Thursday, September 11, 2008

Todu Dipende Gi Hafa Ta HaHasso

People often ask me how I became "political" or how I became "radical."

There are a number of points in my life that I point to, each of which in some way contributed to the development of the consciousness that I use to write this blog.

One faint event is the time that my family spent in Africa when I was a small child, and the experiences we felt there as a mixed family with a white father and a brown mother and two brown children.

Another is a variety of experiences as a undergraduate at the University of Guam, and finding myself entangled in numerous forms of faculty racism and apathy.

One whose seventh anniversary just passed today is the 9/11 attacks. I had always been a more liberal and Democratic person, but it was the 9/11 attacks and the subsequent run up to war against Afghanistan and Iraq that pushed me to become a more mature anti-war or peace activist. It was also interestingly enough, 9/11 that helped propel me into becoming a far more intelligent and aware progressive Chamorro activist.

It was 9/11 and all the gestures that people on Guam made in order to feel and be a part of America in the aftermath that made me perceive clearly the colonial relationship we have with the United States, where the reality that we face everyday is dismissed and casually cast aside so that we may imagine, often based on nothing more than emotion that we and Guam are more American than we really are.

In the days after 9/11 this was made most clearly to me through the ways in which Pearl Harbor was invoked. Although this is an idea which has long left the consciousness of Americans, in the week following the attacks, Pearl Harbor was an analogy that was used by both local and national media in order to make "sense" of what had just happened, the "surprise" attack on American "soil." Just as the tranquillity of America life had been shattered by the Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor, Hawai'i in 1941, so too was the attacks in New York and Washington D.C. in 2001.

I found it interesting that even Chamorros, old and young on Guam, who were trying to describe their own feelings of shock and vulnerability also used Pearl Harbor, despite the fact that Guam, the island that they call home, was attacked the same day. At a moment when their feelings appeared to be so personal and intimate, so tied to their innermost feelings, it was strange that no one thought to articulate their fears through the most obvious choice, the Japanese attack on Guam in December 1941 and subsequent invasion. Instead, they imported an event from the larger national imagination of the United States, which ended up erasing their own place in that attack that brought Guam and the United States into World War II.

These ways in which Chamorros erased their own local histories and identities in order to force their way into the American family, all helped give me my first lessons into contemporary colonialism in Guam.

My first attempts at writing about this came in 2003, when I was fortunate enough to be given the opportunity to write an article for the short-lived, but still important magazine Galaide, published by the Guam Communications Network in Long Beach, California. My article was titled "Todu Dipende Gi Hafa Ta Hahasso: Chamorros on Guam and 9/11." I've decided to link to it here, to mark the seventh year since 9/11.

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