Thursday, June 26, 2008

Fache'

During the 2004 Presidential election I received the following email from a Chamorro in the states. As you can tell from its tone and content, she was most definitely a Republican, and most likely someone who ga'umegga' Fox News. Her basic argument is that Chamorros and other non-white groups are foolish to follow the Democrats instead of Republicans.

Michael, you have the correct idea of involving the Chamorro people in politics to become a “voice of the island”. I, myself am working on getting the Chamorro people to register to vote and get involved.

However, Michael, it is my believe that as a former resident of Los Angeles, you are influenced by the Liberals out there.

The fact of the matter is that Chamorro people resemble the Republican Party more as they are devout Roman Catholics (i.e. pro-lifers, anti gay lifestyle, etc. etc.).

If you would do your research you will find that the Democrats have been lying about the Republican Party for ages! The Democrats are the wealthier people (ask Bill Gates, Donald Trump and Ophra), AND … they are NOT there for the MINORITES! The fact of the matter is that the Republican Party originated under Abraham Lincoln to FREE THE SLAVES and ALLOW WOMEN TO VOTE!

As for President Bush … he’s the first President to put minorities in high power! Ask the Attorney General, Secretary of State, United States Treasurer and the whole bunch in office now!

The Hispanics and a lot of Blacks are coming to support the Republican Party like never before! The proof is in the pudding.

The Democrats want Minorities to remain in a poverty position. It is them who put the Gays and Lesbians in high positions and give them the status of “minorities” like you and me.

I hope you wake up the truth Che’lu.

Si Yuus Maase!


The basis for her email is first the correct assumption that non-white groups in the United States tend to vote Democratic. Non-white groups are not uniform in this support or even in its levels, but nonetheless taken as an abstract whole this is true. The second assumption is the Republican talking point which contends that non-white groups are duped by Democrats into believing that they are the party for them, when in reality history and philosophy say the Republicans are a better choice.

Obviously this point is very stupid, the Republicans are not just implicitly but explicitly the party that believes that a particular type of heterosexual white male should be in charge of everything, but nonetheless we can find a few faint traces of possible truth here. For instance, the lure of shared "conservative" values is something that does draw some African American, Latino and Asian American votes. There is also a sort of silent assumption amongst many Democrats that since the Republican party can be so "anti-minority" there is no other place for those minority votes to go, and so they can be taken for granted. Although I've just said that Republicans are the explicit party of heterosexual white males, I shouldn't let the Democrats off the hook, they are still very much, implicitly a party of white people.

(More on this later, but to get your started, check out my friend Jose's post on it "Race Baiting and White Entitlement Tantrums")

One point which can be very much illustrated through the Chamorro experience is the sort of affinity that non-white groups make with the Republican party because of that illusion that Republicans are bigger supporters of the US military and the Democrats are just a bunch of anti-war mamfloritas. In almost all minority and indigenous groups in the United States, the military has and continues to play a central role in their social and economic upward mobility. It has become an integral part of how they tell their story of where they came from, and how they achieved a measure of success in America, how they became "model Americans." And therefore, since the idea that the Republicans are more strident and determined supporters of the military and the troops is pretty much hegemonic (despite not being true), many non-white groups are drawn to vote for or support Republicans.

Returning to the email itself, there are plenty of problems with it. It is, like most political talking points (Democratic or Republican) based on very simplistic understandings of history. This particular talking point is built from the distillation of the complex and uneven multitude of events in the past two centuries of American history, into a handfull of points, which in the grand scheme of things mean very little, but when compiled into a list and a caricature of history in support of a particular political point, gain an aura of relevance.

For instance, so what if President Bush chose "minorities" to be in his cabinet? He wasn't the first to do so, and even so, does the simple fact that someone is the first "minority" in an office really mean anything? Perhaps, but far more important than the minority chosen or the person/party who is doing the choosing, is what is the political and social climate like at the time of the nomination? For instance, to propose an African American man for a cabinet position today, or even an Asian American woman is not a testament to the minority loving leadership of the Republican or the Democratic party. The United States has changed, and its come to a point where that sort of choice would not be controversial, and would not necessarily meet any resistance.

