Thursday, October 12, 2017

Statues Along the Slippery Slope

The Department of the Interior is the closest thing the US has to an explicitly colonial office. It is an office that overseas Native American tribes, the insular territories and also has obligations to deal with the freely associated states in Micronesia. It is for this reason probably the most interesting and exceptional place within the entirety of the US federal government. But this mandate is its least important function and one that matters very little in terms of general US interests or imagining. Overall its role in terms of managing national parks and providing oversight to resource extraction is far more visible. It is for this reason that in the general debate that is taking place within the US over Confederate monuments and attempts to whitewash and minimize racist and immoral parts of America's past, the Department of Interior enters the debate, not in terms of the Confederacy itself, but the way that certain heroes of American history, also participated in projects of Native American genocide. The Secretary of the Interior under Trump weighed in on the issue saying that taking down Confederate monuments on behalf of African Americans and their sense of justice, would then lead to Native Americans undertaking similar attempts. What the Secretary doesn't seem to understand, be aware of, or care about, is that Native Americans have been doing that for decades.


Trump's Interior Head: If We Take Down Confederate Statues, American Indians Will Complain Next
by Chris D'Angelo and Dana Liebelson
Huffington Post

WASHINGTON ― Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke says that if Confederate monuments are taken down, there’s no telling how far America might go —Native Americans could call for the removal of statues commemorating leaders who orchestrated violence against their ancestors. 
“Where do you start and where do you stop?” Zinke asked in an interview with Breitbart published Sunday. “It’s a slippery slope. If you’re a native Indian, I can tell you, you’re not very happy about the history of General Sherman or perhaps President Grant.”
William Sherman was a Union general during the Civil War who later used the military to force American Indian tribes to move to reservations. He wrote in 1868 that, “the more I see of these Indians the more convinced I am that they all have to be killed or be maintained as a species of paupers.” 
Former President Ulysses Grant covertly provoked an illegal war with Plains Indians, as Smithsonian Magazine reported, and also presided over the mass slaughter of the buffalo, a culturally significant animal that was also a major resource for many tribes. 
Zinke, who oversees the country’s national park system as head of the Interior Department, told Breitbart that the Trump administration will not remove any monuments from federal land, including Confederate monuments. “When you try to erase history, what happens is you also erase how it happened and why it happened and the ability to learn from it,” Zinke said.
But Zinke’s remarks seem to ignore the fact that Native Americans have already been calling for the removal of monuments that commemorate white supremacy and historical figures who committed violence against indigenous people. 

Many Confederate monuments were erected long after the Civil War had ended, not to honor those who fought, but to promote a “white supremacist future,” as University of Chicago history professor Jane Dailey told NPR. “The proper place for this history is in a museum,” Heidi Beirich, director of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Intelligence Project, told HuffPost. 
In Zinke’s home state of Montana, Native American lawmakers have called for the removal of a memorial to Confederate soldiers that they say stands for “segregation, secession, and slavery.” 

Last month, representatives of several tribes also gathered in Gardiner, Montana — the northern entrance to Yellowstone National Park — to petition the government to change the names of two park features named after historical figures: Lt. Gustavus Cheyney Doane, who helped lead a massacre of more than 150 Native Americans in 1870, and Ferdinand Hayden, who once wrote that “unless [Native Americans] are localized and made to enter upon agricultural and pastoral pursuits they must ultimately be exterminated.”  
In blasting the removal of Confederate statues, Zinke is echoing President Donald Trump, who remarked in August, “You really do have to ask yourself, where does it stop?” 
Critics say Zinke’s latest statement about American Indians is dismissive and misses the point of efforts to remove Confederate statues in the first place. 
“He seeks to sidestep the initial issue and casually mentions American Indian complaints as a reason why the Confederate statues should stay,” Candessa Tehee, former executive director of the Cherokee Heritage Center in Oklahoma, told HuffPost. “His comparison is like saying one wrong move justifies another.” 
Zinke is “acting as an apologist for Confederate monuments that make no effort to present a balanced and informed view of history,” said David Hayes, the Interior Department’s deputy secretary under President Barack Obama
“The National Park Service rightly prides itself in providing an accurate and balanced view of America’s historical sites,” Hayes added, pointing to the Selma to Montgomery National Historic Trail in Alabama and the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument in Montana.
“The National Park Service doesn’t always get it right. But for many years, it has recognized its special obligation to responsibly present our nation’s history,” Hayes said. “Abdication of this responsibility with simplistic rhetoric ... is, at best, unbecoming to the Interior Department and the National Park Service.”
Zinke is obligated to appreciate, preserve and explain American history, Hayes added.
The Interior Department did not respond to HuffPost’s requests for comment.

Zinke’s relationship with Indian Country has been rocky. In 2014, when he was running for a Montana House seat, he drew fire for saying the problem of unemployment on local reservations stemmed from a “dependence on the government.” Tribal representatives accused Zinke of promoting stereotypes about Native Americans and of lacking empathy and historical awareness
When Zinke was sworn in as Interior Department head in March, he vowed to champion indigenous communities. He said “sovereignty should mean something” and that “Indian nations and territories must have the respect and freedom they deserve.” Some Native Americans say they are hopeful about his policies, even as he has pushed a proposal that would slash the Bureau of Indian Affairs budget more than 10 percent and cut $64.4 million from Indian Affairs education programs
In August, Zinke revised the agency’s Land Buy-Back Program for Tribal Nations, which aims to address the widespread problem in Indian Country of land fractionation, a threat to tribal sovereignty. The sudden change meant dozens of tribes were cut out of the program entirely. A former Interior official told HuffPost at the time that there was no consultation with tribal leaders about the new strategy.
Zinke has suggested that Trump consider establishing a new national monument in Montana’s 130,000-acre Badger-Two Medicine area, a site the Blackfeet Nation considers sacred. But he has also recommended shrinking or otherwise weakening at least 10 existing monuments that safeguard natural resources, according to a leaked copy of the report Zinke submitted to the White House in late August. 
Among the monuments Zinke sent to Trump’s chopping block is Bears Ears National Monument, 1.35 million acres of protected public land in southeastern Utah that is home to thousands of Native American archaeological and cultural sites. The Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition, a group of five tribes, condemned Zinke’s recommendation as a “slap in the face.” 
It says a lot about Zinke that “he’s willing to go to bat for monuments to Confederate generals”— but not those that protect sacred Native American sites, said Matt Lee-Ashley, a senior fellow at the liberal Center for American Progress.

