Friday, December 30, 2005

Chamorros as American Viagra

Where does patriotic blowback come from?

Na'haggannaihon hao ya bai hu sangani hao.

When a Chamorro soldier dies in war, as four have done so far in the Iraq war, your average patriotic American, upon hearing of this on the news or reading of it in Time magazine experiences a rush of patritoic blowback. It is an infusion of glorious pride in the fact that someone whose death I am completely unpreared for, died for me. This Chamorro, from Guam, who is something I know nothing about, from a place I barely know, has died for me, defending my freedom.

Since Guam is a colony of the United States, it is the right and privilege of America's citizens and national subjects to know absolutely nothing about Guam, and conversely to use it to say anything. Guam could be used, as TV personality Johnny Carson did for many years, as an empty meaning-less signifier, which can be used to say literally anything, with no expectations of its actual content getting in the way. It can also function as a vanishing mirage through which patriotic blowback is produced. A mythical, barely visible place, where unexpected, unanticipated patriots arrive, serve and sometimes die.

How did I end up writing about such a strange and depressing thing? An interesting intersection took place several months ago, which led to me writing about this and attempting to develop it into a concept.

The first thing I came across was Zizek's last chapter of his text Looking Awry. Never one to dare speak about race in any meaningful way mana'manman yu' nai hu li'e i didide' na tinige' put race! That's right, in a small section towards the back, Zizek mentions in passing something about a Lacanian view on race as well as the nation. (the most common way that I've seen Zizek dare touch the subject (stupid pun) is when he says that talking about race in a "meaningful" way misses how it is rooted in something deeper. This might be true, but it is nonetheless a cop-out).

Around the same time I heard for the first time the Weezer song "El Scorcho." Gof ya-hu este na kanta. Fine'nina sa' kalang kantan "fratboy" pues maolek ha' yanggen un essalao. Mina'dos sa' hu sinienten i taotao ni' kumakanta, parehu yan iyo-ku put famalao'an yan guinaiya.

In the song's second verse there is a passage that I connected to Zizek and that lead me to patriotic blowback.

Estague i palabras:

I asked you to go to the Green Day concert
You said you never heard of them
-How cool is that?-
So I went to your room and read your diary:
"watching Grunge leg-drop New-Jack through a press table..."
and then my heart stopped:
"listening to Cio-Cio San fall in love all over again."

First we begin with the encounter of the foreign other. The person who is marked in a certain way and therefore one never expects them to know the thing you know by virtue of this hegemonically obvious diffrence. "oh you speak such good English" or "oh how do you know about Brad Pitt?" This other is so cool because what to me is everyday, boring, obvious is to them new and exciting!

The search for the diary is of course an attempt to find the secret or the "truth" of this other. But as we should all know, the diary is hardly the place for any secrets, since the writing of it already presupposed someone (internet viewers, a little brother, an evil demon, parents) secretly reading it. What the singer finds is something far better than the secret of this girl, but instead something which allows the previous link, one based on exotic enchantment (she is so foreign even a dumbass like me will sound like a Ph.D.) to transform into something else. When he discovers the reference to professional wrestling, that exotic fantasy shatters, and will allow something more meaningful to take place, through a "common" love.

But I haven't even gotten to patriotic blowback, it appears in the next two lines. First, with the singer's heart stopping, a rush of sheer excitement. Blowback, from an unexpected find, from an unexpected place.

Through the allusion to Madame Butterfly the singer suddenly takes on the role of Lt. Pinkteron, and through the reference to Cio Cio San falling in love all over again, the secret of this other is at last revealed. The thing that makes this girl tick, that makes her different is revealed to be, the singer himself. Guiya mismo gaige gi i kerason-na i palao'an.

We have therefore passed into a completely different stage of identification. It is no longer that this other covered in yellow is just a mere surface scratch away from being white like me, or that by scratching both of ourselves we can reveal some sort of third color we share. Instead what has taken place is that the self who gets this rush of love, of glorious excitement is constituted through the depriving of this particular other of even being an other. A foreclosure takes place, because by becoming or seeing myself as the secret to this other, the thing which would make them different, which would make them threatening, which would make them something is lost. If I am the secret to this other, then this other has no secrets from me, this other is nothing to me, because it is nothing without me.

The question therefore becomes, will we, Chamorros (as well as others who have been forced and maintained in similar situations) continue to play this part? Will we accept this pathetic status of being literal fodder through which a nation tumisu yan chumugo'? Should we really be that proud to be nothing more than patriotic Viagra? The means through America gets its military hard-ons?

I really really hope not.

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