Sunday, December 10, 2006

Tragic Anniversaries

A sixth Chamorro has died in Iraq, US Army Segeant Jesse Castro. His death comes hauntingly close to two other tragedies in recent Chamorro history.

The first was just three years ago, at almost this exact time, when Christopher Rivera Wesley became the first Chamorro solider to die in this most recent Iraq War. His death came within days of December 8th, which has the dubious honor of being one of the holiest days in Catholic Guam as it is the celebration of the island's Patron Saint Santa Maria Kamalen, yet it also marks the day that Guam was bombed by Japan in 1941, setting the stage for their invasion, occupation and eventually the American re-invasion in 1944. When I first started the zine Minagahet in 2003, the first article I published there was one of mine titled "Happy US Imperialism Day: Rethinking the Chamorro Place in the American Empire!"

It was a piece about the true tragedy behind the Japanese Occupation on Guam in World War II, namely how the sins of the United States in starting and conducting the war are absolved through the rhetoric of "liberation." We know plenty about the brutality of the Japanese, how Chamorros suffered. We even know about the chinatli'e and emnity created between Chamorros from the northern Marianas and Guam from being on different sides of this imperial conflict. Every year a huge celebration/commemoration takes that ensures we remember this war in a certain way.

Official narratives of World War II have been since 1950 surprisingly non-negative. The celebration is a literaly whitewash, a marginalization of so many emotions, experiences and feelings which are directed at Japan, the United States or the Chamorros of the northern Marianas. There is though an abundance of local non-official negative or angry memories directed at the Japanese or the taotao Saipan yan taotao Luta, but these have been dismissed for the dual purposes of political and economic bonding amongst Japan, the CNMI and Guam as well as to insure that the focus of Guam's World War II experience is America and feelings of American belonging or dependency.

Although feelings of anger and sadness towards the United States were common after World War II and up until today, it is interesting the way they are sort of doubly editted or doubly excised out of public memory. Each Liberation Day and to a smaller extent Santa Maria Kamalen day or even Veteran's Day, the island because a huge historical classroom, where through the media, through speeches, through public institutions and events we are instructed in the basest and most colonial common sense notions of our history, our present and our future. The United State emerges from this colonial lovefest smelling fresher and more freedom loving than George Washington after a day at Mandara Spa. The negativity of the war, its brutal horrifying aspects, are not directed at the Japanese and certainly not ever at the United States, and therefore the meaning of the massacres, the forced marches, concentration camps, all the abuse is all re-worked to become a sort of necessary trial, a rite of passage that Chamorros had to endure to prove that they were truly Americans.

As we are told about the deaths in Tinta, Faha, Yigu, Fena caused by the Japanese, the abandonment of Guam by the United States in 1941 and then the destructions of Guam that both Japan and the United States brought down upon the Chamorro people, any anger, any political antagonism or action is immediately supposed to be cut off, truncated, gone. The United States is the means of Guam's survival, whether it be economic, democratic, political, educational, without the United States, we would not only be speaking Japanese, German, Spanish or Ai Yu'us goggue yu', Chamorro, but the daily nightmare of Guam possibly being a third world country, would immediately come true!. As for the Japanese we are in a less patriotic and loving bind with them, but a bind nonetheless. The anger over wounds of the war cannot be laid at their feet, wedding shuttles or gun clubs anymore, since their inability to afford tickets to the "real" United States or the real Pacific Islands (Hawai'i) is Guam's golden goose.

But this is at the official level, where the precarious and eternally dependent, unsustainable position of Guam means we cannot publicly demand anything, from anyone, for fear that the means of life will somehow be cut off. At a more private and informal level, there has been incredible resistance and anger towards the Japanese for what they did in Guam. You can even find "understandable" reference to this in public and formal discussions. Although it is understood that this anger and resentment has no place in real discussions, it can nevertheless be referenced to as being understandable, expected given the history of Guam, that some people might not feel so friendly or welcoming to the Japanese.

What I feel is an even greater tragedy today is the way, that despite the United States' colonial history in Guam over the past century, there is no "understanding" or intelligability for displeasure or distaste for the United States. Such feelings are meant to be doubly dismissed, first expulsed from the public world, and then further denied any meaning in the private world. It is always maladjusted, pathological, ridiculous, even when in some cases it is obviously very real, and very pertinent and relevant.


I have posted about the deaths of each Chamorro soldier in Iraq during this war, each post has been difficult for a number of reasons. I minatai siha, ma pacha yu', ma gof pacha yu', lao i piniti ti taiguihi kalang todu ni' ma sasangan na este na minatai siha maolek ha' sa' gaibali sa' manmatai siha mientras ma difefende i taotao Guahan. Ti hu gof siesiente este sa' hu guaiya iyo-ta colonizer, ya hu hongge i bolabola put "Chamorro American patriotism," makkat para bei sungon este, sa' ti hu gof guaiya i Amerikanu siha. Ya kada na matai un Chamoru taiguini, bula na malago yu' sumangan, ya umessalao, lao ti sina yu', sa' todu na masasangan put este, put i gaibali na sakrifisio.

I think its important to remind ourselves of the six that have died so far, but not for the typical patriotic rationale of naming half a dozen reasons why Chamorros are the best Americans or should be Americans, but rather to remind ourselves of the incredible tragedies that Chamorros are forced to shoulder because of who our colonizer is and what it has done to us and to others around the world.

Here are the links for the posts that I've made so far, and I'll be sure to come up with another one tomorrow:

Three Chamorros Dead in Iraq...
Christopher Rivera Wesley
Michael Aguon Vega
Jonathan Pangelinan Santos

Things we Remember If Only to Be Forgotten
Richard DeGracia Na'puti Jr.

The Tragedy of Tragedy
Kasper Allan Camacho Dudkiewicz

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