Saturday, October 07, 2017

Siñot Dågu

Hagas umatungo' ham yan este na taotao, si Siñot Joe "Dågu" Babauta, un ma'estron Chamorro yan gof maolek na titifok yan danderu. Desde i ma'pos na såkkan hu ayuyuda gui' mama'tinas lepblon e'eyak para i ma'estron Chamorro gi GDOE. Hu kekeayuda gui' på'go mama'nå'gue klas gi UOG para i otro semester (Fañomåkan 2018). Halacha nai hu interview gui' para i website Hongga Mo'na, ya debi di bei edit yan na'funhåyan ayu.

Estague un tinige' put guiya yan i bidadå-ña ginen i gasetan PDN.


"Chamorro teacher Joe 'Dågu' Babuata keeps weaving tradition alive"
by Chloe Babauta
Pacific Daily News
August 7, 2017

When Joe “Dågu” Babauta saw “Tan Maria” weaving a hat out of coconut leaves at 12 years old, his lifelong love affair with the art of weaving began.

“Being that I was so young, I had to ask older friends who drove to take me down there from Agat, to where she used to weave at the old Chamorro village behind the Inarajan church,” he said.

Since then, he’s taken any opportunity to learn weaving from anyone he can. He’s spent countless hours getting a feel for the leaves.

“Whenever I would see something, I would ask them (if I could) try,” he said. “That’s the best way to learn, to ask around."

From the time he started weaving, he’s dedicated his life to the craft and helping others learn too.
Babauta has been teaching Chamorro language and culture at Marcial A. Sablan Elementary School in his home village since 2005.

For more than three decades, Babauta has honed his skills and turned fronds into unique creations.

Evolution of the Art

Chamorros have had a long history with the coconut tree, which Babauta honors by passing down the tradition and knowledge.

“Everything, from the roots up to the tip of the tree, there’s a use for it,” he said.

Chamorros have used coconut products for medicine, clothing, slippers and huts.
The leaves are just as useful and versatile.

Some of his most impressive woven work include a life-sized sea turtle and a latte stone — which he can put together in about 15 minutes.

“Before, weaving was for survival,” he said. 

There are many different uses and styles of basket weaving depending on the purpose. Different baskets are made for fishing, collecting fruits and cooking rice, to name a few uses.

“Today, it’s more like an art,” he said.”

He sees modern-day weaving as an art form, commonly used as decorations for social events.
At weddings, families decorate with small pieces like birds and katupat, a diamond-shaped woven container for rice.

He said he notices some families still even make the rice in the katupat.

“I’m very happy when I see stuff like that because just to make the katupat, somebody around the family knows how to do it,” he said. “I always ask, ‘hey, who did it? I’d like to meet them.’”

Rhino Beetle
Although the rhino beetle has rapidly affected Guam’s healthy coconut trees, Babauta said it isn’t so bad down south.

“There are trees down south that are affected already, but for some reason the spread is not as fast as up north,” he said.

From Agat, all the way around the south and back up to Talofofo, there are still many healthy trees, he said.

Babauta usually harvests his leaves around the Agat area.

While preparing for Chamorro Month in March, Babauta said teachers in northern villages asked him for help in finding leaves because healthy fronds are scarce.

He’s brought the leaves for the weaving competition for the past two years since northern teachers don’t have easy access to them, he said.

“Thankfully, not all of the southern area is affected yet,” he said. “But yes, it is down there. If you see the trees (in Asan), there are a lot that are affected here. I’m hoping that someone will come out and take (the affected trees) down.”

Babauta said cutting down trees affected by rhino beetles will help, because otherwise the beetles will move from one tree to another.

“We’re trying to spread the word that instead of just stacking your cut leaves and dead coconut leaves, burn them right away,” he said. “Because if you leave them, then that’s what (the rhino beetles) like.”

Passing Down Tradition
Just as he learned from older and more experienced weavers, Babauta wants to pass down the tradition to the next generation.

In July, he hosted a weaving lesson for families at the Guam Museum. There, he talked to parents and children about the history of the weaving tradition, different parts of the coconut tree and its importance to Chamorro society.

"I’m hoping that by doing this, other people (who) are interested would come to me. I’m happy to share.”

At the workshop, he helped participants learn and finish their creations, no matter their pace.
“Even just the way of teaching it, I try to make it easy so they can pick up on it. I teach whoever wants to learn.”

Babauta worked to incorporate weaving into the public schools' Chamorro studies curriculum for the upcoming school year, he said.

He hopes teachers will incorporate weaving into their lesson plans at least once a week.

“The main reason why I did this is because every year during Chamorro Month, we have our weaving competition,” he said. “I’m hoping more kids show up.”

Teaching Teachers
To help pass on the tradition, he's been teaching his coworkers to weave so they can continue when he retires someday.

For the past four years, he’s held summer workshops for interested teachers.

