Thursday, September 21, 2006

Guam, ?.?.?.

Gof ya-hu lao mampos ti ya-hu i kantan K.C. Leon Guerrero, "Guam U.S.A." I rason siha na ya-hu yan ti ya-hu gof komplikao, ya meggai na sina sumangan este na rasion put i inafektan colonization giya Guahan.

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
Lina'la Kalifotnia
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
Umeskuelan coleho
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.

Sa' hafa?

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!

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

I have to agree with your feelings and sentiments of the Guam, USA song by KC Leon Guerrero. I was also facing the same conundrum of the complexities and representations that KC Leon Guerero was presenting. Especially the part that he mentions: "Anai ma'u dai yu' gi batkon aire para guatu Amerika....Kao guaha un keketungo"? makes me wonder of whether the singer was facing with issues of identity (either being a CHamoru or an Amerian). The title of the song, "Guam, USA" provokes a certain imagery that the little island of Guam is part of the big geographical strucutre of the United States, however when the singer states to the American: "I'm from Guam, Kao guaha un keketungo?" shows that perhaps Chamorros in the US are feeling the same sentiments as the singer. The fact that USA was added to the end of Guam, the singer (or even a CHamoru) might have assumed that people in the states would know about Guam, but didn't. So, I'm speculating that KC Leon Guerero created this song as a form of advertisement to entice people of the US to visit Guam and at the same time it appeals to CHamorus in the states that are struggling to be visible.

carolynn2k10 said...

KC is by far one of the most known and greatest Chamorro singer - despite his civil records. However, most people don't even know that KC is in fact not from Guam. He was asked to generate a song for the island of Guam to help people recognize that Guam is part of the US. KC is indeed from the Northern Marianas Islands, but more precisely, he is from Sa`i`pan.

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