remained a glaring contradiction in that the US would send men and women into war without the right to vote or the right to real democratic representation in the US government.

By the 1980s and 1990s, the time of the emergence of Nasion Chamoru and other Chamorro rights movements, this limited subjectivity had been challenged in a variety of ways. Chamorro veterans had found their voice, but it wasn’t simple or unified. It was not as simple as being pro-military or anti-military. It bore the complications of the previous century and of the present colonial moment and as such, the voices featured aspects of patriotic devotion, frustration with their treatment by the US government and also desires for decolonization.

In the early 1990s we can see these variations in not just the way veterans such as Angel Santos used their traumatic experiences in the US military as rationale for seeking to decolonize the island and becoming independent from the US. We can also see it in how at the same time other Chamorro veterans were vocally supporting a Commonwealth change for Guam’s political status. The Commonwealth movement for Guam lasted for 25 years and was built around enhancing Guam’s relationship to the US, where it was more defined and Guam would receive a greater degree of autonomy and control over local affairs, such as immigration (San Agustin 123). Commonwealth would ultimately fail in the halls of Congress in 1997. 

While Angel Santos and his cohort was protesting in the streets for decolonization, other veterans were also making their own arguments for decolonization and supporting Commonwealth status as an important step towards righting historical wrongs. Whereas Nasion Chamoru couched their activism in suffering as indigenous people, deserving of their rights to self-determination, whereby their military service tended to be another form of injustice that they were fighting against, these other Chamorro veterans couched their service as the reason, as Americans, they deserved a different and improved political status for Guam. 

Several dozen veterans in the early 1990s penned letters written to the US Congress and the United States in general making their position clear. Their experiences of sacrificing for the US military and also facing discrimination and hardship did not convince them to seek to leave the US, but in contrast to the silence of earlier generations, it did compel them to speak up and insist that the US reciprocate by living up to its supposed ideals of supporting liberty, democracy and freedom. This letter from Miguel Cruz, a Chamorro who served in the US Marine Corps makes this point. 

I belong to a select group of Americans who served our great country during the time of need . . . However, as a Chamorro, I feel that my country has not yet fulfilled its commitment to me and my fellow islanders – the opportunity to enjoy the right of full self-government. A people willing to defend their freedom must be allowed to govern their own future for justice to truly prevail (1994).

Sunday, October 07, 2018

Living Peace

The image is from Suicide Cliff in Tinian, where a collection of memorials for those who died in World War II can be found. 

The text below is the English translation of a poem written by Rinko Sagara, a 14 year old student from Urasoe in Okinawa. She recited it earlier this year at an event meant to remember the victims of the Battle of Okinawa in World War II. It's title is "Ikiru." 


I am living.
Standing on the earth transmitting the mantle's heat,
My body embraced by a pleasant, humid wind,
With the scent of grass in my nostrils,
My ears tuned to the distant sound of the surf.
I am now living
How beautiful this island where I now live is.
The sparking blue sea,
The shining waves releasing spray as they hit the rocks,
The bleating of goats,
The babbling of brooks,
Small paths leading through the fields,
Mountains bursting with green colors,
The gentle tunes of the sanshin (three-stringed traditional instrument),
The light of the sun shining down.
What a beautiful island,
Where I was brought up.
With all my senses and sensitivity,
I feel this island. And my passion grows slowly and steadily.
I am living out this moment.
The magnificence of this moment
And the preciousness of this moment
Is my peace at present
And it expands inside me.
How should I describe this irresistible feeling that wells up?
This precious moment
This irreplaceable moment
This moment in which I now live.
Seventy-three years ago,
That day turned this island that I love into an island of death.
The chirping of small birds turned into screams of fear.
The gentle tunes of the sanshin vanished into the roaring sounds of bombs.
The blue skies were obscured by iron rain.
The scent of the grass was mixed with the stench of death,
And the shining surface of the sea was filled with battleships.
Flames spewing from flamethrowers, the wailing of young children,
Houses burned to the ground, the smell of gunpowder.
The ground shaking from the impact of bombing, the sea tainted red with blood.
People who had changed, like the evil spirits of the mountains and rivers.
Memories of a frenzied battle in a burning hell.
Everyone was living
No different at all from me,
People living for all their worth.
Without any doubts, they had painted a picture.
Of their lives, and their futures.
They had families, they had friends and they had lovers.
They had jobs. They had a reason for living.
They had small moments of happiness in their lives. Hand in hand they lived, and they were humans, like me.
But then
Those things were destroyed, taken from them.
The age we live in is different, but that is all.
Innocent lives. Those days when they lived ordinary lives.
Below Mabuni Hill the gentle sea expands before my eyes.
I am saddened, and cannot forget all the things that happened to this island.
I clench my hands together and vow.
Remembering the fallen, I make a vow from my heart.
As long as I live,
To never ever accept this war that claimed so many lives.
To never repeat this past in the future.
To strive for a world in which all humans live in peace, transcending national borders, transcending race, transcending religion, and overcoming all interests.
To create a world in which the ability to live and value lives is not violated by anyone.
To be willing to make an effort to create peace.
You surely feel it.
The beauty of this island.
You surely know.
The sadness of this island.
And you are living in this moment, just like me.
We are living together.
So we should understand
The senselessness of war and what true peace is.
Not in our minds, but in our hearts.
That there is no real peace
From possessing the foolish force of war potential.
And that peace is living ordinary lives.
That it is living, while making those lives shine with all our might.
I am living.
Together with everyone.
And I will continue to live.
Cherishing each and every day.
With thoughts of peace, with prayers for peace.
Because our futures
Are extensions of this moment.
In other words, now is our future.
My island, which I love,
Our island, which we are proud of,
And all life that lives on this island.
My friends, my family, who live with me now.
Let us keep living together.
Let us send out true peace from our beautiful homeland, surrounded by blue.
Let each one of us stand up and walk together toward the future.
Embraced by the wind on Mabuni Hill,
My life cries out.
Resonating with the past, present and future.
Let this requiem reach the sorrowful past.
Let the sounds of the living reverberate to the future.
I will live out this moment.

