Monday, July 31, 2006
A Senate Race in Connecticut
Earlier this year, Senator Joseph Lieberman’s seat seemed so secure that — legend has it — some people at the Republican nominating convention in Connecticut started making bleating noises when the party picked a presumed sacrificial lamb to run against the three-term senator, who has been a fixture in Connecticut politics for more than 35 years.
But Mr. Lieberman is now in a tough Democratic primary against a little-known challenger, Ned Lamont. The race has taken on a national character. Mr. Lieberman’s friends see it as an attempt by hysterical antiwar bloggers to oust a giant of the Senate for the crime of bipartisanship. Lamont backers — most of whom seem more passionate about being Lieberman opponents — say that as one of the staunchest supporters of the Iraq war, Mr. Lieberman has betrayed his party by cozying up to President Bush.
This primary would never have happened absent Iraq. It’s true that Mr. Lieberman has fallen in love with his image as the nation’s moral compass. But if pomposity were a disqualification, the Senate would never be able to call a quorum. He has voted with his party in opposing the destructive Bush tax cuts, and despite some unappealing rhetoric in the Terri Schiavo case, he has strongly supported a woman’s right to choose. He has been one of the Senate’s most creative thinkers about the environment and energy conservation.
But this race is not about résumés. The United States is at a critical point in its history, and Mr. Lieberman has chosen a controversial role to play. The voters in Connecticut will have to judge whether it is the right one.
As Mr. Lieberman sees it, this is a fight for the soul of the Democratic Party — his moderate fair-mindedness against a partisan radicalism that alienates most Americans. “What kind of Democratic Party are we going to have?” he asked in an interview with New York magazine. “You’ve got to agree 100 percent, or you’re not a good Democrat?”
That’s far from the issue. Mr. Lieberman is not just a senator who works well with members of the other party. And there is a reason that while other Democrats supported the war, he has become the only target. In his effort to appear above the partisan fray, he has become one of the Bush administration’s most useful allies as the president tries to turn the war on terror into an excuse for radical changes in how this country operates.
Citing national security, Mr. Bush continually tries to undermine restraints on the executive branch: the system of checks and balances, international accords on the treatment of prisoners, the nation’s longtime principles of justice. His administration has depicted any questions or criticism of his policies as giving aid and comfort to the terrorists. And Mr. Lieberman has helped that effort. He once denounced Democrats who were “more focused on how President Bush took America into the war in Iraq” than on supporting the war’s progress.
At this moment, with a Republican president intent on drastically expanding his powers with the support of the Republican House and Senate, it is critical that the minority party serve as a responsible, but vigorous, watchdog. That does not require shrillness or absolutism. But this is no time for a man with Mr. Lieberman’s ability to command Republicans’ attention to become their enabler, and embrace a role as the president’s defender.
On the Armed Services Committee, Mr. Lieberman has left it to Republicans like Lindsey Graham of South Carolina to investigate the administration’s actions. In 2004, Mr. Lieberman praised Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld for expressing regret about Abu Ghraib, then added: “I cannot help but say, however, that those who were responsible for killing 3,000 Americans on September 11th, 2001, never apologized.” To suggest even rhetorically that the American military could be held to the same standard of behavior as terrorists is outrageous, and a good example of how avidly the senator has adopted the Bush spin and helped the administration avoid accounting for Abu Ghraib.
Mr. Lieberman prides himself on being a legal thinker and a champion of civil liberties. But he appointed himself defender of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and the administration’s policy of holding hundreds of foreign citizens in prison without any due process. He seconded Mr. Gonzales’s sneering reference to the “quaint” provisions of the Geneva Conventions. He has shown no interest in prodding his Republican friends into investigating how the administration misled the nation about Iraq’s weapons. There is no use having a senator famous for getting along with Republicans if he never challenges them on issues of profound importance.
If Mr. Lieberman had once stood up and taken the lead in saying that there were some places a president had no right to take his country even during a time of war, neither he nor this page would be where we are today. But by suggesting that there is no principled space for that kind of opposition, he has forfeited his role as a conscience of his party, and has forfeited our support.
Mr. Lamont, a wealthy businessman from Greenwich, seems smart and moderate, and he showed spine in challenging the senator while other Democrats groused privately. He does not have his opponent’s grasp of policy yet. But this primary is not about Mr. Lieberman’s legislative record. Instead it has become a referendum on his warped version of bipartisanship, in which the never-ending war on terror becomes an excuse for silence and inaction. We endorse Ned Lamont in the Democratic primary for Senate in Connecticut.
© 2006 The New York Times
Published on Tuesday, August 1, 2006 by the Chicago Sun-Times
"Single Issue" Candidate Knows What's Important
by Jesse Jackson
To this day, Joe Lieberman still doesn't get it. The 18-year incumbent Democratic senator from Connecticut is in the battle for his political life in the Democratic primary. He dismisses his challenger -- Ned Lamont, a Connecticut businessman whose campaign is grounded on opposition to the war in Iraq, as a single-issue candidate.
But Iraq is not a single issue, it is a central issue -- both for the country and for the Democratic Party. It is a catastrophic foreign policy debacle. It has alienated us from our allies and generated hatred among Muslims across the world. It has weakened our military, forcing our troops into an extended occupation in the midst of a growing civil war for which they have neither appetite nor training. It has proved a recruiting boon for al-Qaida. It has sorely weakened our foreign policy influence, as demonstrated graphically in the current conflict in Lebanon. It has cost nearly 2,700 American lives, over 20,000 Americans wounded -- and an estimated 50,000 Iraqi deaths.
It has skewed our budget priorities. We've spent about $300 billion already -- with the estimated cost likely to exceed $1 trillion -- even as we cut support at home for the still-displaced Katrina survivors, raise interest rates on student loans and cut access to preschool for poor children. The budget is a statement of our moral choices -- and this is a deeply immoral choice.
The Iraq debacle has featured the cronyism, corruption and incompetence that is characteristic of this administration. Billions have been pocketed in Iraq by companies like Halliburton, which the Pentagon charged with contracting abuse even as it renewed its no-bid contracts. The administration cooked the intelligence to get us into the war, and then launched the war with no plan for the occupation, and with inadequate forces and inadequate equipment.
The war has undermined our own democracy, with a president claiming untrammeled powers to act above the law for the duration of a war on terror that he says will last for generations. And from this arrogance has come shameful abuses, from the torture in Abu Ghraib to the hidden prisons of the CIA to the locking up of people -- too many of them innocent -- without hearing or lawyer or charges in Guantanamo and elsewhere. America, which has championed the rule of law throughout the world, is now widely viewed as a rogue nation that views itself as above the law.
Through all this, Lieberman has been, as the New York Times termed it, the president's "enabler." He lobbied early and hard for the pre-emptive war of choice. He echoed the lies and dismissed the folly of the president's men while questioning the patriotism of those who raised sensible questions about our course.
Iraq is not a single issue; it is a central issue. Lieberman's response has been to line up the Democratic Club -- basking in the embrace of Bill Clinton, whom he once called a moral disgrace, and enlisting fellow Sen. Chris Dodd to mobilize other senators to support him. The Democratic Senate Committee has rushed in political pros and organizers to help "save our guy."
But across Connecticut, voters are saying "this is not our guy." They are sending a message not just to Bush but to the Democratic Party -- calling them to account. Lieberman's opponent, Ned Lamont, has run a principled campaign, devoid of personal attacks or gutter politics. He has simply argued, correctly, that Lieberman has not simply been wrong on the war, but has been a leader of the war hawks, the president's favorite Democrat and leading defender.