Weaving helps children become more interested in learning the Chamorro language, Babauta said.
“It helps to get the kids interested in learning the language. Just the actions of weaving.”

He teaches his student weaving mostly in Chamorro.

“That way, when they come to me, I tell them they have to explain to me what they’re doing in Chamorro,” he said. “And the ones that are really interested will pick up faster. Just like learning music and songs.”

Babauta said he’s optimistic the faculty at his elementary school will keep the tradition alive and continue to teach the art of weaving when he retires someday.

“I hope that even if I retire, the other teachers will continue,” he said. “So far they’re continuously doing it, and I’m hoping that they pass it on.”

Monday, October 02, 2017

Manhoben Para Guahan

Towards the end of last month I spent two nights in a row editing this video with Edgar Flores in response to the protests and public hearings that had been taking place.

Both Edgar and I were at the public hearing at the Liheslaturan Guåhan on a Friday where we heard dozens speak about their concerns and frustrations about the US military buildup and in particular the use of Litekyan for a firing range. We were both there the following day when a group of youth organized a demonstration in front of Andersen Air Force Base and witnessed their act of civil disobedience as they temporarily blocked the gate.

The video is meant to help people understand why people were willing to undertake such an action, by using the testimonies of two young passionate and articulate student members of Manhoben para Guåhan.

Sunday, October 01, 2017

Chamorro at the UN

This image is of me in 2007, the first and only time that I've testified before the Fourth Committee of the United Nations. I am excited that next week, I along with more than a dozen others will be back at the United Nations to testify.

In 2007, only three of us went, myself, Rima Miles and Marie Auyong. It was an incredibly exciting albeit frustrating experience, to testify in a room filled with the world's representatives, who aren't really paying attention to you because you come from a far-away colony of the world's most powerful country. I ended up incorporating my UN-experience into one of the chapters of my dissertation. We only had less than five minutes to testify and make our case to the world. Despite the short amount of time, it is common for people to still being and end their testimonies in their native language, while the bulk of it is in English. 

Chamorro scholar Tiara Na'puti wrote about this in her own dissertation. This was the same for me, as my first paragraph was in Chamorro, giving my thanks for the chance to inform everyone about the Chamorro people in Guam. It is something I have continued to do even when I have testified before the Committee of 24 at their regional seminars. I look forward to once again using Chamorro at the United Nations next week.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

The Mayor of San Juan

Estague i mayot giya San Juan, i kapitåt para i islan Puerto Rico, un otro na colony gi påpa' i Estådos Unidos. Gi ma'pos na simåna sen hinatme i isla ni' un dångkolo'lo' na påkyo'. Meggai na taotao manmamadedesi guihi på'go. Gof annok gi sinangån–ña si Donald Trump yan gi bidan-ña i Gubetnamenton Federåt na ti manmatratråta i taotao guihi parehu put i estao-ñiha. Anggen un taitai pat un hungok i sinangån-ña gof annok yan oppan na ha apagågayi i minagahet colonial. Anggen ti siña un li'e' pat hungok, put fabot akompåra i tratamento giya Texas yan Florida yan giya Puerto Rico. Gof annok ti manchilong todu gi Estådos Unidos,

Giya Guåhan, fihu masångan na mamparehu hit gera, lao åhe' gi pas. Gof annok gi håfa masusesedi giya Puerto Rico na ti mamparehu hit lokkue' gi pakyo' pat otro taiguihi na klasen ira.


Retired Lieutenant General: While Trump Golfs, San Juan's Mayor is 'Living On A Cot."
by Sebastian Murdock
Huffington Post

The retired lieutenant general who led the effort to bring aid to Louisiana after it was ravaged by Hurricane Katrina didn’t mince words when talking about the president’s response to the humanitarian crisis in Puerto Rico.
On Saturday morning, President Donald Trump unleashed a series of tweets taking aim at San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz. In them, he accused Democrats of having convinced Cruz to be “nasty” to him, called Cruz’s leadership “poor” and said that other leaders in Puerto Rico “want everything to be done for them.” The tweets were sent from his golf resort in Bedminster, New Jersey.
In an interview with CNN later in the day, retired Lt. General Russel L. Honoré tore down Trump’s remarks:
“The mayor’s living on a cot and I hope the president has a good day at golf,” he told CNN.

Honoré said the crisis in Puerto Rico is even larger than what he faced during Katrina. 
“Is Puerto Rico worse than what you found here in Katrina?” CBS News correspondent Michelle Miller asked Honoré on Friday.
“Oh, hell yeah,” Honore said. “The number one priority is saving lives and when you’re saving lives, you’ve gotta figure out what rules you’re gonna break. All the rules we live by are designed for peacetime.”
“And this is what?” Miller asked.
“This is like a war,” he said.
Army Lt. Gen. Jeff Buchanan arrived on the island Thursday after being appointed by the Pentagon to lead the relief effort there. So far, approximately 4,400 troops are on the island, he told CNBC Friday. He added that more are arriving to help, but it’s still not enough.
“Our capacity is growing but that doesn’t mean that we’re getting all the right help to the people who need it,” Buchanan said. 
“For me, Harvey was monumental in Texas because of the amount of flood damage,” Buchanan added. “But the impact here is completely different. It’s like an atomic bomb went off. With all of the wind impact knocking down trees, electrical lines ― it’s just a very different disaster.”
Honoré said the military response to the 3.5 million people without power and supplies should have happened much sooner.
“Not giving the mission to the military” was the first mistake, Honoré said in his interview with CBS. “Look, we got Army units that go do port openings. Not called. We got special forces that could’ve been in every town. Not employed.”

