Saturday, September 30, 2006
Although the information of this only comes from a report, which outlines two plans for building a Marine firing range, one which will require the taking of non-military lands, the other which will not require the taking of non-military lands. For everyone on Guam, this shouldn't even be an issue, in terms of our relationship with the military, we are already way beyond mere accomodation and support, and the taking of even more lands by the military will be a travesty! Especially these lands which were just returned to the original land owners and now might be taken from them, AGAIN! As Jose Pangelinan one of the landowners "caught in the middle" of this land grab deja vu, "My father bought that (land) when he was a young man 80 years ago. The Navy came after the war and chased us out (of) there. They gave it (back) to us, part of it, then they want to use it again?"
Already the potential impacts which crazy people like myself have been trying to shove into people's thinking are beginning to appear. We have increased military activist off-base activity, most notably the live explosives training that took place a few months ago in Tamuning, on land right near where a Chamorro Cultural Center project is underway. We have military planners reprising the roles of their counterparts several generations ago, as they cooly and calmly plan to take the lands of Chamorros. We have received no guarantees for the financial and infrastructure related assistance that everyone assumed that we had to get since we are so loyal and loving of the US. The commitment made by a number of military leaders that the United States will not leave the purview of its "footprint" is ridiculous, it is already spilling out. It has already been buried beneath us, as well as stuck in the air we breathe, and it will only get worse.
With the release of this planning document though, we finally get some very clear numbers, even if from their perspective about what the increases and impacts for Guam will be. For example, the United States military currently controls 40,000 acres of land on Guam. Also, the estimated military population increase will be 14,190 - 40,380, or 185% over the next few years. One of these days I would like to write a post, which would illustrate just how much that will mean, how that will affect all different parts of life, the quality of roads, life, air, water, price of housing, price of goods, the focus of the economy. It will not benefit the majority of us on Guam.
One issue which sadly is not receiving enough island-wide attention and only seems to be an injustice amongst the island's activists is the issue of who "owns" Guam and who has the right to determine whose land is whose, and how land can be used. In one of the articles I've posted below, Dirk Ballendorf puts out for everyone to hear the uncomfortable truth of Guam's political existence, "Guam, in essence, is a piece of real estate owned by the United States. It's difficult for many Chamorro people to accept that and you can understand why -- it's their homeland."
Although I know this is true, and this is the truth all who sleep with American flags in Guam refuse to acknowledge, I for one do not accept this reality. The statement of Ballendorf may be right, but it is ultimately tinged with a patronizing sympathy for Chamorros because they have difficulty "accepting" this reality. They may have a claim, it is their homeland Ballendorf admits, but that fact is basically trumped by the US claim for so many reasons, Ballendorf wouldn't even have to explain because everyone is supposed to know what makes Guam Guam is the United States today. Chamorros are echoes of a possibly noble, possibly corrupt past, who counter and contest the authority of the United States, but always in gasps which become softer and softer as time passes.
To counter Ballendorf I attached also below an editorial on the Tiyan land issue by Jesse Anderson Lujan (JAL). His piece is stirring, although when I read it I often substitute my own points of reference (change the patriotic American pieces to nationalist Chamorro) to make it mesh with what I want for Guam. Yes the land issues which are bubbling to the surface now, where the Feds and the military are making more and more demands are about equality and justice, but an equality and justice which can be found not by the inclusion into the American family that JAL constantly argues with when he makes his fiery points. Already most Chamorros conceive of that equality and justice existing around them, if not politically, then at least emotionationally, the prices for inclusion paid through liberation, patriotism, land loss, language loss and so many other things. This sort of inclusion as I write often times is false and it the reason why the truth that Balledorf so casually discusses about Guam's proper ownership must be thoroughly rejected and repressed. It is for this reason that even though the very "American identities" these Chamorros cling to, should lead them down the anti-colonial path of JAL, they refuse to even tread lightly there, instead suppressing the whole issue as ungrateful, unpatriotic, anti-American or suicide.
I have to admire JAL though because he at least is using his American identity and desires to critique the United States, as those 30 Chamorros did in 1901 when they criticized the establishment of a military government on Guam, because it was against the democratic principles of the country doing the establishing. But there are limits to my admiration and my agreement. For JAL if we were part of the government that oversees this military build up, if we voted in Congress or for President then things would be fine, but for me a simple inclusion is not the kind of justice or equality I want. What I want is sovereignty, the choice to choose not just with the United States, but if the need arises, against the United States.
For more info on the possible and probable land re-takings going on right now, check out the links and articles I've pasted below.
The following two are things I already have on my blog:
Update on Tiyan Landowners
The Federal Bitchalism
Land use depends on needs
By Steve Limtiaco
Pacific Daily News
The military development plan for Guam, made public recently by the U.S. Pacific Command, lays out two military training options for the Finegayan area of Dededo -- one that requires the use of non-military land for live-fire training and one that does not.
The non-military land in question is ancestral land located between the military's South Finegayan and NCTS Finegayan properties. It currently is owned by two families and the Guam government's Ancestral Lands Commission.
When asked who will decide which option to use and when that will happen, PACOM public affairs spokesman Army Maj. David Doherty yesterday said the Joint Program Office, which will be set up under the Navy, will be responsible for further refining the military's plans for Guam.
"The Guam Integrated Military Development Plan is a planning document and not a program document," he said, adding that program documents will come from the Joint Program Office.
"This is an overall strategic plan," he said.
The development plan for Guam was approved by PACOM in July, but was released this month.
In a September letter accompanying the plan, PACOM deputy commander Air Force Gen. Dan Leaf states, "This document contains the operational force laydown requirements for military development expected to occur on Guam over the next decade and beyond."
Leaf added that additional planning is needed to develop specific facility and infrastructure requirements here.
Governor's spokesman Shawn Gumataotao yesterday said military development plans are preliminary, noting that environmental assessments first must be completed during the next two years.
"In meetings with (Defense) Undersecretary Lawless, (Leaf), as well as Adm. (Joseph) Leidig, all three have committed to the governor that they would stay within the footprint of the current federal properties where Navy and Air Force activities are currently under way," he said. According to the plan, the military currently holds 40,000 acres on Guam.
During an interview with the Pacific Daily News earlier this month, Leaf said each branch of the armed services normally handles its own construction projects, equipment and training requirements, but he said the scope of the work to be done on Guam required the creation of a program office to tie everything together and to address broader issues.
It is expected to cost the Japan and U.S. governments about $10 billion to transfer 8,000 Marines and their dependents from Okinawa to Guam -- a move that is not expected to happen for at least 6 years, but which first requires additional military facilities on Guam to accommodate the shift.
"The nuts and bolts of military development on Guam will be the responsibility and authority of the Joint Program Office," Leaf said. "They will provide a key interface and work with people in the government of Guam ... It will have representatives from all the services."
According to the development plan, the military expects the current population of military personnel and dependents to increase from 14,190 to 40,380 -- an 185 percent increase. The Marines and their families would account for 18,250 of that increase.
To handle the additional personnel and their dependents, the Department of Defense would need to build more schools here, in addition to the new DODEA high school already being built at the Naval Hospital property, the plan states.
The Defense Department's school system on Guam would need two new elementary schools, a middle school, and a new northern Guam high school -- possibly at Finegayan -- to handle 4,160 school-age dependents.
The northern high school would be for students from military facilities in northern Guam, the plan states, and reduce the impact on the high school at Naval Hospital.
Military may retake land
Finegayan area to be used for firing ranges
By Steve Limtiaco
Pacific Daily News
The pending transfer of thousands of Marines from Okinawa to Guam means the military needs to create more live-fire ranges here for training, according to a 91-page military development plan from the U.S. Pacific Command.
Among other things, it could mean mortar rounds being launched at a target range in Naval Magazine and the creation of machine gun and rifle ranges in the Finegayan area of Dededo, where the 8,000 Marines would be relocated. Every Marine must be able to use a rifle well, and their skills are tested regularly on the range.
If the Marines want to conduct "fire and movement" training at Finegayan, it also could mean hundreds of acres of recently returned ancestral land between South Finegayan and NCTS Finegayan would once again be needed by the military. Excess military and other federal land since 2002 has been returned to its original owners or their heirs as part of the Guam government's ancestral land process.
The Guam Integrated Military Development Plan spells out two options for military weapons training in the Finegayan area -- one that uses only existing military land in the area for target practice, and one that would require additional non-military land to provide a safe zone downrange of a "fire and maneuver range" and for additional housing and other quality-of-life development for the base.
The plan states that rifle and machine gun ranges are feasible without additional land between South Finegayan and NCTS Finegayan. It states that the military would prefer most of the training on Guam to be available at home base, "within foot-marching distance." It rules out live artillery training on Guam, and states that the former Andersen South Housing area should be used for training with blank ammunition only.
Military officials in recent months have said that none of the plans for military expansion on Guam are official, and much of what happens here depends on the amount of funding made available for the transfer.Air Force Lt. Gen. Dan Leaf, deputy commander of Pacific Command, earlier this month told Guam lawmakers "most, if not all," of the development will happen on land currently held by the military.
Caught in the middle
If the military decides it needs the land between South Finegayan and NCTS Finegayan, caught in the middle would be ancestral landowner Jose Pangelinan, 82, and five siblings, who currently are having the property boundaries surveyed as part of the ancestral land return process.
