Friday, April 18, 2008

Dialogue in an Occupied Space

If Guam wasn't so adept at being a colony, then this is the sort of dialogue which would be attached to everything. The political status of Guam would not be a distinct, narrow and limited issue (only taken up by "crazy" activists), but something much closer to its real position in daily life on Guam, but something which touches almost every aspect of our lives.

The military often describes itself as "stewards" of land, and their marketing is very invested in the idea that they are "guests." This rhetoric however does not make it very deep into the way soldiers interact with the populations that live outside on their bases, or the way the military as an institution treats the places that both willingly and unwillingly host them. The way the military is currently interacting with Guam right now in preparation for the upcoming buildup is an interesting display of forced partnership, where everything will be great so long as you accept everything we have planned. In Guam, the military acts as a guest who has nice public meetings, well-dressed and well-mannered spokepeople, big colorful charts and even handouts in Chamorro!

All of this display of partnership is very interested, because it is heavily invested in making sure that the lack of parity, equality and partnership is never revealed or felt on Guam. Guam's geographic location, its political status are both huge bonuses for the United States military, and are part of the reason that its investing so much of its future force projection in the region in Guam. But as I wrote recently in an article for the activist newsletter Draft Notices, another wonderful part of setting up camp on Guam and militarizing the hell out of the island, is the fantasy of it being an ideal military/civilian community. From the perspective of a Pentagon planner, Guam is great because the local community appreciates, understands and loves the military. They know the missions that the United States military has in protecting freedom and democracy in the world. They learned it well in World War II. They live that understanding by joining the military in huge numbers and by having parades and a ridiculous amount of yellow ribbons on their cars in support of the military.

This fantasy doesn't come from nowhere and its hardly uniform. Its fueled by government offices here and in the United States, and civilian offices such as the Chamber of Commerce, who all want to bring more military to Guam. Its endorsed by military planners and officials who know the importance of Guam and therefore play up the rhetoric of Guam being a critical spear tip in America's "War on Terror."

This being said, its also resisted by a small number of "maladjusted" people on Guam, and also by an always growing number of soldiers and military dependents, who simply hate Guam for so many different reasons.

But this illusion is one which all parties, local, Federal and military get invested in. The military has been invested a decent amount of effort in trying to create a public image of partnership between itself, Guam's political leaders, and regular people. It does this to protect the illusion of partnership, because so long as that illusion remains intact, then Guam is that ideal militarized community, it will continue to act and think of itself as that willing and patriotic partner. So long as people here to feel that, then whatever the military does to us, regardless of the law, our political status or the potential damage, we will feel like we had our say, that we approved of it, that we are partners in the "occupation" of this island.


Justice and decolonization are both practices, actions, mindsets which push against the flow of time. In Murphy's arguments below he asserts one of the most fundamental insights which works against those interested in justice or decolonization, and that is that, even if things shouldn't have happened, they did and there's nothing we can do about it. Just as there is "nothing" that can be done for African Americans in relation to slavery, since it was so far in the past and no one around today every owned slaves, there is nothing that can be done for Guam's political status or for its decolonization. Guam was purchased, Chamorros were made US citizens, military bases were built on the island.

In this mentality, the issue is not "going back" in time, altough this is always what people are accused of, living in the past, trying to turn back the clock, clinging onto a hope or a world which is gone.

In justice and decolonization, the "past" is not the issue. It is not about moving backward in time based on a previous crime or injustice, but rather where do we get to go next, and who gets to decide? And will that injustice, which is never really in the past, be something which simply must be forgotten and "gotten past," or will its recognition change how we see the present and the future? For both of these acts, the recognition of these past injustices is supposed to open up the future as well.

Since as Bush has so crudely shown throughout his adventure in Iraq, to "stay the course" is not a neutral act, the current, prevailing conditions or frameworks are far from unbiased or unprejudiced, they benefit and protect some over others. The world is built upon injustice which has already taken place, but the relationship between the "past" and the "present," between what has already happened (which nothing can be done about) and what is happening now and what can be affected, is never innocent, but always about power and privilege.


'Military should know they are just guests here'

In response to the Variety's 3/11/08 article on airmen being warned against possible harassment, while I do not always agree with the statements or placard displays by fellow activist Senot Howard Hemsing (Maga'Lahi Aniti), nor do I espouse his political status choice, I will stand to defend his right to do so.

The entire complement of the United States Air Force, Navy, Marines, Army and their associated reservists; Coast Guard; clandestine intelligence operatives; transplanted neopolitical subversives; nuclear powered ships and attack submarines (whether crashing into our undersea mountains or washing their contaminations into our ocean); stealth and other assorted bombers flying overhead and crashing onto our lands (whether armed or maybe not with weapons of mass destruction or just returning from air shows); the U.S. military industrial complex playing a heavy hand, not only toward the impending so-called "peacetime" invasion of my homeland, but also inviting further invasion and population explosion onto this small island under the guise of "business and other economic opportunities"... yeah, with all your power and might, USAF MSgt Wesley H.