Monday, October 01, 2018

The Speakers

My latest film collaboration "The Speakers" with Kenneth Gofigan Kuper and Edgar Flores will be screened twice at #GIFF this year. Biba GIFF 2018!

 It is the perfect film for those looking for a never-ending parade of silly and stupid jokes in the Chamoru language, with a profound message about language revitalization somehow mixed in. 

Like our previous films, it was created by Ken and I, with ourselves as the actors, but the true star of the short film is meant to be I Fino' Chamoru! 

It will be featured as part of the Made in Marianas Showcase A and can be watched on October 6th at 2:45 pm and October 21st at 1 pm at the Guam Museum.

Si Yu'os Ma'åse to the team at #GIFF for once again giving our Chamoru language revitalization efforts a platform!

Saturday, September 29, 2018

The Colonial Whisperer

When I was writing my dissertation more than 10 years ago, one question that I constantly had, was what is the "Department of Interior" in the United States, especially in relation to the territories. The easy answer is that it is the office to oversees them. It is the office that oversees the natural resource, the parks, the relations with Native Americans, but also the way the US connects to its insular areas and colonies. We can refer to the Department of the Interior as the make-shift colonial office, a colonial office in denial that it is a colonial office.

The office manages resources and helps to remind those of us who live in the territories that we are a resource, that our lands, our lives are more explicitly than any other place within the US and its empire, thought of as a commodity. The fact that our strongest link to the federal bureaucracy is the DOI is key in understanding our relationship to the US. We may have a variety of fantasies about what we are to the US, those fantasies may be to help deal with the existential colonial dread, but many of them are built on wishing into existence a relationship that doesn't really exist.

What I've often written about previously is that the DOI could be considered the office of American exceptions, because it is the link to not just colonies, but also Native American tribes. The excesses within the nation that point to it being more than a benevolent Republic, but rather an empire or ravenous nation-state that destroyed others to claim its existence and continues to exploit others in contrast to its stated ideals. In recent years this sort of naming seems to fit even more because the Office of Insular Affairs within the DOI doesn't only deal with tribes and territories, it also deals with semi-sovereign or sovereign government, such as those around Guam in Micronesia. When I visited this office last year, it was remarkable to see their conference room, which featured flags from territories and freely associated countries.

The office exists therefore to deal with the parts of the nation that it can't easily account for. The parts that don't fit into left or right, Republican or Democratic antagonisms. These are things which exist on the edge off the nation or outside of it, and do so in such a way that they create the borders of the nation, while the nation still claims to control it. This type of differential exclusion is something that I based my dissertation on describing and trying to articulate in the case of Guam, and what its liminal and banal status produces for the United States.

During my recent research trips to Washington D.C., another portrait of the agency emerged, albeit a faded and not particularly powerful one. That was for DOI as being an advocate for the territories, a translator or a whisperer to the federal government. What makes the colonies or the territories different is that they each have unique stories of how they became connected to the US and where they sit in relation to the US.