Their land, as well as the ancestral land of the San Nicolas family, would be in the path of the military's "surface danger zone" for the "fire and movement" range, which according to the Marine Corps basic training manual for officers, is the area used when individuals, teams or squads provide cover fire while other individuals, teams or squads advance toward or assault an enemy position.
Most of the land between South Finegayan and NCTS Finegayan is former Spanish "crown land" which means it was not privately held when it was condemned by the federal government and it is being held by the Ancestral Lands Commission to develop for the benefit of those whose family land cannot be returned.
Pangelinan yesterday said it would be an "injustice" if the military decides to again condemn his family property, and said the military should use the property it already has farther north.
"The Navy took it for a long time -- for the last 50 years. They took a lot of our property. Why in the hell do we have to go through that trouble again when we're trying to build a place ourselves?" he asked.
"My father bought that (land) when he was a young man 80 years ago. The Navy came after the war and chased us out (of) there. They gave it (back) to us, part of it, then they want to use it again?"
He said his family has spent two years working on the land return, and, "I was looking forward to finish the job."
The plan also states that the military-held area at Naval Magazine in southern Guam could be used as a range for 60mm and 81mm mortars. The ability to use that area for a mortar range is limited by the nearby storage of munitions, the plan states, so it might be necessary to remove and relocate some storage facilities there.
Camacho pleads Tiyan case in D.C.
Governor seeks compromise solution to land dispute
By Oyaol Ngirairikl
Pacific Daily News
March 2, 2006
Gov. Felix Camacho is pushing for a middle ground in the Tiyan land issue in Washington, D.C.
"Our people can have their land and we can build a road," Camacho said before the Interagency Group on Insular Affairs yesterday.
Leaders from U.S. territories, including Guam, the Virgin Islands and American Samoa attended the annual meeting with representatives from federal agencies, such as the Department of the Interior, Department of Transportation and the Department of Defense. The interagency group's task is to recommend policy to help territories address issues that require the approval of more than one federal agency. The property along the Tiyan cliff line was among many parcels that the U.S. military took after World War II for defense purposes. In 2000, the federal government returned the property to the local government, which in turn returned the parcels to heirs of the Chamorro people documented to have owned the property.
Last year, Federal Highway Administration Division Administrator Abraham Wong sent a letter to Camacho, saying the property was given to the local government in order to build a highway, and unless the property is used as a highway, it must be returned to the federal government.
Camacho has said federal officials fail to recognize the suffering and sacrifice of Guam's people.
"Our people allowed (the) U.S. military to use this land for defense purposes, but that is clearly not their need anymore, so it rightfully belongs in the hands of our people," he said in his plea for help.
Camacho and Guam Delegate Madeleine Bordallo expect to meet with U.S. Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta today.
Descendants of the previous landowners have either moved in to the Tiyan homes or have started working on plans to use the property in some other manner. Some of the descendants have said they want to retain their newly received properties.
Descendants have voiced their displeasure at the turn of events that threaten to remove them from Tiyan by staging peaceful demonstrations.
Land is an emotional issue throughout Micronesia because of its ties to the island cultures of the region, said Micronesian historian, author and University of Guam professor Dirk Ballendorf.
Ballendorf said the land issue goes deeper for the Chamorro people, who have been under American tutelage for more than a century.
"Guam, in essence, is a piece of real estate owned by the United States. It's difficult for many Chamorro people to accept that and you can understand why -- it's their homeland."
Airport, feds consider plight of original landowners
by Mindy Fothergill, KUAM News
Tuesday, November 29, 2005
After decades of waiting for the return of their property in Tiyan, original landowners have become the focus of concerns by the Airport and the Federal Highway Administration. While the local government returned the Tiyan land to their rightful owners, it appears there's no security as the feds and Government of Guam already have a plan for their property.
Ten years ago the Federal Aviation Administration turned over more than 1,400 acres of property in Tiyan to the Guam International Airport Authority. Executive manager Jess Torres says that property extends from the Airport runway to the Police Chief's Office. He explained, "When it was deeded back to the airport there were certain restrictions on those deeds among other things that I'm aware of that whatever property we got back from the FAA, from the navy via the FAA to the airport is to be used for Airport needs and airport uses."
But since the deed was signed, the Camacho Administration recently returned a large portion of the Tiyan land back to original landowners. So with an agreement with the FAA to use the property for Airport operations and original landowners occupying their property, Torres admits he's in a dilemma. "That's the challenge among other things that we need to look into. The airport on that specific issue has not taken a position officially. I haven't had the opportunity to bring this before the board," he said.
When the GovGuam official was asked if original landowners who have recently moved into those Airport properties should be concerned that the Airport will have to take that back, Torres replied, "I can't speak for them but I would imagine that they should exhibit some degree of concern. But like anything else if it requires us to sit down and try to resolve it that's the direction we will go."
In fact discussions are slated to take place on Thursday. But there's a twist as the Tiyan properties in question are also the subject of concerns by the Federal Highway Administration. Department of Public Works acting director Larry Perez confirms a FHA representative will arrive on island on Wednesday for a quarterly visit.
While a portion of the talks will focus on DPW's federally funded highway projects, Perez admits the feds have received concerns from original landowners. While the local government returned their property, that same land is the part of DPW's master plan to construct an access road between Route 1 and Route 8. Perez explained, "They have concerns about how the 2020 master plan is going to be implemented and their quote unquote rights to these properties and what's the government stance on a remedy for this."
What that remedy will be and what the future holds for original landowners settled in Tiyan are questions officials hope will be answered before the end of the week.
"Fight For Tiyan is Also a Fight For Equality and Justice"
Senator Jesse Anderson Lujan
February 16, 2006
THERE has been much said and written about the recent federal attempt to confiscate our Tiyan land once more.This saga of injustice extends back to December 8th of 1945. On that date, our peaceful island was invaded and our land in Tiyan was taken at the point of a bayonet. Our people were used as slave laborers on that very property. When the U.S. Marines stormed our shores to retake our island, we thought justice would replace the bayonet. Instead, the injustice born on the tip of a bayonet is continued by the tip of a federal pen.After waiting many decades, the Tiyan families finally saw some light at the end of the tunnel, only to be told this is a mirage. Once again, the federal bureaucracy is exercising its heavy hand to kill our dreams and aspirations.In reaction, some have expressed anti-American feelings and opinions. I say this is not the way to go. We are Americans— all of us. We must demand that we be treated with the dignity and respect that any human being should be entitled and that an American should take for granted.I say we must demand our equal share of the American pie instead of opt out of the American family. We must demand equal treatment as that given to statesiders. We must demand an equal seat at the American table and an equal share of the meal of representative democracy. Something all Americans should take for granted but sadly we cannot.This must start with more home rule. These federal officials, crushing the living daylight out of our every aspiration or dreams, have been put there and kept there by people we did not elect. We, in short, are ruled by laws and a bureaucracy without our consent. If we had the democratic right to elect leaders with influence over those with such heavy handedness towards us, we would have a greater and more effective right to redress our grievances by petitioning our elected leadership for intervention. This basic human right is denied us.As a result of this unbearable situation, we are subjected to a tyranny whose practical effect is no less obscene than that found in such countries as Cuba and the former Soviet Union. Because of this undemocratic atmosphere in which we live, it is incumbent upon federal officials to exercise their power over us in consultation with us, even to a larger extent than if they were exercising the same power in any of the 50 states where democracy reigns. Instead, we are treated worst then they treat their own dogs.It is my guess that if Guam were populated mostly by European Americans, we would not be treated so shabbily. Well, we must demand our equal rights and peacefully revolt. We must shout and agitate until the blood of our patriotic sons and daughters who have given their lives for the democracy so easily and gleefully denied us, is honored, when democracy becomes ours, too. We must not waiver in this determination to be treated equally and with dignity.Many will try to deter us, and many statesiders especially, will gang up on you, like a tribe protecting its special interests, when you demand equal treatment to that given to them. They will call you racist. But do not be deterred. It cannot be racist to demand equal treatment. It cannot be racist to demand democracy. It cannot be racist to demand just treatment. It cannot be racist to point out racist treatment.In this effort, history is on our side. We will fight for Tiyan and for equality and dignity.
Wednesday, September 27, 2006
I'm posting the text of my letter here, because it sets up the point I'd like to make about who should be celebrated as a liberator.
Rename Marine Drive after natural resource
For indirectly saving the lives of my grandparents and relatives, any of the soldiers who fought to retake Guam in 1944 are welcome in my home, and have my sincere gratitude.
But if we can be honest for a moment and think with our heads and hearts, rather then with the flags in our front yards, the Marines who fought and died in the retaking of Guam were not fighting to save the Chamorro people. Why should we rename anything after them?
The military cared nothing for Chamorros when they first came, and little has changed to this day. In both 1898 and 1944, Guam was taken and captured because of military strategy and security. We must remember this just as much as we remember those who sacrificed for liberty.
Why was Guam separated from the other Mariana Islands in 1898? Why were Chamorros denied citizenship until 1950? Why was (so much) of Guam taken/stolen after the war? All of these reasons have to do with military strategy.
Let's celebrate next July 9 as what should have been our 60th Liberation Anniversary and ask this question: "If the U.S. military cared so much for their loyal Chamorros, then why did they `liberate' Saipan first?" After the fall of Saipan, Japanese atrocities increased at a horrifying rate. In the last month of the war, more Chamorros died than in the previous 31 months. If the United States had thought first of saving their suffering subjects rather then some abstract military tactic, then hundreds of Chamorros might still be with us today.