Workers in Connecticut -- which has witnessed a steady hemorrhaging of manufacturing jobs -- have other reasons to think Joe is not their guy. He's been a leading promoter of the corporate trade policies that have devastated U.S. manufacturing while racking up the largest trade deficits in the history of mankind. He's the single greatest defender of off-the-books, short-term executive stock options, which contributed directly to the worst corporate crime scandals in a century.
Whatever happens in the primary next Tuesday, the message has already been sent. Americans don't pay much attention to politics. They are easily roused by appeals to patriotism and fear. They tend to re-elect incumbents. But periodically, democracy works. A defining issue rouses opinion, and that leads to a defining election. In Connecticut, the Democratic primary is just that. And every member of the club had better listen to what the voters are saying.
Email to: email@example.com.
© 2006 Digital Chicago, Inc.
Sunday, July 30, 2006
Pues annok siempre esta ginnen este na mahalang yu' para Guiya, i minape-na, i pinacha-na, i chiniku-na, ya todu mas kosas ni' ti bai hu mentra guini.
Put i kumpleanos-hu pa'go, meggai na taotao umagang yu', ya sumangani yu' "biba kumpleanos!" I nobia-hu lokkue umagang para u disehayi yu' minaolek gi i ha'anin mafanagu, lao umupus ham, sa' taigue yu' nai ha agang.
Hu gof siesiente pa'go i pinitin minahalang, pues malago yu' pumost guini, unu na kantan-mami.
I na'an-na "Hagu I Nanan I Langhet," ya gof magof i korason i korason-hu an hu kantayi gui' ni' este.
HAGU INAN I LANGHET
Hagu I inan I langhet
O puan klaru yan gatbo
Ai na silensio na puengge
Un alibia, un alibia I piniti-hu
Yanggen triste hao gi puengge
Atan hulo’ ya un li’e
Hagu siempre un konsigi
I minagof I alibio para siempre
Ayu na mineggai puti’on
Manma’lak yan ti tufong’on
Lao meggaina ti li’e’on
Mas ki sien mit, mas ki sien mit miyon
Saturday, July 29, 2006
Michael Lujan Bevacqua
Social Theory b
Professor Da Silva
Lacan, Freud, Althusser, Marx
I’d like to apologize first, I’m behind in all my stuff, so I haven’t gotten around to doing the Marx readings yet. So Marx shall only make an appearance here as the spectre which Derrida has advised me to not yet exorcise.
Lacan loved to pick on animals, as evident even in this reading, constantly using them as the limit break binary through which the human subject can be created. In addition to his statement from this article that humans are the only creatures who can lie by telling the truth, Lacan also once noted that the difference between humans and animals lies in their relationship to trauma. For an ant gathering food, the trauma of being knocked off a branch is exceptional it is rare. For humans on the other hand, despite how we may define our lives, trauma is the condition of existence.
Thus it should come as no surprise given the way Lacan constructs the subject and its relation to language and everything else. A signifier signifies the subject for another signifier clues us in to regular isolation the subject has in relation to the other and even his own speech. We are the client, our language, a lawyer which speaks to another lawyer. (Zizek uses imagery of a medical chart at the bed of the patient) Although we have an investment in speech, and are some part of it, our control over it and is meaning is debatable. But the moving backwards, the subject itself does not exist prior to this act necessarily. It is the speech act and more importantly the desire the act represents (in seeking desire) that constitutes the subject. The speaking represents the transformation of the child from a demanding thing to a desiring thing.
In Lacan the difference between demand and desire, is the different between impossible and possible (for example the difference between Catherine Zeta-Jones and Julia Roberts in American Sweethearts to John Cusack (oooh, what a terrible Lacanian example), the demand can never be fulfilled, it is always the demand for something which cannot be given. Desire on the other had, arises out of frustrated demands, which are not being met. As child it is this frustration which moves the child to speak, to identify a desire apart from its motherer, the object of desire on the other hand can be obtained, but once the object is obtained, it loses the aura of the object of desire and another object is sought.
Of course, a conversation such as this requires a mention of love. Lacan’s definition of which is “love is the giving of something which the subject doesn’t have, to someone who doesn’t want it.” Love, as such a timeless, seemingly inexhaustible theme seems to meet Lacan’s notions, in that the object of love can never be exhausted in its articulations, precisely because it is an object that can never be grasped.
Returning to the class and the bloody cogito, what we find in both Freud and Lacan is an attempt to articulate the obverse of the Cartesian cogito and incorporate it into their theoretical frameworks. Thus in Freud we find the death drive and the unconscious. In Lacan we see the presymbolic state of children where only need and demand exist. Passage from these states requires a moment of traumatic madness when the proto-ontological gap is encountered and the subject thus created. The subject, at least in Lacan’s formulations is made from presymbolic substance in an attempt to “heal the gap,” to cover it up. Thus, if we are to believe psychoanalysis, the “act” which creates the subject, paradoxically tries to cover up the gap, while actively maintaining it as well.
But Lacanian psychoanalysis is built upon an insane amount of such paradoxes. The subject exists in as much as it misrecognizes the gap (much like the way Itchy and Scratchy from The Simpsons continue to live, despite being decapitated or killed, so long as they do not look at the wound itself). (Cube, while being hilariously silly, is actually a film run on a psychoanalytical economy of misrecognition, furthermore one can see how it has its own dialectical process going with its sequels, Hypercube and Cube 3 as leading towards a possible symptomal (dis)solution). The subject has some inward agency so long as uses the Symbolic order to deceive the other (and himself) (Such is the promise of the recent film Dear Frankie, where the man hired by a boy’s mother to impersonate his dad (whom she has been writing on behalf of for years) has the potential to become the boy’s father.) (It is of course, the deception that makes this possible) (This is also the Symbolic process endlessly varied in Hindi films, such as Kyon…Ho Gaya Na, which creates love/attachments between couples arranged married.)
Central as both the readings from Freud and Lacan note in all this, is the unconscious, however both have different beliefs and uses for it. For Freud, the unconscious is a repository for hidden desires and drives. It is part of the primary process which constantly conflicts with the secondary process of rationality, always threatening the façade of control and composure that we attempt. Jokes, slips and in particular dreams offer means to find out these hidden wishes. For Lacan, the unconscious is not so much a real place as Freud proposes, but is instead the place of the Real, of the unknowable desires. Thus we find, within the human psyche another form of the proto-ontological gap, the unconscious. It is the necessarily uncertain, unstable, potentially mad element, where the disavowed contents which push and prevent the dialectics of life are formed and hidden. The Real is the necessarily disavowed content of a subjects position. Like the object of desire, it can be known and unknown (it could be called an “unknown known” to dialogue with amateur Philosopher Donald Rumsfeld), meaning that the Real can intrude, and it can either be Symbolically rejected and remain disavowed, or it can be known, at which point the Real becomes something else. (by the way, Lacan talked very little about the Real as far as I can tell, and Zizek talks too much about it, making too many formulations, some of which contradict what I’ve just written). This of course explains the pragmatic difference between Freud and Lacan. For Freud, rational discourse is possible and thus people can get better. Lacan is of course more pessimistic (and actually according to rumors treated very few people). One can explain this difference in their relation to the symptom, in that Freud saw the symptom as something to be (dis)solved, while Lacan makes the symptom itself and the linguistic tenor of it, his fetish. (Thus, Lacan falls prey as we all seem to do, to the proliferation of desire, that, objects constantly create (generally perverse) supplemental desires (such as Sid’s menagerie of toys and toy torture from Toy Story) (Lacan’s fetishization of the symptom of course fits perfectly within his constellation of linguistic undeciability and alienation, which is why its probably not a big deal).