CNMI and Guam are right next to each other, but are politically different, despite both being territories of the US at present. One bears the name Commonwealth and has a covenant to mitigate relations between the CNMI and the US, the other is a territory with no such protection. Despite that difference however, they exist in very similar relationships to the US.  The same goes for American Samoa and the Virgin Islands. Each place has a contemporary existence that strains the imagination of your average American and American politician or bureaucrat. It doesn't quite fit. It requires more to understand, to make sense. And your average American, long suckled with a sense of their own greatness, struggles to imagine how such imperfections and exceptions could exist.

DOI, in particular its Insular Affairs portion is supposed to help fill in those gaps and help the rest of the federal bureaucracy understand what is unique about the territories and that you can't simply impose things on them and assume that since it is good for the 50 it must be good for the colonies. DOI is supposed to help translate the unique exceptions, often times the injustices and the trauma of the colonies in ways that can be appreciated by the Congress and the Executive Branch. It may not be very good at it and it may have limited influence. From those that I interviewed recently for example, all, some of whom had experience working in DOI, agreed that real change within the federal system could never come from DOI since it is too powerless in relation to other parts of the government. It doesn't have enough influence or power.

While preparing for my research trip I came across this article from the Honolulu Star-Bulletin from 1999 about Danny Aranza, a Filipino born on Guam, who spent time working for the Department of Interior during the Clinton years. This is an example of the role of DOI acting as that translator, the reminder, albeit this case in the context of Native Hawaiians, that the US holds the lands and destinies of a diverse number of native peoples, and that it can continue the legacies of injustice, exploitation and dispossession or it can stop them. Part of that will require them to reckon with the sins of the past and then not dismiss what remedies would be necessary today, but take into account the particularities of those who have been wronged and that acting outside of the perceived boundaries of the US or its constitution and other laws may be necessary.


Most Americans unaware of isle history, overthrow

The point man in Washington for native Hawaiian issues says  mainlanders don't know why reconciliation is necessary

By Susan Kreifels
Honolulu Star-Bulletin
October 23, 1999

Although the Rice vs. Cayetano case heard by the U.S. Supreme Court this month raised native Hawaiian issues in the national consciousness, it didn't leave mainland Americans knowing much more about the state's complex history.

That's according to the new point man in Washington for native Hawaiian issues.

Ferdinand Danny Aranza, a former Honolulu attorney and the newly appointed director of the Office of Insular Affairs under the Department of Interior, said Americans generally don't understand how the history here makes native Hawaiians unique among the country's indigenous people.

"The person on the street has no clue about the U.S. role in the overthrow," Aranza said. "They've never had an appreciation of native Hawaiians and their history."

Supreme Court justices will decide whether it is unconstitutional to restrict voters in Office of Hawaiian Affairs trustee elections to people of Hawaiian ancestry.

Aranza said Americans also know very little about what federal reconciliation with native Hawaiians means -- or why it's necessary.

In 1993, Congress passed what's commonly called the apology resolution, which acknowledged and apologized to Hawaiians on behalf of the people of the United States for the participation of American citizens in the overthrow of the kingdom of Hawaii in 1893. The overthrow deprived Hawaiians of the right of self-determination, the resolution said. It urged the president to start reconciliation moves between the United Sates and native Hawaiians.

Aranza said Hawaii's higher profile brought by the Rice vs. Cayetano case makes December a good time for a visit by two federal officials who will gather ideas on the reconciliation, which is still uncharted territory.

Important visitors

The officials, from the Interior Department and Justice Department, will meet with native Hawaiians on all the islands, including Niihau, from Dec. 4-13, Aranza said.

They will try to get some sense of how the reconciliation process should work and what native Hawaiians expect.

Aranza, who stopped in Honolulu this week on his way to Saipan, said his office for the time being is a catch-all for native Hawaiian issues. It could one day be an equivalent of the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

In the meantime, Aranza said he will get a special assistant on native Hawaiian issues: Ed Thompson, a part-Hawaiian who currently works for U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka.

OHA trustee skeptical

Some native Hawaiians are skeptical about the outcome of the December visit. Clayton Hee, OHA trustee, said the meetings will provide native Hawaiians an opportunity to express concerns, but there already are volumes of studies dating back 10 years "that are still collecting dust on a shelf."

Hee's No. 1 concern is identifying native Hawaiians as native Americans, opening up federal programs for American Indians and native Alaskans to Hawaiians. Specific programs carved out for Hawaiians, Hee said, are small in comparison.

Defining native Hawaiians as native Americans should be stating the obvious, Hee said, but Congress has not moved on past bills to do so.

"Why others in Washington don't understand or choose not to is beyond me," Hee said. "There's an inability to understand that Americans illegally, through an act of war, stole the kingdom, and that the United States has a trust obligation."


Bumpy Kanahele, an activist for Hawaiian sovereignty, said not sending a State Department representative was denying an ear for those who want an independent native Hawaiian nation, an option Hawaiians were denied in the 1959 Admissions Act as well.

