Saturday, August 23, 2008

Kao Sina Hu Interview Hao?

Tomorrow I'll be in Denver for the Democratic National Convention. Kulang chubasko i hinasso-ku pa'go. Ti bula na tiningo'-hu put este na klasin dinana', ya ma'a'nao yu' na bai hu malingu gi todu i simana. Hafa i kustumbre put mangueguentos Kongresu pat Senadora? Kao maolek ha' na bei deka' siha gi i tata'lo-na ya faisen "Kao sina hu interview hao?"
Pat kao nisisario na bei famaisen mosu fine'nina? Siempre todu i mampulitikat u manggaige guihi, manggaiayudante. Siempre siha dumiside hayi i ma'gas-niha u kinentusi ya hayi u linaiseni.

This is my first convention, so there are alot of things I'm uncertain about. Protocols, schedules, events, directions. Right now I'm concentrating on preparing my research and coming up a list of topics that I'd like to write on, in addition to the interviews that I plan to do. I'm also working on the interview questions and approaches I plan on taking.

I already know that I will most likely be a quiet and minute sort of irritant at this convention. I am an Obama supporter and I am a registered Democrat, who comes from a family which is very strongly liberal and Democratic as well. But, I am also representing the interests of Guam which is not a state, but rather a territory, a colony of the United States. This status means that some of your issues may be the same as those of people from California, Texas or Hawai'i, but there will also be issues that are distinct not just to your ethnic composition, your geography, your history, but also your territorial/colonial status.

The nature of these conventions is that they are part unity building amongst your party members, spectacles designed to drive your party members into a frenzy, and party show of strength, a spectacle designed to make your opponents cower in fear over your showy podiums or backdrops, and also give the impression to the millions of unaffiliated and uninformed independent voters that you are the party who will win in November. I will absolutely participate in these celebrations, but I will also be present as a cautious reminder. As the Democrats bring out hundreds of speakers to prove to the rest of the nation that they are the party who best embodies the promise of America, who are the true heirs to the greatness of America, the better guardians of its future, I hope to remind them about Guam and the Pacific.

I have gotten advice from some that I need to be assertive about this. To go out there and confront these politicians who represent the government that controls the future of Guam, but knows little about it, and cares about it only so far as it is the "tip of their spear." This convention will be a dreamy Obama lovefest, fill of intentional amnesia, and so I need to be that rude awakening, which forces them to confront their colonies, the violence of their foreign policy and policies of militarization.

I think if Guam had a larger presence, this approach might yield some results. But I will likely be the only person who is asking these questions about Guam, and so if I do focus not on the content of my questions, but rather the aggressive form that I use, then it will be very easy for everyone to dismiss me. The primary reason I will be at this convention is not to change the minds of Congresswomen or Senators. I am not naive enough to believe that if I just tell the distinguished Congressman from such and such state about the dreams of the Chamorro people to be someday decolonized, he will become an ally in the struggle. I will be doing alot of informing to people about Guam and providing them information about Guam from a critical perspective, and not your usual "Guam, Where America's Day Begins!" style. But the intended audience for what I write and what I record from this convention is people in Guam, Chamorros around the world, and even other people from the Pacific.

I want to provide for Chamorros in particular a portrait of how their issues, their islands are understood by the Federal Government, by America's politicians, and what sort of help they can expect, on issues such as global warming, the military buildup, war reparations or decolonization. I hope to inform them about how their interests are being represented or possibly being attended to, and also how they are not, or how in some instances such as decolonization and the military build up, certain desires may be completely unintelligible or off-limits. Therefore my strategy will be much more quiet and measured, in the hopes that I can actually lay out the possible gaps, limits or contradictions of America's promise in relation to its territories, before I am dismissed as a crazy person. Rather than yell at a member of the Armed Services Committee that they need to decolonize Guam, I think it might be far more productive to discuss what plans they have in their militarizing of Guam, not just to ensure that the people of Guam "benefit" from the buildup, but how can this right to self-determination and decolonization be maintained in the midst of all the huge social, political, economic and environmental changes the buildup will bring. If they can't provide any answers beyond the empty rhetoric, or refuse to even discuss the issues, or are simply unable to even comprehend why anyone would want to "decolonize" when the United States is the colonizer, then we have the answer to the question. And the sad answer is that the United States is not taking that right seriously and is not considering it in their militarization of the island. The implication then is that if Guam's decolonization and its achieving an more equitable political status is important to you, then the military buildup is not something to look forward to, but to be cautious of, and possibly protest against.

As to why I feel the creating of this picture for Guam and for Chamorros is important, is primarily because of how it will transgress the usual way we see our relationship to the United States, tainted and overwhelmed with colonial desire and longing to be one with American. In the Democratic primary earlier this year and this convention we find two moments where Chamorros and others on Guam are easily caught up in feelings of being American, feelings of being recognized or respected by the United States, and so alot of the everyday forms of colonialism or inequality that they endure are lost or forgotten. I'm hoping to help stave off that amnesia, to remind people that as much as they may want it, the circle of belonging is not complete, Guam is not a state, the people of Guam are not "really" Americans, but sort of Americans. It does us no good to misrecognize that position, to pretend that we are more American than we really are. It is far better, although as all in Guam know and feel, much harder to accept the difficult colonial truth of our existence. I hope, that in my interviews I can speak to that ambiguous position of Chamorros and of Guam, and help better paint that image of where we are in relation to the United States.

To tell you the truth, there is some hope on the horizon for this dream of decolonization for Guam, a faint trace fell into my inbox this evening. It is not much, and probably won't amount to anything, but it is still something.

I just received a copy of "Renewing America's Promise," which is the 94 page document that the Platform Committee is submitting to the convention as the template for what will eventually be the Democratic Party's political platform for the election. I was surprised to see at the very end, sections of the sovereignty and political status of Native Americans, Native Hawaiians and the people of America's territories. This passage in particular surprised me, and I plan on using it in my interviews during the convention.
We support full self-government and self-determination for the people of Guam, American Samoa, the Northern Mariana Islands, and the Virgin Islands, and their right to decide their
future status. We will seek input from Guam on relevant military matters and we acknowledge the unique health care challenges that Pacific Island communities face. For all those who live under our flag, we support strong economic development and fair and equitable treatment under federal programs.

Whether or not something actually comes from this remains to be seen, but it is something to start off with, and it is far more than I expected.

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If any of you have suggestions for topics or questions for my interviews, or even people that you think it would be good for me to interview, you can email me at mlbasquiat@hotmail.com or leave a comment on this post.

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