Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Kattan taihinasso

For those truly interested in the future of Guam, one place to keep track of, is the letter to the editor pages of the Pacific Daily News. There are always several things at work here, and often times they operate at such a commonsensical hegemonic level that they just plain go unnoticed.

First off, as I wrote a few days ago, you can see the media in Guam, doing its work, which is actively articulating what is and is not "American" in Guam, thus certain things which are in the best interests of the paper and that which it represents (US strategic colonial interests) are proudly labelled American, while other things which might conflict or threaten American dominance (whether it be ideological or political) are deftly set aside as not American at all.

Second of all, you can see very powerful sites where common sense is maintained and produced. Commonsense notions connect us to each other, and provides common frames through which we can interact and understand each other. The problem however is that commonsense isn't common in any neutral beautiful shared sense. It is hammered out at different levels with different institutions holding more power than others in its creation. The media itself plays a huge role in this construction. The letters that generally make it onto the editorial page are those which are blessed with the approval of hegemony safe. How can you tell? Well, they are usually those without an argument, without any evidence (other then, a phatic phrase like "you know its true" or "we all know this."). The other day, I saw one such letter. It was written by a haole who claimed in about two or three sentences that Guam had the worst roads he had ever seen. He recounted how he had lived in several places throughout his life and travelled throughout Asia, but never seen any place with roads as bad as Guam's. Then he chastised the people of Guam for their terrible roads. Wanna see how common sense is created? The thing without evidence, is used as evidence and the title of the article, which is made at the discretion of the PDN is the common sense point, which in this instance said "Guam roads worst in the world."

Third, you can see the ways in which authority is vested in a colonial space, with certain voices or figures. Who are the people who's letters become editorials, at what point does a hack letter writer suddenly become a regular contributor or an columnist? Joe Murphy, as the aged, wizened, dorky haole who can't help but (oh how pathetically lame) "tell it like it is." Then there is someone like Tony Sanchez, who merely reproduces things out of his father's texts or just scratches tiny pieces of culture for folks and then passes them off as deep tantric journies. Norman Analista, who represents the model Filipino, who is proud to be Guamanian American, which I could probably spend the next three hours typing about how strange such a construction is. God forbid the PDN should ever get someone in the editorial columns who is not a cheap Americanized version of what they are claiming to be. Let's see, you've got the model minority, the old "greatest generation" fart, the cultural guru.

Of the half of dozen letters I've had published in the PDN, only one of them has been called an "editorial." That one was on the military draft, and I guess it matched the interests of the PDN enough so that they vested it with the authority of an editorial, as opposed to putting it next to a letter that says that Guam as the worst roads in the world. The reason why that one was chosen? Most likely because it could be read as one of those disappointed love letters that Chamorros (in particular those who have served in the military, would write, speak or live, to the United States). Something along the lines of, "we are the most patriotic people in the world, yet we can't vote, and look, despite our patriotism, we aren't equal and can be drafted. That's wrong, we should be treated like real Americans!"

That of course was not the intention of my letter, but that is what happens with most of the radical tinige' I put out there. If the damage to the psyche of the reader is just too much. Then it can easily be repressed and read in such a way.

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