What would show true leadership is if a President 150 years ago selected an "Asian-American" to be in his cabinet. At that time, such a choice would have INCREDIBLE resistance and been fiercely opposed. That choice would require a very real commitment to non-white people or to "minorities." So this sort of argument about which party takes seriously the plights of those who are downtrodden, marginalized or disenfranchised, must be brought into the contemporary context. If the Chamorro in the email above wants to make a case for any party being for marginalized or subordinated groups, and wants to use that sort of act of inclusion as an example, then she would have to look beyond the typical American ethnic/racial food groups, and show off the party who chose a Muslim American for a high level cabinet position, or even better, an undocumented immigrant!

But, this sort of analysis then might seem to prop up the argument that Republicans are the party for minorities because Republicans freed the slaves and gave women the right to vote. Because at those times, these sorts of acts met some resistance and could be considered politically risky. But this is why these sorts of caricatures of history are so dangerous, because history does not move like a list of bullet points, nor like a well paved freeway moving always progressively moving forward and getting better. Just as it may have been a Republican who "freed the slaves," it was also a Republican who just a few years ago infered that if we still had a segregated society, America wouldn't have so many problems.

If any political party wants to make a case such as this, then it requires more than one or two events over the course of two centuries. It requires a sustained sort of commitment, and in the case of Republicans they have way too much evidence and events working against them.

(Despensa sinora (ni' tumuge' i email), lao mampos fina'baba hao ni' i fino' Republicans. Ai adai, hu diseseha mohon na u matulaika i hinasso-mu, ya pinacha' hao ni' i minagahet)

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I came across the above email because I was going through my research over the years about Chamorros and political attitudes in the diaspora, in hopes of better understanding what their opinions and feelings might be about the current election between Obama and McCain. Hayi i gayu-niha? Hayi ma abobona? Hayi ma sapopotte? I still haven't come up with a detailed analysis, but I've already got some leads based on my time spent at the Sons and Daughters of Guam Club in San Diego over the past few months.

In preparation for the Guma'famoksaiyan conference last month, I placed some flyers and information on the board in the Guam club, since one day of the conference was taking place in their club house. Interestingly enough, each week when I would come back to the Guam club I would find my flyers gone, obviously taken down and probably thrown away. On more than one occasion, they were replaced with some of the notorious/racist/inaccurate emails that have been floating around about Barack Obama purporting to speak the "truth" about the candidate.

Jon Stewart on The Daily Show said recently of these racist emails which claim things such as, Obama is truly a radical Muslim whose wife hates whitey, that this was probably first email that your grandmother ever successfully sent. It was interesting, because amongst the members of the Guam club, the majority of whom are old enough to be grandparents and great grandparents, the "smears" or the fache' found in these emails were basically truth and had become their own talking points. Elderly Chamorros who probably had never met a Muslim before and had never heard of a madrassa before, were speaking very forcefully and with Fox News-like conviction about both of these things.

I think that most people would assume that Chamorros, being brown as they are, like Obama, would therefore feel an affinity with his experiences and with some of his ideas. I have found some of this (definitely from younger Chamorros), but from the older generation no. Instead I have found the sort of Republican fantasies that the above email is built around being the political foundation for Chamorros, or the basis through which what they see ideologically as true or false, and thus accepting (ai mantaitiningo' este siha) the Republican attack points as God's word.

The result is that Chamorros begin to parrot off "facts" that they really know little about, and haven't bothered to check whether they are true or not, but nonetheless communicate them with an air of being obviously true. Obama is supported by Hamas and Bin Laden. Obama's middle name is Mohammed. Obama was sworn in as a Senator in Washington D.C. on a copy of the Koran. In recent months, Chamorros that fit this mold, end up sounding like the voters of West Virginia, featured in this Daily Show clip below.



Barack Obama and his campaign have started a new website Fight the Smears in order to combat the ways in which his skin color and his roots in Africa, Hawai'i and Indonesia have made him an easy target for almost any smear that marks him as foreign, different or Muslim. You can go to this website and sign up to help Obama spread the truth about himself, his wife and his campaign, by flooding the internet and people's inboxes with accurate information. Its very much needed and I'm glad he's taking an aggressive and grassroots approach to it (as well as his well financed media deluges). Because these sorts of othering shots don't stay simple or small, but they find ways of ballooning out of control.