The president’s slow response to the humanitarian crisis has been widely criticized in recent days. On Saturday morning, “Hamilton” creator Lin-Manuel Miranda slammed Trump for attacking the San Juan mayor from his personal golf course while people in Puerto Rico suffer.
“[Mayor Cruz] has been working 24/7. You have been GOLFING,” Miranda wrote in a tweet  “You’re going straight to hell.”


"San Juan Mayor Responds to Trump's Attacks: I Was Asking for Help."
by Lee Moran
Huffington Post

The mayor of San Juan, Puerto Rico, on Saturday defended her request for federal aid in the wake of Hurricane Maria, hours after President Donald Trump lashed out at her for asking for assistance and accused her of unnecessarily criticizing him.
During an appearance on MSNBC, Carmen Yulin Cruz reiterated that Puerto Rico needed more help and said her previous critiques of the administration’s response had not been intended as a personal slight.
“Actually, I was asking for help,” she said. “I wasn’t saying anything nasty about the president.”
“I will continue to do whatever I need to do, say whatever I need to say, compliment the people I need to compliment, and call out the people that I need to call out,” she added. “This isn’t about me. This isn’t about anyone. This is about lives that are being lost if things do not get done properly real quickly.”

Trump had tweeted criticisms of Cruz earlier in the day, saying she demonstrated “poor leadership ability.”
“The Mayor of San Juan, who was very complimentary only a few days ago, has now been told by the Democrats that you must be nasty to Trump,” he wrote.
“They want everything to be done for them when it should be a community effort,” Trump added, noting how there were now 10,000 federal workers on the “totally destroyed” island who were “doing a fantastic job.”

Trump also criticized CNN and NBC for their coverage of the relief effort.

He tweeted again on Saturday afternoon, claiming the media was misrepresenting aid work taking place in Puerto Rico. 

The president’s posts were an apparent reaction to the criticism that Cruz has leveled at his administration in recent days over its handling of the fallout from the natural disaster, which has claimed at least 16 lives since ripping through the island more than a week ago.

Elaine Duke, the acting secretary of homeland security, on Thursday enthusiastically praised how federal authorities had reacted to the aftermath of the storm.
I know it’s a hard storm to recover from,” she said. “But I know it is really a good news story in terms of our ability to reach people and the limited number of deaths that have taken place in such a devastating hurricane.”
Cruz, however, called that statement “irresponsible.”
This is a people are dying story. This is a life or death story,” she said on Friday’s broadcast of CNN’s “New Day.” “This is a story of a devastation that continues to worsen because people are not getting food and water.”
Cruz also used a news conference at a distribution center on Friday to blast the response and ask Trump to step up efforts to get aid delivered to islanders in need.
We are dying here, and I cannot fathom the thought that the greatest nation in the world cannot figure out logistics for a small island of 100 miles by 35 miles,” she said. “Mayday! We are in trouble.” She has responded to Trump’s tweets by saying that the one goal was “saving lives.”

Critics have also called out Trump for devoting so much time to attacking NFL players who take a knee during the national anthem as the relief effort was struggling to get under way.
Trump said Saturday that he would visit Puerto Rico with first lady Melania Trump on Tuesday.

"San Juan Mayor Slams Feds Response to Puerto Rico: 'Get Your Ass Moving.'"
By Carla Herreria
Huffington Post

The mayor of San Juan on Friday tore into the federal government’s response to recovery efforts in Puerto Rico and begged the rest of the country to send help to the island.
“We are dying here, and I cannot fathom the thought that the greatest nation in the world cannot figure out logistics for a small island of 100 miles by 35 miles,” Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz said at a news conference at a distribution center. “Mayday! We are in trouble.”
Hurricane Maria made landfall in Puerto Rico as a Category 4 storm on Sept. 20. So far at least 16 deaths have been reported, a number that will likely grow as recovery efforts continue. Only 11 of the island’s 69 hospitals currently have power or fuel, and an estimated 44 percent of the population is without drinking water.
“I am going to do what I never thought I would do. I am begging, begging anyone who can hear us to save us from dying,” Cruz said, holding back tears.
“We are dying, and you are killing us with inefficiency and bureaucracy.”
Cruz specifically criticized the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s constant requests for her office to provide reports, assessments and memos, which she says has slowed down the process of actually providing help.
She held up thick binders to show the amount of paperwork that FEMA has requested of her and suggested that the government did not appear to be acting with any sense of urgency.
“You think that’s enough paperwork for FEMA to get their ass moving?”

Cruz appeared exasperated with the government’s delayed response to Puerto Rico, where millions of people still await help and deliveries of basic human necessities.
Cruz, who oversees the largest city on the island, described residents who were forced to drink out of creeks and dehydrated senior citizens who were trapped in buildings that were like “human cages.”

Cruz rebuked a remark made earlier Friday by a government official who said that getting aid was much more complicated than expected.

“You know what? This is the United States of America,” the mayor said. “If somebody can put a man on the moon, they surely can walk around on an island ... and figure out the appropriate technology to get it.”
Cruz also appealed to President Donald Trump, who has praised the government’s response in Puerto Rico, to do more than fly over the U.S. territory when he visits next week.
“I hope as the president comes next week he doesn’t just get an aerial view of the situation,” she said. “Let him hear the cries of elderly people outside windows and doors screaming, ‘Help us.’”
Aid workers have warned that recovery efforts in Puerto Rico could take years due to extensive damage to the island’s agriculture and the downing of 2,400 miles of power transmission lines. One local official said that the devastation may have set the island back “nearly 20 to 30 years.”
Cruz used the news conference to ask U.S. citizens to send help and requested that news reporters send a “mayday” emergency call to the world.
“I know your hearts. You’re loving and caring. Help us. Show the world what we can do together,” she said.
“Call your local representative. Call everyone you can. Let’s show the world the generosity, the audacity and the hope that the U.S. can provide. You are a country of the people. Just let the people shine. Let them shine.”


