Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Dispatches from Guam #1: Welcome to Guam

Dispatches From Guam #1: Welcome to Guam...










Each day, I am compelled to see my island through the gaze of another, to feel its warmth and cool winds through the slogans that place its ownership elsewhere, “Where America’s Day Begins” “America in Asia.”

Welcome to Guam.

An island where the scars of war have healed in sickly tones of red, white and blue, which twist and tangle our tongues so that the language we are meant to speak becomes foreign to the soil that nurtured it for so long.

Stolen even are the sunsets and sunrises, replacing the colors that welcomed the Chamorros to these islands millennia ago, with the colors with which America will begin its day.

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.

****************

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.

Monday, January 29, 2007

The Insular Empire

For the past few months I've been slowly working on narration pieces for a documentary on Chamorros and the Marianas Islands that coming out soon called The Insular Empire. The documentary is being made by Vanessa Warheit and Amy Robinson of Horse Opera Productions, and is a very interesting intervention into the ambiguous political existences of the people in Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands.

Click on the link above to read more about the directors, producers and scope of the film, but there is one section from their synopsis page, which I think sums up well what the filmmakers are trying to do:

"...most portrayals of the Mariana Islands fall back on easy stereotypes of 'paradise' lost or found, or ignore issues of political status, economic realities, or indigenous rights altogether. The Insular Empire: America's Pacific Frontier - intended for national public television broadcast, educational curricula, and community outreach efforts - will tell a different story. Through indigenous Chamorro and Carolinian voices, it will tell a tale of what it feels like to be a colonial subject of the 'greatest democracy on earth.' Americans will thus come face to face with the long, tangled and concrete relationship between US democracy and US empire."

Gof ya-hu este na sinangan, "what it feels like to be a colonial subject of 'the greatest democracy on earth." Estague muna'gof klåru i lina'la' i Chamoru pa'go. Hunggan ti manachaichaigua hamyo yan i magåhet na Amerikånu siha. Lao ti siña en sangan pat prueba na sahnge i islan-miyu lokkue, sa' mandaña hamyo gi lai, ekonomia yan i mas impotante na kosas, militat.

Ya un tungo' hafa muna'puputi i Chamoru i mas atdet put este na estao? I Chetnot Tintanos Amerikånu, kumekeilek-ña na desde famagu'on hit, manmana'malago umamerikånu, umunu yan i Amerikånu siha. Manmafa'na'na'gue hit put siha gi todu i ligat giya Guahan, eskuela, gubetno, telebishon, ya todu tiempo manlisto hit para ta prueba na Manggof Amerikånu i Chamoru siha! Pues bula tiningo'-ta put siha, lao ginnen i bandan-ñiha, hafa guaguaha? Sen didide’ ha’! Pinat taya'!!

I've been writing different poetry/spoken word pieces for Horse Opera, hoping that some of it will help them narrate the documentary. What they would do is upload onto their website, different rough cuts, with notes on them telling me what sections and what images they wanted something poetic or complementary for. The first time around last year, I ended up writing several pages of scattered notes on the archival images of pre-war Guam, pre-war Saipan, Guam being "liberated" in World War II, and Guam undergoing aggressive patriotic Americanization since 1950. The phrase that I quoted above, "a colonial subject of the greatest democracy on earth" stayed with me the entire time. My mind moved back and forth across the Pacific, the historical and contemporary relationship between the Chamorro and the United States becoming a vicious circle of belonging and rejection. Like the exciting ambivalence of the song Guam U.S.A. we find the Chamorro stuck in a frightful zone between assimilation and patriotism, and sovereignty and justice. Guam has its own existence, it deserves its own existence, yet it feels incomplete without the footnote "USA," and yet even when these letters are added, it still doesn't quite fit. As I wrote for the documentary, I felt the position of the Chamorro today cradle and strangle me, with its curses and wounds of colonization and dependency, and its dreams of decolonization and sovereignty.


Over the next few days I guess I'll share some of these pieces that I've written with everyone. At first I was going to call them Dispatches from the Edge of American Empire, but since there are so many places that could also take this name, I'll just call them Dispatches from Guam.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Why I Can't Take My Eyes Off of Amy Goodman

Published on Thursday, January 25, 2007
by the Seattle Post-Ingelligencer
Up to Democrats to investigate Torture
by Amy Goodman

The new head of the Senate Judiciary Committee was angry. Sen. Patrick Leahy was questioning U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales about a man named Maher Arar.

Arar is a Canadian citizen the U.S. detained without charge then sent to Syria in 2002. Leahy fumed: "We knew damn well, if he went to Canada, he wouldn't be tortured. He'd be held. He'd be investigated. We also knew damn well, if he went to Syria, he'd be tortured."

Leahy was responding to Alberto Gonzales' comments that "there were assurances sought that he would not be tortured from Syria." Assurances? From the country that President Bush recently described as the "crossroads for terrorism"? From the country that Bush has vilified and threatened to attack? But before we point the finger at other countries, we have to look here at home.

Gonzales knows about torture. Arar was detained less than two months after Gonzales' office produced the notorious "Torture Memo," which has served as the legal basis for the Bush administration's brutal torture methods such as "waterboarding" (holding a victim's head underwater until unconscious) that are increasingly well-known and globally despised.

The U.S. government also engages in "extraordinary rendition." This Orwellian phrase describes how foreigners are grabbed off the street or from their home and secretly delivered to some other place, outside the U.S. (in Arar's case, Syria), where illegal and brutal interrogations can take place beyond the reach of Congress and the courts.

Arar's Kafaesque nightmare began Sept. 26, 2002. He was returning to Canada from a family vacation, with a plane change at New York's JFK Airport. There he was pulled aside, searched, questioned and imprisoned. Two weeks later, U.S. authorities sent Arar to Syria.

Arar spent the next 10 months enduring brutal beatings and psychological torture, kept in a cell the size of a grave. Arar was accused of being connected to al-Qaida, and of having been to a training camp in Afghanistan. Neither was true, but after weeks of beatings, he admitted to everything. Worse than the beatings, Arar said on "Democracy Now!," was how he suffered while isolated in the dank, windowless cell:

"The psychological torture that I endured during this 10-month period in the underground cell is really beyond human imagination. I was ready to confess to anything. I would just write anything so that they could only take me from that place and put me in a place where it is fit for a human being."

As inexplicably as Arar was kidnapped to Syria, he was released home to Canada, a broken man. Canada just finished a thorough inquiry that completely exonerated him and supported his request for financial damages. Conservative Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, a Bush ally, has asked Bush to "come clean" on the Arar case.

Leahy is demanding action: "The Bush administration has yet to renounce the practice of sending detainees to countries that torture prisoners, and it has yet to offer even the hint of an apology to Mr. Arar for what he endured with our government's complicity."

The Bush policies of war, occupation, torture and rendition are having a cumulative effect on global opinion. A recent BBC poll of more than 26,000 people found that 75 percent oppose the U.S. role in Iraq, two-thirds oppose the handling of prisoners at Guantanamo, and 52 percent feel that the U.S. has an overall negative effect on the planet. Citizens just protested the fifth anniversary of the prison at Guantanamo. Legislators in North Carolina are demanding an investigation into Aero Contractors, a firm based there that supplies Gulfstream jets to the CIA to execute these "extraordinary renditions." And tens of thousands are expected in Washington, D.C., and around the country on Jan. 27 to protest the war.

