Sunday, May 01, 2005

Ai na liberals siha

Here's an editorial from a recent PDN. Here we can see the dangers of liberals. Some of the article I may agree with, but because of the liberal position in relation to the topic, I have to resist and contest something like this. Political status has impacts, that cannot be denied, but what it is about the island, colonial liberal that forces those impacts to all be viewed within a very narrow frame of impact, namely physical violence against certain groups? For me it is far more productive to get at the forms of incompleteness, inferiority and so on, which do not lead to violence. Because those are the things which will always stay under the liberal radar, the bedrock ideological colonizing.

Unresolved political status leads young men to violence

When we think of political violence, we think of communities far away in Asia and Africa. We do not associate politically charged violence with Guam. But I think we are wrong. Particular patterns of mostly unnoticed violent behavior in Guam are actually a call on our political leadership to address the issue of Guam's unresolved political status.

I remember a Chamorro delegation making a statement in New York at the United Nations more than 10 years ago. The representatives from Guam predicted that violence would occur in Guam if the political status of Guam wasn't resolved soon. At that time I could not see the reasoning behind their statement. Today, I think they were right. Guam's unresolved political status leads to particular patterns of mostly unnoticed violent behavior of primarily, but not only, Chamorro young men. The victims are primarily Caucasian teenagers, as well as teenagers with other non-Chamorro ethnic origins.

Why this pattern is unnoticed has several reasons:

# Many times the victims leave the island.

# Those victims who stay have good relations with many Chamorros.

# The political root causes of this violent behavior are not transparent to those who do it.

Over the years I have learned of several Caucasian families whose sons have been threatened, beaten up and told to leave the island by their Chamorro peers. In some cases, families left the island. In other cases, the children left and parents stayed.

There is no way of knowing the real scope of this problem, but the anecdotal evidence that I have come across over the years indicates that this is a more widespread pattern than we publicly notice.

Another characteristic of this pattern is that many of the victims are very much liked and respected by their Chamorro peers; they enjoy, appreciate and celebrate many aspects of Chamorro cultural practices. As a result, the victims rarely press legal charges. Many times they cope by simply not talking about it, and the general public does not notice what happens.

However, the most deceiving and most subtle characteristic of this pattern is the political causality. I contend that the political nature of the energy that charges these violent behaviors are unknown to the young Chamorro men who beat up their Caucasian, Filipino or Chuukese peers.

As young Chamorro men grow up, they experience the social, economic and political realities associated with being a member of an indigenous people who has not yet been able to exercise the right of political self-determination. Obviously, these are paradoxical and confusing realities that lead some of them to act violently against teenagers of those cultural and political groups who -- from the young Chamorro male perspective -- are marginalizing Chamorros.

The more I learn about the history and the current situation of the Chamorro people, the more I see sets of paradox conditions that socialize a certain group of young Chamorro men into behaving violently. Hence, I see their behavior as a desperate call on the political leadership of our community: Push for Chamorro self-determination and clarify the political status of Guam.

Gerhard Schwab, Ph.D., is a social worker and teaches at the University of Guam.

Originally published April 29, 2005

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