"Trump's Inferno: Hell is Now for Puerto Rico"
by Susan Thistlethwaite
Huffington Post

Is Donald Trump going to hell for his callousness and incompetence toward Puerto Rico?
Lin-Manuel Miranda, the creator of “Hamilton,” certainly thinks he is, and he thinks this will happen especially for Trump’s attacks on San Juan’s mayor, Carmen Yulin Cruz, for daring to call out this administration’s slow and inept response so far to the devastation caused by Hurricane Maria.
Mayor Cruz made an impassioned plea for faster and better help for her people.
I am done being polite, and I am done being politically correct. I am mad as hell because my people’s lives are at stake.
She asks the media to “send a mayday call.”
We are dying here. If we don’t solve the logistics, we are going to see something close to a genocide.
Genocide has been called A Problem from Hell. Puerto Rico’s people are in peril of their lives and health; so many of them are desperately imperiled, in fact, that the death toll could reach genocidal proportions. It’s that critical. Mayor Cruz is right.
Instead of responding compassionately to this heartfelt appeal, however, Trump lashed out in anger, unjustly criticizing Mayor Cruz for “nasty” comments and slamming her “poor leadership ability.”
This prompted Lin-Manuel Miranda, the creator of “Hamilton,” to tell Donald Trump on Twitter that he will go “straight to hell” for his unjust attacks on Mayor Carmen Cruz.

As a professor of theology, I think Lin-Manuel Miranda’s insight is on target. Trump should be condemned in the strongest possible terms, and consigning someone to hell certainly does that, because today Puerto Rico is hell on earth for most of its people. And the callous and incompetent response of Trump in particular, but also his administration, is in now great part to blame. And, just to add condemnation upon condemnation, this administration deserves great blame for the hellish consequences of the climate change denial that it fosters in order to protect those who pollute the environment with fossil fuels. Warming oceans due to accelerating climate change make hurricanes larger and more destructive. It’s the science, stupid.
Mayor Cruz is “mad as hell” and Lin-Manuel Miranda is consigning Trump to hell. I realized, in reading these stories, this could be straight out of the Inferno, the political and religious allegory by Dante, the 14th century poet.

Dante was not just speculating about the afterlife. He wrote a complex symbolic poem about the fact that life in Florence, where he lived, was hell on earth for him and for many of the people.
In the Inferno, Dante maps out Hell’s organization in concentric circles. He saves the circles of hell closest to Satan for corrupt politicians. The lower circles of hell are also reserved for violence, fraud and treachery.
It has always struck me as important that Dante’s vision of hell is not the popular fiery imagery we so often see (as in “burn in hell”). Dante portrays hell as cold as ice. The worst inhabitant of hell, the fallen angel, the “emperor” Satan, huge as he is, is mired in ice, as if cut off from all human ties, all the warmth of human relationship.
The emperor of the despondent kingdom
so towered from the ice, up from midchest,
that I match better with a giant’s breadth
than giants match the measure of his arms.
[Inferno, Canto XXXIV]
There’s a reason Dante reserved the worst level of hell for those who were frozen, incapable of the warmth of feeling empathy for other people. This is the worst hell has to offer.
I feel this is why Miranda reacted to Trump’s callous threat by invoking hell. Trump’s response was cold as ice.
For the rest of us, empathy for Puerto Rico, and for all those who have been affected by these devastating hurricanes, is an imperative.
I have given both to Volunteers of America and to United for Puerto Rico. There are many other fine organizations helping right now.
I tell you truly, I pray Donald Trump’s frozen heart thaws and he too responds with warmth and aid for all those in Puerto Rico and beyond who need the help of the United States.
But suffering people can’t wait to see if that happens.
Please do what you can right now. This hell on earth is real.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Inter-Generational Protest

On Saturday my kids and I were driving up to the Litekyan demonstration organized by Manhoben para Guåhan at the front gate of Andersen Air Force base. When we were almost there, a half dozen Guam police vehicles rushed by us. We quickly parked and ran over to the demonstration site across the road from the gate. We could see the line of police cars and also, to our surprise, a line of protestors blocking several of the lanes to the gate. Both kids cried "ti malago' yu' ma'aresta!" and "mungga' yu' ma'aresta." 

When we got to the demonstration site and got a better look at the line of protestors, we saw the outline of my dad and their grandfather. I walked across to join him and learn more about what was happening, Akli'e' disobeying me and sneakily walking behind me. We embraced him and he gave us an overview of what happened during the protest. I felt so proud of him that he had joined the others to symbolically block traffic and bring attention to the issue of Litekyan, but I couldn't help but ask him why he had joined. 

He acknowledged that when they had been discussing temporarily blocking the gate, he had been torn over what he should do. He said he asked himself "What would Miget do?" and then thought of his own grandchildren and future great-grandchildren not being able to visit beautiful Litekyan and he said he felt like he needed to join the protest to represent the family. 

Si Yu'us Ma'åse tatå-hu para i bidå-mu guihi na diha! Sen gefpå'go nu Guahu! Magof hu na listo hao para un tachuyi i famagu'on-hu yan i familia-ta!

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Justifying Colonialism

The fact that even now, after most of the world has acknowledged that colonization is an evil that must be eradicated, people still debate its merits and occasionally argue for its return, is a testament to the complexity that comes with colonization. Regardless of the ways in which people (sometimes myself included) try to propose colonialism as being a simple binary or something with clear moral boundaries, the process itself and the way it becomes deeply entrenched and embedded, means that long after the colonizer's flag is gone and no one is whipping or punishing anyone directly, people will still embody the logic of the colonizer's assertions of their superiority or the necessity of their dominance.