Democrats criticized the Republican-controlled "rubber-stamp Congress," which failed to provide adequate oversight of the Bush administration. Now that the Democratic Party has control of Congress, the onus is upon them to restore law and order, to investigate the use of torture and to demand prosecution of those who engaged in it.

Amy Goodman hosts the radio news program "Democracy Now!" Distributed by King Features Syndicate.

© 2007 Seattle Post-Intelligencer

###

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Colonial Voting Rights

This article that I'm posting below, is the biggest joke on Guam, which is absolutely not funny.

You have to be completely maladjusted to think that this makes us a part of the "American family," or that this is somehow a gain in in making Guam either more sovereign or more American.

I wrote a letter to the editor of The Pacific Daily News in 2005 after the ESPN Cockfighting debacle, which discussed how the circle of belonging for Chamorros and others on Guam is always a vicious one, made tragic, traumatic and perilous by scandals that continually exclude people on Guam, and foil their attempts to feel and be American.

You can find my letter to the editor, as well as some responses to it in my post from last year, Why Do We Fear Being a Third World Country, But Love Being a First World Colony? According to one of the responses from a haole, professing to speak on behalf of the US nation, he did an exhaustive search and could find no evidence of the "scandals" that I was referring to (otro fino'-ta, achokka' ti ha hasngon, ha prueba todu i sinangan-hu siha). I don't know what types of scandals he was looking for (perhaps a Monica Lewinsky style hug between Bush and Madeleine Bordallo?), but the ones that I am referring to take place all the time and at multiple levels, with different agents and victims. When I say scandals, I am not simply referring to wrong information in magazines or racist remarks from military and government officials, but also just how we are forced to contend with the blistering colonial ignorance of the United States. How as colonial subjects we are supposed to love and desire to be one with the colonizer, but how we are constantly thrown back or excluded in simple and small ways.

If you don't believe me either, and don't think that these scandals of exclusion occur, then keep your eyes on Congress, because the procedural change that the article below describes is an everyday scandal if I've ever seen one. For those who want evidence or proof of the "American-in-waiting" status of Chamorros, just wait until there is a vote in the House of Representatives where the votes of the delegates from the territories/colonies matter in the final tally, and watch our votes be cast aside. Democracy, political belonging, sovereignty, equality, are defined or judged as true or moral not at the points when these votes won't or don't matter (which is what this "victory" provides), but rather when they will. On this basis, America is a sham of a democracy, and we should be ashamed for thinking that it can teach us anything, or should be the "light" that guides us into the future.

*******************************

Delegates win partial voting rights
By Dennis Camire
Gannett News Service
January 26, 2007

WASHINGTON -- U.S. territory representatives to Congress got back partial voting rights for many matters Wednesday, but their participation won't be allowed when they could determine the outcome of a House vote.

Guam Delegate Madeleine Bordallo said the largely symbolic votes permitted under a House rule change would recognize the people of Guam "for who we are, members of the American family."

"If you would deny your fellow Americans, the people of Guam, this small bit of symbolic participation, the greater loss is our nation's loss of its promise to the world of democracy that is inclusive and that values all of its citizens," Bordallo said during a debate on the House floor.

The rule change, which the House approved on a near party-line vote of 224-186, allows delegates from Guam, American Samoa, the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the resident commissioner from Puerto Rico, to vote when the House sits as a "committee of the whole."
The committee is a parliamentary device the House uses to debate and amend bills before going to the final vote.

But the rule -- originally in effect in 1993 and 1994 but dropped when Republicans gained a majority -- also states that if the five delegates' votes change the outcome of a vote, the "committee of the whole" would stop and the regular 435-member House would vote again without the delegates.

The reason for the second vote is to avoid constitutional challenges.

Republicans fought the change. House Republican Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, called it a "power grab" designed to get them extra votes on House legislation since four of the five delegates are Democrats.

Rep. Denny Rehberg, R-Mont., said the legislation violates the constitutional principle of one person, one vote since Montana with 940,000 people has only one House vote while American Samoa with 57,000 people would gain a vote.

Rehberg also pointed out that the territories' population do not pay federal income taxes.

"The irony is that one of the guiding principles of the American Revolution was no taxation without representation," he said. "Now some in Congress are promoting representation without taxation."

Asked yesterday whether Bordallo would prefer the ability to vote in Congress or the ability to keep federal taxes in Guam coffers, her office said those issues will be resolved during a self-determination process that resolves Guam's political status.

"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," Bordallo said yesterday after the vote. "I look forward to using my voting card in the next Committee of the Whole debate on legislation in the future."

The last time Guam's delegate had a vote on the floor, in 1993 and 1994, he typically voted three or four times a day, according to Pacific Daily News files.

Then-Delegate Robert Underwood in January 1995 said the inability to vote did not hurt him with respect to his constituents because the lion's share of issues aren't of great concern on Guam, files state.

Pacific Daily News reporter Steve Limtiaco contributed to this story.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Everyday Decolonization Education

Read the letter to the editor from the January 16th Marianas Variety that I'm pasting below with caution it is an example of the racist rhetoric that prevents any and all forms of decolonization on Guam from taking place, as well as ensuring that all of us on Guam continue to accept and celebrate America's superiority.

It is because of letters like this and the logics it represents that there must be more education in everyday conversations which can break this commonsense about decolonization, since this conception of it, as being a time traveling trip into the past, is not just the belief of haoles such as Dave Davis, but rather the majority of Chamorros as well. Chamorros that I have interviewed in my research on decolonization have thought that decolonization would mean, running the island naked with barbeque tongs.

Decolonization in all of its diverse forms is not simply about the past, but about the future. It is about dealing with the political sins of the past and rectifying them, not ignoring or forgetting the injustices of the past, but rather creating a process to confront them and act in awareness of them in the name of the future of our island and our people. It is a process of making that future our own, rather than accepting an existence where others who are "whiter" and "more modern" control it for us. For both Chamorros and non-Chamorros we must make this point very very clear.

Feel free to respond to Dave Davis' letter to the editor with some of your own, and please continue to do the important work of breaking decolonization down to people in your circles in your families, in everyday, daily ways, bringing the process closer to our lives and our worlds.


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A ‘free and sovereign’ NMI?

WE note that Mr. Jose U. Garrido (a.k.a. Joe Garrido, chairman of Guam’s Decolonization Commission’s free association task force) is again clamoring to part company with the United States of America — espousing Chamorro sovereignty, as it were.

As with dogs that chase cars — if he somehow managed to catch it, what would he do with it? Revert, perhaps, to the raw fish and grass hut societal mode? That’s what the Spaniards found in Guam 500 years ago: a Stone Age society distinguished mostly by several thousand years of no significant change or progress.

In other words, a stagnant and unremarkable Neolithic culture, indistinguishable in most respects from the multitude of similar tribes throughout the Pacific and other tropical climes.It seems that most modern Chamorros aspire to something quite different: government jobs, flush toilets, SUVs and nice housing.

Dream on, Mr. Garrido. You may have difficulty convincing your Chamorro brethren to forfeit their expectations of those amenities, along with American citizenship for succeeding generations. As for your notion that changes to the CNMI Covenant would provide the opportunity for residents there to become “free and sovereign”: it would be interesting to learn just how many would embrace that option. Perhaps we’ll have the chance to find out.

By the way — how’s progress on the Guam “Chamorro Only” political status plebiscite?

DAVE DAVIS
Yigo, Guam

Youtube-d

Last week for the first time that I know of, I got Youtubed.

