Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Lucky to be the Tip of America's Spear

When I make claims that Chamorro and Guam-based patriotism to the United States is dangerous, people tend to give me looks like I am insane or mabababa i ilu-hu.

For most people, and this includes Chamorros on Guam, the United States is basically all the island has got going for it. We get to be US citizens, we get to be a footnote to the greatest country in the history of the universe, we get to fly the American flag over our island and drap it over our soldiers who die in battle. In the universe of this thinking, even if we accept and admit that Guam is a colony of the United States, we are still apparently supposed to feel suette. I mean, things could be much much worse, what if we were a colony of France, or the Philippines, or Afghanistan? We should feel glad that we are stuck with a colonizer who understands how to use productively and efficiently our geographic position in order to project its military power into Asia and ensure that its narrow national and economic interests dictate the futures of almost half of the globe.

Patriotism to the United States is not just natural or expected here, but seems to be sound financial advice. We are stuck in this position of being a territory, a possession of the United States. Since we have no intention of fighting for our independence through force of arms, we might as well just accept our subordinate status, grab an American flag and celebrate the hell out of it. Furthermore, the logic that weighs down all of our minds and imaginations here seems to stem from the most pragmatic of sources, the simplistic obviousness of geography, size, numbers, distance. Guam is small and distant in so many ways, that this American attachment is one of the few things that in today's modern world, we can truly count on.

But as I've often noted, the fact that we may wave the flag or feel that it in some way is ours, there is a web of legal opinions, racism, ignorance, hypocrisy and strategic importance that says otherwise, according to this network of American and Guam exceptionalism, we are sort of American, kind of American, depending upon what we are asking for and what how necessary for United States military planning Guam is. The daily plebscite of belonging which Renan states take place each morning when the members of nation arise and emotionationally decide that they want to continue to embody this binding spirit, regularly sets aside as exceptional the votes of those on Guam. We can wave as many flags as we want, and say we are as American as apple pie or Stinger Cruise Missiles, but that does not overcome the historical and contemporary colonization of Guam.

Plus, given the non-position of the United States at the United Nations and during Commonwealth negotiations, it is obvious that our benevolent colonizer has no interest in decolonizing Guam or giving Chamorros and others on Guam the right to determine our future.

The basis for Chamorro patriotism towards the United States, given this resistance to both admitting to Guam's colonial status or any national desire to fix it, is therefore not one rooted in a caring and cradling equality. We are not patriotic to the United States because of an equal or mutual reciprocal relationship. This may be the way it appears at its most superficial or potent levels. But in reality the foundation for Chamorro patriotism to the United States is that we are not equal, and that that is the way its supposed to be.

Military commanders and Chamber of Commerce cronies call Guam the tip of America's military spear. Chamorro patriotism to the United States comes from the acceptance of this status as an object to be used by another, and whose only real value, real future, real life comes through the actions of another (the terrible, tragic myth that the text Destiny's Landfall historiographically teaches us). Our love for the United States is therefore derived from the fact that we are not worth anything, and must celebrate enthusiastically that someone sees value in us! Our patriotism is like a twisted version of My Fair Lady or She's All That. Where we on Guam are a homely, untalented, awkward, socially useless and vapid girl with nothing going for us, and some jock or Big Man on Campus type shows up out of nowhere to liberate us from our social squalor. Except at the movie's end, instead of the incredible unique, internal qualities of Guam becoming unfolding and the United States and Guam ending up equal partners in love for each other, and recognition of each others beauty, we remain an appendage to the gaze of the BMOC. We remain a creature who is determined to be pretty, ugly, cool, un-cool, based on not any and every gaze, but this particular gaze.

Why would this be bad, other than the obvious assumption it has that we on Guam are nothing without the United States?

The linking of one's colonizer to the ability to make life and giving it the monopoly on the means of making life is the dream and fantasy of every colonizer. In the non-psychoanalytic way, we are stuck in the fantasy of the United States. I say non-psychoanalytic because in psychoanalysis, fantasy means different things and isn't always pretty or dreamy, but is often just a fluffy cushion that protects us from a jaded and jarring impalement on the Real. In a more general way fantasy is related to dream, wish and ideal scenarios. The way we so wish things were. Olaha mohon na taiguini lina'la'-hu!