In Guam we see this manifest in so many ways, despite Guam being one of the oldest remaining colonies in the world. People argue that Guam didn't suffer or isn't suffering. They argue that without colonialism Guam would be filled with pagan, naked savages. They argue that because Chamorros accepted things like Catholicism or began to feel patriotism to the US, then this justifies colonialism or turns it into something more acceptable. I remember once coming across the argument that Guam can't be a colony because the US isn't exploiting it enough. That if Guam was a real colony there would be more exploitation of what the US values, but because that doesn't take place, we can't be a colony. An intriguing way of both attempting to wash away the colonizer's presence, but also tear down the colonized people and what they represent in an attempt to justify the colonizer's place in the hierarchy once again. Whenever I hear that argument I have to marvel at the crude way in which someone self-immolates and destroys themselves on behalf of the colonizer's greatness. We aren't being colonized because we suck so bad and have nothing anyone wants. Isn't it nice then that someone wants to colonize us?

This is on my mind this morning because of the controversy over a horrifically bad article that was published recently in the academic journal Third World Quarterly. It is a disgraceful apologist rant, which aims to argue that colonialism was not only good, but should return in an evolved form to save developing countries. The article has almost now connection to history or reality, but simply written by someone who wants to try to erase stains on the alleged greatness of Western civilization.

Below is a great response to that horrible article.


"A Quick Reminder of Why Colonialism Was So Bad"
by Nathan J. Robinson
Current Affairs
September 14, 2017

Perhaps the easiest way to understand why colonialism was so horrific is to imagine it happening in your own country now. It is invaded, conquered, and occupied by a foreign power. Existing governing institutions are dismantled and replaced by absolute rule of the colonizers. A strict hierarchy separates the colonized and the colonizer; you are treated as an inconvenient subhuman who can be abused at will. The colonists commit crimes with impunity against your people. Efforts at resistance are met with brutal reprisal, sometimes massacre. The more vividly and accurately you manage to conjure what this scenario would actually look like, the more horrified you will be by the very idea of colonialism.
One would think this revulsion was now universally shared. But that is far from being the case. The majority of British people are still proud of colonialism and the British Empire. Americans continue to show an almost total indifference to the lasting poverty and devastation inflicted on the country’s indigenous population. Being pro-colonial is no bar to success in academia; Harvard historian Niall Ferguson has long defended the British Empire as a force for good in the world. And now, Princeton PhD and Portland State University professor Bruce Gilley has published an unapologetic “Case for Colonialism” in Third World Quarterly, a respected academic journal.

Gilley’s article takes a very clear stance: not only was colonialism a force for good in the world, but anti-colonial sentiment is “preposterous.” What’s more, Gilley says, we need a new program of colonization, with Western powers taking over the governing functions of less developed countries. Gilley says he intends to overturn or revise three lines of criticism directed against colonialism: “that it was objectively harmful (rather than beneficial),” “that it was subjectively illegitimate (rather than legitimate),” and “that it offends the sensibilities of contemporary society.” Thus he is not just concerned to prove that colonialism was good and should be revived. He also wants to prove that it was “legitimate,” i.e. that there is nothing inherently unjust about invading and dominating a people.
Gilley’s article is a truly extraordinary piece of work. It’s hard to believe, at first, that it isn’t a Sokal-esque satire intended to prove how normalized abhorrent opinions are. But it appears to be sincere. And because it appeared in a mainstream journal, and the sentiments it expresses are somewhat common, it’s worth responding to the case Gilley makes. 

Gilley’s argument is, roughly: opposition to colonialism is reflexive rather than reasoned. This has caused terrible consequences, because postcolonial governments have hurt their people by attempting to destroy beneficial colonial institutions. The “civilizing mission” of colonialism was valuable and had a positive effect. Colonialism was legitimate because it helped people and many populations were willing to tolerate it. Anti-colonial arguments are often incoherent, blaming colonial governments for all ills rather than examining what would have occurred in the absence of those governments. And colonialism should cease to be a dirty word; in fact, it should be re-instituted, because many developing countries are incapable of self-government. Gilley’s article is brief, so he does not elaborate much on each of these points. But the thrust of the article is that a commitment to factual rigor requires an unbiased assessment of colonialism, and that such an assessment will reveal colonialism to be a good thing for the colonized. Anti-colonialism is a destructive and irrational “ideology” that should be abandoned. 

I suppose to those unfamiliar with the history, Gilley’s argument could appear superficially persuasive. But a moment’s examination of the record reveals why the case he makes is abhorrent. Gilley says he is simply asking for an unbiased assessment of the facts, that he just wants us to take off our ideological blinders and examine colonialism from an empirical perspective. But this is not what he has done. Instead, in his presentation of colonialism’s record, Gilley has deliberately excluded mention of every single atrocity committed by a colonial power. Instead of evaluating the colonial record empirically, he has distorted that record, concealing evidence of gross crimes against humanity. The result is not only unscholarly, but is morally tantamount to Holocaust denial.

First, Gilley says he is making a “case for colonialism,” to rescue Western colonial history’s “bad name.” But he restricts his examination to “the early nineteenth to mid-twentieth centuries.” He does so because if he were to include the first 300 years of Western colonialism (i.e. the majority), it would be almost impossible to mount any kind of case that the endeavor benefited indigenous populations. The civilizations of the Americas were exterminated by colonialism, through disease, displacement, resource depletion, one-sided warfare, and outright massacre, and their populations suffered a “catastrophic collapse.” Since it is impossible to spin this as benefiting the inhabitants, Gilley avoids mentioning that it even happened. This, in itself, in an article defending “colonialism,” should sufficiently prove that Gilley is unwilling to consider evidence that contradicts his case, by discussing “colonialism” generally while selecting only the cases in which native populations were not extinguished.