I'm surprisingly ambivalent, confused, aburido, over this.

Sure, there were feelings of excitement. Lana, sen paire este.

Feelings of hope too. I got Youtubed along with Julian Aguon and Victoria Leon Guerrero since all of us were on an edition of KUAM News Extra last week to discuss political status and the impacts of the military increases that are already taking place on Guam. Hami na tres, manhohoben ha', and so while we were on Guam we were constantly introduced and interpreted as young people who are taking up the cause of decolonization. By being on Youtube, hopefully we can reach young Chamorros and others on or from Guam who wouldn't ever read Minagahet Zine or even the PDN.

But there were chathinasso lokkue. Lao pinat mandikike'.

Most prominent of these worries deals with the fact that my symbolic existence, the social substance that I am in the world, seems to slowly be moving beyond the means for me to effectively control or regulate. In times past, I have felt small, minute, pulls to recognize this, but always brushed them aside.

One time for instance I stumbled across a message board where a young Chamorro from Guam was bravely discussing his island's status as a colony with a gang of garden variety Americans. I traced through the thread and saw the desperate battle este na heben was fighting against a towering tide of American exceptionalism and ignorance about what is going on in the rest of the world, as well as its own Pacific "backyard."

At one point, completely unbeknownst to me, this young Chamorro had quoted something I had said from an article I wrote titled "Happy U.S. Imperialism Day: Rethinking the Chamorro Place in the American Empire."It was a surreal feeling, because I'm so used to hearing my own words defend me and my positions, but here, was a complete stranger, whose name I didn't know, who had felt that my words somehow proved his point, or articulated the truth he was trying to save.

Yanggen hu alok na nina'manman yu' ni' este, ti ha tatampe todu i siniente-ku.
It was definitely a moment that made me re-evaluate my existence, since now I was aware that people might actually take the things I say seriously!

So maybe most people haven't felt something like this before, but one which happened to me last year, has happened to alot of people familiar with sites like myspace and PFG I'm sure. At the time, around PFG people were purging their accounts of excess friends by sending out posts attacking people who were "fake friends" or who just add people to add people and have friend counts. I was kind of annoyed at this emphasis on "real" friends and so I decided to post a response to everyone, basically putting out there my philosophy on the minagahet pat ti minagahet siha of friendship. Here's what I wrote:

Why is everyone getting pissed at "fake friends?" I have too many friends in real life, I don't need that many "real friends" in my virtual life. I already spend too much time on the internet for work, and besides it’s like my grandfather said, “the more you’re on the internet, the more chance they have to identity theft you.” Fake friends not only save my eyesight, my time, but according to the world’s foremost expert on internet security, my identity as well.

I for one don't mind fake friends. Its nice to know that when I come home after a long day of school or work, even if I don’t call my real friends up, my fake friends will always be there on my page, smiling, sometimes fully clothed, sometimes half naked, but nonetheless smiling. To them our friendship was created and resolved through a couple of mouse clicks and that’s it. Nothing more is required unless either of us wants it, and it probably wouldn’t go over so well if one of us tried, “What the hell do you mean “Happy Liberation Day?” you’re not my real friend or anything! Go back to that grainy digital camera image I have of you on my page!”

If you don’t repost this then I’m going to assume that we will continue to be fake friends, ya maolek ha’ todu! If you want to be real friends, taka’ ha’ yu’, or if you want to stop being fake/real friends, pues funas ha’ yu’. If you don't do anything, taya' guaha, mungga chathinasso, ti bei lalalu, because that's what friends are for, no?

Biba Manatga’chong siha!

Sahuma Minagahet ya Na'suha Dinagi

Miget

A few days later, I was forwarded, out of nowhere, my own post on fake friends, by someone else who was claiming it as there own. That was pretty surreal.

So like I said, on one hand this is cool, but on the other it reveals the way our words are often not our own. Not only do they originate in a infinite web of possible influences and prior sources, but once they leave our lips they can be twisted into an infinite multitude of meanings as well.

But these are just my insecurities, my fears that things I say will be taken incorrectly, or be used against me.

In response to the handful of my friends that say (jokingly or seriously) that I should run for political office in Guam, my response is always the same: "Are you kidding me? Have you seen my blog?" The reason I respond like this is because of what has happened to former Congressman Robert Underwood over the past two elections for Governor of Guam. Early on in the campaign in 2002, a mysterious flyer, originating from an anonymous Political Action Committee from somewhere in the Southern United States appeared on Guam, featuring apparently racist and anti-American statements from articles, speeches and letters that Robert Underwood has written over the past thirty years. Most of the quotes were taken completely out of context, while some, while appearing to be "racist" were in reality just very real truths about Chamorro self-determination and colonization.

In the 2006 election, the same twisting of words yan fina'baba took place, this time online though. A terrible, terrible website appeared online by anonymous individuals which spread all sorts of lies and misinformation about Underwood, often times abusing real quotes that Underwood had made. I will not post the URL to that website, but I will link you to a number of Underwood's responses to false allegations made by Felix Camacho and his supporters during the 2006 election.

If you were to compare the statements that Underwood has made gi todu i lina'la'-na and mine, and were to interpret them in "anti-American" terms, then I'm being totally honest, but I'm pretty sure that I would make Underwood look like Joe Murphy. If someone was looking to make me unelectable in Guam by painting me as "anti-american" then you wouldn't have to try very hard. In fact, maybe I'll make a category in the links on this blog which will refer people in the most convenient way possible to all my kontra i militat, kontra i Amerikanu siha na tinige' siha. Actually I just checked and if you Google, "Anti-American and Guam" guess whose blog is right there at the top?

























Sorry for that self-absorbed tangent, before I forget, here's the links to our interviews:

Iyo-ku interview
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tgY2lTzpu5o

Victoria Leon Guerrero
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4_yMiKiJLO8

Julian Aguon
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AfOUt-1K2dw

Si Yu'us Ma'ase to John Davis for having us on KUAM News Extra for the interviews and to Jason Salas for uploading them onto Youtube. Since I found that video of myself on Youtube, I've been searching around the site for all the Guam stuff that they've got. Thought I'd share the links here:

Jeon Hye Bin dancing on Guam
Although at first I was very suspicious about the new United Nation's global initiative with Justin Timberlake as its spokesperson and point man. The whole thing seemed so hyped up without any real substance. But after seeing Korean actress Jeon Hye Bin dancing to "Sexy back" in front of Tumon Bay, I am now definitely, wholeheartedly committed to his mission to bring sexy back to all the people of the world.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=juUimabxaZc

"Estorian Dandero" - Ben Lam Lam
Gof ya-hu este na kanta. Dumandandan Si Ben Lam Lam yan i ga'chong-na gi i kanton tasin Ypao, sa' taya' gi fi'on-na fuera di i bunito na tano'-ta yan i dos na guitalan-niha.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G1tm7s8cOLs

"Back to Guahan" - Erika Nalani Benton
A beautiful, soulful song written by Erika, a member of Famoksaiyan in the Bay Area and performed on the radio several months ago, but also at the UN Report Back event we had in Berkeley "Decolonization in Guam: Remembering Our Roots." I saw the DVD for the event recently and it was pretty damn good, lao siempre ti apmam bei fangguahayi mas infotmasion put este.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VYFujbFIvzA

Kelly Hu on Kamehameha
Pretty much all of the links here are music related, except I think for this one. But I couldn't resist posting it here, because of how important the message is from actress Kelly Hu on the importance of the Kamehameha Schools in Hawai'i.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=esFHwNXdsfI

