Tuesday, January 30, 2007

How Much Chamorro Suffering is Worth a Fake Vote?

I know that I was supposed to start with my Dispatches From Guam poems, but these news pieces demanded to be commented on since they are truly disgusting.

For those of you who don't know, Guam recently "won" some voting rights. I sarcastically put "won" in quote marks, and qualify it with some, because such is the heavily asterisk laden existence of those who live in today's colonies. The newly elected Democratic majority Congress has just passed new rules which would allow the non-voting delegates from Guam, American Samora, the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and Washington D.C. the right to sort of vote in Congress.

The articles below detail how this change will allow those of us in the colonies and the territories, the chance to "symbolically" become a closer part of the United States family, through the use of this "symbolic" vote. This vote must constantly be qualified as "symbolic" not because of the incredible potency it holds, the bold and emotional symbolic power of the vote in binding us together stronger as a unified nation, but rather because this vote means nothing except as empty symbolism, or a crass and meaningless means of covering over the continuing inequitable and colonial relationship between Guam and the United States.

Why am I saying such terrible things, when at last Chamorros and others on Guam are finally getting the rights we have pined for and dreamed about for more than a century? Because, you don't even have to read the articles closely to see the truth, its stated very openly that these votes mean nothing, except fooling us into thinking that our relationship to the United States is any different than it was before.

"The delegate calls it a symbolic vote because the five delegates from the territories will only be allowed to vote on floor amendments and not on the final approval of bills. Also if their vote influences the outcome of an amendment a new vote will be taken without their participation. In the case of a close vote the delegates from the territories will be removed from the committee and the committee will vote again without the territories votes."

So basically we move from not having a vote, to having a vote that doesn't count.

Nothing much has changed, yet this is for some reason being represented in the news media on Guam as a victory, an exciting shift.

What makes this truly disgusting is that no matter what political perspective you have, if you are serious about that perspective and those beliefs, then you should be outraged at this travesty, at this mafa'gaga'-ta.

If you want Guam to move further away from the United States, and want our relationship with it to be less paternalistic, patronizing and exploitative, then this change is an obvious drawback. This change, the symbolic vote, while meaning nothing (except in committee) in terms of our power in the governing of the United States or determining its policy towards Guam (we are still just a lobbyist with no money), will have huge effects on the pysche of Chamorros and others on Guam, in making us think we are American, or that Americanization or more America (in whatever form it is perceived to be) is the answer to all of life's problem. The problems with these Americanizing/colonizing desires is that it assumes that America's interests in Guam are more important than Guam's own, and that we should just accept and celebrate the subordinate and dependent position America has in multiple ways created for us. For people like me who want to move further away from the United States, this is a symbolic bomb being dropped on Guam, one which threatens to get us further stuck in the colonial quagmire that I refer to as the decolonial deadlock.

For those who want Chamorros and Guam to be "more American," this isn't a good thing either, and this should be offensive all the same. For those who think this makes us more American, bolabola este, gof paguan yan mutong na bolabola.

First, read carefully the way that Congresswoman Bordallo argues and justifies the need for this Congressional rule change. By invoking that the greatness of American democracy is served in the bestowal of this "symbolic" and fake vote, she basically reveals how little American democracy is truly worth. This revelation is not unique, but is constantly being revealed, whether by the war in Iraq, the racism and inefficiencies that take place each US election, or the lack of voting rights or support for self-determination for the US colonies. It is something that we should pay attenion to, since the love and affection with which we use to speak of the United States, and invoke when we leave island to move there, or when we call for more Federal intervention and control in Guam or even when we join the military, needs to be questioned and cast aside. While the United States may possess incredible economic and military might, it has no monopoly or inherent greatness or morality which we should be enamored and in love with. Is the best course for Guam, to react to the giving of this fake vote for Guam with praise that America is great and grand?

Second, the use of Chamorro suffering in World War II is a common strategy when speaking in front of the United States government, especially when giving testimonies before Congress. We can find this in expected places such as bills for War Reparations, but we can also find it bills which have nothing to do with the war, such as when Governor Felix Camacho opened up his request that the Feds forgive Guam's Federal debt, by describing the desolute and destitute scene of Chamorros suffering under Japanese occupation in 1944. This point, first made clear to me by Robert Underwood has horrible theoretical implications, but I won't get into them here.

Let me just quote a bit more from the KUAM article below,

"Pain and patriotism are two things the people of Guam know all too well. From enduring the Japanese occupation to the seven soldiers who have died since 2003 while in the line of duty serving their country, Congressman Madeleine Bordallo spoke with passion and purpose on the House floor to convince her colleagues to vote in favor of House Resolution 78."

