Friday, September 22, 2006

(Not So) Simple Act of Decolonization #2

I wrote yesterday that the ultimate/fundamental/hegemonic question in Guam today is "how can we be Americans?" What this means is that for those who claim to be the most patriotic nuts out there or those who claim to be indigenous activists and revivalists, it is ultimately a question of Americaness that dictates what will mean and what you will be to everyone else on Guam.

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.

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