Friday, May 02, 2008

Which Way Will Guam Go?

I've received a few emails from bloggers in the states, wondering Hayi i gayu-na Guahan gi i Democrat na banda? or Which way is Guam going to go in its primary?

For those of you who aren't counting every single delegate in the Democrat race for the nomination, tomorrow Guam will be participating in helping choose the next Democratic nominee for President. Well, in reality, Guam has helped "choose" the candidates for Democrats and Republicans for decades already, but due to the closeness of this race, a lot of territories and states which usually aren't supposed to matter, suddenly are!

But, back to Guam. For almost all in the United States, this news is surprising. If you are like this person, Ron at Monroe News, who wrote an almost insane post on Guam the other day, then its surprising simply because a place you know nothing about, is helping to select the person who might be the next president of the United States. Although this person is a bit extreme, ya buente ha hahasngon tumaiguini para u na'chalek, in their "ignorance" of what Guam is in relation to the United States, it nonetheless represents the response of most people in the US.

It is something attached to the United States, maybe something we owned, something we picked up somewhere along the way, at a garage sale or something. But that's really about it. It has military bases, people from the United States serve there, maybe it has gooney birds, or snakes or cannibals. Oh, and wasn't it mentioned in Dodgeball?

As a nation which has so much incredible amnesia over its long history of displacement and colonization in North America and the Pacific, people in the US naturally tend to wallow in this protective ignorance about islands such as Guam that they have picked up, as if by magic. I'll give you a small taste of Ron's piece, which is both incredibly funny, but also very frustrating and aggrivating.

Did you even realize that Guam is involved in our election process? Let's be honest. How much do we know about Guam?What is its capital? Does it have a king, a queen, a president or a prime minister? What is the main language? Are the people considered Americans? Are they called Guamites, Guamanders or maybe Guamians?I'm sure Guam is a lovely place since tourism is its main source of income, but there is very little we know about the island. I don't think the people of Guam care much about us, either. Does it really matter to them if the United States has a Democrat or a Republican in the White House?Guam isn't likely to make a difference in the Democratic primary since only three delegates are up for grabs. But what about Puerto Rico, which has 55 delegates and votes June 1? It could be important in this still-too-close-to-call primary.If Guam and Puerto Rico get a chance to vote, it seems like Mexico, Canada and China also should have a voice in selecting our president. Mexico and Canada have a big stake in NAFTA. Trading goods with the United States is a big deal in China. It isn't in Guam.

For those who wonder, why I'm writing my dissertation, it is for this reason. This casual, almost joking ignorance about Guam isn't just there, isn't harmless and isn't truly ignorant or meaningless. It is instead very productive and very powerful.

Anyways, the other side of this "surprised" coin, is that people who do know something about Guam, and perhaps know some very critical things about the island and its history of American colonization and militarization, they might be surprised to know that Guam gets to participate at all in this election, since Guam, like people in all the other islands of the US insular Empire, don't get to vote for the President of the United States.

But, this is what living in the territories, the colonies of today's America means. It means living a sort of half-existence. I would never claim that people in Guam are the most oppressed people around. No, Guam's colonial existence is as Robert Underwood has often said, is a comfortable one, but a colonial one nonetheless. Colonial in relation to the United States today, means unequal in a very ordinary, blatant and casually excepted way. It means that you occupy an exceptional and unequal position, but its not such a big deal, because your status, gets you part of the way there. Not all the way there, never close enough that your position as part of the United States is secure.

No, as a colony, your exclusion from the union of states and "real" Americans is something anybody can accomplish. Last year, the conservative blogosphere, was innundated with angry and ignorant posts and comments about how Chamorros from Guam, would possibly be getting compensated by the Feds for their treatment by both the United States and Japan during World War II. The ire was a mixture of anger over the fact that these "non-Americans" would be getting free American money and also that "real" true red-blooded Americans who fought and served in World War II, and in every war since aren't going to get compensated for their "suffering." This sort of stuff is not unusual, but for anyone who cares to find it or read it, is always out there.

Just a few months ago, Florida Congresswoman Ginny Brown-Waite, rallied against a proposed economic stimulus package, by decrying the fact that it would go to "foreign citizens" such as "residents of Puerto Rico and territories like Guam."

This is the life of those in the colonies of the US today. Its like there is this big circle of belonging which sometimes catches you and sometimes doesn't. There is no star for you on that flag which would allow you to take for granted your Inamerikanu. Instead you exist to constantly remind the United States that you are there, that you exist, and that it controls your destiny because it refuses to let you choose your own.

I've gotten off topic a little bit, but the point is that, in Presidential elections, people on Guam, American Samoa, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands do have a say, but only in the primaries. When it comes to the actual election, their votes do not count.

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Now that I've set this up though, who will actually win Guam? Hayi pau hokka' i delegates Guahan?