"We're being shortchanged going into the dialogue," Kanahele said. "If the U.S. is really going to reconcile, they have to bring in a representative for foreign affairs. By not having one here, they'll just give us something like the Indians got -- reconciliation with a reservation."


Insular Affairs director is no stranger
By Susan Kreifels

It takes an islander to know islanders.

That gives Ferdinand Danny Aranza an edge on his new job.

Aranza has been named the new director of the Office of Insular Affairs under the Department of Interior. He's responsible for native Hawaiian and other state issues.

Guam and the U.S. territories, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands and the Micronesian nations also fall under his jurisdiction.

Aranza was born and grew up on Guam and later practiced law in Hawaii for six years.
"It's extremely helpful to come to this job with really an islander's perspective," Aranza said. "It's too easy when you're in Washington to do something and not think about the impact. Being an islander makes me very sensitive to that."

He also believes it improves relationships with island leaders when they negotiate "with someone who looks like them. I would like to bring more folks from the islands into the office."

Aranza and his wife, Hawaii-born Sonia Lugmao Aranza, moved to Washington so she could work for U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie. He became legal counsel for Guam's congressional delegate.

Before taking his current post, Aranza -- who helped shape the Hawaiian homelands program -- worked as a deputy in Insular Affairs, then became acting director June 7.
Other issues before him: reimbursement to Hawaii, Guam and Saipan for the cost of Micronesian immigrants; developing the initial steps for federal reconciliation with native Hawaiians; the brown tree snake problem and coral reef protection; and helping the islands prepare for Y2K computer glitches.

He'll help set up a Y2K command center on Guam, "where America's day begins."
"It will be plugged into the whole White House," he said. "The first report of any problems will probably come from Guam."


Hawaiian issues on agenda
during fed officials' visit

Two federal officials will speak with native Hawaiians on all islands Dec. 4-13 to gather ideas on how the federal government should proceed with reconciliation.

The officials are John Berry, assistant secretary for Policy, Management and Budget in the Interior Department, and Mark Van Norman, director of the Justice Department's Office of Tribal Justice.

Brown-bag lunches on neighbor islands will be open to the public, but schedules are still being confirmed.

Discussions also will be held at the East-West Center on Dec. 10-11 from 8 a.m.-6 p.m. The first day will focus on native Hawaiian health, education, housing, Hawaiian culture, economic development, and land and natural resources.

Each topic will be discussed by panelists for 45 minutes, followed by an hour of public comment during which speakers will be limited to three minutes.

On the second day, topics will include the reconciliation process, the political relationship with the federal government, self-determination and ceded lands.

Written testimony should be submitted by Nov. 22 to Assistant Secretary John Berry, c/o Document Management Unit, Department of Interior, 1849 C St., NW Mailstop-7229, Washington, D.C. 20240. Fax: (202) 219-1790.

Monday, September 24, 2018

September GA 2018 - Carlos Taitano

Citizenship Questions and Honoring the Late Speaker Carlos Taitano are the focus for Independent Guåhan’s September General Assembly

For Immediate Release, September 17, 2018 
Independent Guåhan (IG) invites the public to attend our September General Assembly (GA) on Thursday, September 27th, from 6:00 to 7:30 p.m. at the Main Pavilion of the Chamorro Village in Hagåtña. These assemblies are part of IG’s efforts to educate the community on the need for Guåhan’s decolonization and the potentials for our independence. This month’s GA will focus on what form citizenship might take in an independent Guåhan. 

At eachGA, Independent Guåhan honors a maga’taotao: a notable figure that has helped guide the island and the Chamoru people on their quest for self-determination. For September, IG will be honoring the late Carlos Pangelinan Taitano, who was a World War II veteran, Speaker forI Liheslaturan Guåhanand an instrumental figure in helping get the Organic Act passed for Guåhan.  

Taitano was born into a time when Chamorus had no political rights and onto an island where the US Navy ruled without the consent or input of the people. Along with other leaders from his generation, he was determined to get political rights and protections for Chamorus and lobbied for the passage of an Organic Act which created the Government of Guam and also limited US citizenship. Despite these political gains, Taitano always argued that The Organic Act alone was not enough and that real self-determination and sovereignty for the Chamoru people should be the goal. Independent Guåhan is proud to honor the legacy of the late Speaker Taitano in our September GA. 

In discussions of decolonization in Guåhan, citizenship is always a central point of concern. Is the US citizenship that people have on Guåhan now real or are their limitations or conditions on it? Would people lose US citizenship if Guåhan became independent? What are other possibilities or types of citizenship that Guåhan would offer its citizens if it became independent? Those hoping to learn more about these questions and more importantly their answers, are encouraged to attend this month’s GA and join the discussion. 