In terms of the goals for this course, the psychoanalytical subject, while obviously more complicated, in that the madness so often disavowed is admittedly necessary component, and the subject is more full of desire than reason, does not escape the Cartesian cogito or Hegelian theories, if anything it proudly uses them. (As Zizek notes, a dialogue between Lacan and Delueze is not only impossible, but unproductive, what would be more productive is instead an “encounter.” After all, Delueze was thought of to be the last philosopher of “the one,” whereas Lacan of course can’t let go of the cogito.)
But this doesn’t mean that psychoanalysis is useless and should be tossed out. As I’ve found, in particular with Zizek’s work, it has awesome potential, so long as one does not use it with “happiness” or an “outside” as the intended result.
For example, looking at the way the world is today one might assume especially within the global north that we live in some ego epoch. But of course, this is precisely the type of resistance to deception, which breeds deception. The wealth of freedom talk and freedom assertion if anything shows the very ways in which humans are hopelessly interpolated (my little Althusser moment, since I figure I’ll be way past 1,500 words by the time I reach the end of my Freud/Lacan ramblings, and therefore won’t feel like talking about Althusser). Rosa Luxemberg’s famous saying that “freedom is for those who think differently” thus becomes some sort of Ipod commercial, “freedom is for those who think.” The point being Kant’s similar famous Enlightenment saying, “this as much as you want, but just obey!” Thus, at the very structure the current global capitalistic framework, far from being that of the ego, is that of the superego.
What does this mean? Human life more and more becomes a trip to grandma’s house. The stereotypical visit to grandma’s house, with an aged matriarch, a rebellious disinterested child, and a authoritarian parent is usually summed up with this statement, “Even if you don’t want to go, you will go to grandma’s house and be good!” But of course, there is a hidden, forced choice to this law, and that is that in addition to going and behaving, “you will visit grandma and you will be glad to do it!” The superego injunction is thus, Do it, and ENJOY! But at the same time however, Zizek notes that as politics is becoming more and more about the distribution and regulation of jouissance, (for example, by politicizing gay marriages, abortion), psychoanalysis is an approach which might offer some revolutionary political potential. (this is especially true in terms of postmodern and liberal impasses, one of which fears the kernel (insert random KFC joke here), the other high fidelity.)
Thursday, July 27, 2006
1. War Reparations…
The US signed a treaty with Japan forbidding anyone whether in the US or in Guam from seeking reparations from Japan for their conduct during World War II. A recent report revealed that Chamorros have not been justly compensated for their suffering in World War II. Will our people ever receive real recognition or compensation for being caught in a war which was not of their own making?
2. The United States abandoned Guam in 1941 to the Japanese:
Chamorros were not notified that war was pending, in fact the Navy denied to many Chamorros that anything was wrong, or that anything would happen at all. Chamorros were not prepared, were not warned, and were not aided in any way, and thus sacrificed by the United States.
3. The United States refused to evacuate any Chamorros from Guam in 1941.
Several months before the Japanese invasion in December 1941, the US Military evacuated all their dependents from the island. Wives and children of Chamorro servicemen were not allowed to be evacuated. Former Senator Adrian Sanchez, who had enlisted in the Navy, tried to get them to take his wife, children and parents. He was told that only white dependents were being evacuated.
4. The United States liberated Saipan first.
The US liberated Saipan first, and in response to the terrible fighting there, the Japanese stationed on Guam went berserk at the next American invasion. The majority of brutal Chamorro deaths took place in the period between the invasion of Saipan and the invasion of Guam. Had the US been interested in protect its “loyal Chamorros,” then they would have invaded Guam first. Had they done so, men such as Pale’ Jesus Baza Duenas and women such Harriet Chance Torres, along with hundreds of others might still be with us today.
5. The US bombed Guam for 17 days straight before invading.
After days of harsh ground battles in Saipan, the US decided to “soften” Guam before invading. The softening of Guam amounted to seventeen days of bombing from both sea and air. Most of Hagatña and most concrete structures on the island were flattened. Unknown numbers of Chamorros were killed during this indiscriminate bombing campaign.
6. The Japanese saved hundreds, perhaps thousands of Chamorros at Manengon.
Who knows why the Japanese forced marched thousands of Chamorros into concentration camps at Manengon Valley, but by doing so they may have actually saved many lives. By clearing out the majority of Chamorros from Hagatña and other villages, they saved them from dying in the US bombing.
7. The United States Military took, bought and stole more than 2/3 of the island after the war.
Following the war, more than 2/3 of the island was taken for “defense purposes.” Defense purposes is in quotes because while some land was taken to create airstrips and bases, many Chamorro lives were destroyed to make tennis courts, swimming areas, and also to get the fruits on the property.
8. One Navy play was to make “native reservations” for Chamorros.
According to maps in the Micronesian Area Research Center, one plan developed by the Navy was to secure the entire island, and then create “reservations” for the Chamorros to live on.
9. Many Chamorros did not want to be US citizens after 1950.
Despite all the patriotic propaganda that we are fed year after year, many Chamorros did not want to become citizens in 1950. Many didn’t trust the US after it had so carelessly abandoned them in 1941. Others felt betrayed by the destruction of Hagatña and the theft of so many Chamorro lands. Some were angry that the US would create a government for them, give them citizenship, without consulting the majority of Chamorros.
10. GUAM IS STILL A COLONY
Wave the flag as high as you want, it doesn’t change this simple fact.
Friday, July 21, 2006
Part of the reason for the lack of attention to my poor, taiga'chong na blog, is because of all the preparations that my family on island is going through for my grandparent's 56th Wedding Anniversary Party coming up this weekend.
Its nearly 1 am right now and I'm at the University of Guam struggling to finish a draft for the program to show i prima-hu siha, tiha-hu siha, yan si nana-hu lokkue. The computer I'm making it on is actually really really slow, so while I'm waiting for it to load up, I'm writing this post.
The party looks to be alot of fun, meggai na parientes-hu pau fanmatto, meggai na atungo'-hu yan noskunatos na ga'chong-hu. (Guaguan este na gipot nai, sa' in pega gui' gi un hotet. Ya esta un tungo' siempre i pinadesin este. Guaguan mampos sa' un apapasi siha para kada na platu.) Because of the expense I can't invite all the people I would want to dance with me, sing with me, or see embarassing photos of my family with.
But still, I'm sure it'll be a great time, but the moments leading up to it, are naturally stressful.
I'm responsible for the program and so that's some major stress since I'm not one of the key planners for the event and often have no idea what is supposed to happen. I'm also supposed to be singing Nobia Kahulo' for the party, and also training my nieces and nephews and siblings to sing Hagu I Flores.
The day before yesterday was almost surreal for me.
For those of you who don't know me, I never really considered myself a typical Chamorro, especially when I was growing up.
When other families were setting up canopies on Marine Drive for Liberation Day, mine wasn't. In fact grandma and grandpa didn't really seem to care much for the event anyways. Ti ya-niha mumama'on gi i familian-mami lokkue. Also, with the exception of my Artero cousins, no one in my family was in the military, so I rarely saw the inside of military bases except to go on hikes or visit the beaches. My existence might be radically different if my grandfather had joined the military, and in fact as a young man after the war, he actually intended to. But according to family lore, grandpa has never had a very good relationship to the taotaomo'na on island, and so right before his medical exam to join the service he got pinched, causing a huge swelling on the side of his face, which made him fail the exam. I shiver at the thought of this counterfactual. If grandpa hadn't been hassled by the taotaomo'na, then I might be typing here right now, some bland, ridiculous commentary on the need for us to really remember the real importance of Liberation Day.