To say that we are stuck in the fantasy of the United States, means literally that we are stuck in a world in which the United States never has done and never can do any wrong. Take all the fantasy sequences from all the movies you've ever seen, women's clothes falling off, money falling from the sky, adversaries dropping dead, music playing all around, etc. and you find these sorts of insanely positive, goofy and ideal scenarios duplicated in the way we on Guam imagine the United States as possessing the same magic and liberating touch.

What pushed me to write this post and illustrates this nonsense is the following KUAM interactive poll which was submitted by one of their viewers. If this is truly the range of impacts that this viewer anticipates from the massive military build up crashing towards Guam, then we might as well paraphrase John Lennon and say that on Guam, "America is bigger than the Beatles."

"What is the greatest impact the military buildup will have on Guam?"
Submitted by an online viewer

Improved roads
Additional Section 30 money
Integrated landfill
Business sector expansion
Real estate appreciation


There is a potential in this question for the possibility of "negative" effects on Guam to be discussed, through the use of the words "greatest" and "impact." But instead I guess greatest is meant to be literal as in "minaolek" or "i mas maolek."

Here, although it might be difficult, we can see the problems with Chamorro and Guam patriotism to the United States. Since the foundational assumption of this devotion to the United States is the idea that it has everything and we have nothing, and we love it because we don't have any other choice if we wish to live, and then this combines with the colonial commonsense that everything the colonizer does is magic and positive, we become trapped. In this rotten intersection of colonial fantasies and dependencies any room from which we can even imagine that the United States could do anything wrong or any damage to Guam has evaporated. Either we just can't see it because we are blinded by the colonizing commonsense, or if we do see it, it can't really mean anything because such a recognition would amount to biting the hand that threatens to kill our life support.

This problem is most pronounced in terms of the military build up in Guam, which has the potential to destroy the island in multiple ways. But because that entangled and insane position I mentioned above is the most dominant public position on the presence, influence and power of the United States, none of the negative impacts can be discussed or are to be given any importance in discussions, demands or policy initiatives.


Will the buildup improve Guam's economy? Yes perhaps, but since this increase is completely unmanaged by anyone on Guam, it will benefit primarily those already in positions of wealth or those carpetbaggers who come to make a quick buck. Will it make the island a target for military or terrorist attacks? Absolutely, the idea that more military makes you safer is completely stupid. Will this damage the environment? Absolutely, we already suffer on Guam because of what toxic and hazardous waste has been hidden in the soils, and more military guarantees even more strain and damage. The bringing of nearly 50,000 soldiers, dependents and support staff into Guam is not a simple "transfer" or even another friendly neighborhood "liberation," it has catastrophic potential, it can shatter social life on Guam.

The fact that the majority of people on Guam and in particular the media, elite business community and politicians refuse to do anything about these dangers shows the clear limits and problems with Guam's patriotism and loyalty to the United States. If we are to plan for the future of Guam, with Guam's interests in mind, then we cannot simply forget, downplay or tampe ni' un barrato na bandera, these bad, negative or exploitative things when we confront with them. The United States has its own interests, Guam has its own as well, sometimes they might be the same, but often times they are not. Patriotism towards the United States tends to embody a mixture of both interests, and making them appear that they are equal and both represented. If we look at the casual way in which the possible razing of life on Guam is being celebrated by our re-christening as the tip of America's spear, it is clear that one interest becomes dominant over the other, and guess whose is on top?

Yanggen un alok "Guahan" lachi hao, ya siempre pau makonne' hao para GITMO.

1 comment:

stevesadlov said...

Guam is a territory, not a colony. In the past, other parts of the US that are now states were territories. There is a process for becoming a state. Clearly, thus far, there has not been sufficient support in Guam to become a state. You are in essence stuck in the same condition as pre 1912 Arizona, but for whatever reason, your politicians and community leaders have not taken the same road Arizona did, at least not yet.

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