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Mahalang Yu' Ta'lo

Hu dingu i islå-ku gi ma'pos na simåna ya måtto yu' para Washington D.C.

Achokka' ti gof åpmam i tinaigue-ku, esta gof mahalang yu' nu i tano'-hu.

Ya este na minahalang, ti put i minanengheng guini gi sanlagu.

Monday, September 03, 2018

Inafa'maolek and Civility Discourse

In my Chamorro Studies class last week we were discussing the concept of inafa'maolek, which has become canonized as a central value of Chamoru culture as of late. The term fa'maolek has long been in use, it even occurs in the Garrido Manuscript from 18th century Guam. Inafa'maolek most likely was used as well, but not necessarily as a primal or central concept for defining Chamoru identity or culture. That comes about much more recently, primarily through the work of Robert Underwood when he uses the terms in the 1970s, while trying to define what the Chamoru cosmology of the 19th century was, and what of it had persisted up until the 20th century. 

Inafa'maolek has many meanings, all of them however focus around expressing community through interdependence or through cooperation. It is about working together to sustain a society. It is about humans sustaining nature, sustaining their families and so on. It is a collective concept that is focused on building sustainable, positive and nurturing relationships. It is about helping and preserving. It is an important concept, but it shouldn't be considered the end all of Chamoru possibility. 

There are certain things that inafa'maolek excels at. There are certain things it does very well, but we also should perceive certain limits to it. Inafa'maolek is great at focusing on collective problems that face a community, at maintaining relations within a family. It is something that is best when the power relations are not rigidly or oppressively stratified. It is something beautiful amongst equals, but when power dynamics become skewed, inafa'maolek can lead to problems. It can end up prohibiting agency, precluding change, preventing things from adapting or changing because of a sense of needing to work together or suppress particular voices or ideas in the name of maintaining a sense of harmony. 

Inafa'maolek is something beautiful after a typhoon hits the island. It is something beautiful to see in action at a family function or as families tackle a collective problem. It is something wonderful to teach people in terms of their relationship to the environment. 

But what wisdom do the great tomes of inafa'maolek provide when tackling income inequality? Or concentration of power or wealth in a society? What role does inafa'maolek play or not play in terms of challenging colonial power? Or calling out injustice or righting wrongs in a society? 

As I said, there are many versions of inafa'maolek out there, but most of them would be ill-equipped with tackling things such as this, and those that argue it would, may simply be using inafa'maolek to describe whatever they'd like and not what it usually is. Siña un sångan na ya-hu este, pues este siempre inafa'maolek, lao håfa I setbe-ña enao?

This does not mean that inafa'maolek is bad or wrong, but only that it doesn't and shouldn't encapsulate the entirety of Chamoru culture. That to argue that it does, in many ways inhibits Chamoru agency and possibility. It denies Chamorus basic tools for dealing with basic problems in their families, in their villages and on their island. 

One thing that this reminds me of, is the civility discourse that we find in many struggles or the idea that those seeking to change things in a society, must remain civil in often times ridiculous and unrealistic ways. That those who are protesting violent oppression must remain civil above all else, regardless of the very issues that are affecting them. This article from the New York Times a few months ago definitely struck a chord with me, especially thinking back to Nasion Chamoru and what those activists endured in terms of being stigmatized as taimamahlao. 


White America's Age-Old, Misguided Obsession With Civility
by Thomas J. Sugrue
Mr. Sugrue is a professor of history and social and cultural analysis and author
New York Times

Recent disruptive protests — from diners at Mexican restaurants in the capital calling the White House adviser Stephen Miller a fascist to protesters in Pittsburgh blocking rush-hour traffic after a police shooting of an unarmed teen — have provoked bipartisan alarm. CNN commentator David Gergen, adviser to every president from Nixon through Clinton, compared the anti-Trump resistance unfavorably to 1960s protests, saying, “The antiwar movement in Vietnam, the civil rights movement in the ’60s and early ’70s, both of those were more civil in tone — even the antiwar movement was more civil in tone, but certainly the civil rights movement, among the people who were protesting.”
But those who say that the civil rights movement prevailed because of civil dialogue misunderstand protest and political change.

This misunderstanding is widespread. Democratic leaders have lashed out at an epidemic of uncivil behavior in their own ranks. In a tweet, the House minority leader, Nancy Pelosi, denounced both “Trump’s daily lack of civility” and angry liberal responses “that are predictable but unacceptable.” Senator Charles Schumer described the “harassment of political opponents” as “not American.” His alternative: polite debate. “If you disagree with someone or something, stand up, make your voice heard, explain why you think they’re wrong, and why you’re right.” Democrat Cory A. Booker joined the chorus. “We’ve got to get to a point in our country where we can talk to each other, where we are all seeking a more beloved community. And some of those tactics that people are advocating for, to me, don’t reflect that spirit.”