Next, Gilley’s method of defending colonialism is through “cost-benefit analysis,” in which the harms of colonialism are weighed against the “improvements in living conditions” and better governance. (Gilley even proposes “greater business confidence” as a potential benefit of a neo-colonial project.) He quotes his standard of measurement: 

[I]n times and places where colonial rule had, on balance, a positive effect on training for self-government, material well-being, labor allocation choices, individual upward mobility, cross-cultural communication, and human dignity, compared to the situation that would likely have obtained absent European rule, then the case for colonialism is strong. Conversely, in times and places where the effects of foreign rule in these respects were, on balance, negative compared to a territory’s likely alternative past, then colonialism is morally indefensible 

We should observe here that this is a terrible way of evaluating colonialism. It is favored by colonialism’s apologists because it means that truly unspeakable harms can simply be “outweighed” and thereby trivialized. We can see quickly how ludicrous this is: “Yes, we may have indiscriminately massacred 500 children, but we also opened a clinic that vaccinated enough children to save 501 lives, therefore ‘the case for colonialism is strong.’” We don’t allow murderers to produce defenses like this, for good reason: you can’t get away with saying “Yes, I killed my wife, but I’m also a fireman.” We must also be careful about using hypothetical counterfactuals: examining whether colonialism is “better than what would have happened in its absence.” I’m reading Great Expectations at the moment, and so I’ll call this the “Pip’s sister defense”: Pip’s sister justifies her cruelty and physical abuse by constantly reminding Pip that if it were not for her, he would be in an even worse situation. It’s an argument frequently deployed by abusive and exploitative individuals in order to justify their acts. And the point is that whether or not it’s true is immaterial to the evaluation of the person’s crimes. Gilley and other colonial apologists, like the husband telling his wife that while she may not like being hit, she should remember who provides for her, try to exonerate colonial powers by suggesting that enough economic growth could somehow make a “strong case for colonialism” even if there had been constant mass rape and torture. (By the way, I think even committed opponents of colonialism may sometimes fall into this trap. They may feel as if it is necessary to deny that colonialism ever brought any benefits—which, as Gilley points out, even Chinua Achebe doesn’t think. Instead, it’s important to point out that building power lines and opening a school doesn’t provide one with a license to rob and murder people. Furthermore, nobody should be surprised if performance on certain economic and political metrics did end up declining in the postcolonial era, since reconstructing a functioning country after decades or centuries of subjugation is… not easily done.) 

But even if we assume that “cost-benefit” analysis is the correct way to examine colonialism, Gilley has to distort the evidence in order to prove his case. For example, Gilley cites the fact that “since gaining independence, Congo has never had at its disposal an army comparable in efficiency and discipline” to that it had under the Belgians, commenting that “Maybe the Belgians should come back.” If one knows anything about the history of the Belgian Congo, one knows that this statement is equivalent to saying “Maybe the Confederacy should come back” to the American South. Belgian King Leopold created possibly the most infamous colonial regime in history. Contemporaries called it “legalized robbery enforced by violence,” and Leopoldturned his ‘Congo Free State’ into a massive labour camp, made a fortune for himself from the harvest of its wild rubber, and contributed in a large way to the death of perhaps 10 million innocent people.” Belgian rule in the Congo was a reign of terror that scandalized the world:

Much of the death toll was the result of killing, pure and simple. Villages were dragooned into tapping rubber, and if they refused to comply, or complied but failed to meet European quotas, they were punished. The hands of dead Congolese were severed and kept by militias to account to their quartermasters for spent ammunition. And, as Morel said, the practice of mutilation was extended to the living. By far the greatest number of deaths, however, were caused by sickness and starvation. The effect of the terror was to drive communities from their sources of food.

Above is one of the most disturbing pictures I have ever seen (WARNING), taken by English missionary and journalist Alice Seeley Harris, who exposed the Belgian abuses. It depicts a man looking at the severed hand and foot of his murdered daughter, who had been killed after the man failed to meet his daily rubber harvesting quotient:

It is shocking that Gilley could discuss Belgian colonialism without so much as mentioning any of this in his “cost-benefit” analysis. But then, despite promising to weigh negatives against positives, he doesn’t really discuss any negatives. He says British suppression of the Mau Mau uprising in Kenya was better than the alternative, but doesn’t discuss what it involved, namely mass detention and human rights abuse. Kenyans wereput in camps where they were subject to severe torture, malnutrition, beatings. The women were sexually assaulted. Two of the men were castrated. The most severe gruesome torture you could imagine.” Gilley doesn’t deal with or refute this, he simply writes all allegations off as “scolding.” (Even Niall Ferguson admits that “When imperial authority was challenged… the British response was brutal.) Likewise unmentioned is what happened in India under British rule: the horrific Amritsar massacre, the mass famines that killed millions, and the horrors of the partition. French crimes in Algeria: unmentioned. German genocide in Namibia: unmentioned. Heck, Gilley doesn’t even mention racism, or the various psychological wounds inflicted on colonized people by a dehumanizing ideology (as explained by Aimé Césaire, Frantz Fanon, and Albert Memmi, all of whom… also go unmentioned.) One of the cruelest aspects of colonialism is the way it forces the colonized into servility and obedience, yet this doesn’t even count as a “cost.”

In “Shooting an Elephant,” while conceding the prejudices he had developed against the Burmese, George Orwell expressed the revulsion that he felt about participating in the colonial project:
I hated it more bitterly than I can perhaps make clear. In a job like that you see the dirty work of Empire at close quarters. The wretched prisoners huddling in the stinking cages of the lock-ups, the grey, cowed faces of the long-term convicts, the scarred buttocks of the men who had been flogged with bamboos — all these oppressed me with an intolerable sense of guilt.