Put ayu na inetaluyi i taotaomo'na, bai hu agradesi siha todu tiempo.
One other thing which seemed to seperate my family from other Chamorro families was the lack of a gathering house, or a gathering place, where much of the family business would be done, or where hanging out and family functions would take place. I would often see it in other families, the house of the patriarch, the matriarch, the grandparents or the oldest sibling, would function as the Central Command or the HQ, and throughout the day, the week or the month, there would be a constant varied flow of people, information, needs and issues passing through there. I remember loving living in grandma and grandpa's house, but I also remember thinking about how empty it always was, or how our relatives would never come over there, but we would always go and visit them.
The moment of blissful surrealism came when I saw my grandparent's house literally packed for the first time in my life. Ti mandadagi yu', kalang manmasohmok ham guihi gi ayu na guma'.
Lhiz was there with Dan and their kids. So was Tony and Nonni visiting from San Diego. Audie's wife Jennifer was there with Lisa who is putting together the slide show for the party. Auntie Viv and Uncle Joey, my mom's siblings were there, since they are staying with their parents while they are here for the party. My entire family was there, my mom, my stepdad Charles and all of my siblings, Kuri, Jack, Cyrus, Cate, Alina and Aaron.
With this many people there is no center, no focus, just diffuse conversations and business taking place. People chatting at the dinner table, others watching TV, others playing video games, others working on the program for the party. Gof presisu este na rinatu para Guahu, sa' desde hu tutuhon umagrededesi i kotturan i Chamoru, yan taimanu dipotsi manhihot hit todu put familia, hu gof tangga este na klasin rinatu.
The obverse side of this is of course that it can be as stressful as organizing an anti-base movement on Guam. But as my friend Jamela told me today, its good stress. Hunggan, hu gof konfotme este na sinangan. Maolekna este na klasin stress kinu i chinatsaga gi lagu. Ga'na'ku kada diha i stress put i familia yan i isla-ku, kinu i stress put traffic, mata'pang (taisabot) na che'cho' pat i kustumbren i manapa'ka yan i mampo'asu na Chamorro gi lagu.
Interesting enough though, my brothers from the states tell me that Guam is the most laid back place on earth. Although obviously, I too believe this, and pine for it when I'm stateside, I know that its not at all why I love this island so much. I love this island because it is not laid back at all, it is stressful as hell. But the crucial difference is that this is stress I love, stress for those that I love. Sitting in traffic in San Diego for an hour to get to school, seems to shred my soul into loathing little pieces. Running errands for hours back and forth across the island, waiting in line to pay bills, to pick up packages, to check in for doctor's appointments, these are the things that build my soul.
Tuesday, July 18, 2006
Before the Guam Legislature
On the State of Guam\'s Educational System
Monday, July 17, 2006
Good Morning Members of the Guam Legislature. I come before you this morning to testify on an important educational matter- the matter of good governance. Good governance establishes the appropriate balance between community and administrative control over our schools and the future of quality education on our island. I come before you as a concerned citizen and long-time educator as well as former Member of Congress and an elected member of the Territorial School Board from 1978-1982. I am also running for Governor of Guam, and while it is difficult to separate roles here, I come here to express my ideas as a long time educator rather than as candidate for Governor. There is already too much partisan politics in education.
In our American system of governance, school systems were founded by communities before there were state governments. Unlike other countries in the world, educational systems in the U.S. are not administrative agencies of the central government. We pride ourselves on the fact that under the U.S. Constitution, the states control the school systems and not the federal government. Within states, we generally try to provide for school districts with autonomous boards and provide autonomous funding systems. This is the ideal even though we come up short in reality. But we still strive for the ideal.
When the Organic Act was changed by Congressman Ben Blaz to allow the Guam Legislature to pass laws that limited the role of the Governor in educational matters, we all supported it. This simple properly balanced the nature of authority over the school system. It was designed not to punish the Governor, but instead to give the community more of a say in how schools were operated. This was based in large measure on the previous experiences of the Boards of Education that failed to acquire new authority despite the efforts by the Guam Legislature to grant them stronger powers. I know because I was there when the sitting Governor told us, "You are supposed to recommend someone to be Director of Education, then he added; this is the name I will accept." Previous to that we were seen as a rubber stamp body, but eventually they even took away the rubber stamp.
Since the amendment of the Organic Act, we have had several attempts to rewrite the nature of the authority of the school board as well as how we select the members of the school board. We have had Boards entirely selected by the Governor, we have had an attempt to establish multiple Boards, we have had administrative control returned entirely to the Governor and then taken back. This confused mess that we have is not caused entirely by politicians and elected officials who are seeking to enhance their authority. They sure add to it and they make things worst, but they are not the cause of it. We expect some elected officials to continue to seek greater authority. GPSS is a plum agency. A lack of funding and the inability to translate "education is a priority" as a slogan into the policy reality of "schools really do come first" also contributes to the confusion.
But the real source of confusion is that we have not stated openly who we think should be in charge of education. Let me state unequivocally my belief that it is the community that should be in charge of education. In the American system of government, that means an elected school board accountable to the people and with sufficient authority to make sure that the school system is functioning. The Governor has a role in the process because he is the administrative head of the Government of Guam and he has a leadership role in the community. He can engage the Board and he should be talking to them regularly, but the Board must hold the responsibility and be held accountable for their actions.
If we do not like the Board, we elect a new Board or attempt to remove them. There was a failed attempt to do so earlier this year and we have the opportunity to elect new members in November. If they have made a real mess of things, then the Legislature can step in and run it themselves in conjunction with the Governor but only on an ad hoc basis until the problem is solved. This is not without precedent but happens only very rarely. But in no instance, should we turn the clock back to take away the authority of the Board by devising a new system that would take us back to the days when the Governor ran the school system.
This is why Bill 313 needs to be seriously revised if it is going to contribute to community control of education. As introduced, it seeks to eliminate the most significant decision any Education Board can make and that is the selection of the Superintendent. It was the controversy over this very issue that lead to the amending of the Organic Act. Speaking as a former Board member, as a long time educator, as an amender of other portions of the Organic Act and even as a potential Governor, this is not a good idea. An educational superintendent should be an honored position and should function as the chief implementer of Board policies as well as exercise administrative control over the system. He or she cannot do that if the position is primarily political and secondarily professional.
On the matter of Board composition, I agree that it is probably best to move to at large voting for school board membership as well as increase their stipend. This might secure a wider range of candidates. Perhaps a hybrid system of three at large and four through districting may also work. Any system that makes the Board responsible to the community in a direct fashion will work and the introduction of at large membership may make it stronger. Providing for a system that is partially selected by the Governor is again a step backwards. We have been down that road before.
On the matter of Board authority over federal programs, we should be moving towards the direction of enhancing their authority rather than seeking to limit it. They made an inappropriate decision regarding a federal grant earlier this year and this decision has been regularly used to demonstrate why they should have no role in the management of federal grants. The decision has been corrected but the discussion goes on because U.S. DOE officials have threatened withholding funds. By all means, do everything that we can to keep the funds flowing and make Uncle Sam happy, but make sure that we know the real sticking point. And if this decision was the problem, it seems to me that it has been unstuck.
Based on media reports, you have reached a compromise with the some federal government officials in order to keep federal funding going. It is a compromise that looks promising but continues to avoid the question and delays the inevitable conflicts. It is more crisis management that has resulted in crisis legislation. The round tables are excellent venues for conversation and even occasional crisis management, but they have become the substitute for dealing with difficult issues. I congratulate the leadership of the Legislature on this matter, but I do not think we have solved the problem just yet. We may have averted another crisis, but only temporarily.