Rethinking our relations and obligations to the military is becoming more and more vital if we are to negotiate with them as partners. The renaming of Marine Drive doesn't instill me with patriotism instead it fills me with sadness, for on Guam we have prized war and militarism for too long.I would rather Marine Drive be renamed after the ocean that surrounds us and has supported us for millennia, long before we ever had commissary privileges and American flags.
MICHAEL LUJAN BEVACQUA
A few months ago a young Chamorro who grew up in the states and is currently attending college in Los Angeles sent me an email asking me very earnest questions about how to speak to power amongst our people, how to be critical of things like the United States military, when so many people are either in it, get their livelihood from it, or are so patriotic to absolutely refuse to hear any criticism about it.
Hearing your paper on the military, in some ways was comforting. You acknowledge that most of us are connected to it through family however you were also very critical of it. You said it was an academic paper but of course Chamorro people will read it. Did you consider in writing it that it wouldn't be received well by some people in the community? If so how did you overcome that? If not, did it not matter becaue of the good intentions you had in writing?
The entire email that this girl sent, dealt with alot of issues young Chamorros who want to speak out contend with. The most difficult is of course, how to speak to those of us, Chamorros who we know will react badly or violently to what we say? When we have the second Famoksaiyan conference next year, I would like to run a workshop on this very topic, preparing young Chamorros for these sorts of conversations and confrontation. Preparing them to speak what they know is true in their hearts and respond when attacked or told to shut up and not bite the hand that feeds them!
O'sun yu' nu este na kuentos, "mungga ma akka' i kannai ni' muna'boboka hao!" Sa' i hinasso-ku nai, akka' ha', ya pues siempre pon tungo' yanggen hunggan magahet na este na kannai muna'lalala' ha' hao, pat puru ha' dinagi ayu na kuentos.
The first step however in preparing yourself for being a Chamorro activist and somehow who is working for the betterment of Guam and Chamorros and not just the United States Military, is to develop your own sense of Guam's history, and from this develop your positions and explainations for things. This doesn't mean that whatever you know, just say whatever based on it, whether its a little or a lot, but rather that you have to engage with Chamorro history, you need to read books, articles, texts, listen to song, talk about it to people, and therefore engulf yourself in it, to the point where you are literally breathing it and sometimes you might feel you are drowning beneath the gravity of it.
When you come out of this kana' matmos, consider what you have learned, what you now know, what you feel and then connect it to the problems that Chamorros face today. As I've often mentioned on this blog, my master's thesis in Micronesian Studies, was my first concentrated and concerted effort at this. I literally soaked myself in Guam history for two years, looking for an answer that we all should be asking ourselves, why did Chamorros in such a short time, become so patriotic and loyal to the United States? Short answers to this question can be found everywhere in Guam, the re-naming of Marine Drive Marine Corps Drive already a big clue. Real answers though mean following that overwhelming engagement with Guam history I mentioned and not just taking the talking points of others. I mean this even if those talking points are progressive and critical. There are many young Chamorro/Guam activists who have all the right positions in my opinion, but do not necessary know why they have those positions or the histories that make them right. So while I may agree with them, hinassosso-ku todu tiempo, na debi di ma cho'gue mas, eyak mas, tungo' mas put i sinangan-niha, pi'ot nai sa' este na inaligao para u nina'listo siha para i siha ni' ti ma konfotme. This exercise isn't simple for the sake of tiningo', it prepares you for confrontations with those who will disagree. In other words, when you are challenged, you will be able to speak beyond the talking points, be able to sift through the sands of our history and create new answers, new responses, new talking points. You will have a position beyond just the simple point you made, and so despite the fact that you may not have the dominant opinion on your side, or common sense, you will still have a rock solid point which cannot be tampered with by the mere dismissal of you as "anti-American" or "mata'pang."
I'll share with you one such point that I have developed over the years through a hundred conversations on Guam and in the states, about whether or not Guam was "liberated" by the United States.
In the minds of many Chamorros, both who were there and who were not, it was a liberation. In the minds of possibly just as many, it was not a liberation. In a cruel twist of fate, the facts may be on the side of those who don't believe it was, yet the intense emotions are on the side of those who think it was. (for example, in the letter to the editor of mine that I posted above, one response disagreeing with me, used an interesting disagreeing strategy by admitting that all my points were "basically correct.")
I have had Chamorros attack me physically and verbally for saying the invasion of Guam in 1944 was not a liberation as well as engaged in long ass email and dialogue arguments over it. So in this occassionally terrifying (like when this one Marine generously offered to beat me up) and sometimes uplifting (when a formerly patriotic Chamorro at last admits that I'm right) process I have developed my position on this which brings together all sorts of evidence and statements to back up my beliefs about what happened July 21, 1944 and who should be celebrated for this event.
As I noted in my letter to the editor above, I have gratitude for those soldiers who hit the beaches in Guam, they did save my family, even if they had no idea there were Chamorros on Guam or had never heard of Guam before in their lives. But this gratitude in no way extends to the United States Military which has for a century not given a crap about Guam, ya esta ki pa'go ya-niha fuma'gaga' i taotao Guahan. From the vantage of the United States Military there was no "liberation of Guam" it was clearly the "invasion of Guam" and so we are idiots for treating the event as anything otherwise.
For me, from this perspective is becomes very clear who deserves the title of "liberator" on Guam. First of all, Chamorros themselves deserve this title, although they constantly force others to wear it. But second of all, some soldiers themselves deserve it. When I say this though I am not referring to those soldiers who demand gratitude and recognition like the ones that John Gerber and others profess to speak for, or embody injustices for. I do not give the title of "liberator" to the career soldiers who see life through the lens of military interests and therefore see Guam as a place which has great strategic positioning, but restless and rude natives who don't truly appreciate their freedoms that the US gives them enough. To these people Guam is nothing but an appendage of the United States, to be used as it sees fit. These are the soldiers who ride the rhetoric of liberation to its death, and trap places like Guam and Okinawa in insanely mythic obligations and debt.
Those who deserve to be called liberators are those who came not as soldiers in 1944, but as humans, and when they saw Chamorros on Guam, did not dismiss them as ants crawling on this prime piece of Pacific real estate, but as humans as well!
One moment in the early 1990's almost brought tears to my eyes when I read about it. In the early 1990's when soldiers who participated in the re-invasion of Guam came back they were greeted with the usual yinalaka of patriotism, fawning devotion and occassionally appropriate gratitude. But in that historical moment the genesis of the anti-colonial and radical positions of I Nasion Chamoru also greeted them.
One might anticipate, that when told by members of I Nasion Chamoru that Guam is still a colony and their invasion was not a liberation, that these soldiers would be pissed, sen lalalu put i tinaiagradesin i Chamorun Guahan. From the dominant rhetoric of the patriotic mouthpieces on Guam, we would understand that we must be subordinate to these liberators and the military that has taken over their task since, or else face the wrath of their anger over our lack of gratitude. This was not the case however, as many of these liberators, when told that Guam was still a colony, and now being treated unfairly and unequally by the United States instead of Japan, did not lash out, but instead accepted and understood that their job was obviously not finished. That they were indeed being welcomed back as liberators to a place that they never finished liberating.
For most of these men, Guam was not that the way military planners, the Chamber of Commer in Guam or most people on Guam perceive it, as a loyal footnote to the United States and its empire. For these men, the future of Guam could lay elsewhere, and for many the understanding that they had liberating an island, logically meant that Guam would not continue to be a colony of the United States.
It is for these men, those who do not claim to "own" Guam and do not assert themselves or the military as the "liberators" of Guam and saviors of the Chamorro people, that I would gladly confer the title of liberator. But to the United States government and military, despensa yu', lao taya' fuera di colonizer.
Tuesday, September 26, 2006
So today, I'll offer a translation of a Juan Malimanga comic strip. Often times the straight translation of Juan Malimanga into English doesn't quite capture the humor because there is an additional cultural or historical message. For example, in one strip, there is a police officer giving Juan a ticket, while there is a joke that can be gotten without knowing the intended "inside joke" for many Chamorros who were of age during Ricky Bordallo's term as Governor of Guam, they would know that the police in this strip is meant to evoke the officer who infamously gave Bordallo's limo a parking ticket.
In the following strip though, there really isn't any inside cultural/historical joke, just a silly punchline.#1
Juan: "Ai Jose is so pitiful, Nano (or Jose is someone to make you feel mercy or sadness)."
Juan: "Ever since he lost all his money, his friends abandoned him."
Nano: "And the rest of his friends (his remaining friends)?"
Juan: "They don't know that he's broke!"
Sunday, September 24, 2006
Friday, September 22, 2006
Tonight I was speaking to one of my friends Vince who is currently writing some very interesting, inspiring and thankfully consciousness Chamorro reggae songs that make use of the historical research that people such as Anne Perez Hattori in her incredible text Colonial Dis-Ease have done. Pa'go, mamangge Si Vince kanta put I difunton Anget Santos, i sen maolek na bida-na, yan i irensia-ta ginnen Guiya. Pues gi este na simana, esta dos biaha umakuentusi ham gi tilifun put i hinasso-na Si Anghet yan i mahasso-na ginnen i otro na Chamoru siha yan taotao ni' sumasaga giya Guahan.
