Why Do We Fear Being a Third World Country, but LOVE Being a First World Colony?

Over the past three years I've been fortunate, despite my political predispositions, to have several of my letters to the editor published in The Pacific Daily News. If I can remember them off the top of my head, one was for Angel Santos, another in support of decolonization, another was against the re-naming of Marine Drive, Marine Corps Drive, one on the similarities between the occupations of Guam and Iraq by the United States and another on the ESPN cockfighting, daughter marrying scandal. I've written a number of others which weren't published on the editorial pages.

At UCSD I get free access to the online archives for the PDN and so I decided to check out my old letters and see what the responses to them were. For the past couple years I've spent most of my time stateside going to school, so sometimes I will be told that my letter was published and just get hints from people about the responses to it.

Here's one from last year, which I wrote after reacting to Tony Blaz's statements on the radio to a representative of ESPN, where basically Blaz cried out in different ways, "we are Americans too" over and over. For most people this may be true, but for me this is one of my least favorite parts about Guam, its obsession with proving how American it is, or maintaining a level of healthy level of Americaness. (notice how the discussions of societal breakdown in Guam are almost always made in relation to how we have fallen below acceptable levels of Americaness! When you hear people shriek in terror about Guam possibly being a third world country, the fear of losing our Americaness is there, making us think that being a third world country is the end of the world!)

For me, there is much more to life on Guam than the red, whitewashed and blue and so when these moments come that make clear to us that we aren't really Americans, my response is always, great maybe we can have a discussion about this now, without someone trying to leklok into an American flag. Of course, these moments are rarely used that way, and that was the point of the following letter, we are told we are not this, not Americans over and over, so is our most intelligent response to be to demand that we ARE THIS? I should hope not, people on Guam have fears of being stigmatized as a third world nation, but just love being a first world nation's colony? Better to kneel and beg in heaven, then to even consider living on your own in hell, seems to be the colonizing wisdom here.

Scandals assert we are not one with Americans
August 12, 2005

In all our lives, there are regular moments where reality itself, in all its harshness, appears before us and we are given two basic choices: We can either transform ourselves based on this revelation; or we can live in denial and "stay the course."

In Guam, we call these encounters "scandals," such as our most recent, involving ESPN. I would like to remind everyone that these scandals happen all the time. But such is life in the colonies. Since we're familiar yet different, we become the stuff of colonial fantasies: an island covered in snakes, employment deflowering virgins and, of course, natives who will marry the first sailor they come across.

When these movies, magazines, politicians, etc., constantly tell us that we are backward, exotic or foreign, they are hinting at a reality few of us wish to confront, namely that we are not one with the colonizer, that we are not actually Americans.

One main reason why things rarely change on Guam is because instead of using moments like these to re-evaluate Guam's political existence, we sink into denial and we use them to attempt to assert our so-called American-ness. We use them to try and overcome the colonial gulf that seems to forever separate us from being actual Americans. Confronted with this division, people cry out, "We are Americans too!"

But if you scan the pages of the Pacific Daily News following the 9/11 attacks, you'll see how even these claims unravel themselves. When people on Guam said, "Guam stands with America," America responded by saying, "America thanks you," always constantly referring to a division which all the flag-waving in the world could not overcome.

So the next time we are confronted with a scandal like this, which shrieks, "You are not Americans!", instead of instinctively yelping, "Yes, we are!" we must yell back, "Fine!" and then use that moment to re-evaluate our relationship toward the United States and try to chart a future outside of this pathetic status of "Americans-in-waiting."

San Diego

A few weeks later, two letters to the editor were published arguing in strange and mysteriously pointless ways against what I had said. When reading them today, I couldn't really be angry at them, because they don't really have any points to be angry with. All I can really be is frustrated at them, especially the second one that I'll post which is written by a completely clueless haole, who knows absolutely nothing and somehow uses his ignorance and lack of knowledge to prove that what I said has no merit.

Here they are, read at your own discretion, they may cause your brain to shrivel up and die.

Writer uses unflattering reporting to back views
August 27, 2005

In his latest tirade against the United States, Mike Bevacqua attempts to illustrate in the Aug. 12 Pacific Daily News how deluded we Chamorros are to dare think we're in fact Americans. He says that we can either live in denial of this circumstance or "transform ourselves."

While this impassioned display may be rooted in some genuine concern for Guam's people, it is rather unfortunate that he uses the occasional unflattering and unsubstantiated ESPN-type reporting in order to exaggerate the merits of his political views.

Whether or not the American flag is hoisted on the grounds of Adelup or in the halls of I Liheslaturan Guahan, any reasonable person can surmise that there would be no difference, if not more, in the amount of such publicity.