I should note here, that I don't have a problem if Obama was a Muslim or if his middle name was Osama Bin Laden. I do have a problem though with the approach that Democrats and Obama's campaign take, that make it feel implicitly like there is something wrong with him or anyone else being a Muslim. But nonetheless, from the perspective of the campaign, these sorts of taints, where Obama is permanently associated with some "transcendent" evil fad, are just the beginning of a more dire process whereby the candidate then becomes associated not just with that particular characteristic or idea, but instead a whole host of negative concepts, images and possibilities, the intersections of which form the source of the problems in the world and the ruining of America's future. Once Obama is intimately associated with that "evil" then he becomes the catalyst which will pave the way for America's doom. Once he is part of that evil, even in a banal way, then his election represents, losing the Iraq War, more terrorist attacks, more racial problems, more handouts to lazy minorities, the opening of the borders and the dilluting of America.

In the spirit of mocking this sort of sentiment, I've compiled a list of Guam/Chamorro specific problems which Barack Obama can be blamed for. I wouldn't be surprised if in a few weeks I find this list in my inbox forwarded to me by someone's grandmother, as the minagahet of Senator Barack Obama. For those with no sense of humor, or who just don't think the stuff below is funny, sorry, its all meant to be a joke.

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LISTEN UP GUAM! HERE IS THE TRUTH ABOUT SENATOR BARACK OBAMA!!!! HE IS NOT WHO HE SEEMS!! HE IS NOT GOOD FOR AMERICA AND NOT GOOD FOR GUAM!!!!

(not that this matters since we can't vote anyways)

Barack Obama is responsible for the whole COLA scandal.

Barack Obama is responsible for both the poor infrastructure planning in Tumon and Tamuning, as well as the current moratorium on any more water and wastewater hookups

Barack Obama is making the gas prices go up

Barack Obama is the reason that the military closed NAS

Barack Obama is the reason that Chamorro musicians today just translate their songs directly from English, instead of being creative with them.

Barack Obama caused World War II and is also the one preventing Chamorros from getting War Reparations.

Barack Obama is the reason that the Chamorro Village sells so few “Chamorro” things

Barack Obama is behind the whole “Chamorro” and “Chamoru” debate. He is also the reason that King’s spells the word like this, “Chamorru.”

Barack Obama directed Max Havoc, and worse yet is the reason that Carmen Electra is only in the movie for about twenty seconds

Barack Obama is the one who used to put all those brown tree snakes on the power wires

Put Si Barack Obama, tåya’ nai ma fa’tinas i mina’dos na album Chamorro.

Barack Obama is the one who made Howard Hemsing’s “Yankee Go Home!” sign

Barack Obama is the reason that Dave Davis is so frightened, angry and bitter

Barack Obama is behind all the bronze plaques and copper wiring thefts on the island

Barack Obama is the reason that people say the word “Chamorran”

Barack Obama is the reason that even though you pay for DSL from GTA, the internet gets disconnected every time the phone rings

Barack Obama killed Cedric Diggory, Sirius Black, Mad Eye Moody, Remus Lupin, Nymphadora Tonks and Dumbledore

Barack Obama is spearheading a movement to rename “Marine Corps Drive” “Marine Drive Magazine Drive.”

Barack Obama is the white lady in Mai'ina

Barack Obama was really the one who grabbed the gavel from Judi Won Pat

Barack Obama closed down Gameworks

Barack Obama is the reason that it always rains on Liberation Day

Barack Obama is the one who keeps putting casino gambling on the election ballots and who also keeps organizing the Lina’la’ Sin Casino movements

Barack Obama is the one who wrote all the terrible Guam jokes for Bob Hope, Johnny Carson and Jon Stewart

When the Marines and their dependents get to Guam and the roads get worse, the infrastructure becomes even more strained and the cost of living shoots up even more, it will all be Barack Obama’s fault

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