After giving this much thought, and despite my own personal preferences, I think that pa'go Guam will go for Hillary.

Guaha tres na rason, na hu hohongge este. 1. Name recognition. 2. Hillary and Bill's ties to Guam. 3. Her union support.


Despote Obama's recent meteoric rise to national fame, i mina'lak i piti'on-na, has barely registered on Guam. Besides, even if he had become a house hold name on Guam, he has to contend with the obtrusive name recognition of Bill and Hillary, both of whom visited Guam in the 1990's.

I was talking to one of my friends today about this, who is from the CNMI, and I remarked to her that people in the colonies have paradoxically the worst and the best memories, about different things of course. When it comes to issues of colonialism or injustice, people in the colonies may feel these things, the trauma, the dread of these issues in their body, their blood, their being, but rarely in their spoken words, in their everyday activities. When it comes on the other hand, to things, pi'ot finatto, or namely visits which link the colony to the metropole, or which allow the colonies to transcend their marginal and limited position and gain the attention or recognition of the nation or the world, these things are never forgotten.

For those interested, when Robert Underwood provided one of the introductions for Bill Clinton during his visit, he began his speech in Chamorro. I just thought it might be interesting, to post it here:

Bunitu na ha'ane, gatbo na ha'ane, mambunitu na taotao yan mandistengge na bisista. Nimorias yan saludu para tododos hamyo guini na empottanten okasion. Kon dangkolo na respetu, ginen i et mas didok na sinienten minagof yan na manman na matto i ora annai para ta aksepta gi halom i taotao-ta i sinot Presidente as William Jefferson Clinton, put mas matungo' si Bill Clinton. Para hita ni' mantaotao este na isla, ni' hagas madispresia, ni' hagas madisatendi, ni' hagas ti ma rekoknisa, maila' ya ta gof hasso este na momentu gi estorian i tano'-ta, este na momentu gi eksperensia-ta kumu taotao Guam. Manelu-hu yan manaina-hu, i manatungo'-hu taya' parehu-na este na okasion. Matto i Presidiente ya ha na'annok na ha tungo' hayi hit, na ha tungo' put i tano'-ta, na ha kumprendi i sichuasion-ta yan ha respeta i eksperensian i manaina-ta. Maila'ya ta fan danna' ya ta selebra i finatto-na gi tano'-ta gi animosu na manera yan kon minagof biba President Clinton; Biba President Clinton, Biba President Clinton.

Hillary has the benefit of this sort of durable memory which is tied to those moments of exuberant sudden Americaness. She has the benefit of her own stopover in Guam in 1995 on her way to China, as well as Bill's visit to Guam in 1998, where thousands and perhaps tens of thousands gathered in Adelup to see him.

Interestingly enough, the Clinton visit in 1998 was rumored to be a reciprocal gesture on behalf of then Governor of Guam Carl Gutierrez, who was running for re-election and has raised huge sums of money for the Clintons from local democrats. Part of the understanding for this relationship was that in exchange for this fundraising, a commonwealth bill, which would change Guam's political status to give it more autonomy and control over local affairs was to be sent to Congress for apporval. The bill eventually did make it to Congress, however was never passed. It might because of this, that Gutierrez and his wing of the local Democratic party has come out in support of Obama, and spearheaded a number of events on his behalf.

Clinton has picked up the support of Guam's largest union, the Guam Federation of Teachers (which is affiliated with the AFL-CIO), and this may be the thing which gives her the biggest boost, in terms of getting a huge number of people (mainly middle aged and above teachers) out to support her next week. (I've attached her letter to the GFT to this email) Obama, as expected appears to have the youth appeal, and so his volunteers and supporters on Guam tend to be high school or college age students.

Both campaigns have been sending messages to the island. Bill Clinton called into some radio stations last week, and so did Obama's sister.

Hillary Clinton gave an interview with KUAM News on Saturday. You can find the info here.

Obama gave an interview with them on Tuesday.

Today, both of them were again calling in to speak to voters on the island.

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Otro fino'-ta...

Siempre i meggaina na taotao manmagof put este na atenshon para i isla-ta. Lao para Guahu, hekkua'. Hunggan sina ta bota gi este na botashon. Lao gi i botashon ni' mismo gaibali. Ti sisina ha'.

Fihu tumuge' yu' put este na klasin ginaddon siha. Este na "primary" fumafa'Amerikanu hit. Hunggan, i taotao Guahan Amerikanu, lao ti este na klasin Amerikanu. Un sahnge na klasi, un takpappa' na klasi. Gi este na botashon, mismo mamfina'bababa hit.

Mangkinahahayi hit ni' este na bota.

Lao, para hafa na bei sangan este? Nihi ta silebra este na ratu. Ti sina hu puni na manmagof i taotao. Atan ha' Si Sumahi. Achokka' ti sina mambota, magof ha' gui'!

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