You Is All I Want - Savage K
Gof ya-hu este na kanta. Este ha' bei sangan, ekungok gi as Guiya ya un tungo' ya nahong che'lu siempre.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7RuPYDMqTXw

Never Forget Where I'm From -Chamorro Guys at Guam's Airport
This video is so awesome. You have to watch it to see why.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fo7Ao5uCT7Q

The Reason - Hoobastank
The main reason this is on here is because Hoobastank performed on Guam recently. Anothe rreason is that the song "The Reason" is one of my favorite songs to sing along to while I translate the lyrics into Chamorro as I sing. One more important reason though is that my brother Kuri's band Freedom Fries shares members with the band Matala' which won a competition to be the opening act for Hoobastank on Guam. Although I didn't give them their own section on this list, (sa' ti ma apapasi siha na klasin inetnon) you can still click on this link for a youtube video of Kuri's band playing "Come on Eileen."
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WZLyXD62Io8

Ini na Latte' - Guma' Palu Li'e'
Although I sometimes have problems with people in the group and people who like the group because of the way its supposed to be "pure" the group still does important work for helping revitalizing and keep alive Chamorro creativity. For my problems with Guma' Palu Li'e and other groups that embody a "pure" Chamorro culture check out my post a few weeks ago on the division between the cultural and the political.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=azpwqGU00A0


C & K on Guam
I really wish I had seen them when they were on Guam this month, lao ai adai estague todu tiempo i estoria-hu, ti nahong i salape-ku.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vHPtx8ZWBgM

Patrick Palomo on Guam
I tihu-hu dumandandan pianu giya Guahan.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KrvUKh5oszM

Fanoghe Chamoru - Rhea Aguon
Because of my Chamorro Nationalist leanings, I thought it would be cool to end with this one. I atungo'-hu Rhea Aguon nai ha takpapangi i nuebu na Centro Kutturan Chamoru giya San Diego. Gof maolek na kakanta Si Rhea, ya mumembro gui' gi Famoksaiyan lokkue.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eJAKN42YM-w

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Time Machine Native

I just got back to the states after two weeks kulang pakyo' magahet in Guam and so I'm just trying to make sure my head is on straight as I jump back into school.

Posting on my blog might be like it was when I was on Guam, ti sesso or infrequent and I apologize.

To placate yan na'magof the half dozen or perhaps dozen of you who read my blog regularly, just thought I'd share a photo of me from the poetry slam I attended on Guam, Sinangan-ta 4. I arrived on island as the poetry slam was starting. After being detained yet again, although this time for only about half an hour, my family picked me up, took me to eat Chinese food, and then politely dropped me off at the poetry slam. Hunggan, gof yafai yu' put i hinanao-hu gi i batkon aire, lao I knew that the space that is created by these poetry slams is too important to not put to good use. Antes di maleffa yu, si yu'us ma'ase to Anthony Tamayo for the photo, and to Kie Susuico, Melvin Won Pat Bora and Jovan the Oddchild for putting together another great Sinangan-ta!

I read a poem I first wrote about three years ago titled Time Machine Native, which is a discussion about decolonization and sovereignty, dependent upon how we relate to the past and the future. In the poem I come across in the jungle a locally grown time machine, made in the shape of a sakman, comprising all different types of technology with the names of generations of political status and cultural activists carved into its side.

Here's a snippet of it, just to give you a sense of what the poem says:

A telephone pole palu sits atop the form
Carrying a sail Resting quietly
Crafted carefully with metallic and shell si’i
Woven from a thousand dreams.
In the imperfections of the agak weave
In the strains of a thousand hours
In the wishes of a thousands folds
I see the hopes of the Chamorro people
In controlling their future by somehow navigating their stormy past

Monday, January 15, 2007

Relinquishing the Modern Fantasy of Sovereignty

We all know that feeling, when we find the most intimate meaning in most random or even puzzling or paradoxical of places. I know that many Pacific Islanders feel this sort of serendipity or finakcha'i when they watch Bollywood movies. The geographical, cultural, historical, political differences/specificities are obvious, regardless of whether we identify with them because of some post-colonial or anti-colonial solidarity. But yet, amongst so many Pacific Islanders (and occasionally Native Americans, but at a much rarer rate) when they would watch Bollywood movies, they would feel an immediate intimacy with the representations of large families, love of singing and song and "exotic" foods.

In the United States, one film through which nearly all groups marked as "ethnic" meaning not apa'ka or not normative, felt a sense of "home" was My Big Fat Greek Wedding. Filipinos, Chamorros, Indians (Asian not American), Mexicans, Black people, some Asians, friends of mine from each of these groups, each exclaimed when either watching the movie or recalling watching the movie, "my family is so like that!" In other words, "this thing which is completely not me, is so me! There is something in it that either reveals something important about where I come from, or it leads me back to where I am from in a different way!"

Or take for instance the first few minutes of the film Wayne's World, after they finish recording their episode and are strolling around Aurora, Illinois singing along to Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody. For so many people my age who have seen this movie, this is one of the most lasting sequences of the film, and constantly taints the possibility of any previous or potential memory of the song apart from this film. For many this persistence might just be attached to the way it makes a catchy song even catchier, however after watching the film again this morning, I realized that the scene also stays with you because of the way, Wayne, Garth and their friends, while driving through their small town, drive through the "small" town that each of us grew up in. Even if we grew up traipsing the globe in private jets or in the most frenetic bustling city, the home, meaning the place where we came from, is generally always remembered through a smallness, a humbleness, a lost intimacy. Thinking back to how many people react to scenes like this one, where kids piled into a small car, driving around their neighborhood with all the "mom and pop" stores, saying hi to people as they go, it replays a position or a place which we are all familiar with.

This sort of dynamic is not abnormal, it is the only way that we can ever know home, through a sharing of vision and an assumption of both another place which we can make home against, as well as another gaze through which we can see home through.

The claim to be able to create something which is wholly self-determined and fundamentally self-sustained and therefore exists unto itself is the bedrock theoretical aspiration of the Enlightenment, the mythical wet dream of Europe and the First World. It has unfortunately also become entwined in the rhetoric by which a nation is narrated into existence, a prerequisite for a nation to exist without the crippling dependency which we find in colonies such as Guam and neo-colonies such as the Philippines.

I know I am getting away from the initial intimacy of this post, but theoretically there are two levels from which one could go here. First, that this sort of delusion is a necessity for a nation to be formed, and if a collective or community never experiences this moment of isolated self-definition, then it will always be a dependent nation, one which sees itself only through the eyes, the imagining, the rule, the largesse of another nation. Take for instance this painting by Delacroix, Liberty Leading the People.

In it, we see the matriarch of the new French Republic leading its citizens forward into the future, their banner flying high above them. This scene in a way represents that primordial moment, the genesis or the "birth of a nation."

Every modern nation can be seen through this scene. With the United States it might be George Washington leading the people. But, if we take the work that my friend Madel is doing on the formation of the contemporary Palauan nation, then we see a sort of small prop change which changes the whole meaning, the whole possibility of a new born nation. Given the rhetoric through which the Palauan Government relates and identifies itself to and through the United States (ma u'usa i fino' familia enlugat di i fino' inatungo'), if we return to the moment of Palau's birth, instead of finding the flag of the Palauan nation being triumphantly held forth by the Palauan people, we instead find the flag of the United States.