In addition to all the questions with positive answers, Vince asked what were the negative things that people said, felt and believed about Angel Santos. Alot of it boiled down to regular regurgitations around tinaimamahlao and disrespectful behavior, combined with the hauntingly stupid argument about Chamorro culture not being confrontational commonly invoked, even if these specific words aren't being used. So much of the Anti-Angel Santos yan kinentos kontra i Nasion Chamoru was articulated as a conservative and rational (against the radical irrationalist activists) defense against clearly anti-Chamorro forces. Since respect is supposed to be the core of Chamorro culture, these activists who were disrespecting the local government, the Federal Government, the United States military, the United States and furthermore were rejecting the notion that Chamorros were long gone and utterly extinct, were clearly enemies of Chamorro culture and attacking its vitality and future.
For the majority of people on Guam, at least publicly, for them the meaning of these "radicals" was crystalized in such a negative way. During the campaigns for Guam ga'ga' delegate to the US Congress in 1992, Ben Blaz attacked Robert Underwood in a debate merely by claiming that Angel Santos was in his [Underwood's] inner circle.
But if we take seriously the demands made by the Nasion Chamoru in the early 1990's and the imagery and meanings they invoked/represented, then we can see clearly that the perception of these activists as "anti-Chamorro" was clearly a cover over the fact that they were interpreted primarily as anti-American.
This hardly convenient route for constitution of the local is one of the "perks" of living in the colonies. As a people colonized to love, want and fawn before the almighty power of the United States, for simple acts of seeing, living in and organizing life on Guam, we must constantly defer to the perceived greatness of the United States. The interpretation of ,for example the acts of Angel Santos and his compatriots in the early years of I Nasion Chamoru, as anti-Chamorro, but in reality anti-American displays this production, whereby the local in Guam becomes tainted with the interests and desires of the United States for Guam.
Through their statements, their nationalist assertions, their sometimes aggressive use of material culture (sade', daggao, kosas tinifok) deemed to be ancient, forgotten, anacharistic, they fundamentally challenged the Inamerikanun Guahan, the Americaness of Guam, by demanding a different question structure life on our island. As they consistently called into question the land/ownership claims of both the Government of Guam and the Federal Government/United States military, they question that they forced, often uncomfortably at first into the consciousness of all on Guam is this simple question "Hayi gai iya este na tano'?" "who owns this land?"
Their actions were not an attack on the claims of Chamorros to Guam, but the claims of the United States to control land on Guam, the meaning of Guam, the future of Guam, and so on. They were therefore at once a forcing of a redefinition and reworking of what being a Chamorro meant, and what that Chamorro could or should be in relation to the United States.
At long last, today's (not so) simple act of decolonization deals with what the question of life in Guam should be.
In the Republican National Convention in 2004, a Democratic Senator Zell Miller was one of the keynote speakers. In the abstract this might suprise you, however if you have ever heard Zell Miller speak, and the frightening Right Wing, American exceptionalist and just plain putrid crap, then you would understand why he was chosen to be one of the GOP golden boys. During his relentless, fiery, often times completely ridiculous attacks on John Kerry (such as Kerry would arm American soldiers with spitballs to fight wars), he made one comment which is relevant to this post. According to Miller, John Kerry would let Paris decide how America should defend itself (hekkua', buente mismo kumekeilek-na Paris Hilton). For everyone in the United States (Democrats yan kontodu Republicans), this is an unpardonable sin. For Bush supporters it was evidence that Kerry would probaby give therapy to the terrorists instead of cluster bombs, and for Kerry supporters it was the kind of wild lie about Kerry that must be defused and destroyed.
I'm sure even people on Guam who were watching the convention must have been appalled that it could even be mentioned, that the United States, the greatest strongest nation in the world would give its sovereignty up to someone else.
This leads us to another wonderful facet of living in the colonies. Although we on Guam can be enraged at the thought of John Kerry handing Paris Hilton, Jacques Chirac or Paris son of Priam the nuclear launch codes for America's ever growing supply of nuclear armament, we do not necessarily make the connection that we hand over the keys and means to our future to Washington D.C. EVERYDAY!.
Felix Camacho's bold strategy of inaction over the most recent barrage of military increases is a perfect point in this, as is the fact that throughout the Cold War Guam was considered by the United States to be expendable should a hot conflict ever break out. Throughout the tiny details of life in Guam, this problem is reproduced over and over. How history is taught in schools, what is the key to happiness, where to go to school, how to develop an economy, etc. We hand over so many of the decisions in just our lives to the principle that the United States should have sovereignty not just over my island, but my life and my dreams, my very desires.
This is all support naturally by as I mentioned at the beginning, the hegemonic nature of America in Guam, and its central role in dictating what shall mean something intelligable and important and what will be noise and maladjusted grumbling.
One piece of writing that truly got me thinking about decolonization in Guam was an editorial published on http://www.kuam.com by Fred Garcia several years ago. The title of it pretty much made clear what its content would be, "Decolonization Movement...A Suicide." In that piece the basic/base rhetoric against decolonization is brought out, America is modernization, Chamorro is ancient and extinct, if we decolonize it means we'll be wearing loincloths, and so on. An argument which only makes sense if one refuse to actually think about what one is saying, and accepts very static and pointless notions about reality. While trying to say that it is for the benefit of the Chamorros and Guam not to decolonize, in one section is makes it clear what he is truly interested in protecting, namely the United States, the American presence in Guam. He identifies the last wall, the last barrier to death in Guam as the American presence, weakening or diminishing it, according to Garcia means suicide.
As I've mentioned before, the question that should be in the mind and work of all of those who are working to make Guam a better place through daily or political processes of decolonization, "is what makes Guam Guam?"
The current hegemonic answer came during the Governorship of Joseph Flores, when in his inagural speech for his very short term, he marked Guam's only hope for the future to be to put aside any local issues and concentrate on what the US wants and needs from us, because that is the content, the answer to the question which can take us into the future. He therefore crystalizes the logic that we have nothing save for what the colonizer wants, and therefore we are only created in life, in happiness and sustainable terms by inhabiting the narrow spaces of that strategic value hungry gaze. Although people may provide different interpretations of what makes Guam Guam, it is the answer that the USA makes Guam Guam that is the most powerful.
This is what must be changed. We must find answers to the questions of daily existence that do not look immediately to the United States, that do not constantly taint our lives with what the United States has done or wants us to do.
Along these lines however lies the answer to a number of other problems such as how different settler groups relate to indigenous Chamorros in Guam. As most of these groups come to Guam because of its Americaness, because of its status as a gateway to the United States, the are very much entangled in the same colonizing principles as Chamorros. What matters to them is not Guam, but America, and therefore the indigenous assertions and movements by Chamorros is problematic because what constitutes the different groups in Guam is their subordinate relationship to the United States (yan mana'paka), their shared dreaming for American dreams and ways of life. In this framework there is little to no respect for Guam or for Chamorros, because it is America that makes life possible in Guam and the Chamorro is just a bone that gets caught in the throat of its Americanization. But it is this remarking of this question that must also be accomplished, the changing of it to where the American in Guam (how to be it, how to defend it) is the daily task to defining relationships, to instead the Chamorro.
This task of decolonization is simple and yet sen mampos mappot, but it is to live life in Guam according to the question, "how can we live in Guam" instead of "how can we be Americans" and furthermore reconcile that Guam is not first and foremost "Where America's Day Begins" but instead one island in the Marianas Island chain which together is the homeland of the Chamorro people.
Thursday, September 21, 2006
To better understand these issues of colonization, nihi ta fanatannaihon i palabras-na siha.Guam U.S.A.
Tinige' Si K.C. Leon Guerrero
Album: Bonita na Haane
Guam U.S.A. is where I come from
And that's where I ought to be
Enjoy the girls all along the beach
And under the coconut tree
Guam is good
Guam is hot
Guam is just such a little spot
Its a beautiful island that you've never seen
Where America's Day Begins
Anai ma'u'dai yu' gi batkon aire
Para guatu Amerika
Para bai hu lie' ha' kao magahet
Pues tumunok yu' San Francisco
Ya hu sodda' un Amerikanu
Ilek-na "Where are you From?"
Ilek-hu "I'm from Guam"
Kao guaha un keketungo'?
Ilek-hu I'm from Guam U.S.A.
And I'm proud that it is true
Well I was born and lived in the world
The world of the Chamorro
Guam is good
Guam is hot
Guam is just such a little spot
Its a beautiful island that you've never seen
Where America's Day Begins
Pues humalom yu' umeskuela
Ya kada mafaisen yu'
Taotao manu yu'?
Ilek-hu Kao Togai un keketungo'?
Ilek-hu I'm from Guam U.S.A.
And I'm proud that it is true
Well I was born and lived in the world
The world of the Chamorro
Guam is good
Guam is hot
Guam is just such a little spot
Its a beautiful island that you've never seen
Where America's Day Begins
So come on you Chamorros
Let me hear what you have to say
About our beautiful island beneath the sun
Known as Guam oh U.S.A.
What makes this song so enchanting is its exuberance and the excitment with which K.C. sings the song. It makes it extremely catchy and upbeat. But when we combine this excitement (gi psychoanalysis bai hu fa'na'an este "ginesa" "joissance" "enjoyment") with what is actually being said, the images and realities that the lyrics/singer is invoking, a radically different and for me, depressing/aggrivating emotion emerges.
Take for example the issue of smallness. Hunggan, bai hu admite na dikike' i isla-ta, but do we ever really stop to consider how that small thought in and of itself, can infect the way we think about EVERYTHING else!?
