Here is the text for a lecture that my friend Fanai Castro gave earlier this year at the Forum for Peace, Human Rights and Environment earlier this year in Japan. There have been alot of incredible statements this year, made by Chamorros who are attempting to situate ourselves and what we mean in global conversations about things such as war and human rights.
Recently another friend of mine Julian Aguon testified before the United Nation about the decolonization of Guam and made some similar stirring points. I am very proud to be a part of this generation, who are obviously fighting for Chamorros and Guam (and the Marianas), but do not see this fight as being here alone, but very much connected to a more global struggle.
I'm glad that there are people such as Fanai and Julian and others who are doing that work, because, although I know what needs to be done (at least I'm always told that this is what needs to be done), I'm still far to ethnocentric to be of any use in the forming of allainces and coalitions.
Anyways, estague i pinagat, osino siempre bai fatta' yu' mas.
in tina in tina i manmatao
in tina i manmatao
in tina i manmofo’na na taotao
in tina i manmofo’na na tao tao
i man matao
i manmofo’na na taotao
I am a Native daughter to the island of Guahan, from the Matao Archipelago, known to the Western world as the Mariana Islands. My bloodline is from these islands, and from these islands, I exist.
We in Oceania are home to vast, interconnected cultures living through an odd paradox: we are sites of violent conquest and strategic positionality, we are witness to the unjust; wars waged in the name of peace and democracy, ending in bloodshed and brutality. Our people have long suffered under the yoke of imperialist occupation, subjugation, and mass manipulation. We have endured over four hundred years of colonialism. Today we still endure, as the colonial project of invade and plunder continues its destructive course.
Viewed as a mythical paradise inhabited by small groups of island tribes void of any true “civilization,” Oceania has become a preferred setting for the nuclear activities of arrogant nations. From north to south—Hawai’i, the Marshall Islands and the Marianas to Aboriginal Australia, Fangataufa and Moruroa—our lands have been mined for uranium and dumped with chemical wastes, our environments endlessly exploited and bombed in military training exercises. In striving for peace, many of us have found ourselves speaking out against war.
Today we stand in demonstration not only for a peaceful world, but also for a world united in the cause of Justice.
From the tragic events of 9/11 the global corporate war machine emerged and has indeed grown worldwide, advancing privatization on a massive scale. In the lucrative industry of war and with the use of military force to safeguard economic assets, multinational corporations reveal to us that life is expendable as long as profits can be made. And as war has proven to be an economic cash machine, the Empire, these days, grows fatter. Where I am from, post-9/11 has exposed the true intentions of an elite group of businessmen, the Guam Chamber of Commerce (COC), to “develop” our infrastructure and increase US military presence for their profit. The COC relentlessly negotiates business deals with the US military and US war corporations. They market our island to the US Congress, lobbying for more troops, more aircraft carriers, more jets, more submarines. Selling off our island resources, the perpetually money-hungry COC even negotiates with government officials, claiming to have the best interests of our people in mind. Many elected officials remain silent to these injustices; blinded by short-term gains, they have bought into the false notion that a greater military presence will strengthen our economy.
It seems they have forgotten the legacy that imperialism has left throughout our islands.
When the US returned to our island1in 1945 for what many had hoped would be the ending of a war era, the military began an immediate and immense base expansion. Lands were condemned for military recreation and use, disconnecting many Chamoru not only from our ancestral heritage, but also the foundation on which to nurture future generations. Thousands of tons of chemicals were stored on our island, and when they were no longer needed by the military, these chemicals were dumped in our oceans and wetlands or simply buried in the ground. Using the whole of the northwestern pacific as a staging area for “strategic interests,” the military began testing nuclear weapons in our waters. Of more than 150 documented testings in Oceania, 67 nuclear bombs were exploded in the Marshall Islands, with much of the fallout scattering throughout the Pacific and drifting towards our island on winds and in ocean currents. The radiation poisoning we have experienced has resulted in birth defects and cancers, and today many of our people are still unaware of the extent of contamination, or that they were even contaminated in the first place. The strategic importance of our island to the US has kept us separated from our sister islands in the Northern Marianas and from Micronesia as a whole. In the name of imperial war and conquest, coming generations have been dispossessed of a homeland.
For those of us engaged in the movement for peace and justice, the tasks that lie ahead are daunting. Contrary to popular belief, Oceania is still under the heavy hand of imperial projects. Using the excuse of “global security,” they continue to exploit our resources for multinational and military ends. In this post-9/11 world, the US military has stepped up its efforts to expand military installations in the Pacific. At a recent BRAC (Base Closure and Realignment) meeting held in California, the COC and a few elected officials, including our governor and nonvoting US congress representative, testified in support of military buildup and lobbied for the presence of more military on our island. They claim that this is what the people desire. Meanwhile on Guahan, preparations are being made to accommodate an increasing number of military personnel. Plans are underway to dredge Apra Harbor for the “home porting” of aircraft carriers and nuclear submarines; bases are being primed for fortification; hangars built to house bombers, igloos constructed to store weapons of mass destruction; fighter squadrons are regularly rotated in our area; helicopters fly day and night, along with bombers, fighter jets, cargo planes; covert military “training” exercises are routinely conducted. In its never-ending fight against “terrorism,” the US military terrorizes the people of my homeland. For those of us engaged in justice, the work that lies ahead is indeed daunting. Throughout our Pacific region, a post-9/11 climate that is blind in its “patriotism” and apathy allows these injustices to continue, and has allowed even the crashing of a US nuclear-powered submarine in our waters to go relatively unchallenged. And with this, I would like to echo the words attributed to a noble Chamoru chief: we are stronger than we think.
Many of us are beginning to organize throughout the region, and there is a growing number of support for our endeavors. Our people in the Asia/Oceania region are coming to realize that the ends of true peace cannot be attained through the means of unjust war. Despite the constraints of “national” borders and government bureaucracies we are beginning to make the connections across a vast Ocean. We have witnessed the destruction and deterioration of our lands, our livelihoods, our cultures, and our health. It was from our sister island of Tinian that the atomic and hydrogen bombs, little boy and fat man, were stored and it was to Hiroshima and Nagasaki that they made their final destinations. It was from our island of Guahan (Guam) that the 143 members of the 315th Bomb Wing were set to fly the “Last Mission” six days after Nagasaki was struck by the second atomic bomb.
Let us not be fooled into thinking that we can remain isolated from the violence that has been unleashed in other parts of the world, for the war that each and every one of us today must overcome is of a spiritual nature. It is a choice between remaining silent or speaking out, in whatever ways we can, about the violence and destruction that we are made to live through on a daily basis. The banner under which we must strive to attain Justice must be that of UNITY, held high by each and every one of us committed to a better world. Let us continue the work of coalition building for peace. For, together, we are one loud voice. In solidarity, we must declare to the fighting factions, to the imperial nations that seek to control every aspect of our lives, that we do not support the destruction of earth and her children, and that we will no longer be persecuted by the their brutal wars. Let us commit ourselves to working for a sustainable future, one that will ensure the long-term survivability of generations to come. With one unified voice, we must finally put an end to the violence that consumes our world today. The opposite of war is not peace, it is creativity. War inhibits our ability to create, to commune with Greatness at a higher, more spiritual level. To combat war, we must continually find ways to be creative, spending our energies and resources not only for peace, but also for the love and well being of humanity. We need to focus on nurturing our spiritual life, creating the great change within.