Thursday, January 04, 2007

Decolonizing Our Lives

Tonight I'll be presenting as part of the Decolonizing Our Lives forum which is taking place at the UOG Lecture Hall at 7:30.

Its been a very exciting and stressful week planning and preparing for this forum, but it looks like its going to be worth it. I came later in the preparation process, so I've been fortunate enough to get to do smaller and more exciting things such as radio and TV interviews. Last night I was on KUAM on their News Extra broadcast, along with Victoria Leon Guerrero, who has done the majority of the organizing for this event, and Julian Aguon, whose latest book The Fire This Time provides extremely important information about the potential economic, political and cultural damages Guam is facing with the increases in military presence it will receive over the next few years.

If you want, head to KUAM and check out the interview. They have the video of me up right now, although I don't know for how long it'll be there. For those of you who don't know me, I'm only 26, even though according to at least half a dozen people, I look 40 in the interview.

I've been stressing about this and a number of other things lately and so I apologize for neglecting my blog. I just wanted to share my intro for one of my talks I'll be giving tonight. During the UN Report Back that Famoksaiyan put together in Berkeley in November, I was asked to provide a ten minute colonial history for those in the audience. Response to my hurried and often times confused ten minute rush through the past century of colonial relations between Guam and the US, was fairly positive, although most people remembered most the fact that I would say "so what's it called" everytime I got nervous and wasn't sure what to say next.

Soon we'll have DVDs that can be purchased for the event, but in the meantime Erika Benton, a Famoksaiyan member from the Bay Area uploaded about seven minutes of it on youtube. Check out the video below, its an incredible blend of Erika's beautiful song "Back to Guahan" and Miget Tuncap's spoken word.

Tonight I'll be giving the colonial history again, but this time I'll have twenty minutes which is good. History is one of those things that is crucial in the colonies, because how it is written and perceived will dictate where people look for answers in their lives, where they will look for heroes, for villains, for precedents, for help in navigating and giving meaning to the world. My master's thesis in Micronesian Studies took this point very clearly and tried to show how the Americanizing of figures during World War II, the writing of their actions and their deaths as motivated by a love for the United States or a dependency upon the United States for the physical and mental tools to survive, creates the commonsense basis for the Chamorro who emerges from World War II as someone who cannot contemplate or accept any existence other than wanting and dying to be American.

I often tell people that there is enough wonderful, blissful things in the past century to justify a Chamorro loving the United States. But, there are also enough reasons for a Chamorro to hate the United States. Tonight, I'll be reminding those who attend the forum, what a number of those historical and contemporary reasons are:

Guam is often presented with no history, or more importantly without needing a history. Like most islands it is simply a dot on a map, or like places like Okinawa or Diego Garcia Island, a place where American troops are simply moved in and out of. To be attached to the so called greatest nation in the world, would seem explanation enough as to why it exists today as one of the world’s last official colonies.

The term “territory” or “American territory” seems to explain enough about Guam’s existence, by evoking images or metaphors of empty lands, terrain to be defended or real estate to be bought and sold. It is for this reason that during one of the largest peacetime American military exercises ever, Operation Valiant Shield which took place in June and consisted of more than 20,000 personal, 290 aircraft and 28 ships, MSNBC referred to Guam not by any of the empty tourist slogans or military expre
ssions which it is commonly cradled in. Guam was not referred to as “America in Asia” or “Where America’s Day Begins” or even “the tip of America’s spear,” instead Guam was simply described in its sublimely simply colonial existence, as “the US owned island of Guam.”

With this cruel twisting of a phrase, the Chamorro people, their rights, their histories all evaporate and disappear, so do both the history of American colonialism in Guam as well as the fact that it continues up until the present day.

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