Actually, we need not imagine this point at all, you can see it performed before your very eyes by heading over to youtube, and watching the performance of Palau's UN ambassador Stuart Beck on the Colbert Report.

I wrote several months ago about President Bush as a theorist of sovereignty, because of the way he accidentally articulated a devious truth which must be hidden both about Native American tribal sovereignty as well as sovereignty in general. After being asked a question about Native American tribes in the 21st century, Bush expelled this gem for all to hear:

"Tribal sovereignty means that; it's sovereign. You're a -- you've been given sovereignty, and you're viewed as a sovereign entity. And, therefore, the relationship between the federal government and tribes is one between sovereign entities."

For Native Americans Bush's slip is a terrible truth, for them sovereignty is not really sovereignty because in contrast to the way sovereignty is understood or represented by disciplines such as political science or international affairs, for them sovereignty is something which is given, dolled out in small pieces, always held away or deferred from them. The history of legal decisions and colonization of Native Americans by the United States is one based on infantilization and paternalism, they are not ready for sovereignty and so we have to keep it from them until we say they are. This logic of course is not limited to these groups, but really, the rest of the world as well.

The notion that "sovereignty" is given however, or that it is dependent, not existing unto itself, not unfettered, untrammelled is true for all others as well, despite the dominant definitions of sovereignty. This leads me to the second level, where we find certain nations, primarily First World nations who never leave this moment of unmediated bliss, but constantly see themselves as rocks against which the rest of the world may crash against, want to seek shelter upon, but could clearly exist without the sea around it.

Esta un tungo' i sinangan, "ni hayi na taotao un isla?" no? Well, the logic here is that there are some men which are islands, which can and do exist unto themselves.

The most fundamental legacy of structuralist thought is the inescapable notion that all things exist only in a system of differences. The world is a sea of things which only gain meaning through differences. The only meaning apart from this difference is the void, a nothingness which is hardly a prohibition on meaning or a dead zone, but is instead a force which is fina'subject productive in that it haunts all attempts to assert an existence which is not determined by difference, but rather is the transcendent translucent norm against which all other assertions of meaning and identity must crash against in order to mean anything.

Sovereignty in this sea however, if we trace the trajectory of modern European thought is derived from the staking out of spaces within this sea, which are meant to be the islands, the rocks which are exempt from this ontological requirement.

This is the problem with thinking of people of color as "racialized" is that it implicitly accepts that dream of white people to be the norm, to be unmarked. White people "American" people are racialized, but they are racialized in such a way as to be excluded from the equation, the marks seemingly erased both from their consciousness and from the organizing and politics of those who are racialized. They are not the norm, and can only be given that status through a mix of material accumulation and misrecognition.

European modernity is ultimately an attempt to create an existence which is self-determined. A system of thought which can control the breaks and gaps in continuity, culture, which can determine the content of impossible and absent origins. We see the tepid, confused desire amongst Enlightenment philosophers take the nature of reality away from some "other" place beyond the reach of man, beyond the transcendent memory of God and find a place for it in the world of "men." In most instances the driving force for life then becomes reason, and politically, the modern nation state becomes the vehicle for creating earthly and men driven histories, the means for collective self-definition.

It is imperative here, first not to fall into this trap of believing in a being, collective or otherwise which can have this sort of mastery over itself, and second not to give the United States or Europe credit for inventing the ability to "transcend" culture and differentiate themselves from the world around them through knowledge.

I wrote about this last week when I was discussing how indigenous peoples seeking to revitalize themselves or decolonize often bump up against the colonizing limit captured in the division between the cultural and the political. The indigenous person lies on the cultural end, which is reduced to existence in a particular moment, which is always beyond their ability to both reach and change. History creates a wound from the contact of different races, and this wound becomes the marker for purity and limited/limiting possibility. The "modern" or in Guam's case, the American person, lies at the political side, and while apparently deprived from any culture, is gifted with the ability to float around locales, cultures and ideas, and somehow defining the limits of all others.

This may be a tough point to swallow, but it is nonetheless true. For those who conceive and act through a Chamorroness as primarily cultural, they accept a small and dead domain from which they can act authentically, ethically. By doing this, they acede the ability to change reality, to change history, to change the moment that the Chamorro exists to someone else, the free floating, "uncultured" modern subject, thus condemning the existence of the Chamorro to be either a solemn and weeping collection of the scattered pieces of our shattered and lost culture, or an active existence which can only preserve, can only act to save something that is being lost, and never be authentic in creating something new, something for the future.

Through this argument though, you shouldn't assume that I am some ridiculous postnationalist saber rattler, who is abstractly critiquing the concrete desires of indigenous peoples. I am interested in the futures of Chamorros, and refuse to relinquish the rights to our futures to others, by fetishizing or glorifying the past in such a way that it assumes our only authenticity lies there and nowhere else.

But if we leave behind the articulations of our existence which are dependent upon death, loss, abjection, dependency or being trapped in time, then is our only resort the mildly delusionist nationalist project of self-defined and self-sustaining sovereignty? Is there a way to develop this this community without resorting to this often times violent and regularly racist delusion? On Guam we talk often about inafa'maolek, which means interdependence, or literally making things better for each other. Is there a way that this congnizance of the dependencies of nations and interconnections can come to the international level without being a ploy or a ruse to either fatta imperial benevolence or be the rhetorical level to make use of imperial sovereignty?

As I read the work of different indigenous theorists and see the different grass roots, social/governmental projects which are taking place around the world, I have hopes for something different to emerge and to not be brutally smashed to pieces. Now that I'm back in the states, I'm hoping that me, Angie and Madel will start making our Voicing Indigeneity Podcasts again, because that is the perfect form for just these discussions.

There is one more point however which I must make to make this post a tad bit more complete, and absolutely more confusing. Two years ago I wrote a post on this blog titled "Why the Bones Should be Buried" which referred to the debate over whether bones of ancient Chamorros that are unearthed through construction or exist today in collections should be buried instead of studied to deduce where the "original Chamorros" came from. For those of us without the simple pleasure of having big bulky nation states or impressive military empires, existence often hands by a thread, a thread of easily unraveled difference.

In my post for example I discussed how easily claims to Chamorro existence are unraveled, often times by Chamorros themselves, by simply arituclating the points of existence for the Chamorro as either somewhere else (Taiwan, the Philippines, Malaysia) or some other time (1521, 2000 B.C. 1698), or through a signifiers of Chamorros being a multicultural tapestry which then naturally pulls the local to pieces and takes any political claim away from Chamorros to be given sovereignty based on their existence because of the way they are cut across borders, cultures and time zones to produce a cruel deferred diffusion of possibility. I have heard the following sickening statement often on Guam, always in the context of denying the Chamorro a political existence or some form of contemporary sovereignty:

“you think you’re Chamorro, but you’re all really just _____ (insert other ethnic category, whether it be, Asian, Filipino, Mexican, Spanish, Malaysian, Indonesia, Chinese, Taiwanese, etc)”

Let me end this rambling post, with section from my post on why the bones should be buried, and make it clear that although I am critiquing different searches for sovereignty here, I nonetheless recognize the need for it to be found and to be rooted into the soil of Guam. It is the lack of sovereignty by Chamorros which leads to this delikao na existence, where we can be brushed aside into non-existence by any Joe Amerikanu or Jon Tagalog simply by calling into question the nature of our existence.

