Wednesday, April 05, 2006

The Bone in the Throat of Americanization

Here's a silly question that I came across, that was one of the Guampdn's recent polls.
Guampdn poll:

Should political status issues be more strongly incorporated into high school Guam history classes?

What this question is really achagigu asking and resisting is this,

Should reality be taught in schools?

First of all, reality should be taught in schools, especially this particular way of thinking about reality. The way Guam relates to the United States is what makes life in Guam, largely the way it is. How Guam relates to countries around it in Asia, to the islands around it in Micronesia is all filtered through a privileged and fairly uncritical colonial relationship with the United States. Why is there so much fear and dread surrounding discussions about things on Guam, whether it be government efficiency/corruption, poor economic possibilities, littering, as potentially being "third world?"

School and media are prime locations for answering these questions. We are instructed to imagine through the United States, and as the greatest nation in the world, the only real First World power out there, the possibility that we might be Third World in some way, seems to require a self-loathing because of the way we are letting down our "Mother Country." Things on Guam being potentially "Third World" is never a simple neutral contrast or articulation, but is always made in relation to that which we tend to conceive of as being the apex of possibility, the United States. It is never just that being like a Third World country is bad, because of supposed "poor economics" or "backwards thinking," but always because we are colonized to consider ourselves as somewhat American, and so when confronted with something that is not that image of America we get from Dick and Jane or The Disney Channel, we react strongly and harshly against ourselves, in a desperate attempt to somehow make ourselves American in the process.

As if, because we have not lived up to the mythical and non-existent levels of American awesomeness, we must therefore rend our own faces in patriotic, devotional shame. Weighed by some always absent balance and found wanting in civility or reason, we must do as one Chamorro woman did last year while speaking in front of a class at Berkeley, literally humiliate ourselves. Through the act of expressing her love for America, and her need to show her need for America, she undertook an act of self-immolation, carving herself up into anthropological pieces, and slitting her belly to reveal an endlessly mestasizing dependency on the United States for survival. It is not a pretty site, but sadly it seems to be taking place more and more (especially since I learned recently that Chamorro-American is being used more and more).

It is of course the Chamorro that suffers, becoming the "bone in the throat of Americanization." I mean this both in terms of the concept and what is seems to "obviously" be, as well as the people, the bodies themselves. The Chamorro is reduced to what Angel Santos was commonly articulated as, the threatening, troublesome thing that prevents harmony, precludes peace, and therefore spits in the face of the beautiful future only American can offer.

A large part of these problems, these skewing of perspectives can be found precisely in the notion that political status issues should only become an issue when someone is an adult or almost an adult, meaning in high school. As a heavy and extremely influential portion of the fabric of reality in Guam, these issues must not become something which is dealt with in class here or there.

A problem here is that we are all fluent already in the language of Guam's political status, but fluent in only one particular dialect, that which bleeds a cruel need for status quo, which needs the United States to survive. We become fluent in this dialectic merely by living on Guam, by watching TV, by learning in schools, by surfing the internet.

A more critical understanding about issues of political status must not just be taught in schools, but must also become more commonsensical. The political existence of Guam is always being discussed, but always through a dependency upon the United States, and an impossibility for anything otherwise. How can we combat this? At the level of ideology it means contending with the impossibility of the Chamorro, altering the hegemonic understanding of what a Chamorro is (corrupt) and how it can exist (impresentable). At the level of the imaginary, it means refocusing it locally, both in terms of what are the key sites of Guam's history (meaning where is historical value found? Is it still just when haole people made landfall on Guam?) as well as from where are we taught from in school, where are we instructed to feel a national or regional intimacy? Do we see ourselves like those around us, whether they be Micronesians or Asians? Or is the strongest connection we feel always a colonial one?

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