Thursday, August 03, 2006

Suggestion Box Optimism

Since I got back on island this time, its interesting how many people think of me first, not as an artist, a scholar or as Tun Jack Lujan's grandson, but as someone who writes letters to the editor of The Pacific Daily News.

Sometimes these comments come from those I would fully expect, such as radicals, activists, cultural artists, some what Robert Underwood once referred to as "the maladjusted" and what some in my family refer to as "crazy people." Other times however, the response will be from someone completely unexpected, such as military people or Filipinos. The one that really jolted my system was from Vid, who works at the KAHA/Two Lover's Point Gallery as their curator and gallery coorindator. When I saw Vid last week while visiting the gallery, he mentioned how much he enjoys reading my articles in the PDN, and is looking forward to my next one. It was definitely a pleasant surprise, unless he looks forward to them so he can laugh at them or set them on fire. Most people if you ask them, consider issues of decolonization and political status on Guam, the realm of the fringe element such as myself, but its obvious from some of the responses I get, that this isn't the case. These issues are being considered by many people, and should be considered by everyone, but one difficulty with this is the lack of support for these issues in the media and in the Government of Guam. For The Pacific Daily News for example, political status issues seem to get mentioned (other than letters to the editor) only in the context of GovGuam bashing.

This is part of the letter to the editor that I'm writing right now. I figured I should write one while I'm here, for two basic reasons (other than the communication of the information in the letter). The first, so I can have my village under my letter so that I can't be dismissed by some as a coconut Chamorro from San Diego who doesn't know crap about Guam. The second reason, is because instead of San Diego, I'll get to put Chumalamlam as my village again. (Chumalamlam, is Chamorro for "blink" and after a story that my great grandmother's sister loved to tell about Mangilao, I decided to refer to where my grandparents stay as Chumalmalam.)

While writing this letter, I wrote this phrase, "the sovereignty of our leaders in this matter (the incoming Marines, as well as military increases in general) is nothing but suggestion box optimism."

I thought that the concept of the suggestion box was an interesting way to think about Guam's lack of power and sovereignty in the movement of what now appears to be more than 10,000 Marines from Okinawa and South Korea.

The rhetoric of partnership is one often invoked by Guam's leaders in order to basically cover up their lack of power in relation to this move. I speak glowingly of Guam's partnership with the United States military in order to cover up the fact that we are not partners at all.

Its important to remember to all of us who will be extremely affected by this increases, that our only power in this matter is to provide input. We have no mechanism or process by which we could reject this increase. And even if every single person on Guam (including John Gerber) sent letters with sad emoticons to the Department of Defense begging them not to send the Marines here, it would probably have little to no impact, except for the creation of a "Good News" PR person for the military, who will yell at Press Conferences and next to the "Mapresu Guiterrez" guy at the Kephua statue, "10 BILLIONS DOLLARS! Did you not hear me? I said 10 BILLION DOLLARS!!!)

(If Guam was more attuned to its own history, then this would echo the tokenist and colonial institutions that were created for Chamorros prior to World War II and immediately after. The legislative bodies created by the US Navy in 1917 and the 1930's as well as 1946, were all advisory only. Meaning their sole political power was to advise those who were in charge, with no actual authority to revoke or reject the acts of those truly in charge of Guam).

Given this political situation, the suggestion box seems like a good concept to discuss the illusions of our equality and our sovereignty, as well as provide an everyday and familiar concept to ridicule our status quo. If we are to believe, the rhetoric of Governor Camacho and others, then our providing input (putting a suggestion in the suggestion box) makes us a partner in running the organization. Unless businesses on Guam spontaneously combust and are reconfigured based on anarchist principles and worker's collectives, then anyone who has worked in a large company can tell you that this is crap.

It seems I have left this post in a poor position, one of almost intractable powerlessness (even if we speak out against this increase, it'll still happen). This isn't the case though, our speaking out can have a difference, and the position from which we demand things from the military makes a difference. At present, Guam's leaders seem determined to do whatever the military says, and therefore live drunk off of the illusion of partnership. They negotiate with the military as if we are the lucky ones, when in reality they should be negotiating based on the United States' fortune, in being able to control 1/3 of Guam for practically nothing.

1 comment:

Yvonne said...

"even though we voice our opinions things won't change" is the preset mentality of the people from Guam. Many of them have no hope and no faith in the government. Many of them don't know how to come together as one to do so. The only time people come together to do something is during election time..because they know that if they vote it WILL make a difference. To them it is a system, a process that is familiar, safe, and a time of like-minded beliefs.
Give the people a reason, leader, an organized means to truly voice their opinions, and it is a guarantee more will follow.
Even if a change is not the final outcome, at least they've done something about it. In that sense we are not powerless..in that sense we still have hope.

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