Willand, let's start taking notes and making reports about harassment.

Take this note Master Sgt: Learn about the history and relationship between the United States and Guam - not just your yes sir, no sir, military indoctrination but our federal-territorial relationship. Learn about what my people went through here during WWII, and that even today there is still so much the United States has, as a sacred trust and obligation, to accomplish an continues to fail us. Try to see past the muzzle of your M16 and frightening WMD's, that we are not the enemy as you may perceive. In fact, you have just reinforced the resistance we are fighting... THAT your presence is a detriment to our peace and political destiny, our very freedom as indigenous people in our own homeland.

So, go ahead Master Sgt. and tell your people to file their complaints to your AAFB guards, for you see, we have no place to go do the same, save my voice - and Senot Hemsing's and those of our activist brethren - voices and signs, however disturbing they may seem to you, but we will not be silenced. You, sir, must realize you are guests in my homeland, and yes, even the very base you are occupying is Chamorro land!

Welcome to Guam Master Sgt., the land of the Chamorro people, colonized by the United States of America! By the way, why don't you tell your own people to restrict their own one-finger salutes to each other. I carry no weapons and I wish you peace, even as I struggle most non-violently for my own. When you see me next, I would just love it if you'd wave back, but, uh, no guns or bad language or rude gestures, OK? Nilibre!

Patty Garrido
Harmon Cliffline
(Naton, Guahan)

Marianas Variety


Sorry, lady, this island is occupied
joe murphy "murhpy's law"
Article published Mar 24, 2008

I find myself in a bind over the relationship Guam has with the U.S. government.

Here you find the big, bad U.S. government, perhaps not even elected by the people, telling us where we should pile up our garbage. That doesn't seem right to me, on the surface. You don't have to tell us when and where to pile our garbage. We're smart enough to figure that out by ourselves.

We don't need your help.

But on the other hand, we've been trying to close down the Ordot dump for 20 years, and we haven't been able to do it. So we would appreciate your advice on the matter.

Then I read a letter by one Patty Garrido, an activist, who says: "The military should know they are just guests here."

I laughed because I don't think the military is a guest at all. There is an expression that fits. It refers to "the guy who has the biggest gun is entitled to the most land." Garrido doesn't understand the principle of it all.

The Spanish occupied Guam hundreds of years ago because they had the guns. The Chamorros fought, at the time, but couldn't compete against modern weaponry. They, in effect, lost the island to the Spanish.

Then a few hundred years later, along came the Americans who had bigger guns. They took the island away from the Spanish, and claimed it for themselves.

Again, that didn't seem right to me, or to Garrido. But, that is how things work. The guys with the biggest gun, or the most modern technology can claim the land.

Open up your eyes, Garrido. That's the way the world is, and has always been. It was that way when Ghengis Khan captured most of the civilized world. It was that way when the Roman armies ran roughshod over Europe, the Mideast and parts of Africa.

Sure, it would be nice if the United Nations somehow laid claim to all the land and gave it back to the original owners. But that isn't about to happen.

The military, as part of the United States, is going to do whatever they want and there is not much we can say about it. In truth, many of the military you seem to be complaining about are young men and women from Yona or Inarajan or from Santa Rita. You can't tell them that they are guests here. No, ma'am. As Americans they have as much right to live here as you do. Ask any judge. Ask any U.S. taxpayer. Ask any congressman.

Wrong from the start
All that hassle over the Southern High School reminds me of a day, years ago, when then-governor Joe Ada asked me to sit in on a planning session with teachers and administrators who were planning the construction of the new high school needed in the South.

It was an interesting session, and the educators in attendance really worked hard to come up with a plan for the new school.

What went wrong? Did the contractor really goof up that badly? Or did the system break down?

The school was wrong from the very beginning. The swimming pool didn't work. The acoustics were bad. The gym didn't work. There wasn't enough toilets. And so on, and so on.

So much for getting educators together to plan a school. Better to let a contractor and an architect get together to hammer things out.

Cultural treat
Last week I got a cultural treat. That's one of the advantages of living on Guam. We've got so much culture, it makes for good living.

The Japan Club of Guam, who have been an important part of the island for years, hosted a great Japan Day at the Onward Beach Resort on the shores of the lagoon. I sat in the lobby for a minute and enjoyed a cup of coffee, and took in the fantastic view of the lagoon with the boats
roaring past. What a spot.

It was all Japanese for an hour or so. Their culture is so different from ours. I loved the music and the dancing. They wore native outfits, the kimonos, and the obis. Good show.