...This tactic [of saying the true Chamorro is found always elsewhere] can be used on nearly anything in Guam, where the attempt to assert something as local, can be contested easily by attributing its source to elsewhere. The most annoying example which pops into my head is the Wall Street Journal article "Guam Struggles to Find its Roots Beneath Piles of Spam" from 2000 which discussed Chamorro non-existence. Such a search for pure signifiers took place, around food, where the article's brodie author, asks Tony Lamorena to show him what "real" Chamorro food is. A handful of food dishes are mentioned, each leading to somewhere else, not Guam. At last when a real Chamorro dish is found, fanihi, its mentioned to be illegal to hunt and eat. Thus making it clear in unclear, salient yet silent terms that whatever this Chamorro is (which is not this cruel diffusion), is inaccessible to us. There is a prohibition on it, which puts it beyond the reach of Chamorros today. The article ends in a way too painful perfect for proving my points, with this frightening empe' Real:

"Who's a Chamorro, and who's not?" asks 18-year-old Menchie Canlas, a Filipino ticket-taker at the cliff. "I don't think anybody knows any more."


I mas na'triste put este
, is that one can find such blunted and frightening searches in attempts to positively assert a Chamorro as well. Scenes similar to the ones I mentioned above from The Wall Street Journal, can be found in Chamoru Dreams by Eric Tydingco. When should the bones not be buried, and then studied? When huge fundamental shifts of meaning take place in Guam, when culture is re-imagined and the common qualifiers of "real" or "really" Chamorroness are no longer necessary, because we begin to see culture outside of those western notions of cultural purity and impurity. This meaning, that we should study these bones and learn from them, once Guam has changed to the point where this inquiry would not blatantly vaporize the Chamorro, would not be (to na'takpappa' i sinangan-na Si Alan Moore ginnen Watchmen) the Reasoned light through which the Chamorro is taken into a thousand pieces. What we are stuck with today is the Chamorro now as a foolish myth (as I saw last year on a military message board "these people are so stupid (Chamorros) they're all dead, they just don't know it yet), where as these journeys through scientific discovery and reason which lead us to Taiwan, Bali, the Philippines have the aura of facts. What must take place is a switching, where those journeys become the myths which we can build coalitions and connections to others in the Pacific, in Asia in Micronesia, but we can only do this if we begin and end that trip in Guam. If we do not accomplish this move, then the things which divide Chamorros from the rest of Micronesia, or the Pacific will not be overcome, because what constitutes the Chamorro will not be indigenous connections, affiliations through abjection or survival or colonialism, but instead their entwining intimacy with the United States.

The problem with the ways in which those who are interested in issues of sovereignty in Guam, tend discuss sovereignty is that it is extremely narrow, and doesn't reach this place where the meaning of the Chamorro remains colonized, existing and not existing at the beck and call of cruel anthropological or American definitions. Independence for Guam, Free Asociation Status for Guam, even voting in plebiscites, none of these things guarantee or even require that this ambiguous, darkly lit, constantly threatened existence will be addressed or replaced.

Let me make this point very very clear, bei na'sen lebok este, bei na'sen klaru este: If Chamorros have Filipino blood, Chinese blood, American blood, Spanish blood, Japanese blood, so what?! The presence of this blood should have no impact on whether or not the can or does Chamorro exist today or set the limits of what politics that Chamorro can have, since our argument should never ever be that purity existed or that it should exist. Once we relinquish that thoroughly modern argument and fantasy, and establish this even more fundamental form of sovereignty over the meaning of our lives, and upon what basis do we exist, then the larger more discussed issues of political status and Sovereignty can find true tracition and real meaning.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Guinaiya Gi I Chi-Na I Tano'

Humahanao yu' tatte para San Diego pa'go, lao fine'nina bai sugo' giya Hawai'i ya bei bisita Si Tata-hu.

Achokka' dos na simana ha' desde umali'e ham yan i nuebu na guinaiya-ku, sen mahalang yu' nu Guiya. Hu tugiyi gui' este gi i batkon aire ginnen Hapon. Buente atdet i palabras yan "over the top." Lao estague i kustumbren i korason taotao no? I mas i chinago', pat meggai'na i inachago'n-miyu mas atdet siempre i piniti yan i minahalang. Pues achokka' buente noskuantos na mit miyas umafa'sipara ham, i sinientete-ku kalang malingu yu' gi otro na dimension. Lao hu guaiya gui' sinembatgo, ya kumekehomlo' i korason-hu, sa' agupa' para bei in ali'e ta'lo.

Guinaiya Gi I Chi-Na I Tano'

Yanggen hu li’e i matå’-mu un biåhi mas
Manmafunas esta siempre i triste-ku
Este lagu’ ni’ tumutu’u påppa’
Este ha’ ma sasångan
Maloffan hagas esta i chi-hu siha
Lao hinangai-hu ha’ put Hågu
Faboresi yu’ este na dikike’
Un pinacha i labios-mu

I hinangong-hu i korason-hu
Todu i lina’lå’-hu
Bai hu totngiyi hao’ gi i guåfin i guinayå-ta

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Adios ta'lo, isla-ku

Agupa’ bai hu hanao ta’lo para San Diego,

Kalang chubasko este na tiempo-ku guini. Bula na malago bei sångan, lao ti siña sa’ ti tunanas i hinasso-ku. Meggai nuebu na hu susedi desde matto yu’ giya Guahan este na biahi. Bula maloloffan guini ni’ muna’bubu yu’, ya muna’triste yu’ lokkue.

Lao bula guini na hu hungok, cho’gue yan li’e ya muna’gaiesperansa yu’.

Ti kumakåte i kerason-hu achokka’ ta fafana’ bula na piligro yan prublema. Put hafa hu susedi gi este na hinanao-hu tåtte para Guahan, hu tungo’ na siña ta afekta yan manea i chalån-ta mo’ña.

Si Yu’us Ma’ase islå-ku, ya todu i bonito na taotao-mu yan lugat-mu siha. Adios esta ki manali’e hit ta’lo.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Why I Can't Take My Eyes Off of Tom Hayden

Published on Tuesday, January 9, 2007 by CommonDreams.org
Presidential Campaign Launched in America with Ethnic Cleansing in Iraq
As Debate Begins, Sunnis Decry Massacres

by Tom Hayden

Politically, the coming escalation by 20,000 US troops in Iraq is best understood as the comeback strategy of the neo-conservative Republicans rallying around Sen. John McCain’s presidential banner.

The political spin-doctors are calling it a “surge”, an aggressive term implying a kind of post-election erection for Bush and the neo-conservatives. In fact, or course, it is an escalation, a term apparently carrying too much baggage from Vietnam.

The hardcore neo-conservatives, their ranks thinned by defections publicized in Vanity Fair, leaped immediately to salvage the war from November’s voter disapproval. Frederick Kagan of the American Enterprise Institute and William Kristol of The Weekly Standard began promoting an increase of 50,000 troops, mainly to Baghdad. Bush, who all along said he was listening to his generals, now sacked generals Casey and Abizaid, who had plans to reduce troop levels over one year ago, and who now opposed more American soldiers in Iraqi neighborhoods. John Negroponte, a specialist in the black arts of counter-intelligence, became the State Department’s point man on Baghdad. US ambassador Zalman Khalilzad, a Sunni who has been critical of the Shi’a-controlled interior ministry, was removed from his Baghdad post. An Ivy League general, David Petraeus, with a counter-insurgency agenda to prove, took over command of US troops.