Taking the Board out of oversight regarding federally-funded programs is another slap at the face of community control. Federal program support of curricular programs and local mandates are intertwined. You cannot say that a locally funded reading program can be mandated by the Board but that federally-supported programs must go on autonomously. It just doesn\'t work that way. It is a time honored principle—ask any educator that federal programs supplement and do not supplant. It is in federal law.
Besides, most federal programs require some type of Board approval. Board approval is tantamount to community approval and taking them out of the process may make a couple federal officials happy but it does nothing for community review, acceptance and support. This is why most federal programs require Board approval or consent.
If the general financial management of GPSS is in question, I thought that a Chief Financial Officer was hired to take care of these issues. It seems to me that we ought to give the CFO a chance to work out some of these matters. Financial management issues are not really Board issues. They are administrative issues and the roots of the problem lie in many different places, but we seem to focus only on the Board. Apparently, they make the most convenient target at this time perhaps because of some unpopular decisions.
A system of governance is about putting in place a series of beliefs about the appropriate balance of authority and control between various instrumentalities. It is not about arguing over decisions that we disagree with. Education is the single most important business of the public. It is the basis of our obligation to the next generation. It is the way that we distribute opportunity, encourage the fulfillment of individual potential, grow the economy, encourage civic participation and good citizenship. It seems entirely appropriate that in assessing the balance between control by the community (as reflected in the Board) and administrative agencies, that we err on the side of the community. It may not be tidy and we may falter from time to time, but I take the people over government any day of the week.
Our goal and responsibility is ensuring that every child has the benefit of the highest quality education. Quality education is the single most important investment we can make in our island\'s future.
As a life-long educator, I have watched the educational system be a part in a tug of war between politicians. Never has the sentiment of removing politics out of education ever been more appropriate. As an educator, I cannot accept the debacles of recent weeks. It has to change. As responsible adults, we owe it to ourselves and our children to move our educational system forward. # # #
Thursday, July 13, 2006
Yanggen un tungo’ yu’ ya un tungo’ Guahan, siempre esta un tungo’ lokkue na sti bai hu sessuyi pumost guini gi i blog-hu, mientras gaige yu’ guini giya Guahan.
Diferentes i tiempo guini (i tiempo relo yan i tiempo uchan yan minaipe), sa’ diferentes lokkue i klasin internet (ai adai, esta payun yu’ nu Wireless yan DSL).
Yanggen gaige yu’ gi i gima’n iyo-ku grandparents, ya sumusurf yu’ gi i internet, put i dial-up na modem, ti sina ma usa i tilifon iyo-ku grandparents. Yanggen Si grandpa hinasso-ña na esta gaige yu’ apmam (fihu 15 minutos ha’) gi i internet, pau faisen yu’, “Mike? Kao gaigaige ha’ hao gi i internet? Kao macho’cho’cho’ ha’ i tilifon, sa’ gauha inagang ni’ hu nanangga…”
Gof yayas yu’ lokkue desde matto yu’. Ti hu kekesångan na ti yayas yu’ gi i tiempo-ku gi lågu, lao diferentes i patte-ku ni’ yayas guihi. Gi lågu, todu i tiempo i tintanos-hu ni’ yayas, sa’ todu i tiempo, guaha na debi di bai hu tuge’ para eskuela, para magazine, para dinaña siha, para maseha hafa otro na fina’pos. Lao, guini, macho’cho’cho ha’ i tintanos-hu, lao mas hu na’sesetbe i otro na muscles-hu, pi’ot i kannai-hu siha yan i tata’lo-hu.
Para håmyo ni’ tumungo’ put i oriyan i gima’n iyo-ku grandparents, esta un komprende pat tungo’ siempre hafa ilelek-hu. Para håmyo ni’ ti tumungo’, meggai na tinanom guini. Gof betde i thumb-ña iyo-ku grandmother, so pues kalang halom tano’ gi oriyan i gima’n-ñiha.
Gi ayu na lugat, meggai na che’cho’, meggai para u nina’yayas i tahtaotao-hu.
Pues, hunggan, mas yafai yu’ guini, lao bai hu sangåni hao ni’ i minagahet, ya-hu sinembatgo.
Gi nigap-ña, nai hu fa’tar i atof iyo-ña storage container Si Grandpa, matto un likidu na siniente. Gofffff maipe ayu na ha’åni, sa’ macho’cho’ yu’ gi i atof un metal na container nai mas takhilo’ i minape i ha’åni. Gof masahalom yu’ put i che’cho’, lao sinembatgo kalang mapao yu’. Ti hu tungo’ sa’ hafa. Buente mapao i siniente-ku sa’ hu ayuyuda i grandparents-hu, buete mapao yu’ sa’ macho’cho’ yu’ gi i halom tano’ i Chamorro desde kuatro na millennium tatte. Ti bai hu dagi hao ya sångan na hu komprende sa’ hafa matulaika i siniente-ku, lao magof yu’ na matulaika. Magof yu’, sa’ hu maloffåni i gof tituka na minape, ya hu gof gosa i che’cho’-hu. Siempre, este i sinienten i guagualo. Siña na este na klasin siniente, ma siesiente todu tiempo.
Bai hu gof chagi umusuni pumost gi i blog-hu, lao para pa’go yan agupa’ debi di bei na’listo yu’ para i Dinaña Fakmåta. Pau guaha open mic yan spoken word guihi, ya malago yu’ umapatte i tinige’-hu siha.
Pa’go hu disiside kao maolekña na bai hu usa un betsu ni’ esta matuge’, pat bai hu tugiyi Fakmåta un nuebu na betsu.
Anyways, estague un litratu-hu ginnen i Dinana Sotta, tres anos tatte giya Alcanta Mall. Spoken word este na dinana lokkue, ya hu presenta i betsu-hu "Time Machine Native."
Friday, July 07, 2006
At UCSD, we have a program or department called IRPS, International Relations and Pacific Studies. From what I hear its supposed to be one of the best programs of its kind in the United States. From what I know about the program though and after speaking to some of its students over the past few years, its status as "one of the best" clearly indicates that proficiency in the Pacific in the US is not a prerequisite for claiming to be an authority on it.
An example from my time at UOG is the work of Robert Statham, a severely right wing scholar, who, armed with small tidbits of knowledge about the US offshore territories and its formed Trust Territory, called himself "the foremost political scholar of Micronesia" and of "the off-shore territories." His reason for coming into the Pacific and Micronesia differed than the usual narratives, that we find in the huge numbers of Peace Corps stowaways and beachcombers, who were searching for exotic adventures with loose brown Gaugain style women. Statham's impetus for coming out into the colonies, most likely stems from the mutually constitutive tangle of not being able to find work in the United States (since his scholarship, at least what from what I've read, isn't very good) and wanting to live the film/story The Man Who Would Be King, or for those unfamiliar with the Kipling story, its most visible component is the white fantasy of their advanced knowledge and modern ways, making them Gods amongst savage or backwards people (don't worry, the story has a happy ending, the two men who would be king are revealed to be, not Gods, nor Devils, but only men! And both die fortunate deaths.)
It boggles my mind how anyone can conceive of Statham as an "authority" on Micronesia or the off-shore territories, when his intellectual project is crassly situated within the most reactionary American political tradition, which sees these ambigous political sites as "aberrations" and problems simply needing to be fixed. In Colonial Constitutionalism for example, Statham outlines his solutions to the constitutional contradictions that the territories embody. From a "neutral" rationalist/pragmatic perspective, his ideas might seem to make sense, yet as I often point out, such a "neutral" position (the commonsense position) is always already partisan, biased. Given the colonial landscape of Guam or the dominant narrative of American exceptionalism, we are supposed to think about the United States first and foremost, on Guam we are not supposed to have any interest apart from theirs.