The theme: We need a little more love, a little more King, a dollop of Gandhi. Be polite, be civil, present arguments thoughtfully and reasonably. Appeal to people’s better angels. Take the moral high ground above Trump and his supporters’ low road. Above all, don’t disrupt.

This sugarcoating of protest has a long history. During the last major skirmish in the civility wars two decades ago, when President Bill Clinton held a national conversation about race to dampen tempers about welfare reform, affirmative action, and a controversial crime bill, the Yale law professor Stephen Carter argued that civil rights protesters were “loving” and “civil in their dissent against a system willing and ready to destroy them.” King, argued Carter, “understood that uncivil dialogue serves no democratic function.”

But in fact, civil rights leaders, while they did believe in the power of nonviolence, knew that their success depended on disruption and coercion as much — sometimes more — than on dialogue and persuasion. They knew that the vast majority of whites who were indifferent or openly hostile to the demands of civil rights would not be moved by appeals to the American creed or to bromides about liberty and justice for all. Polite words would not change their behavior.

For King and his allies, the key moment was spring 1963, a contentious season when polite discourse gave way to what many called the “Negro Revolt.” That year, the threat of disruption loomed large. King led a mass demonstration in Birmingham, Ala., deliberately planned to provoke police violence. After the infamous police commissioner Bull Connor sicced police dogs on schoolchildren and arrested hundreds, including King, angry black protesters looted Birmingham’s downtown shopping district. Protesters against workplace discrimination in Philadelphia and New York deployed increasingly disruptive tactics, including blockading construction sites, chaining themselves to cranes, and clashing with law enforcement officials. Police forces around the United States began girding for what they feared was an impending race war.

Whites both North and South, moderate and conservative, continued to denounce advocates of civil rights as “un-American” and destructive throughout the 1960s. Agonized moderates argued that mass protest was counterproductive. It would alienate potential white allies and set the goal of racial equality back years, if not decades. Conservatives more harshly criticized the movement. National Review charged “King and his associates” with “deliberately undermining the foundations of internal order in this country. With their rabble-rousing demagogy, they have been cracking the ‘cake of custom’ that holds us together.” By 1966, more than two-thirds of Americans disapproved of King.

King aimed some of his harshest words toward advocates of civility, whose concerns aligned with the hand-wringing of many of today’s politicians and pundits. From his Birmingham jail cell, King wrote: “I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to ‘order’ than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: ‘I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action’.” King knew that whites’ insistence on civility usually stymied civil rights.

Those methods of direct action — disruptive and threatening — spurred the Kennedy administration to move decisively. On June 11, the president addressed the nation on the “fires of frustration and discord that are burning in every city, North and South, where legal remedies are not at hand.” Kennedy, like today’s advocates of civility, was skeptical of “passionate movements.” He criticized “demonstrations, parades and protests which create tensions and threaten violence and threaten lives,” and argued, “it is better to settle these matters in the courts than on the streets.” But he also had to put out those fires. He tasked his staff with drafting what could eventually become the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964. Dialogue was necessary but far from sufficient for passage of civil rights laws. Disruption catalyzed change.

That history is a reminder that civility is in the eye of the beholder. And when the beholder wants to maintain an unequal status quo, it’s easy to accuse picketers, protesters, and preachers alike of incivility, as much because of their message as their methods. For those upset by disruptive protests, the history of civil rights offers an unsettling reminder that the path to change is seldom polite.

A previous version of this piece misstated Bull Connor’s title. He was a police commissioner, not the police chief.

Thomas J. Sugrue is professor of history and social and cultural analysis at New York University.

Sunday, September 02, 2018

Delegated Authority

The recent primary election on Guam had very few surprises. Lou and Josh were the favorites to win the Democratic primary. They did win, although it has been a surprise thus far how slim the margin was. Despite the huge gap in spending between the Lou and Josh and Frank and Alicia camps, Lou and Josh won by less than 300 votes.

The closeness of the race was not the biggest upset however, that prize goes to Senator Mike San Nicolas' win over incumbent Madeleine Bordallo in the primary for Democratic candidate for the non-voting position in the US Congress. Bordallo has served in the position for 16 years and has long been a fixture in Democratic politics on island. While San Nicolas has his own loyal base of followers and voters, many felt that the tension he has sometimes created within the party, in particular with his fellow senators and party leaders, would hurt his chances at unseating Bordallo. The race was close, but ultimately San Nicolas prevailed.