Right after the election, Sen. McCain was touring Baghdad with his potential running mate Sen. Joe Lieberman, promoting the plan to escalate, although supported by only 20 percent of Republicans, 11 percent of independent voters, and a statistically-insignificant 4 percent of Democrats [LA Times/Bloomberg, Dec. 11, 2006]

It is a brilliant strategy – for a faction dealt a losing hand.

If and when the 20,000 Americans plunge into Baghdad neighborhoods, there will be dramatic television coverage of soldiers at risk. It is possible, though far from easy, to “stabilize” a Baghdad neighborhood for several months or one year, carrying the surge into the next presidential cycle. The strategy fits the polling data showing only 21 percent of Americans favor immediate withdrawal, while the moderate middle might be open to an undefined new strategy if convinced it will shorten the war and bring the troops home.

More likely, the ranks of the peace movement are likely to swell with people angry over the perceived betrayal by Bush of the November voter mandate. A failure by majority Democrats to prevent the escalation will convince more people to take to the streets or look to 2008 for a fix.

If the proposal to escalate somehow is blocked by Congressional Democrats along with a few Republicans facing re-election, McCain and the neo-conservatives will be able to salvage a narrative blaming the “loss of Iraq” on Democrats. Their Plan B is to claim the US should have escalated from the very beginning.

The Baker-Hamilton Iraq Study Group report offered a hint that this escalation was coming in its formulaic compromise stating that it “could” support a “short-term redeployment or surge” but only if “the US commander in Iraq determines that such steps would be effective.” With the arrival of a new commander in Iraq, that mission is accomplished.

The term “could” represents one of the partisan trade-offs in the writing of the Report. The Republicans on the ISG would have been advocating the optional language on behalf of the White House while others tried to weaken the “could” by relying on a commander like Gen. Casey to nix it.

US Sides with Shiites in civil war

Meanwhile, as the politicians position themselves in Washington, urgent appeals from Iraqis warned of Shi’a death squads being unleashed against Sunni neighborhoods. The Baghdad security plan agreed in a teleconference last week being Bush and Prime Minister al-Maliki already is underway. According to al-Jazeera the Shiite militia attacks and roundups began on Sunday. The parliamentarian and peace advocate Saleh al-Mutlaq denounced the plan as an attempt to cleanse Baghdad of the Sunni majority it had in 2003. The Association of Muslim Scholars and Iraqi satellite TV stations began transmitting cries for help from relatives and neighbors in Baghdad.

Already tens of thousands have fled Baghdad, the largest percentage of the nearly one million Iraqis who have been displaced according to the United Nations. Forty thousand have relocated in Falluja. There they stand in a parking lot surrounded by razor wire, are hand-searched, given retinal scans, and provided ID’s to enter Falluja, or weeded out. [LA Times, Jan. 4, 2007]

Baghdad itself, once a diverse city of five million, has become the Shi’a capital, with fifty of 51 governing officials being from Shi’a parties. The security forces, as well as the “commandos” and “public order brigades” under the Interior Ministry are from Shi’a militias. Having fostered, equipped, financed and trained these sectarian forces, US officials have attempted to distance themselves from the scandal, for example claiming in 2006 they only “recently learned” that the 7,700 members of the public order brigades were Shi’a. [New York Times, Mar. 7, 2006]

A media or Congressional investigation of these death squads operating under official auspices might begin by interviewing James Steele, Gerald Burke and Ann Bertucci, who were police advisers attached to the US Civil Police Assistance Training Team in Baghdad. [New York Times, May 22, 2006]The commando teams were developed by Steele and Burke under the direction of Gen. Petraeus at the time. Steele was quoted in 2006 as “not regretting their creation” but worried they had grown out of control. Bertucci admitted that American advisers were attached to the so-called Iraqi Volcano Brigade which committed infamous massacres on August 24, 2005. On that day, dozens of men wearing police uniforms entered a Sunni neighborhood, dragged 36 men out of their homes, shot them in their heads and spilled acid on their faces, an episode recounted in the international press. The US also runs brutal interrogation operations through its secret Task Force 626 in “black rooms” at Camp Nama, whitewashed in a 2004 report by Gen. William G. Boykin, the Christian evangelical who regularly denounces Islam. [New York Times, Mar. 19, 2006]

The hand-over of the interior ministry to the Shi’a Badr militia, an organ of the Supreme Command of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq [SCIRI] was completed in 2005, when Bayan Jabr took over the ministry from a prior Sunni official. Jabr was in charge in November 2005 when a secret prison holding 172 abused and malnourished inmates was discovered. There are up to ten unofficial jails in Baghdad alone run by a Special Interrogations Unit reporting to the minister alone, where prisoners are held without charges.

After years of flirtation, the US has rejected decisively any plans for peace talks with opposition leaders, including insurgent groups. Last week US and Iraqi troops even stormed the headquarters of an Iraqi parliamentarian known to advocate a US withdrawal and peace talks with the insurgents; six people, including a family of four, died in the attack. [see Huffington Post file]

Instead, the US is siding ever more deeply with the Shi’a parties that came to power with the assistance of US tanks, artillery and aircraft in March 2003. By 2005, US officials were “lowering their sights” from establishing democracy to “slowly realizing we will have some form of Islamic Republic.” [Washington Post, Aug. 14, 2005]

The wild card in this scenario all along has been Moktada al-Sadr, the Iraqi Shi’a cleric representing the Sadr City slums, whose Mahdi militia has fought the US on two occasions and who demands a US withdrawal. In a must-read investigative article by Robert Collier of the San Francisco Chronicle this week, an al-Sadr spokesmen said the US was attempting “to inflame a civil war”, and al-Sadr himself was quoted as saying:

“if I were qualified to give a fatwa, I would do so without hesitation in order to ban the killing of our [Sunni] brothers in Iraq and outside of Iraq.” – SF Chronicle, Jan. 7, 2007

Whether al-Sadr is the target of the unfolding escalation is the great unknown, but a Newsweek poll in September 2006 showed a majority of Shi’a themselves – as opposed to their party leaders – support armed resistance against the Americans [63 percent] and a one-year deadline for withdrawal. [80 percent] That from the constituency that benefited from the American invasion. If the Americans attack al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army in the streets of Sadr City, it could bring down the Iraqi government where al-Sadr’s 40 seats are crucial to Prime Minister al-Maliki. In that scenario, al-Sadr could align with other parliamentary blocs, attempt a peaceful coup, and demand the Americans leave. Alternatively, a “provisional government” is being discussed by some.

Poignant confirmation that the US sides with the current Shi’a rulers surfaced unexpectedly in the videos taken last week of the execution of Saddam Hussein, now causing a public relations nightmare for American officials. It is noteworthy to point out that, without the video, there would have been no public knowledge of the repellent sectarianism in the gallows chamber. Since then, US officials have sought to distance themselves from the role of executioners, but it will not be easy. The US Regime Crimes Liaison Office was the “behind the scenes organizer” of Saddam’s trial, in which one judge was removed as too lenient and three defense lawyers were assassinated, according to the New York Times.[1] <#_ftn1> With the approval of Condoleeza Rice, US Task Force 134 delivered Saddam to his Iraqi executors, knowing that death would be inflicted on a Sunni holy day without independent witnesses or even the approval of the head of Iraq’s Supreme Judicial Council.