Therefore Statham's claims to fix American territorial relations so that the divine mandate that America was given in the name of freedom and democracy can be salvaged, might seem to make sense. Isn't this just a little bit reminiscent of the trick down economic theory? If we fix and make better those at the top, those ignored and exploited will by default benefit? As America is the apex of human history and the world, if we set it back on the proper track, everyone else will prosper too!
This exceptionalist position is reproduced in Statham's text where the histories, political existences and futures of these islands are incidental, unimportant compared to the main task of saving America. The offshore territories make only cameo appearances in his text, and his situating of them historically is pretty weak, compared to the hoops he constantly jumps through to quote from revolutionary documents to make
For more fun with Robert Statham, please check out a laughable review he co-wrote on Remaking Micronesia by David Hanlon, which reveals once again how being an authority on "the Pacific" actually requires little to no knowledge of the region. His own conceptions of Micronesia and even US history are largely caricature, or worst yet built upon a very intentionally amnesiac, and selective engagement. He cannot really deal with Hanlon's text on its merits, what it actually says about Micronesia, so therefore he must attack him for not being impartial and not neutral enough, or having an agenda and a pre-conceived ideology before writing his text. A pathetically vapid point, because Statham is one of the clearest ideologues and American apologists I've ever encountered on Guam (yes, he might even be worse than Joe Murphy).
You can actually read his review on-line. Its pretty terrible, and therefore achieves an almost sublime quality in its ignorance.
(note the section where he tries to counter Hanlon's assumptions about racism in the selection of the Marshall Islands as a nuclear testing site, by stating that white people in New Mexico were also damaged by the nuclear testing in their region. If Statham was a better scholar, more lucid and more interested in justice, then he would recognize that he is making Hanlon's Marxist point for him through his attempted critique.)
I went through this Statham tangent for a reason, to show how authority is made over zones of indistinction, and what role "rationalist" positioning and whiteness play in that.
In the case of Statham, his authority is created by incorporating places such as Guam into academic knowledge, he carves out a conservative and somewhat racist place for Guam in American history and ideology. Note, the incorporation is not real and it is not material, it only takes place at the level of ideology. This move fulfills an importantly rhetorical function for a nation, it is a recognition not of the injustice that Guam represents, the transgression that it is against the positive core of the "nation," but rather the recognition of the aberration that Guam is. The United States, like most nations have difficulty with the word "injustice" because of the rupture and the truth it represents in re-revealing the core of the nation as being violent and not as "good" or benevolent as Renan advertised. Injustice is therefore deflected to return as aberration, a deviation, a mistake, but something which is not the natural order of things, and therefore speaks only to a momentary mis-ordering of things.
As an aberration and not an injustice, Statham can continue to reproduce the mostly false origin myth of the American nation. We hear this rhetoric throughout the year, where the less racist, and less anti-democratic statements from founding fathers are valorized as the basis for the United States and statements such as "those who own the country, ought to run it!" are sent down the memory hole, and therefore supposed to mean nothing.
For Statham this project is crucial because it allows the whiteness of America to be reproduced, and reproduced in such as way that any "reproach" itself is an aberration from the great birth of this nation, and can quickly be dealt with. The American "anti-colonial" spirit can therefore survive its clear possession of colonies, so long as this possession cannot be traced by to the origin, back to this nation's genesis. It is within this framework as well as black people, Asians, Native Americans and Mexicans are viewed as well, culturaly verbose and exciting deviations, but nonetheless unimportant given the white course that this nation must always be set straight ahead on.
(before I continue, I should say this: the only American spirit that I might be interested in fight for or beliving in, is one such as the spirit of the International Workers of the World, or IWW. Or to put it another way, the only American spirit that I would fight for, is the one which points far beyond America.)
The previous section might have been a bit abstract for people, but this next one is something everyone in the United States should be familiar with, since it deals with the colonizing and exoticized fantasies that we all get to imbibe with our "offshore" territories.
When I was speaking to someone in the IRPS program, someone who claimed to study the "Pacific" this was made clear to me. After I mentioned that I would be going to Hawai'i to visit my father who lives there, the student responded, "oh lucky you, going to Hawai'i, that is so awesome!"
Hawai'i is supposed to be the getaway spot for the United States, right? Everywhere else supposedly wants to be in Southern California, and Southern California desperately wants to be Hawai'i.
What we see in the case of Hawai'i, a nation overthrown by haoles in the 19th century, annexed in the 20th century and militarized to incredible levels into the 21st century, is a place where the lack of knowledge protects white fantasies. The history of Hawai'i must be dealt with very delicately, because of the potential for disenchantment for disillusion if the reality there is revealed or known.
Hawai'i is one of the most visible sites for American imperialist nostalgia, or a place where you can find the things which America has destroyed, yet can somehow enjoy. You can find the life of the beachcomber or the man who would be king, where brown natives serve you hand and foot, where the beauty and majesty of nature lies before you, waiting your touch, your surfboard, your money.
"The Pacific" remains an ambiguous, but nonetheless potent exoticized realm because this lack is what stimulates and allows these fantasies. So long as an encounter with the histories of Hawai'i takes place, or the material/political existences does not take place, then they can continue to be enjoyed without dissonance, without problem. I use encounter here in a very specific way, an encounter is not a dialogue, is not a simple meeting, and not even a meeting between elements, objects or people that had never met before.
In Serendipities, Umberto Eco writes about the "unicorn" that Marco Polo discovers in his travels throughout Asia. "Discovery" is a radically different concept than "encounter," yet one which happens more frequently than we might think. The European travels to lands (they had never imagined or visited) are called "discoveries" because of the way they are integrated into existing ideological framework and therefore nothing is actually really discovered. Although we may make a big ruckus over the newness of these lands, these "savages" the fact that I call them savage without incident, indicates that they were expected, there is nothing new here, just a slight addition to what I already knew, namely that those who are not me, are inferior and savage.
With Marco Polo, the unicorn that he discovered was in reality a Rhino, but moment's demand that he re-evaluate his position did not hold sway, as he instead reinforced what he already knew, and brought the Rhino into his existing imaginary, by noting that although scholars and fairy tales might have romanticized the creature quite a bit, it was nonetheless clearly a unicorn.
Some might say that the nature of the symbolic and the subject's relation to it, make this the necessary way things work, there is not consistency, no regular readability, without this continual rediscovery. Without it there would be nothing but limitless psychosis, attached to an ever skipping referrent.
Of course, this response is insufficient in and of itself, because it assumes that nothing has ever changed or that anything can ever really change, or that there has never been a significant rupture or revolution in society, and all that has ever happened, was at a snails, slowly, dripping pace.
The point here should be not whether or not encounters happen, but where they must happen. For those committed to justice, forcing an encounter is your task, forcing a reckoning of some sort, which breaks the (re)discovery deadlock should be your goal.
So in the case of Hawai'i, this means breaking the comfort of the tourist fantasy-based gaze, which refuses to accept Hawai'i as anything other than the paradise that it is expected to be.
Obviously, such is not an easy task. Nations have all sorts of moves and defense mechanisms set in place to counter such a revelation. These mechanisms lead to what I call "false encounters." After September 11th, 2001 for example, the United States nation went through one such false encounter. To briefly sketch this out, I'll quote Zizek from his Welcome to the Desert of the Real:
“On September 11th, the USA was given the opportunity to realize what kind of a world it was part of. It might have taken this opportunity – but it did not; instead it opted to reassert its traditional ideological commitments: out with feelings of responsibility and guilt towards the impoverished Third World, we are [all] the victims now!”