San Nicolas will face off against former Public Auditor Doris Flores Brooks in November. It'll be interesting to see who will win. Håyi pau fanggåna gi este na karera? 

Dr. Vivian Dames' dissertation has a chapter on the non-voting delegate position, focusing on the first three Chamoru men to hold it, Tony Won Pat, Ben Blaz and Robert Underwood. It is a fascinating read, because part of the way she makes her argument is to give each of these men a label or a nickname to help us understand their role or their place. What they accomplished or how they were perceived. For example Won Pat was in many ways a deal maker. Through his relationships with powerful congressional leaders he was able to get Guam included in many pieces of legislation. He was small in stature and minute in terms of apparent political power, but through his relationships with other congresspeople, he was able to accomplish a great deal for Guam.

Blaz was the general, since his military service defined him in so many ways, including with his attitude and approach to others. Getting an accurate portrait of Congressman Blaz has always been difficult as I've gone about my research since for many people who worked with him or around him, his personality was difficult to negotiate. When I interviewed people who worked in his office while in DC, they all praised him in certain ways, but were also guarded in assessing him as well, perhaps because of ways they may have clashed with him or felt his ego made him less effective.

Despite any of this, Blaz did use his background as a military officer in order to further build relationships, especially with other congressmen who had served in the military. Despite his minute political status, Blaz brought an air of dignity to the office.

Dames refers to Underwood as the storyteller or the teacher. Underwood entered Congress at a time when things were changing, when the current era of hyper partisanship was being born. The days of Newt Gingrich and the impeachment of Clinton. Underwood distinguished himself in those days by being articulate, witty and telling effective stories. As someone known in Congress for being able to turn a phrase or two, he was valued within his party because of his ability to speak effectively in debate and on various issues, not just those pertaining to Guam.

What nickname would Bordallo receive from her term in office? When I have asked people, one answer that I have gotten is that she is the hostess, because of her office being well known for holding Liberation Day parties as a means of building relationships with other officers in Congress. Over the past ten years when I've interviewed people in and out of Congress, this is always something that they bring up as defining her time there, her use of cultural dancing and Chamoru food to building friendships with elected leaders and their staffers. Elements of this existed under the previous delegates, but everyone I've spoken to seems to feel that Bordallo did it better than the rest.

The question for someone like Mike San Nicolas or Doris Flores Brooks will be, how will they define their time in Washington? What will they do in order to stand out or to make connections? As each of the previous delegates can tell you, it goes beyond your rhetoric or your own expectations. You are thrust into a space where the chief currency is votes and your pockets are empty. I will never forget what Robert Underwood told me on the eve of his own retirement from the office after he lost to Felix Camacho in 2002 in a race for government. As a non-voting delegate to Congress, you aren't actually there to represent anything, your position doesn't really give you that power, you are more than anything there to act as a reminder to the federal government that it controls Guam's fate and that it can make things in the colonial corners of the US better or worse. You are the reminders, the temporary remedy for the political amnesia of the supposed greatest democracy in the world.

I wonder how either of these candidates would fare.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

August 2018 GA - Does Size Matter?

Independent Guåhan's August Meeting will honor the late Ricky Bordallo and tackle the question “Does Size Matter?” in terms of island development

For Immediate Release, August 20, 2018 
Independent Guåhan (IG) invites the public to attend our August General Assembly (GA) on Thursday, August 30th, from 6:00 to 7:30 p.m. at the Main Pavilion of the Chamorro Village in Hatña. The event will focus on how Guåhan can be successful and prosperous as an independent country, and that being a small island does not truly hold us back.

At each GA, Independent Guåhan honors a maga’taotao: a notable figure that has helped guide the island and the Chamoru people on their quest for self-determination. This month, IG will be honoring the legacy of the late governor of Guåhan, Ricardo “Ricky” Bordallo. Bordallo served in ILiheslaturan Guåhan seven times and was elected twice as Guåhan’s governor. He was a strong believer in Guåhan, that its people were capable of great things, and that our status as a small island in the Pacific was not a limitation. 

In this spirit, he once famously said "This land, tiny as it is, belongs to us, just as surely, just as inseparably, as we belong to it. No tragedy of history or declaration of conquest, no legalistic double-talk, can change that fact. Guam is our legacy. Is it for sale? How can one sell a national birthright?” Independent Guåhan is proud to honor the legacy of the late Governor Bordallo in our August GA. 

The educational focus for the GA will probe the question “Does Size Matter?” when it comes to islands and their opportunities for prosperity. IG will provide some answers to this question by looking at other small countries around the world and examining their approaches to economic and diplomatic development: in what ways have they used their political independence to capitalize on their advantages and minimize their disadvantages? What can Guåhan learn from these models? This GA intends to refocus the conversation by showing that it is not the size of your land or economy that determines your prosperity, but, instead, the policies that are implemented. 