Chamorro friends aren't `Americans in waiting'
August 31, 2005

I have to take issue with Michael Bevacqua's recent letter suggesting Guam re-evaluate it's relationship with the mainland United Sates due to "scandals" (Aug. 12 Voice of the People). My family and I are recent arrivals here and have enjoyed what the island of Guam and its residents, whatever their background or origin, have offered.

Bevacqua hinted of numerous disparaging articles and statements in the press about Guam, yet only referenced the regrettable ESPN article. My family and I searched a great deal for information on the island prior to our arrival and found little, if any, negative press. We did find articles about the food, the hospitality and, of course, issues with corruption and various infrastructure problems, many of which were published from the island itself.

Bevacqua also wrote about the people of Guam, stating, "Guam stands with America" and how "America thanks you" was an inappropriate response. Can he provide a more appropriate one? Would dead silence have sufficed? I work with retired military and reserve personnel who were born and raised on this island and they don't seem to think they are "Americans in waiting." My wife and I counted many Chamorro friends, prior to our departure, who had elected to live on the mainland, for whatever reason, and I don't recall them ever referring to themselves as "Americans in waiting."

Santa Rita

First off, I really have no idea what the last paragraph of Carlos B. Pangelinan's letter is supposed to mean. And Cramins' article ends with a paragraph that is completely oblivious to anything that I wrote. Both of these letter writers did absolutely nothing to even tamper with my points even briefly. In fact Cramins' final point actually just proves my point even more. I said that the way Guam says it is part of the United States, always keeps it outside of it. And the way that the United States responds to Guam's plea for inclusion, always keeps it outside of it as well.

"Guam stands with America" and "America thanks you" both allude to the fact that Guam and America are separate things, distinct entities and NOT THE SAME THING. (As Joe Ada noted in one of his speeches on political status, if we truly are part of you, why does it make sense for Guam to talk like this, but not so for places like Idaho or Kansas? Why after 9/11 was their no cry from Kansas that its stands with America!) Its such a big freakin duh, but I guess thats the privilege of haoleness on Guam, your speech is always so elevated because of where you claim to be speaking from, the US proper, the place where the desires of all of us on Guam is supposed to be directed to. Its almost a smaller paraphrasing of Bush's philosophy of power, "screw facts, I'm the Decider!" or in this case, "Screw facts, I'm haole!"

These two questioned the lack of evidence, but then obviously did no actual research. The dozens of "scandals" that I can name off the top of my head date for decades back even to before World War II, in addition to the ESPN incident.

In the 1970's Richard Nixon says that Guam is "unpleasant" and suggests that the White House send people it doesn't like to be stationed there. In the December 2001 issues of Marie Claire, in a section called "Jobs Your Boyfriend Wants" the magazine states that on Guam women can't get married if they are still virgins and so men travel around the island "deflowering" future brides. Then there is the Rubin Lake incident, where two of Clinton's Asia/Pacific economic liasons laughed at the prospect of Guam having an economy and joining others Pacific nations in an economic forum. Just last year an Admiral referred to Guam in the New York Times as the "trailor park" of the Pacific, he wasn't the first and he won't be the last. There's the movie No Man Is An Island (fumufugo' yu', sa' na'lu'han este na kachido). Johnny Carson made fun of Guam for decades, using it to say whatever he wanted to, and movies such as Dodgeball, Wedding Crashers and shows like Family Guy continue that tradition. Then there are the everyday scandals, such as politicians in Washington D.C. literally saying to people from Guam, "didn't we give you guys your independence?" People from this freakin colonial nation acting as if they don't even own us, or have no control over us, or have never heard of us. We are their colonial citizens, and its breaks so many Chamorros to come here and realize that even though you LIVE for the United States, and too often offering to die for it, they do not know anything about you, and do not need to know anything about you. Their right as your colonizer, is this big happy lack of knowledge.


Anonymous said…
The last line of your introduction of this latest blog was made famous by James Brown's song "Say it Loud, I'm Black and I'm Proud,"

"I'd rather die on my feet than live on my knees"

The TRUTH of EQUALITY has no boundaries!
What I meant by that last paragraph miguet is that whether or not Guam is a colony, those preconcieved notions about natives or Chamorros would still exist. And for you to use that as the basis of a political argument is very unfortunate.
Carlos, I am just as confused by your paragraph here as I was by your letter to the editor to the PDN. I would love to discuss these issues with you, so if you can please email me so we can have a more clear conversation, I would really appreciate it.
Ms Elle said…
That was an interesting read. When I went off island to study, I was initially surprised at how many in the U.S. mainland did not know nor care to know of Guam.

But eight years later, this “Ignorant American” mentality many unknowingly possess no longer surprises me.

After doing some traveling, I realize that Americans are notorious among other nations for their ignorance and nearsightedness and limited worldview. It’s sad, really. (I’m glad I grew up on Guam.)

This is a constructive criticism and a negative stereotype I hope to help break.

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