As the United States became the clear victim of the violence so similar to what itt often exports elsewhere, it thereby encountered the rest of the world, and the moment happened whereby it might have joined the rest of the world, and finally lose its annoying exceptionalism. But as the current posturing of Bush and the US shows, this moment was squandered, and this encounter became false. As people constantly remarked that "things will never be the same" after 9/11, they were processing the falseness of this encounter. They were invoking this difference precisely because not only would things stay the same (American exceptionalism) but in fact they would get worse (US as the avatar of Justice and Democracy, Leader of the free world).Let me give you two more Pacific examples of false encounters. Take for instance the speech of American "tourists" in Hawai'i who come to the island to relax, go on vacation, enjoy themselves, and then have their experience marred and defiled by the undifferentiated racism of Native Hawaiians who call them "haole" or the more sophisticated racism of sovereignty activists who call them "colonial" "haole" or "settler." To them, this racism is parochial, its backwards, its ridiculous, its uncalled for, its just plain evil. The intensity through which the racism is indicative of the refusal to deal with the encounter that is taking place. A refusal to admit to their illusions of the other, a refusal to let the fantasy crumble, primarily because, as I said earlier, it is them who is so invested in these fantasies. It is them who need them to thrive and survive.
These haoles with their ruffled feathers, will most likely take the position similar to Thurston Twigg-Smith's book, Hawaiian Sovereignty: Do the Facts Matter?, where since I cannot deny that nothing has happened, where since I cannot no longer live off of the fantasy of this other as undifferentiated, placid, passive and clueless, I must engage with it somehow, in such a way that them, not me is implicated in the process. Twigg-Smith's text is the ultimate example of this move, whereby an engagement with the "facts" can lead to my exclusion from the discussion. Returning to the power of "rationalist" rhetoric, Twigg Smith positions himself as the producer of knowledge, similar to George W. Bush, the recognizer of facts, and therefore can include himself out of its meaning, even when the discussion is clearly about him, his privilege and the injustices that benefit him (as being a descendent of one of the those who orchestrated the otherthrow of the Hawaiian nation). To put it more simply, by being the one who can recognize racism, who can identify facts about racism, I hope to become the blindspot in racism, something which is obviously there, but always somehow missing.
An encounter with Native Hawaiians, their destitute positions today and their struggles, whether contemporary and historical implicates all of us in the United States, and the persistence speech about how racist Hawaiians can be, operates as a defense mechanism to always keep this encounter false. Within this framework I can know the facts, but the conclusion that we are supposed to draw from Twigg Smith's book is that "even if the facts do point to injustice or exploitation, they still don't support this type of racism (settler branding or "race-based" policies).
One more fasle encounter.
One of the the most patriotism deterring parts about living in Guam is the fact that although there are American flags everywhere (kalakas), stickers that claim Guam is Where America's Day Begins everywhere (matto di mampos kalakas), and lessons in school about the potent and viral greatness of the American form of government, people on Guam cannot vote for President and have no voting representation in Congress.
Often times when I speak in the US proper about Chamorros, their islands and their wonderful adventures in American colonialism, of all the disgusting and gut-wrenching points that I will bring up, the one which people in the states cling to most fervently and seem distressed by so much is the lack of voting rights. After speaking about cultural genocide, racism, land dispossession, the destruction of a way of life after World War II, the thing which people seem to cling to the strongest as something which is horrible is the fact that Chamorros and others on Guam can't choose between Kerry and Bush (and Nader).
Why, of all the possible points to be concerned with (colonization, militarization, imperialism, racism) does this point always emerge as "the most important?" One reason could be because it is the most easily solved of all the problems. An act by the U.S. congress could resolve this issue without having to call into question the control of Guam.
This simplistic almost unreflective answer actually arrives closer to the two truths that make this "disgusted democratizing" answer a false encounter.
First, a "vote" would seem to solve the problem of Guam's colonial status right? Let them vote, and then everything's right, right? If you are interested in eliding any questions of injustice then yes, absolutely, this simple democratic solution does save you, it does keep you pure and does prevent you from encountering anything else involved with Guam which might put into question your identity and the nation you attach yourself to for wholesome consistency.
There is no encounter here, because the difference here which would constitute an encounter is interpreted as the obstacle to be overcome in fixing the problem of the other, the desire of the other, which is to be like me. The democratic solution here does not dissolve the ego or even fragment it slightly, it instead reinforces it, reconstitutes it like a healed broken bone. It operates like the Iraqi woman who spoke at the 2004 Republican National Convention, as something which reinforces my base instincts and fantasies, rather then putting them into question. "I found an Iraqi person who thanked me for giving her freedom, my ego is therefore safe from all the protestors and insurgent who were threatening to shatter it."
The second truth, goes far deeper into a far more disconcerting place. The overcompensation in the call for Chamorros and others on Guam, to get the vote can be linked to an excess that Guam clearly and openly embodies, yet the US proper very insistently disavows. To clarify things, people on Guam do vote for President. On the ballots every four years there is a space which lets them chose between Democrats and Republicans. These votes are counted in Guam and reported locally, however instead of being transported off island into some national count, they remain on Guam. The significance and meaning of these votes only remain in Guam, they are only important for Guam, thereby rendering their political action invisible. Could there be a clearer and banal way of articulating the inconsistency in American democracy? Namely that it is barely democratic, even in the sense that it seems to so strongly cling to? The trace within each vote is after all the voice which says that my voice doesn’t actually mean anything.
Wednesday, July 05, 2006
Reflections on Independence Day
I have often wondered whether American’s understand what they celebrate every year on July 4th “Independence Day.” Perhaps some Americans consider this day as nothing more than a holiday, time for family, “Summer time is here!” Perhaps some Americans do reflect on the true meaning of this day—America’s independence from their mother country, given to them 230 years ago.
Every American treasures and values their own independence. American parents raise their children with the hopes that one day they will be independent—their children will be able to make their own decisions and live freely as they choose. Isn’t this every American’s dream? And to have a sense of independence in one’s life is an essential need—that vital and quintessential value that American’s hold from the day they are born till the day they die.
Let us reflect now on this American value and the truth of the matter. Did you know that today, America owns territorial possessions around the world? A “possession” means that America has taken ownership of lands, where it was not initially their own, and use these lands for their own benefit. In this modern day, we could call these possessions “colonies.” American’s did not ask nicely for these lands and its people, they used force to obtain these lands—killing many indigenous along the way. America has drafted up documents stating that Congress, the Senate, and the Executive Office “has the power to dispose of, and make all needful rules and regulations” on the individuals who live in these lands without their consent. These documents also state that these “owned” individuals are not even subject to the rights inherent in the U.S. Constitution—“Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness!” Where is the “independence” so coveted by American’s when they own and possess other people and their land and do not provide them the very essential human liberties which should be afforded any living creature?!
As a U.S. citizen, I refuse to partake in a celebration of “independence” when the truth of the matter is that America has willfully taken away another’s independence so that they can reap the benefits. The irony in this is that America knowingly abuses others in the very same way they have been abused.
Think critically as you enter into a celebration of America’s independence from colonial status and remember that YOU, as Americans, continue to own colonies today! Indigenous people today suffer in their lives and livelihoods because of their colonial status. They do not deserve the hardships they face because of their lack of independence, just as America did not! I call on Americans to educate themselves and others on these matters! Allow the people of American colonies to live the life of liberty and freedom that you yourselves find so priceless!