Epeli Hau'ofa's seminal text "Our Sea of Islands" is an interesting piece about this very infection. The geographical vocabulary we use to describe ourselves in the Pacific seems to appear very ordinary and harmless. These islands are small, right? But from small, we move to not having much, then to distant, to low on resources, to low on labor, to expensive to live on, and within a few often unconscious mental leaps, we've arrived at the common sense notion that our islands are completely unsustainable and cannot support any form of life or livelihood except that which the larger more resource rich nations give us.
A second example is the invisibility of Guam in this song. You can hear it in the English sections, where K.C. sings that "its a beautiful island that you've never seen, where America's day begins." The Chamorro verses for those of you who can't read them, provide us with a more direct confrontation and sad misrecognition of this invisiblity. In both verses the singer is in the United States and meets Americans who want to know where he's from. In both instances he tells them he's from Guam (or in the second part Togai, a suburb of Hagatna) and asks them "kao guaha un keketungo'?" or "have you ever tried to know about it?"
The answer from the rest of the lyrics, as well as the experiences of every single Chamorro (guahu lokkue) tell us that "no!" of course they haven't tried to know about it! Despite the silly beliefs that people on Guam have about us being the most patriotic Americans in the universe or how we are the bestest people standing on the walls of freedom and serving to make America proud, most people in the United States don't know we exist, or that we are even part of them, and absolutely would never even consider really considering our inequitable relationship to them.
It is this contradiction that we find the colonial enjoyment, the twisted excitment over dependency and subordination which makes me loath this song, even though I love it too.
This is not sung as a sad song. It is incredibly upbeat and excited as it becomes ensnared and caught in this field of invisibility. It almost sounds as if the singer is celebrating this position of invisibility.
I wrote several days ago about the truth of life in the colonies, its nearly always found in fiction not fact, and this is a similar case. It is important to remember that when conceiving a Chamorro on Guam today, we think of it as something built through a history of both colonization and resistance. There has been much accomodation, acculturation, adaption, resistance, etc, over the past four hundred years on Guam. The Chamorro within this song is one who has constantly been pushed and pulled across the Pacific, by educational systems, experienced racism, American dreams, Chamorro dreams, things which are sometimes the same, other times not, but always in heated contestation within a society in which today I would argue American strategic interests are hegemonic.
The song is titled "Guam, U.S.A." but the arrangement of this statement, conceptual and imaginary map everyday in Guam is more difficult then merely speaking it or typing it. We must think of the concept of "Guam, U.S.A." from the bones and guts of political status, where the single statement is actually two potentially dissonant parts, "Guam" and "U.S.A." All attempts to invoke this concept come face to face with the political and historical rift between Guam and the United States, which was formalized through the Insular Cases in the early 20th century. Every statement that proclaims that Guam is truly Guam U.S.A. can only be felt across and over this rift, can only be felt through first dealing with this rift.
The reactions to this confrontation are varied. One person quizzed me recently on the Americanization of Guam since World War II in terms of teaching or not teaching the Chamorro language. She asked me to explain what it means that some families didn't pass on Chamorro to their kids, others did, and why some who didn't pass on the language consider themselves the most Chamorro on the planet, and others who did pass on the language consider themselves to be the most American people in the world.
The puzzle of how to be an American in Guam has many answers, some of them more obvious than others. But ultimately this is the hegemonic question in Guam, the question which we all must in some way, accept, reject, refuse, defuse, love, hate and so on. From the sterling patriot to the radical, sinade' activist, everyone creates their own answers to this question.
The answer that K.C. Leon Guerrero comes up with, is a common one on Guam, cognitive dissonance. When confronted with the invisibility and the lack of knowledge about Guam in the United States, one could say that the Chamorro is confronted with a lack of sufficient justification for the smooth construction of "Guam, U.S.A." This Chamorro may consider himself to be the greatest American hero since Jack Reed, but the assertion of this identity is not sufficiently reciprocated/recognized when he is constantly misrecognized as something other than American, not really American or enthusiastically semi-American.
The basic notion of cognitive dissonance is that when we are prompted to lie about something, without sufficient justification for the lie, we will often convince ourselves that it is the truth. The reason for this being, since there is nothing else which we can invest our blame or reasoning for this falsehood, we must turn inward and internalize the lie.
So, when prompted to assert Guam's existence as "Guam U.S.A." what is the most general gesture, but to not mince words about our colonial status, not to dare recognize the lie in it, but to instead overcompensate and shout it as if from Mount Lamlam, that we are indeed "GUAM USA!"
That is why I find this song so frustrating, because it is such a celebration of subordination. We are something that the country we say we love knows little to nothing about, and cares little for save for our prime strategic location, and so how do we deal with this colonial snub? By gregariously celebrating being an unknown appendage to the United States!
Monday, September 18, 2006
This Hole in the Ground
by Keith Olbermann
Half a lifetime ago, I worked in this now-empty space. And for 40 days after the attacks, I worked here again, trying to make sense of what happened, and was yet to happen, as a reporter.
All the time, I knew that the very air I breathed contained the remains of thousands of people, including four of my friends, two in the planes and -- as I discovered from those "missing posters" seared still into my soul -- two more in the Towers.
And I knew too, that this was the pyre for hundreds of New York policemen and firemen, of whom my family can claim half a dozen or more, as our ancestors.
I belabor this to emphasize that, for me this was, and is, and always shall be, personal.
And anyone who claims that I and others like me are "soft,"or have "forgotten" the lessons of what happened here is at best a grasping, opportunistic, dilettante and at worst, an idiot whether he is a commentator, or a Vice President, or a President.
However, of all the things those of us who were here five years ago could have forecast -- of all the nightmares that unfolded before our eyes, and the others that unfolded only in our minds -- none of us could have predicted this.
Five years later this space is still empty.
Five years later there is no memorial to the dead.
Five years later there is no building rising to show with proud defiance that we would not have our America wrung from us, by cowards and criminals.
Five years later this country's wound is still open.
Five years later this country's mass grave is still unmarked.
Five years later this is still just a background for a photo-op.
It is beyond shameful.
At the dedication of the Gettysburg Memorial -- barely four months after the last soldier staggered from another Pennsylvania field -- Mr. Lincoln said, "we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract."
Lincoln used those words to immortalize their sacrifice.
Today our leaders could use those same words to rationalize their reprehensible inaction. "We cannot dedicate, we can not consecrate, we can not hallow this ground." So we won't.
Instead they bicker and buck pass. They thwart private efforts, and jostle to claim credit for initiatives that go nowhere. They spend the money on irrelevant wars, and elaborate self-congratulations, and buying off columnists to write how good a job they're doing instead of doing any job at all.
Five years later, Mr. Bush, we are still fighting the terrorists on these streets. And look carefully, sir, on these 16 empty acres. The terrorists are clearly, still winning.
And, in a crime against every victim here and every patriotic sentiment you mouthed but did not enact, you have done nothing about it.
And there is something worse still than this vast gaping hole in this city, and in the fabric of our nation. There is its symbolism of the promise unfulfilled, the urgent oath, reduced to lazy execution.
The only positive on 9/11 and the days and weeks that so slowly and painfully followed it was the unanimous humanity, here, and throughout the country. The government, the President in particular, was given every possible measure of support.
Those who did not belong to his party -- tabled that.
Those who doubted the mechanics of his election -- ignored that.
Those who wondered of his qualifications -- forgot that.
History teaches us that nearly unanimous support of a government cannot be taken away from that government by its critics. It can only be squandered by those who use it not to heal a nation's wounds, but to take political advantage.
Terrorists did not come and steal our newly-regained sense of being American first, and political, fiftieth. Nor did the Democrats. Nor did the media. Nor did the people.
The President -- and those around him -- did that.
They promised bi-partisanship, and then showed that to them, "bi-partisanship" meant that their party would rule and the rest would have to follow, or be branded, with ever-escalating hysteria, as morally or intellectually confused, as appeasers, as those who, in the Vice President's words yesterday, "validate the strategy of the terrorists."
They promised protection, and then showed that to them "protection" meant going to war against a despot whose hand they had once shaken, a despot who we now learn from our own Senate Intelligence Committee, hated al-Qaida as much as we did.
The polite phrase for how so many of us were duped into supporting a war, on the false premise that it had 'something to do' with 9/11 is "lying by implication."
The impolite phrase is "impeachable offense."
Not once in now five years has this President ever offered to assume responsibility for the failures that led to this empty space, and to this, the current, curdled, version of our beloved country.
Still, there is a last snapping flame from a final candle of respect and fairness: even his most virulent critics have never suggested he alone bears the full brunt of the blame for 9/11.
Half the time, in fact, this President has been so gently treated, that he has seemed not even to be the man most responsible for anything in his own administration.
Yet what is happening this very night?
A mini-series, created, influenced -- possibly financed by -- the most radical and cold of domestic political Machiavellis, continues to be televised into our homes.
The documented truths of the last fifteen years are replaced by bald-faced lies; the talking points of the current regime parroted; the whole sorry story blurred, by spin, to make the party out of office seem vacillating and impotent, and the party in office, seem like the only option.
How dare you, Mr. President, after taking cynical advantage of the unanimity and love, and transmuting it into fraudulent war and needless death, after monstrously transforming it into fear and suspicion and turning that fear into the campaign slogan of three elections? How dare you -- or those around you -- ever "spin" 9/11?