If you love the United States, and want to be one with it, and believe that Chamorros have been historically very patriotic and suffered for the United States, then let me ask you a simple question: Is the pain of World War II, the loss of thousands of Chamorro lives in American wars, and the loss of so much land, language, culture and history worth a fake vote? If you believe in the greatness of the United States, then why can then not recognize that all of this sacrifice for them, why can they not give us not just a simple vote in the House of Representatives, but two Senators as well? Why is all of this pain and patriotism not worth incorporation, or even a real vote in Congress, and how much more pain and patriotism will it take?

And if you think its just a matter of time before that happens, then you truly don't know anything about the United States military and even less about the history of the United States.

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Bordallo will tell Guam's story on Capitol Hill
by Clynt Ridgell, KUAM News
Friday, January 26, 2007

Pain and patriotism are two things the people of Guam know all too well. From enduring the Japanese occupation to the seven soldiers who have died since 2003 while in the line of duty serving their country, Congressman Madeleine Bordallo spoke with passion and purpose on the House floor to convince her colleagues to vote in favor of House Resolution 78.

Making the case for Guam, Congresswoman Madeleine Bordallo brought the story of our island's commitment and suffering to her colleagues on Capitol Hill. "Democracy is founded on voting and participation," she announced. "You have not heard there stories of loyalty to our nation, you have not learned of their confinement in concentration camps, of them being beaten and beheaded. You have not seen or felt their patriotism. Our ability to participate in the Committee of the Whole would make these sacrifices all the more meaningful for us Americans."

With a vote of 226-191 on H.R. 78, Guam and other U.S. territories now have the right to cast a vote in the committee, a privilege that was removed by the Republican majority more than a decade ago. The main mover of the bill, majority leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland told KUAM News via teleconference, "I have felt very strongly for a long period of time that Guam and the other territories as well as the dc whose delegates and resident commissioner serve along side the rest of us, have the same offices, the same staff, who also ought to have a vote.

With the ability to vote at least partially, keeping such a right could be a challenge as the republicans in Washington have indicated they may seek legal recourse in the U.S. Supreme Court. "The GOPs in the House overwhelmingly oppose this extension of this element of democracy in the House of Representatives. I think that that's unfortunate," Hoyer said. "They perceived it as a power grab. I perceived and the Democratic Party perceived it as an extension of the privilege of democracy the privilege of having a representative able to express the views of the people they represent."

According to Hoyer, if the GOP were to take the issue to court it wouldn't be the first time a challenge was filed. "When we adopted this rule in 1993 the Republicans did, in fact, take it to the court and the District Court ruled on it and then they appealed that ruling and the court of appeals said that this was the extension of this voting privilege in the Committee of the Whole was consistent with U.S. Constitution. So I'm very confident that we will be sustained if they do take it to the court, and if they do I expect the court to rule in our favor," he explained.

In the meantime Congresswoman Bordallo, now in her third term in Washington, says the vote on H.R. 78 was a long time coming. "I have said all along that being part in the voting process, it's a step forward it opens the door and hopefully someday we will be able to have a full vote in Congress," she said.

The delegate calls this a symbolic vote because the five delegates from the territories will only be allowed to vote on floor amendments and not on the final approval of bills.

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Bordallo looks forward to new voting authority
by Clynt Ridgell, KUAM News
Thursday, January 25, 2007

While most of us were asleep last night, an ocean away in the nation's capitol the House of Representatives approved an amendment to their rules, effectively giving Guam and other United States territories a stronger voice in Congress. For the first time in more than a decade delegates from Guam, the District of Columbia, American Samoa, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico can actually cast a vote in the Committee of the Whole.

With the Democrats in control of Congress, they've managed to take major steps toward changing how business is done in D.C. From lobbying reform to passing a resolution to raise minimum wage, and now a majority vote (226-191) on House Resolution 78, they've effectively approved an amendment to their rules which grants the rights of the delegates from non-states to vote in limited capacity. Delegates like Congresswoman Madeleine Bordallo will now have the chance to more fully participate in the legislative process on the House floor and will be able to offer and vote in favor or against amendments to legislation considered while discussing bills in the Committee.

Bordallo commented that, "Delegates will once again be able to participate in a more active way in the Committee of the Whole and the amendment process that occurs on major legislation, adding, "We will have a symbolic vote and we will be able to express the voices of our constituents." The delegate calls it a symbolic vote because the five delegates from the territories will only be allowed to vote on floor amendments and not on the final approval of bills. Also if their vote influences the outcome of an amendment a new vote will be taken without their participation. In the case of a close vote the delegates from the territories will be removed from the committee and the committee will vote again without the territories votes.

Bordallo says she looks forward to using her voting card in the next Committee debate on future legislation. The delegates' right to vote was removed by the Republican majority in the 104th Congress in 1995. The measure is takes effect immediately and will be in place at least for the duration of the 110th Congress, or until such time as the house may otherwise amend its rules.

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