Saturday, July 01, 2006

To Serve Guam...It's a Cookbook!

I will be heading back to Guam in less than a week and so the past few weeks have been an unsettling mixture of homesickness, anticipatory excitement, and stress over moving my stuff into storage for the summer to save money.

Hunggan gof magof yu' na bai hu fafatto tatte para isla-ku, sen mahalang yu' nu i familia-ku (pi'ot i granparents-hu) yan i mangga'chong-hu siha. Lao ma'a'nao yu' lokkue, ya massa' didide', sa' i lina'la' Guahan tinempla manu na hu gof guaiya (kottura, lenguahi, nenkanno', familia, estoria, etc.) ya manu na gof ti ya-hu (patriotism ni' umoestototba, militarization ni' sina mandestrosa).

As I wrote a few days ago, I intend to work this summer towards changing commonsense around the recent slew of current and intended military increases/torrents on Guam. So, in preparation, I am putting together an info sheet on the transfer of the 8,000 Marines from Okinawa. We can do a number of things with the sheet and the info on it, but the hope behind its production is to start bringing together the disparate arguments and evidence against this increase, or which at least call for some level headed thinking about it, so it can in some way counter the polished form articles and statements which demand and advocate more military take.

For example, if you read all the Pacific Daily News articles discussing increased military presence on Guam over the past few years, you will find a few shaddy patterns, which help create and maintain a particular narrow narrative structure for conceiving of military increases. First of all, the role of the military in society is never even mentioned or discussed (this also links up to how ridiculously limited discussions of security are). Second, the voices which are always in strongest support are elected officials (with a few rare exceptions) or bar or club owners. Third, articles which contain voices who are against or critical of the military or military increases tend to be driven by "quotes" by the activists or individuals. So, positive statements about the military are always already embedded in the neutral language, in the tone of the author, and are supported by quoted statements, but negative statements are always directly linked to particular individuals or groups. The reason for this is obvious, positive statements of the military float above all of us, speaking for all of us, and are common sense, and therefore "neutral," negative statements on the other hand come from radical maladjusted people and do not speak for the majority of people. Fourth, as I've written on my blog several times, the types of critiques that are allowed of the military are always very limited and pale in comparision to the positioning of affirmations.

I often single out The Pacific Daily News, not because they "control" public opinion on Guam, but rather because they have such a huge role in influencing public opinion on Guam. As the history of activism on Guam over the past century has shown, small groups, determined to make a difference, can and have done so.

But as I think to how I am no longer a disinterested or detached observer or stenographer to these groups, and how I am now very much invested in and helping move and activate those determined to make a difference, and fight the injustices perpetuated by the "greatest nation in the world," my mind wanders across strange landscapes in already to soften the intensity, the drama, the ridiculous patriotism.

Respectfully submitted for your perusal, an old episode of The Twilight Zone makes a startling link for me to the discourse created by those who want as much military as Guam can handle, and think that their presence there is only positive, and without any negatives worth mentioning.

In the 1962 episode "To Serve Man" the planet earth is at last visited by life from another planet, another galaxy. Spaceships begin to arrive around the world, the one that parks in front of the United Nations carries their messenger. The delegates within the UN are abuzz with questions: what are the motives of these creatures? What are their intentions? What do they bring with them? What will they do to earth? Through their emissary, this alien race, called the Kanamit, claims the following (taken from this blog, http://members.cox.net/kaiotea/serveman.htm)

The Kanamit speaks to the assembly telepathically. He says they come as friends and desire to help the earth and set up reciprocal visits to their planet. They have noticed that the earth is plagued by both natural and un-natural calamities and that they only wish to help. They offer a new power source, an end to famine, and a force field to be used as a defense shield. The Kanamit states. "We wish only that you simply trust us." As he departs, he leaves a book behind.

Despite these assurances, the US government gives this representative a lie detector test to ensure that he is being truthful, and a group of cryptographers, amongst which we find the episode's central characters, begin to try and decode the book that he left behind. After a while, they decipher the title, its called To Serve Man.

As time passes, humans do not wait however for the book to be translated, and huge numbers of people are leaving regularly for the Kanamit planet, and treating it like just another travel destination. As one of the members of the decoding team is boarding the ship to leave earth, his assistant rushes to stop him, she has finished translating the book, and she screams out to him, don't go, To Serve Man, It's a COOKBOOK!"

If we were to take the statement of the Kanamit before the UN Assembly and change, not its tone, nor its structure, but merely replace a few nouns with objects and items specific to Guam, then you would basically find the pro-military mantra in Guam. Improvement, stability, security, these are all the things that The Pacific Daily News, The Guam Chamber of Commerce and so many others proclaim that the United States military will bring us if we let them. All will not just be well, but be much much better if we accede ourselves and our interests to this message and to the untranslated text of this book which purports, To Serve Guam.

But, at the same time, there are those who are working to translate this dangerous text, who see its title To Serve Guam, not as a statement of fake devotion, obligation and stewarship which coporations have honed to almost insane perfection over the past century and Felix Camacho deployed very successfully in the 2002 election. Instead they see the title as something potentially dangerous, hostile, deadly. Something which threatens to engulf Guam once again in the flames of war (soldiers die on the altar of freedom, Chamorros are just one of many victims on the platters of empires). Something which threatens to damage Guam, socially, environmentally, politically.

The Stars and Stripes reported today that the Okinawa transfer will amount to 35,000 new bodies on Guam, comprised of Marines, their dependents and accompanying support personnel. With these 35,000 bodies come huge and potentially drastic changes in social demographics, ecology, politics and economy. As I see so many on Guam enamored by the message of benevolence and mutual benefits, in that To Serve Guam means that they will protect us, they will give us money, they will improve out lives, I feel fear and I feel loathing, as I and others try to take up that thankless task of pointing out to all that "To Serve Guam...is not our savior...look at whether or not this will make us a target, look at the environmental damage, look at the social damage in particular against women...this is not our salvation, it's a cookbook!"

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