I say, then, that Gilley’s article is “morally tantamount to Holocaust denial” because if you say you are performing a cost-benefit analysis of colonialism, and you ignore colonial atrocities, you are fabricating history. Gilley says that anti-colonialism is just leftist ideology, that it doesn’t take account of the facts, but it’s his article that depicts a factually false version of colonial history, one in which colonists acted out of benevolent and civilizing motives, and primarily devoted themselves to opening schools and hospitals, and imposing efficient government. The worst he will say about colonialism is that it was “not an unalloyed good.” 

The portions of Gilley’s article alleging that colonialism was “legitimate” adopt reasoning that cannot possibly be taken seriously. Gilley says that “alien rule has often been legitimate in world history because it has provided better governance than the indigenous alternative.” If this logic were accepted, anyone could establish totalitarian rule over anyone else if they could “govern them better than they can govern themselves”; Gilley doesn’t provide any reason why we should accept that theory, he just says it. Gilley also says colonized populations engaged in “relatively voluntary acts” like  “send[ing] their children to colonial schools and hospitals” and “fight[ing] for colonial armies” that legitimized the enterprise, and that “the rapid spread and persistence of Western colonialism with very little force relative to the populations and areas concerned is prima facie evidence of its acceptance by subject populations compared to the feasible alternatives.” Somehow, obtaining compliance from an indigenous population means obtaining legitimacy, which is like saying that a man with a gun to his head has voluntarily decided to give you his wallet. As evidence that colonizers were not attempting to pillage the colonized, he says “Despite cries of ‘exploitation’, colonialism was probably a money loser for imperial powers,” reasoning that would lead us to believe that if a company loses money it must not be seeking profit. 

I go into this level of detail because I think it’s crucial to show that Gilley’s article is not a serious work of scholarship. I think the gut reaction of many people will be that Gilley’s arguments are “self-evidently” absurd. But apparently this is not the case, because the Third World Quarterly chose to publish them. I don’t know why they made that decision; frankly, it’s very strange. The board of TWQ is stocked with anticolonial lefties like Vijay Prashad and Noam Chomsky, and while Prashad has said that they didn’t see the article before publication (and threatened to resign if it’s not retracted), it’s odd that the editors themselves thought an essay suggesting that the Belgians should recolonize the Congo was a useful contribution to scholarly discourse.

But while TWQ’s motives remain inscrutable, I suspect I understand Gilley’s. This article does not read as if it is attempting to be taken seriously. Its tone toward critics of colonialism is polemical and mocking (these scholars have a “metropolitan flaneur culture of attitude and performance”). Gilley must intend to provoke people to rage: postcolonial countries should be like Britain, which “embraced and celebrated its colonisers”; anticolonial thought was about “advocacy” rather than “accuracy”; colonialism was not just legitimate but “highly legitimate”; and we should “build new Western colonies from scratch” and “colonial states should be paid for their services” by the colonized.
I expect Gilley wants the following to happen: people will be outraged. They will call for the article to be retracted. Then, Gilley will complain of censorship, and argue that lefties don’t care about the facts, and that his points has been proved by the fact that they’d rather try to have his article purged than have to refute its claims. This is a dynamic that has occurred many, many times. It’s what Milo Yiannopoulos did: he would say things that were truly upsetting and outrageous (including bullying and mocking individual students), then when people got upset and outraged and tried to shut him down, he would complain that “SJWs” were trying to censor him because they can’t deal with facts and arguments. The same thing happened when conservative law professors recently published an op-ed blaming the “rap culture of inner-city blacks” for cultural decline, with one of them lauding the “superiority” of white European culture. People got upset, for obvious reasons, and students objected to having to be taught by a white supremacist. But when one of the professors went on FOX News, he declared that “there were no allegations that anything we said was incorrect.” (There were plenty of such allegations.) 

It’s a predictable pattern: A conservative publishes something that is both factually duplicitous and morally heinous. The liberal reaction focuses on the moral heinousness. The conservative says that the liberal doesn’t care about facts. I have a sneaking fear that Bruce Gilley is going to end up on Tucker Carlson’s show, whining that the left wants his article retracted because they refuse to confront the true facts of colonialism and because they are biased against white Europeans.
And so I’m worried about how the response to this article may play out. I am not signing the petition to have it retracted, because I believe that the journal shouldn’t retract it simply because there was public pressure. I am also very concerned that this could be a PR coup for the right, as so many of these things are. It’s tough, of course, because for the reasons I’ve outlined above, the article shouldn’t have been published. Gilley did not meet the standards that should be expected of an academic. He falsified history. When evaluated by a fair standard, he has not upheld the honesty and rigor that should be expected of someone in his position, and the article is a factual disgrace as well as a moral one. But it would be very easy to fall into a certain predictable trap, where the left calls Bruce Gilley a racist, and Gilley declares that they simply can’t handle the truth. And while I’m sympathetic to the argument that we should avoid that by Not Even Addressing Such Rubbish, bad arguments fester when they go unaddressed. (This is why I put myself through the ordeal of reading The Bell Curve.)

I think, then, that all responses to this article should be rigorous and careful. I think everyone should try to read the full thing, to know what Gilley argues and what he doesn’t argue. And we must repeatedly emphasize that the reason Gilley’s piece is so wretched is not just because it advocates something that contradicts our sense of justice, but because he has deliberately produced a false version of history. I am sick and tired of people on the right saying those of us on the left simply Can’t Respond To Their Arguments. I’ve read their arguments, and they’re bad. 


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