Tuesday, January 15, 2008

A Letter from the Frontlines

At present I'm trying to extend the scope of my blog and its readership beyond just Chamorros who stumble across my blog because they are googling around trying to find the lyrics to the song Apo Magi or Japanese businessmen and American military who are searching for massage parlors on Guam. This shift was prompted when I received a new visitor to my blog, Carbondate, a progressive military blogger who is currently stationed on Guam. The name of his blog is the command post, and he has some very good commentary there, on the presidental races in the US and New Orleans, which everyone should check out.

Last month he wrote a post about my blog titled "Chamorro Blogger: Remnants of Colonialism" which not only linked people to this blog, but also informed people in the United States in a very straightforward and clear way about Guam's status as a contemporary American colony. It is rare to see people from the United States on the internet speak so frankly about this without coercion or convincing on the behalf of maladjusted activists such as myself. Usually on this sort of topic, I encounter people who are of the complete opposite opinion and need to be slapped around for a bit first, to shake off their layers of ignorance and delusion. For them, even if the relationship between Guam and the United States is obviously colonial, their response is a defensive "so what?", because the United States is the greatest country in the world, and so better a colony of the US, then anything else, independent or otherwise.
According to this post, Carbondate is making one of his blog's progressive missions to inform other Americans about the colonial situations of Guam and Puerto Rico. A rareity amongst progressive bloggers in the United States, which tend to ignore the plights of the American territories or just think of them as sort of states which are majority brown people, he is clearly and openly advocating for both of their decolonization, and pushing others in the United States to recognize this need as well.

Yet he is doing this with an understandable caveat, which I'll quote below:

However, I recognize that this type of change does not come of its own accord. The people of these U.S. territories need to demand the change and not take "no" for an answer. This is how women won the right to vote, it's how the labor laws of the early 20th century were passed, and it's how the civil rights legislation of the 1960s was passed. It's also how our territories are going to win, at a minimum, equal standing with the states, if not outright independence.

Power is never given; it is only ever taken. So to my neighbors on Guam I say, "take the power back".

All the informing of people in the United States won't mean anything, unless there are movements in our islands which can take advantage or work with this de-nationalized consciousness, to make decolonization possible, to make it work. For the past few year's I've been working with so many other dedicated activists on Guam and in the diaspora, Chamorros and non-Chamorros on building this sort of consciousness, and given the summit which was held last month, it is clear that we are making some progress. There is, as always, much more work to be done. Bula'la' na cho'cho' tetehnan para ta cho'gue.

I think however, as frightening as it might be, that the impending military buildups to the island, which will bring more than 20,000 new military personnel and their dependents to the island, is actually a big help in this process. As the island, without our consent is about to be innundated again with more military than we can probably handle, and pressed into serving in a war that we might not want or care for, more and more people, and not just the "activists" or the "Chamorro nation types" are starting to realize the unfairness of our situation. Starting to realize that the America which we think and wish we were a part of, is really interested in what is best for our island or what we need or want, but always has other plans for us, which always involve the further militarization of Guam.
But as I work with others on this, I am also trying to make connections and basically help Carbondate in the politicization of people in the United States, and the informing them of the status of Guam, and their obligation in decolonizing it. In this spirit, I recently joined up with the Out of Iraq Bloggers Caucus, which is made up of dozens of bloggers who are invested in getting the United States out of Iraq. Like most liberal/progressive communities, these are people who might be sympathic or supportive with those of us who are working towards Guam's decolonization, but either have no knowledge or very little knowledge about its status. For them Guam is either nothing or it is simply a military base. They idea that it a number of military bases which take up 30% of the 210 sq. miles of an island whose indigenous people the Chamorros have been fortunate enough to endure the past century of American colonization, is simply beyond anything they could fathom.

To kick off this move on my blog, I'd like to share with everyone an email/letter to the editor from a Chamorro serving his second tour in Iraq. Si Yu'us Ma'ase Charissa sa' Hagu muna'hanaogue yu' ni' este. Fotte i siniente, ya sina ha fa'na'gue hit meggai put i estao-ta giya Guahan.
This essay was written in my effort to express a local perspective into a war few in the media, and island understand. I sent it to Pacific Daily News, after making contact with a editor through email and was asked to write and send pictures. I did and found no response since. I could not find a contact in Marianas Variety so if any do please forward this, with the intention of remembering those from the Islands who have served and remain a ripple in the pond, have created change and are a part of a change regardless if seen as good or bad, honorable men and women who gave, or give the ultimate sacrifice, being gone for long periods of time from their families or to a higher place....................