Just as the terrorists have succeeded -- are still succeeding -- as long as there is no memorial and no construction here at Ground Zero.
So, too, have they succeeded, and are still succeeding as long as this government uses 9/11 as a wedge to pit Americans against Americans.
This is an odd point to cite a television program, especially one from March of 1960. But as Disney's continuing sell-out of the truth (and this country) suggests, even television programs can be powerful things.
And long ago, a series called "The Twilight Zone" broadcast a riveting episode entitled "The Monsters Are Due On Maple Street."
In brief: a meteor sparks rumors of an invasion by extra-terrestrials disguised as humans. The electricity goes out. A neighbor pleads for calm. Suddenly his car -- and only his car -- starts. Someone suggests he must be the alien. Then another man's lights go on. As charges and suspicion and panic overtake the street, guns are inevitably produced. An "alien" is shot -- but he turns out to be just another neighbor, returning from going for help. The camera pulls back to a near-by hill, where two extra-terrestrials are seen manipulating a small device that can jam electricity. The veteran tells his novice that there's no need to actually attack, that you just turn off a few of the human machines and then, "they pick the most dangerous enemy they can find, and it's themselves."
And then, in perhaps his finest piece of writing, Rod Serling sums it up with words of remarkable prescience, given where we find ourselves tonight: "The tools of conquest do not necessarily come with bombs and explosions and fallout. There are weapons that are simply thoughts, attitudes, prejudices, to be found only in the minds of men.
"For the record, prejudices can kill and suspicion can destroy, and a thoughtless, frightened search for a scapegoat has a fallout all its own -- for the children, and the children yet unborn."
When those who dissent are told time and time again -- as we will be, if not tonight by the President, then tomorrow by his portable public chorus -- that he is preserving our freedom, but that if we use any of it, we are somehow un-American...When we are scolded, that if we merely question, we have "forgotten the lessons of 9/11"... look into this empty space behind me and the bi-partisanship upon which this administration also did not build, and tell me:
Who has left this hole in the ground?
We have not forgotten, Mr. President.
May this country forgive you.
© 2006 MSNBC.com
Sunday, September 17, 2006
Here is the draft I have so far, my thoughts and then at the end a list of recommendations:
2005 was marked with an incredible moment of hope for those concerned with the future of Chamorro language, as Governor of Guam Felix Camacho declared that the year would known as Añon Fino’ Chamorro yan Kottura, or “The Year of Chamorro Language and Culture.” The principles of this year long celebration of the history and future of the Chamorro people were Inina (Enlightenment), Deskubre (Discovery) and Setbisiu (Service).
Unfortunately, this incredible “talk” of cultural and linguistic revitalization was accompanied with very little “action.” As one employee at the Department of Chamorro Affairs during this year noted, “What did it mean, its not like us in the office who should have been doing something different, did anything different.” Despite a glowing resolution from the Guam Legislature in support of Camacho’s proclamation, there seemed to be little leadership on this issue from the Government of Guam. For whatever reason, little action was taken on this bold initiative, and thus the state of Chamorro language use and vitality has continued to decline. This disconnect is not limited to government inaction however, but reflects a larger problem found throughout homes in Guam, where the talk of language preservation or revitalization is loud and forceful, while the action is constantly left up to others or refused completely.
The 2000 Census indicated that 22% of people on Guam can speak Chamorro. Given that Chamorros make up close to 37% of Guam’s population, 20% of those accounted for in the census claiming to be fluent in the language, might not seem so dire. There are however two reasons to support the opposite belief. 1. Having conducted a number of my own surveys on Chamorro language and done my own research on language attitudes, the 22% number is inflated first because of the tendency to over-report language capabilities (for example, in a number of surveys Chamorros who participated claimed to understand and speak Chamorro because of the two dozen words or phrases they knew) and second, because of the tendency to conflate and confuse comprehension with speaking fluency (for example the chances of someone who only understands Chamorro passing on language fluency to another or younger person is minimal). 2. By canonical linguistic standards Chamorro on Guam is already a “dead language,” as the young generation has little to no fluency in it, and the majority of the 22% speaking population is well advanced in age. This of course means that, unless there is a drastic change shift in Chamorro language fluency amongst younger populations, that 22% could drop drastically in a very short amount of time.
The Chamorro music industry, which has helped to sustain the fluency and the positive language attitudes of older Chamorros has begun to decline slightly in recent years. According to a producer at one of Guam’s largest recording studios there are two primary reasons for this decline. 1. Many artists have slowed their production of new albums because the pervasiveness of CD “burning” has led to an overall decrease in record sales. 2. As the population of Guam shifts so that those who speak and understand Chamorro become a smaller and smaller minority, artists are shifting their creativity and albums to match the language fluency of their audiences. In the past year for example, a number of new CDs from established Chamorro groups have come out either “mostly in English” or entirely in English.
Connected to this point, is the fact that when young Chamorros branch out into new musical genres, the lack of their fluency in Chamorro leads the result of their creativity energies to be largely in English. A quick tour of the social/networking website Myspace will reveal dozens of young Chamorros in the Marianas and in the states who are actively creating music and promoting themselves. Rarely any of these artists however are using or even capable of using the language in their rap, hip hop, pop, ska, rock or rhythm and blues songs.
The lack of language fluency amongst Chamorros has clear historical causes, in the intense and often personal period of Americanization following World War II. Each family has their collection of disappointed or regretful anecdotes over being punished for speaking Chamorro in school, listening to parents speak to each other in Chamorro yet the kids in English, and the linking of Chamorro language and Chamorro accent to lack of success, and the lack of Chamorro language and Chamorro accent to success and better economic opportunities.
Given the prevailing antagonism to Chamorro language in post-war Guam, the mere fact of its incorporation into public school curriculum in the 1970’s and its inclusion (didide’ ha’) in the formerly “English Only” Pacific Daily News, represent moments whereby dramatic shifts in language attitudes can take place. For an incredible number of reasons however, the opportunities that these moments represent have not been taken advantage of. Today, the landscape of Guam is not nearly as anti-Chamorro language as it once was, yet the language loss which was at the core of English Only policies continues along largely undeterred.
One clear reason for the continuing language loss is the narrowness of the incorporation of Chamorro language in public schools. Chamorro is taught not as a “language” but as a “foreign language.” Rather than being the key language of instruction, the means through which the world is opened up through systems of traditional/accumulated knowledge to the minds of those on Guam, Chamorro language is reduced to an accompanying language only. Hardly a necessity, it is instead a luxury language, which accompanies the real language of instruction and reality, English. In other words, once fluency in English has been secured, then, only then can kids even begin to start really learning Chamorro.
The low value/ priority of Chamorro language is further made clear by the regular subordination of Chamorro language teachers and classes. As one Chamorro teacher has called it they are “sub-teachers,” or the first ones to have their classes cancelled if something needs to be made up, and usually the first to lose their space when space becomes scarce.
Furthermore, there is little to no immersion infrastructure to support daily language learning and use. As alluded to before, Chamorro is not the primary language of instruction in any public school programs or classes, there are relatively few spaces which encourage the younger generations to use Chamorro, and language attitudes and habits amongst many of the last fluent generation prevent or hinder its transfer. (1. Although many of the older generation may now regret not passing on the language, the lack of an economy of Chamorro, in contrast to a clear globalized economy for English, prevents many from understanding the importance in teaching children Chamorro. 2. The reality of nearly two generations of Chamorros not speaking Chamorro has had a significant impact on the last fluent generation and their speaking habits and attitudes to younger Chamorros. Most manamko’ have become accustomed to speaking in English only to younger generations and often continue to do so even when spoken to in Chamorro (although nowadays, they will always make known how impressed they are when you speak Chamorro to them)).
Although as will be mentioned later, there are a number of continuing movements and groups which might change this.
Although a little discussed fact publicly, Guam’s current Governor is the first Chamorro Governor of Guam who does not speak Chamorro. In his campaign for Governor in 2002 against Robert Underwood, he shocked a number of Chamorros speakers by participating in a Chamoru Language Forum at the University of Guam, in English. Despite being given the questions ahead of time, so as to prepare his responses in Chamorro with his staff, Camacho gave a short introduction in Chamorro, outlining his respect and love for our language, and then proceeded to respond to all questions in English.
This is sadly, the most tangible outcome to have come out of the prospective shift in language attitudes amongst Chamorros since the 1970’s. The incorporation of Chamorro language into public schools combined with the political status and indigenous rights movements over the past three decades have helped to force a public reckoning and reworking of issues of cultural revitalization, language importance and decolonization into everyday speech and political rhetoric. The long-standing currents towards Americanization amongst Chamorros have not been deterred or stalled by this incorporation, but rather, as in the instance of Camacho, they have been strengthened.
The work of generations of activists have forced everyone on Guam to rethink the notions of progress, success and development as taught by the United States and its emissaries, and thus confront the terrible impacts on the identities and consciousness of Chamorros who have been stripped of their histories, language and in some cases land. But although the lexicon of political status and indigenous rights has now made its way into the everyday conversations of the majority of people on Guam, the spirit and desire for Chamorro self-determination has not, instead issues of Chamorro language value and Chamorro cultural heritage are now linked to being a good American.
After World War II, the best way to be an American was by ridding oneself of as much Chamorro as possible, whether it be language, accent, perceived customs, even names (Guamanian). Today, as we see through the example of Felix Camacho, the best way to be an American is not to get rid of all things Chamorros, but rather to make particular gestures to how important being Chamorro is, while doing little to nothing to realize said gestures. In other words, Chamorro language continues to be lost because instead of being i fino’-ta, i irensia-ta ginnen i mañaina-ta, it is just another tiny piece in the multi-cultural tapestry that makes America great.