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

United Natives Against Bureaucratic Miasma

I first traveled to the United Nations to testify in 2007. I testified along with two other Marie Auyong and Rima Miles before the Fourth Committee on the situation in Guam. We came in the wake of a larger delegation the year before which featured Victoria Leon Guerrero, Julian Aguon, Sabina Perez, Fanai Castro, Tiffany Lacsado and Kerri Ann Borja. That trip represented a big moment in sort of post-nation Chamoru/Angel Santos activism in Guam and the diaspora. The trip first came from a conference in San Diego that I along with a few others had organized in April 2006 about decolonization and Chamoru issues. It was, as far as any of us could tell, the first of its kind in the diaspora. The gathering of so many critical and conscious Chamorus in one place led to a great number of things, one of which was a period of new engagement around the United Nations.

Chamorus had been traveling on and off to the UN since 1982. There were high points, usually when the Government of Guam wanted to try to shame the US about something or draw more attention to something the US was ignoring, but for the most part, only one or two people, or no one would travel to the UN to testify. That trip in 2006 wasn't organized by anyone with government of Guam connections, but rather activists either raised in the diaspora or just in the states for school, who wanted to draw attention to the military buildup that had been announced back home.

2006 was a high point, as the group met with countries and UN officials, who were all eager to see some activity in Guam again around decolonization. The first year I attended was simply a placeholder, a reminder that even if we hadn't returned with the same intensity, we were still there and did not want to be dismissed or forgotten. I hadn't even planned on testifying, but was asked at the last minute and ended up flying out with just a day or two notice.

Another larger group returned in 2008, but even in my short time within the UN infrastructure I was struck by a number of things. Once the luster and grandness of the place wore off, you were left with a hollowness, especially coming from a colony. As I wrote in my dissertation, the UN gift shop was a particularly depressing spectacle, as flags from nearly every UN member were there, but none for the colonies.

As much as testifying there before the Fourth Committee was exciting, it was also depressing in a larger and more profound way. In that huge building, in that huge organization, the presence of Chamorus was relegated to an almost microscopic quality. Whereas many nations in the world are small, they are still treated with a bare minimum level of equality by virtue of their country status. They are there in all the halls and offices in some way or another. Their interests persist in small or large ways.

This was not the case for colonies. In those first steps walking through the valley of the UN framework, up until more recently, there was a resistance to Guam being a part of the UN mandate beyond the Fourth Committee and its role in overseeing decolonization. This wasn't just my experience, but that of others as well.

When Chamorus attempted to testify before the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues they were told that they weren't indigenous and that their issue lay before the Fourth Committee. Inquiries to other offices in the UN that dealt with discrimination or human rights were given the same answers.

The first point of resistance was the idea that for a colony, since it has no sovereignty or no real place at the UN, its presence there is continent upon the consent of the administering power or the colonizer. So when I asked why the UN doesn't undertake particular programs in Guam, they said that they need permission or a request from the US first. When I asked how Guam could get a UN visiting mission, again the answer was that a request from the US needed to be made. So to this point, the UN was resisting Guam gaining any further role there beyond the Fourth Committee, because of the principle of respecting state sovereignty and that unnecessarily infringing upon it, even in the name of something universal like decolonization. In fact, the only reason that Guam is even an issue on the Fourth Committee at all, is because the US listed it under international pressure following World War II. The US has then spent many a moment in the decades since trying to get Guam off the list, so it no longer has to answer for why this bastion of freedom still has colonies.

Beyond this however was a second type of resistance and that stemmed simply from bureaucratic apathy. Guam is a distant place for most people in the US, and for the UN as well, it is a distant afterthought. Bringing programs to it would mean expending resources, would mean doing extra work beyond what it already does. This is the anathema to the average bureaucrat's existence. So a lot of times when I and others were told that Guam was not eligible or could not be included, it wasn't true. It was simply bureaucrats reminding us that it is less work to close doors than open them.

But things have been changing. The passage of the Universal Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples helped change things so that Chamorus can now have an easier time of being included in the UN as indigenous people. Visiting missions to colonies do not require the consent of the colonizer, but can happen in the absence of their explicit consent. With more lobbying at the UN, in different office and different levels, Guam can gain more prominence, but it does mean pushing back against the apathy that prevents any real change from taking place.

Next week there will be a report back at UOG titled "United Natives" and it will focus on some of the new opportunities that young activists are creating at the UN and elsewhere. It'll take place on Thursday, August 23rd from 6-8 pm.


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