First and for most, I would like to convey my families condolences to the to former senator Umpingco's family. All people from all parts of Guam, appreciate the sacrifice he, and his family gave to serve our Island.

I write to you not for fame or recognition, but to share a event that might bring the war closer to home, and sharing one of my experience's in Iraq. This is a example of the emotional rolacoster that we face everyday. I hope that those that read this (if published) understand my intentions for it's weight in my heart compelled me to write .......

I arrived In Balad, Iraq with high hopes of finding friends and family, like I did in 2006. A second tour for me, and a holiday free tour in the sand box. I met the Guam National Guards 909th, Gil Reyes of Yona, Craig, my second cousin from Malojojo and David Quimbao from Talofofo, a childhood friend and brother in arms. To my surprise and dismay, those days of comfort and taste of home no longer existed. I visited the former building of the 909th, and asked a officer I saw walking out if he knew where the the Chamoru's were and he looked at me with a no idea. I found it alittle disturbing considering the big cement mortar barrier with the 909th emblem and Guam seal to their backs, and they still had no idea of whom I speak.

As I drove away with mixed feelings about them being gone and me being alone, and reassuring my self of the better morning my comrades will have because they will wake up too their families in Guam, something struck me to the core. A man was standing along the fence line with a little girl in his arms courting with the other towards the little girl in his arms saying loud and clear " Gift, Gifts, Gift", as to gesture something from the impenetrable walls that divide us. To help clarify what a man was doing out side the fence, I must explain. Outside the wire, farmers tend to their sunflower patches, and other vegetables while still tending to the children and live stock. All my training did not prepare me for what I was seeing. I could respond to incoming mortar, and taking on enemy fire, but this hopefully innocent gesture by this farmer, did me in. All my thoughts of fighting and unhappiness from being away from home stopped. I did what every well trained sailor or soldier would do.....

I have flown in helicopters over homes made of clay and farms as green as the Talofofo valleys in the middle of a desert, I have seen many of things, nothing more troubling than the man outside the wire with that little girl. It brought to light questions of this war, and what that man, like those of his country think. With Guam always in my mind, and the image of that man and child staring in the fence, I immediately related with the thought of us Chamoru's looking in the fence on our own land, and saw me and my 2 girls (Ha'ani & Sinahi), looking at the already crowded island with base's extending the fence lines with the soon movement of Marines, and the island's economic hand being led into reliance on the federal government or foreign investors. Every day away from my family, and Guam, the more I ponder on our course as a people, just like those in Iraq hoping the effort put into this war, and it's restructuring is really for their benefit.

To those fellow Chamoru's who have served and sacrificed their lives, I remember you and your sacrifice, and use that fuel to keep my head up with the love from my wife and two kids.
If I could convey one message, to people in Guam, " Hita I man Taotao Tano! Hita I kutura, I linguahi, i biblia, I ire yan I Tano Chamoru!" Your pains are the pains of every people, no matter the shades of ones skin, we must work toward a common goal of affordability in our home land, and our acceptance of changes on our own terms.

Saina Ma'ase,
Sean R, "Aguon" Sanchez


charissa said...

Si yu'os ma'ase che'lu.


charissa said...

By the way . . . I just returned from Malaysia after attending the 4th International conference on Environmental, Economic, Cultural and Social Sustainability. Just a heads up, the may be bringing the conference to Guam in 2010. I'll keep you posted.


CarbonDate said...

Thank you for linking to my blog. I've been remiss in replying -- my apologies. If you look at my blog, you'll see that I've written to Sen. Obama about this matter, and will continue to do so until I receive a reply.

My blog does not have a large readership, but I am attempting to remedy this by advertising it. I hope that, as my readership grows, so too will awareness about Guam. I'm looking for ways to interject this issue into the current Presidential election, although I fear that, as with all things, the discussion about Iraq will continue to overshadow it.

The thought of people fighting for this country who have no voice in its affairs is poignant to me, and I thank you for sharing the letter you posted. I will continue to do my part.


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