In the end, it appeared that the American propaganda investments of decades were dealt a serious blow. Saddam managed to conduct himself with immense dignity, even as the noose tightened around his neck; he thanked his American minders; he told the Iraqi national security adviser not to worry. Meanwhile, the hanging party turned out to be southern Shi’a militia members shouting sectarian chants, including “Moktada.” It was the forbidden camera revealed the nature of America’s allies in Iraq.

Seen in this light, the surge is actually a purge, a forced removal of Sunnis from Baghdad to the enclaves of al-Anbar, al-Diyala, and other parts of the Sunni Triangle, where they will be subject to assault by American troops and air power far from the scrutiny of journalists. A key element in the cleansing process will be special units from Kurdistan, the peshmerga, whose sole interest is dissolving the Iraqi state. If Baghdad’s Sunnis succumb to forced ethnic cleansing, they will be fulfilling the proposed agenda of a partitioned “end of Iraq” long favored by Peter Galbraith and Leslie Gelb. In this scenario, the Sunnis are being asked to end support for the insurgency in exchange for second-class status in an Iraq dominated by Shiites, Kurds and the United States. Relocated and trapped in their enclaves, the Sunnis will likely become more radicalized, not less, allying themselves with homegrown al-Qaeda units and Sunni exiles next door in Jordan, Syria, and Saudi Arabia. There they will continue fighting for the restoration of Baathist officers to protect their zones, and demand an equitable share of oil revenues and job funding. If necessary, they may even create a parallel entity seeking diplomatic recognition from their neighbors. [al-Qaeda already claims to be establishing a provisional Islamic state in Sunni-populated areas.]

It is little remembered that President Bush spoke of such a scenario just after the September 11, 2001 attacks. He promised not only to pursue those he termed terrorists and states harboring terrorists, but also of plans to “turn them one against another” until they would have “no refuge and no rest.” Those words are coming true in Iraq. [speech to Congress, Sept. 20, 2001]

But the escalation can flounder. More American troops means more hated occupiers, even if they come promising jobs. More American troops mean more targets for snipers. If the American surge becomes overwhelming, the insurgents always can retreat to other battlefronts, and wait, like modern Lilliputians against Gulliver.

First, however, the battle will be at home, state by state, district by district. Bush must convince the Democrats and several wavering Republicans to join him in snubbing the November 7 election results and the recommendations of the Baker-Hamilton Commission. That will not be easy, but the Democrats may compromise on funding some sort of escalation with the usual “benchmarks.” In that case, the 2008 elections will play out as a struggle to either uphold or reverse the peace mandate of November 2006.

###

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Famoksaiyan Sakkan Hugua

Ti bai kedagi hamyo, when I along with my cousin Alfred Peredo Flores Jr. and our friends Josette Lujan Quinata and Destiny Tedtaotao were planning the Famoksaiyan conference that took place last April, I never would have imagined what we would have ended up doing.

Since that conference we have had group meetings to team build, strategize and bring more people into Famoksaiyan in Guam, the Bay Area and Long Beach. Members of Famoksaiyan were also instrumental in organizing the recent trip by six Chamorros to testify before the United Nation's Committee on Decolonization.

Famoksaiyan also helped coordinate two huge events related to the decolonization of Guam and the revitalization of Chamorro culture and political activistm that have taken place over the past few months. First there was the United Nation's Report Back that took place at the La Pena Cultural Center in Berkeley. This evening was attended by more than 100 people, half of which weren't Chamorro or even from Guam, but had heard about the event either through word of mouth or the half a dozen radio interviews we had done. The program wove together presentations about Guams' precontact history, its colonial history and then a mixture of updates on its current colonial status, as well as what people in the states can do.

The second event just took place a few days ago titled Decolonizing Our Lives, and was patterned after the Report Back with a few notable differences. The audience for the Berkeley event was largely non-Chamorros or Chamorros who have been raised in the states, and so the program took this into account by providing a more creative and aesthetic presentation in order to capture the imagination of those watching and listening. The audience for Decolonizing Our Lives was diverse for sure, with many young people whether high school or college age kids attending. But also mixed in were the older generation of activists who have been struggling for decades with the issues that I have just starting to work on. Given the limited time we had to organize this event, the fact that the military increases in question are far from abstract but very real and concrete in Guam, as well as the fact that many people in the audience would already be familiar with the topics we would discuss, we scaled things down quite a bit to focus less on the form, but more on the content, providing a typhon of information that addressed decolonization in Guam from numerous angles.

I am constantly surprised at how things turn out. Despite the fact that Famoksaiyan is not a formal organization, and has neither a clear mission or non-profit status, it has already gone on to do great things, and started to effect some changes both in the states and on Guam. I am constantly given credit for the existence of Famoksaiyan, but I really wish that people would stop this. For this most recent event, I take very little credit. The majority of the credit goes to Victoria Leon Guerrero, who literally worked her daggan off for the past two weeks, making this event possible and sensational. Of course many others helped, both in speaking, presenting, getting the word out, making the event run smoothly, lao gi este na biahi annok yan ti puniyon na Si Victoria mas muna'possible este.

If you are interested in learning more about Famoksaiyan, I have some links and options for you.

If you would like to join Famoksaiyan, please email me at mlbasquiat@hotmail.com or sign up for the group listserv.

If you would just like to receive information about what Famoksaiyan is up to and from Famoksaiyan, whether it be new pieces concerning happenings in Guam, the Pacific and Chamorro communities throughout the world, then sign up for Famoksaiyan's Friends listserv.


Or, as a bonus treat for the new year, I'm pasting below all the links to the interviews that members of Famoksaiyan did over the past few months with regards to the current state of affairs on Guam and the most recent trip to the United Nations. Na'magof hao, ya na'banidosu hao lokkue put i bida-niniha i manhoben.

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November 9th, 2006 - Apex Express

http://www.kpfa.org/archives/index.php?arch=17065

And at the UN, the indigenous people of Guam called for the world to recognize their plight. Hear Victoria Leon Guerrero, Mike Tuncap and Erica Benton talk about how the US military base build-up on Guam will further erode their rights. We will also have music from Guam from Chris Barnett.

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November 17th, 2006 - Full Circle

http://www.kpfa.org/archives/index.php?arch=17202

Military Land Expansion in Guam

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November 20th, 2006 - Women's Magazine

http://www.kpfa.org/archives/index.php?arch=17238

Catalina Vazquez talks to two women from Guam, one of the last colonies in the world, about the U.S. military occupation and militarization of Guam and their recent visit to the United Nations to get support for the independence of Guam and to stop the military's plans to increase that occupation.

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November 21st, 2006 - Flashpoints

http://www.kpfa.org/archives/index.php?arch=17261

An Indigenous Chamorro group from Guam reports back from a delegation to the UN to protest expanding US militarization on their island.

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December 11th, 2006 - The Morning Show

http://www.kpfa.org/archives/index.php?arch=17592

Impact of U.S. Military bases on Guam (indigenously called ‘Guahan')

Victoria Leon Guerrero is an author of semi-autobiographical children's book about growing up on Guahan called "Lola's Journey Home” and is working on her Masters of Fine Arts in Creative Writing at Mills College. Julian Aguon, writer-activist from the island of Guahan (Guam), is the author of the new book “The Fire This Time: Essays on Life Under US Occupation." Michael Lujan Bevacqua is a Ph.D candidate in Ethnic Studies at the University of California, San Diego and the editor of the Minagahet (Truth) Zine, www.geocities.com/minagahet

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. http://www.kuam.com. 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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