The United States just celebrated the 5th anniversary of the Iraq war. I don't think that "celebrate" is the right word. The country has lost almost 4,000 people in that misunderstood battle. We suffered a deficit of $175 billion in February alone.

Is it any wonder that the country is involved in a recession. Those billions of dollars could have been used for something useful, like putting New Orleans back together or helping Guam build a new dump site.

Wars are very expensive. Do you know that the cost of a fleet of F-35 jet fighters will cost the country $1 trillion dollars? That is a lot of bread.


Brace for impact
In the March 24th issue of a competing local newspaper, Señot Joe Murphy, in his column "Murphy's Law," responded to my article published in the Variety on March 18th, on the topic of airmen reporting harassment from local protestors --- in particular, my statement to the U.S. military that they are guests in MY homeland.

At the very least, he could have properly cited the Variety article, since nearly half of his column chided my lack of intelligence and unseeing eyes to the principle of "might makes right," or as he put it, "the guy with the biggest gun is entitled to the most land."

I could be upset and offended with the bullying and seemingly off-handed tone of his words, but I will rise above it because, while Señot Joe apparently doesn't know me, I am acquainted with a few members of his family personally, and even culturally, I've been taught to show respect to our elders, and I think he's way older than me! So ñoit, Señot Joe.

Now, let's talk. Guam is MY homeland, and this is MY story.

We know about Magellan; Father San Vitores; Spain-America's impact on Guam; Japan-America and WWII and their impact on Guam; America at war and that impact on Guam; the parable of the tribes that researchers and anthropologists define as Guam being the resilient society adapting the conquerors' who are the aggressive, predators of power... that "outsiders" introduce their ways into our society, whether by force or not, and we as Chamorros adapt. That we don't have the political (organized) governmental will, nor the military power, to defend ourselves against these intrusions. And this intrinsic makeup in our peoplehood and government may lead to our very demise.

At the end of the Spanish-American war in 1898, when Guam was won as a spoil of war by America, even your own people, Señot Joe, probably didn't know about Guam. My grandmother, my father's mother, was 33 years old then, speaking only Chamorro and Spanish. She was a "witness" during the War Crimes Tribunal after WWII, saving the necks of some of the most
prominent families on Guam today. She was 95 when she died, still not knowing English. My father, if still alive today, would be 101 years old. His father died in 1950 forever Chamorro, after his land was "taken" from him pre-Organic Act. My mother will be 94 this year, and she stands to defend her "land." Every male member of my immediate family served in the
U.S. military; I have a first cousin that was the only "starred" member of the U.S. Congress during his tenure. I am fully aware of the militarization of not only MY homeland, but my people and their pysche.

While I did not serve, I felt its impact - through the history of my family, my community, and MY island.

Chamorros join the U.S. military for many reasons --- be they economic, benefits to be gained, places to see, yes, even patriotism. That I speak to identifying with MY homeland, doesn't take away patriotism. Chamorros "in country" fighting America's fight in distant places identify Guam as homeland, and are drawn together. When I speak to the U.S. military as guests in MY homeland, I say it with the utmost of my being, resisting their aggressive power to conquer even more of MY homeland and my identity as a Chamorro.

As long as the exercise of my human right to political self-determination is denied, I will continue to resist. As long as my peoplehood is subscribed to a "parable of the tribes," I will continue to resist. As long as My homeland is offered as the "tip of the spear" to insulate America from the very terror that endangers the perpetuation of MY society, I will continue to resist. David slew Goliath. Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on the bus and provided the impetus for the civil rights movement. Ghengis Khan is both honored (by his people), and denounced by those descendants whose nations his army invaded --- even today. The Roman Empire fell. The Third Reich fell. The Berlin wall fell.

I close with this excerpt from the writings of Ronald Stanley of Campus Ministries at Ramapo College, New Jersey: "... Might does not make right, and no amount of rationalizing can make it so. People who are weaker do not loose their full human dignity of rights. When we let ourselves think that because we can do something we have the right to do it, or that superior might makes for superior right, or when we attempt to belittle another, it is our own humanity we are destroying." I refuse to consent to my destruction because of perceived superiority over my "weakness" or "smallness" and I resist any person or nation intent to do so. I may not survive, but as Rosa Parks said, "I'm tired of being tired" and no, sir, I will NOT give up my seat! Nilibre!

Patty Garrido
Harmon Cliffline
Ñaton, Guahan

Marianas Variety

1 comment:

CarbonDate said...

To respond to Ms. Garrido, the first time I saw protesters outside the Main Gate at Andersen, I waved.

Ma'am, I support you in your cause, and I hope for the day that Americans and Chamoru can sit together not only as equals, but as brothers and sisters.

Harassment? Is he kidding? Apparently there's a different standard for what constitutes harassment on Guam (standing outside the gate and holding signs of disapproval) and in Iraq (firing rockets into our base). Talk about thin skinned.


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