Monday, July 03, 2006
Tonight, as a public service to all, I've decided to post the lyrics as I know them and understand them, which might differ slightly from the actual lyrics, sa' tanngga yu' didide'.
Since I am all about language revitalization, I will not post an English translation to the lyrics. If you want to know what he's singing, please get a dictionary or someone who speaks Chamorro and start translating. A simple and fun task, but nonetheless difficult. The inital attempts can be frustrating, but you should not stop or give up so easily, breaking down the lyrics of a song can be very helpful in picking up pieces of grammar. I can speak to this from personal experience, since forcing my grandmother to help me translate Chamorro songs into English, was one of the activities which really pushed my Chamorro language learning to new levels.
Tinige' Si J.D. Crutch
(maayao i dandan ginnen un kantan BeeGees)
Ai siña ti un tungo’
Taiguihi tiningo’ put Hågu
Ya ti hu chå’ka hao yanggen un dingu
Lao hu li’e hao gi painge
Ya un lågu gi matå-mu
Ya ha pacha yu’ mas ki na bei hu sangan
Lao ti hu hongge i che’lu-hu
Na pon na’puti yu’ nai på’go
Ni’ guahu gaigage magahet gi fi’on-mu
Ai apo mågi gi apagå-hu
Ya bai sangani hao ni’ estoria-hu
Sa’ Hågu ya-hu
Ai siña ti un hongge
I korason-hu kumakate ai put Hågu
Ai lao Hågu i che’lu-hu
Ya magåhet ti un hahasso
Na put Hågu yu’ nai nene na mafatto
Lao un na’klaru giya Guahu
Na magåhet na ti ya-mu
Pues bai hu hanao
Ya i na’an-hu nai ti hu hungok
Ai apo mågi gi apagå-hu
Ya bai sangani hao ni’ estoria-hu
Sa’ Hågu ya-hu
Saturday, July 01, 2006
Hunggan gof magof yu' na bai hu fafatto tatte para isla-ku, sen mahalang yu' nu i familia-ku (pi'ot i granparents-hu) yan i mangga'chong-hu siha. Lao ma'a'nao yu' lokkue, ya massa' didide', sa' i lina'la' Guahan tinempla manu na hu gof guaiya (kottura, lenguahi, nenkanno', familia, estoria, etc.) ya manu na gof ti ya-hu (patriotism ni' umoestototba, militarization ni' sina mandestrosa).
As I wrote a few days ago, I intend to work this summer towards changing commonsense around the recent slew of current and intended military increases/torrents on Guam. So, in preparation, I am putting together an info sheet on the transfer of the 8,000 Marines from Okinawa. We can do a number of things with the sheet and the info on it, but the hope behind its production is to start bringing together the disparate arguments and evidence against this increase, or which at least call for some level headed thinking about it, so it can in some way counter the polished form articles and statements which demand and advocate more military take.
For example, if you read all the Pacific Daily News articles discussing increased military presence on Guam over the past few years, you will find a few shaddy patterns, which help create and maintain a particular narrow narrative structure for conceiving of military increases. First of all, the role of the military in society is never even mentioned or discussed (this also links up to how ridiculously limited discussions of security are). Second, the voices which are always in strongest support are elected officials (with a few rare exceptions) or bar or club owners. Third, articles which contain voices who are against or critical of the military or military increases tend to be driven by "quotes" by the activists or individuals. So, positive statements about the military are always already embedded in the neutral language, in the tone of the author, and are supported by quoted statements, but negative statements are always directly linked to particular individuals or groups. The reason for this is obvious, positive statements of the military float above all of us, speaking for all of us, and are common sense, and therefore "neutral," negative statements on the other hand come from radical maladjusted people and do not speak for the majority of people. Fourth, as I've written on my blog several times, the types of critiques that are allowed of the military are always very limited and pale in comparision to the positioning of affirmations.
I often single out The Pacific Daily News, not because they "control" public opinion on Guam, but rather because they have such a huge role in influencing public opinion on Guam. As the history of activism on Guam over the past century has shown, small groups, determined to make a difference, can and have done so.
But as I think to how I am no longer a disinterested or detached observer or stenographer to these groups, and how I am now very much invested in and helping move and activate those determined to make a difference, and fight the injustices perpetuated by the "greatest nation in the world," my mind wanders across strange landscapes in already to soften the intensity, the drama, the ridiculous patriotism.
Respectfully submitted for your perusal, an old episode of The Twilight Zone makes a startling link for me to the discourse created by those who want as much military as Guam can handle, and think that their presence there is only positive, and without any negatives worth mentioning.
In the 1962 episode "To Serve Man" the planet earth is at last visited by life from another planet, another galaxy. Spaceships begin to arrive around the world, the one that parks in front of the United Nations carries their messenger. The delegates within the UN are abuzz with questions: what are the motives of these creatures? What are their intentions? What do they bring with them? What will they do to earth? Through their emissary, this alien race, called the Kanamit, claims the following (taken from this blog, http://members.cox.net/kaiotea/serveman.htm)
The Kanamit speaks to the assembly telepathically. He says they come as friends and desire to help the earth and set up reciprocal visits to their planet. They have noticed that the earth is plagued by both natural and un-natural calamities and that they only wish to help. They offer a new power source, an end to famine, and a force field to be used as a defense shield. The Kanamit states. "We wish only that you simply trust us." As he departs, he leaves a book behind.
Despite these assurances, the US government gives this representative a lie detector test to ensure that he is being truthful, and a group of cryptographers, amongst which we find the episode's central characters, begin to try and decode the book that he left behind. After a while, they decipher the title, its called To Serve Man.
As time passes, humans do not wait however for the book to be translated, and huge numbers of people are leaving regularly for the Kanamit planet, and treating it like just another travel destination. As one of the members of the decoding team is boarding the ship to leave earth, his assistant rushes to stop him, she has finished translating the book, and she screams out to him, don't go, To Serve Man, It's a COOKBOOK!"
If we were to take the statement of the Kanamit before the UN Assembly and change, not its tone, nor its structure, but merely replace a few nouns with objects and items specific to Guam, then you would basically find the pro-military mantra in Guam. Improvement, stability, security, these are all the things that The Pacific Daily News, The Guam Chamber of Commerce and so many others proclaim that the United States military will bring us if we let them. All will not just be well, but be much much better if we accede ourselves and our interests to this message and to the untranslated text of this book which purports, To Serve Guam.
But, at the same time, there are those who are working to translate this dangerous text, who see its title To Serve Guam, not as a statement of fake devotion, obligation and stewarship which coporations have honed to almost insane perfection over the past century and Felix Camacho deployed very successfully in the 2002 election. Instead they see the title as something potentially dangerous, hostile, deadly. Something which threatens to engulf Guam once again in the flames of war (soldiers die on the altar of freedom, Chamorros are just one of many victims on the platters of empires). Something which threatens to damage Guam, socially, environmentally, politically.
The Stars and Stripes reported today that the Okinawa transfer will amount to 35,000 new bodies on Guam, comprised of Marines, their dependents and accompanying support personnel. With these 35,000 bodies come huge and potentially drastic changes in social demographics, ecology, politics and economy. As I see so many on Guam enamored by the message of benevolence and mutual benefits, in that To Serve Guam means that they will protect us, they will give us money, they will improve out lives, I feel fear and I feel loathing, as I and others try to take up that thankless task of pointing out to all that "To Serve Guam...is not our savior...look at whether or not this will make us a target, look at the environmental damage, look at the social damage in particular against women...this is not our salvation, it's a cookbook!"