Now, it is an important issue amongst Chamorro parents that their children learn to speak Chamorro, yet the fluency level amongst Chamorro families continues to decline, children despite the new openness and support for the importance of the language, people are not teaching and not learning the language in their daily lives. While we can celebrate this openness and the simple shift it represents in moving the majority of people on Guam from antagonism to interested ambivalence, the everyday extinction of Chamorro continues in the crucial difference between merely allowing people to speak the language, and actively encouraging, assisting and teaching them.
This Americanization even of the vitality of Chamorro language and culture has a direct relationship to the lack of knowledge and awareness of Guam’s past and present and therefore future colonial relationship with the United States.
In the early 1900’s American educational and social planners on Guam proposed that the future of Chamorros, their hopes for progress and for survival would depend on how well they would follow the developmental path the United States had laid out for them. Despite the Organic Act of 1950 giving more power to local authorities over local governance, this hijacking of Chamorro futures has for the most part, not been tampered with. For example, up until the 1970’s, Chamorro teachers without questioning their actions, continued the tradition of punishing Chamorro children for speaking their language.
The most significant reason for this continuation of racist colonial perceptions is the thinking that Guam’s political status has fundamentally changed over the past century. With celebrations like Liberation Day, the huge numbers of Chamorros serving in the US military and the inclusion of Guam in programs such as welfare, food stamps and FEMA, the perception is that Guam has moved much much closer to the United States, becoming what Reagan referred to as a “tribute to the selfless spirit of American determination and perseverance.” The reality is very different in that Guam continues to be a colony of the United States, albeit a better funded one now because of its increased strategic military value.
The loss of Chamorro language cannot be attributed to a mutual, democratic decision between two partners and equals, Guam and the United States, whereby they came together, negotiated then and decided as one that Chamorros should give up their language, culture and history because it was the only way to improve their lives. This sort of benevolent framework however is precisely what leads so many Chamorros to accept the current state of affairs on Guam, whether it be increases in the American military presence on Guam, Guam’s status as a colony, or the declining state of our language.
A huge problem in the conceiving of current cultural and social problems on Guam and also in the proposing and planning for solutions is that they are not formulated within a colonial framework. The initial Chamorro language program in Guam was formed under the auspices of bilingual education since that was where they could get it approved and funded, but the tepid results of these program in actually teaching/learning the language and revitalizing it shows the limits, and that merely adding on Chamorro language doesn’t address the fundamental problem of Guam’s colonization and the skewed ways in which we see ourselves in relation to it. Colonization is not merely the lack of representation in government, it extends into the unequal systems of knowledge and commonsense that persist and continue to stimulate or mutilate what is possible.
As more and more Chamorros do not just accept but actively want to be American, the state of Chamorro language becomes one of respectful preservation. Within the current framework of American multiculturalism, we can now be good Americans by respecting our language, by speaking our language. But this mentality merely prepares the language for the museum, it does not seek decolonization, it does not seek to redress the past, heal colonial wounds, it merely wishes to collect what little is left and continue on carrying the American flag. Language preservation is the indigenous accommodation with American colonization and accepts the political status quo, language revitalization is linked to the larger goal of political and cultural decolonization, as it will be accomplished in defiance of the future that American has planned out for us over the past century.
The shift to public acceptability of Chamorro language and culture has paved the way for a number of exciting creative gestures of indigenous incorporation. Clothing lines such as Pikaru, fighting dojos and entertainers such as Malafunkshun have all risen to prominence on Guam through their limited use of Chamorro language and culture in selling their merchandise. Grappling and ultimate fighting clubs or groups have become incredibly popular partially because of their incorporation of indigenous motifs such as language (Fokkai) and notions of proud warrior-like behavior. A huge number of clothing lines have used Chamorro language and humor to sell t-shirts (I’m with ekgo’.) Malafunkshun has gained celebrity status on Guam because of its limited but effective use of Chamorro language and culture, to bring in audiences but not estrange them with unfamiliar Chamorro terms or concepts.
There have been similar successes with Chamorro dance groups such as Taotao Tano’ and Guma Palu Li’e’. The successes of these groups at the local, national and international levels is indicative of the overall positive shift in attitudes with regards to things once considered “ancient” or “gone.” The mainstream acceptance of Chamorro dance groups serves crucial multiple purposes, such as helping older Chamorros reconnect to things they after centuries of colonization could only imagine as something to be denied existence, and younger Chamorros to form a deeper connection to the things that they were not supposed to ever know existed.
We must celebrate these accomplishments, but at the same time note their limitations, most noticeably that the excitement over this indigenous revival has not necessarily led to a revival of the “indigenous language.” A number of indigenous incorporations have taken place, but these moves have not necessarily led to any form of everyday language revitalization, but have instead assisted in creating a movement based on English extrapolation.
English extrapolation is a sort of shortcut to learning a language, it is built around the identification of key tahdong concepts which can be named to prove a cultural (not linguistic) fluency, invoked in Chamorro, but not described, discussed or understood in the language itself. For better or worse, the style of the important Hale’-Ta series has helped to push this type of consciousness, through the use of italicized Chamorro words, such as respetu, inafa’maolek, chenchule’, which stand helplessly alone against a torrent of English words explaining what they mean. Although one could argue that this is the only way to communicate to young Chamorros the meaning of these concepts, it also implicitly instructs them that Chamorro culture is something picked at and lived in small conceptual doses, as opposed to what it must be taught as, an ocean of language, histories, practices and genealogical relationships that engulf and surround us. With this dynamic, more and more Chamorros are learning about their culture, but this learning itself provides a far too easy shortcut where one can feel incredibly indigenous, without actually learning Chamorro language. It is important to remember that these skeletal concepts will not truly be felt and lived until one immerses oneself in the living embodiment of the cumulative struggles and histories of the Chamorro people, which is their language.
(Hu komprende na siña ma tacha yu’ put este lokkue, sa’ yanggen un atan este na tinige’-hu, puru ha’ fino’ Ingles, ya didide’ na fino’ Chamoru manmachalalapon. Put este na ginaddon, gof impottante na kada biahi na guaha mapublish taiguini, ma fa’tinas unu gi fino’ Ingles yan unu gi fino’ Chamoru.)
Given this dire state of Chamorro language I make the following recommendations some based on what is already taking place and being worked on, others which needs to be attended to:
1. Develop immersion schools and curriculum.
2. Develop media designed specifically for helping adult language learners.
3. Develop language support groups and language learning groups.
4. Develop media/programs which does not simply use the Chamorro language, but is designed to encourage youth to take up learning and using the language.
5. Develop mentorship programs designed to transfer different sets of skills, help bridge inter-generational gaps and also facilitate comprehensive skilled language use.
1. There are a number of immersion programs that have already been implemented, each with their own incredible success stories. One existing daycare is already filled beyond capacity, with a long waiting list. Immersion camps and limited immersion classes have been successful in both instilling a basic fluency in Chamorro language and history. The success of these efforts is still hampered by the amount of contact hours with Chamorro language and parental commitment to their children learning to speak Chamorro. According to one Chamorro instructors who is currently holding pilot immersion classes, building towards a larger effort within a year’s time, the perception amongst many of the people who place their children in these camps or classes is that it is just “cultural daycare.” In one such class I visited, one could tell the difference between those children who stayed for the duration of the immersion class, which was 2 ½ hours and those whose parents would pick their children up at any time during the class. Within several weeks, children who stayed for the duration of the class were already fluent in basic classroom Chamorro, while those who would be taken out at random intervals, still could not understand or speak much Chamorro. The immersion school approach can only be as successful as the network of language speakers that help nurture the language in the child. If parents, relatives and others in the community do not help the child with their language learning, then the impact and effect of immersion schools will be severely limited as few young children will have the ability to self-motivate themselves to continue using a language which their community does not seem to readily support or encourage.
2. In the past few years, a number of different texts have been developed to help parents teach their young children how to speak Chamorro. While we should applaud this fact, it is unfortunate that it ignores that increasing demand for language learning media amongst the most needy group, young adult – adult Chamorros. As a young child, the impetus to learn Chamorro either comes from social/educational requirements or at the behest of the parents. As a young adult or adult it is often a self-motivated act, a decision to change the flow of one’s identity or to solve a personal/historical/colonial problem. The successes of different chant/dance groups and activities/media that incorporate indigenous motifs can be linked to this desire. But sadly adults who enter into these activities as previously mentioned are not taught Chamorro language, but instead taught Chamorro culture, history but ultimately through English. Given the biological difficulties for the majority of people in learning a language past childhood and in adulthood, special attention must be made to develop media designed particularly for this group, since it is the most likely to request it and use it.
3. One such way to support language learning amongst young adults – adults is to develop formal/informal groups to facilitate and assist in the process. I have had mild successes with informal language learning groups, which consisted of four – six people who had taken required Chamorro classes in public school, and then one or two college level classes and wished to learn to speak better and then myself. We would meet weekly if possible at a non-academic setting, such as King’s or Shirley’s where for at least one hour, I would encourage those present to use as much Chamorro as they could and then help them in case they had difficulty expressing themselves. If these types of meetings are held on a regular basis, with those who want to learn and someone who is willing to help them learn and not be negative and deter them, then over time you are certain to see as I did, incredible improvements. Language support groups can serve a similar function, but in my thinking exist to offer help services to those learning Chamorro with questions about grammar, vocabulary, definition and history. Since 2003 I have run informal language support groups through my different websites, and the services I have provided to people (primarily high school and college age Chamorros) have ranged from translation of song lyrics, help with Chamorro/Guam history homework, help with spelling/grammar, etc. The need for impartial yet nurturing spaces such as these is that the tendency to tease and be overly critical of young Chamorros who are trying to learning their language often pushes them to give up trying. The drive of these young Chamorros to retake their heritage should not be extinguished because of something as trivial as kase’ and so its important we create a place where they can come to with their questions or confusions so that their passion can be maintained and pushed further and not diminished.
4. The annual competitions in oration, song and dance that take place for Chamorro students are a very good start in promoting language learning and fluency amongst younger Chamorros. What needs to done next is the extension of this type of creative engaged/competitive model to other forms of creative expression, most importantly those recently imported or popularized. For example, amongst young Chamorros today, graffiti culture is very popular. One interesting attempt at this type of engaged interaction might be to hold a graffiti contest, which must incorporate Chamorro language into the design. As each piece is judged, a description must be given by the artists in Chamorro and questions from the judges must be responded to in Chamorro.
Friday, September 15, 2006
What frustrates me so much is that even though points like this are reported in both the PDN and the Marianas Variety, it does little to affect how people think about the military historically or in future terms. The military brings with it more than just spending at Chamorro village, taxes and a weak love potion #9 mixture to make the begging of the Guam delegate go a wee bit less degrading. It brings with it wear, tear, daily supposedly acceptable forms of violence, and therefore all sorts of damage.
While I was in Hawai'i last week, a military transport moving a huge crane from Honolulu hit a freeway pedestrian overpass, breaking it, and stopping traffic for half a day. The subsequent jam was so bad that some people couldn't leave Honolulu and had to stay in the city until Public Works cleaned it up late that night.
This damage however pales in comparision to the light weight (20 ton) Stryker tanks that the military is planning to use in Oahu. Recently the military acquired more than 20,000 acres for the purpose of training troops in these vehicles. The intended war games with these Strykers threatens to cause incredible infrstructure (roads, noise) and environmental damage (erosion, dust, hazardous chemicals), for which the military, as in the case of the pedestrian overpass, will most likely not pay for.
In Guam we face the same danger, but for so many frustrating reasons do not recognize them first. Instead we think incredibly about the benefits of the military, even if we don't actually know anything about them. This is colonization in action, the military, the United States as the liberator, a metaphor, an image which retains consistency even if there is little to no evidence to support it, or a mountain of evidence against it.
I can give you an academic paper which would incorporate Zizek, Laclau, Gramsci, Underwood and others to explain why this is this way, but it nonetheless kills me that these points have to be pounded into people's heads and that consciousness has to be so radically altered for them to be even considered clearly. If the military (as it already has) says that we are on our own in terms of our own infrastructure, then why do we continue to pine like stupid lovesick fools for it to be otherwise? They certainly do not treat us equitably in terms of the incredible strategic value Guam is supposed to have, so why do we just give in to them? Robert Underwood, despite the many changes of his philosophy as he has moved to different political positions, has always maintained that the United States gets a deal /steal with Guam. It gets our "strategic position" for barely anything, if you look at the amount it gives other nations and the amount other nations such as France give to their colonies.
Given that all of us on Guam are being therefore screwed by the Feds, every single day, whether OR not we try to lobby for the position of "most super patriotic semi-Americans" what good does it do us to as JAL puts it kowtow to the Feds? The begging and respectful silence of Camacho and Congresswoman Bordallo has done little to secure anything for Guam, and we continue to receive vague mixed messages, huge promises which could amount to nothing.
Although I am a hardcore Underwood supporter in terms of the current election in Guam, I did admire one aspect of Carl Guiterrez's campaign this year. On the issue of military increases all of the candidates were EXACTLY the same, in that they used the limp, tired and potentially meaningless language of "partnership" and shared benefits to describe their position on the coming Marines. In other words, we must make sure that we are partners with the military and so all the people of Guam benefit by their presence. There was not hint of antagonism from anyone, except for Carl Guiterrez in a single instance. Unlike the other three who refused to make any demands of the military, Guiterrez did say that he would demand one thing from the military, or that he would "get it back." Namely Fena Lake.
Tinige' Senadot Jesse Anderson Lujan
The Marianas Variety
WE recently heard from the Secretary of the Navy about our efforts to obtain some federal government help to upgrade our infrastructure. We have been pursuing these efforts to better prepare ourselves for the incoming Marines from Okinawa and to better position ourselves for future military placements here.We want these investments to make sure we do not descend into an unending morass of water outages, power outages, overflowing sewer lines, clogged roads and serial killer power poles, mercilessly murdering more and more of our citizens. We want to avoid a total deterioration of our quality of life. Also, we want to succeed at helping in the defense of the country.
We cannot do that with substandard infrastructure which has a capacity that continues to be stretched beyond its breaking point.
Much to our amazement, the message from Mr. Secretary was nada, zip, nothing for Guam’s civilian community. Apparently, Mr. Secretary’s message was that as far as civilian infrastructure is concerned, we civilians are on our own.
Where does that leave us? Well, we, 160,000 people, must now find a way to beg or borrow up to $2 billion to upgrade our current infrastructure. We need to do this, mind you, so that we can accommodate about 50,000 new residents, who are coming here for the sole purpose of bolstering our national defense.
Perhaps, Mr. Secretary was misquoted or I misunderstood him. But if correctly stated, this position is incredibly short sighted and bordering on incredible. To give you an idea of how incredible Mr. Secretary’s position is, mull this example over for a minute. What if a private developer came to Guam, said that he was going to invest $15 billion here?
Let’s say that developer said he was going to bring in 50,000 people for his project. Moreover, all his investments would go straight into his project. Let’s say the developer told us that all impacts of his investment on our island and on our community would be ours to bear alone. With a straight face, he would tell us that all our power, water, roads, landfill and port problems were all ours to bear—solely. If this happened, it wouldn’t be long before we sent that investor on his way. The point is that some projects are simply too big for our small community to absorb by itself. The Secretary of the Navy and the Nation are asking us, a community of 160,000 Americans, to subsidize the defense of a nation of 300 million people. Put simply, giving us a helping hand is critical to the military mission in the Western Pacific. As Guam takes on an increasingly important role in the defense of the nation, the nation must recognize that a completely upgraded civilian infrastructure is an essential component of that mission. It is unquestionable that the military community will, to a large extent, live, work and shop in the civilian community. To think that this will all be meekly accepted and subsidized by us is simply foolish and reckless.
But, however stunned we were about Mr. Secretary’s position, we were even more stunned by Governor Camacho’s response to such an absurd position.
True to form, Governor Camacho stepped up to bat for the federal government.
His apology for such stupidity and arrogant abuse of our hospitality left many of us thinking whose governor is he? Does he represent us or the federal government? Is any one in his administration explaining to Mr. Secretary that leaving us civilians high and dry, and to foot the bill to boot, for the military move to Guam jeopardizes the stability of the whole effort? Does the governor even know how to defend our interest when it is necessary?
The governor should stop kowtowing and start thinking of the long-term consequences of his actions. Governor, stand up and defend our interests.
You must fight for us to deserve the title "governor." If you do not do so, you will not be remembered as Governor Felix Camacho but rather as "Kowtow Felix."
Article published Aug 25, 2006
Navy secretary: Okinawa 'tough act to follow'
By Gaynor Dumat-ol Daleno
Pacific Daily News
The Pentagon still must make the case for Congress to approve the billions of dollars the military needs to spend on its Guam buildup, Gov. Felix Camacho said after a meeting with Navy Secretary Donald C. Winter yesterday.
Camacho made the comment after he was asked if he received a more firm commitment from Winter that the military would try to help Guam get federal funds for infrastructure upgrades. The local government has estimated it would need about $900 million in utility upgrades based on estimates that the military buildup would boost the island population by 30,000 from about 168,000 today.
The relocation of U.S. Marines from the southern Japanese island of Okinawa to Guam is expected to cost around $15 billion, which would be spent over 10 years beginning around 2008. Japanese taxpayers are expected to pay a significant part of the cost.
But it might not be realistic for Guam to expect the U.S. government to pay for all of the utility upgrades Guam needs.
In Japan, the host country's government paid for the construction of buildings and support staff for the military, the governor said.
But the governor said the Navy secretary told him that would be "one tough act to follow."
In Guam's case, the island's infrastructure needs will be competing with other national spending priorities before Congress, Camacho said.
Winter is being accompanied on Guam by B.J. Penn, assistant secretary of the Navy for Installations and Environment, according to the Navy public affairs on Guam.
During their two-day visit, Winter and Penn will tour the Navy base and Andersen Air Force Base.
Winter is the 74th Secretary of the Navy, sworn into office in January.
As the leader of the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps Team, he is responsible for conducting all the affairs of the Department of the Navy; overseeing the construction, outfitting and repair of naval ships, equipment and facilities; and formulating and implementing policies.
Penn is responsible for formulating policy and procedures for the effective management of Navy and Marine Corps real property, housing and other facilities; occupational health for both military and civilian personnel; and timely completion of closures and realignments of installations under base-closure laws.