Thursday, October 16, 2008

You May Tell Yourself...This is Not My Beautiful Island!

The new Oliver Stone movie will be out tomorrow and I'm very excited about it.

For better or for worse, Oliver Stone movies were one of my first very concrete experiences of being masumai or dunked into a historical context, and not hating or loathing it. Despite the creative liberties taken in the films, there is something often more real about them then actual real life, as if through fiction you can actually reach what "really" happened in a way that if you simply video taped the world you couldn't. Films such as JFK, Platoon, Nixon and Born on the Fourth of July, all brought me into American history in such a way that I was both entranced and disgusted. For me, and you may disagree, but JFK and Platoon were riveting stories, and Nixon was a film I thought I would detest or find boring, but like most Oliver Stone films I found myself wrapped up in it, and embodying what was probably the base intent of the film, that more people both understand Nixon and hate him. The films were also disgusting in some intentional way and other ways unintentional. Government abuses, abuses by the powerful, I found myself yelling at the screen when Ron Kovic was spat on at the Republican National Convention in Born on the Fourth of July. But also, it was disgusting because of the American centrisim/exceptionalism, which in film is a magical elixir that can be used to make films about a war where millions of Vietnamese and Cambodian people die, seem to be all about the personal pain and tortured anguish of a single American unit or soldier.

Kao magahet este na mas tahdong i piniti este na unu na sindalun Amerikanu kinu i pinitin un miyon na taotao Vietnam? Sigun i mubin Hollywood yan i hinasson i taotao Amerika, hunggan. Gof interesante este na dynamic, annai sina matulaika i hahatme yan i dadano'. I Amerikanu siha manhanao yan ma hatme Vietnam, ma puno' mas ki kuatro na miyon na sindalu yan ti sindalu, lao hayi gi i mubin Amerikanu mismo mamadedesi? I Amerikanu!!

Returning to the new Oliver Stone film W. I am looking forward to it. I have a feeling just from the trailer that it is going to be a very sad, but very funny film. Whatever you think about Still President George W. Bush he is not a smart person, and when I say that I mean in many different ways he is just not a smart person. What I think we'll be shown in this film is what happens when a not very smart person, someone who wallows in their taitiningo', is given a huge responsibility, and incredible power, and how there is often just a tiny, minute difference between the things that he says and does being taken as "bold" "aggressive" leadership (in the more traditional meaning) and "stupid" "idiotic" "ignorant" bumbling leadership (the Dilbert style).

So much of whether or not George W. Bush was a great leader or a great President deals with his relationship to "knowledge" and whether you see his aversion to knowledge as a sign of weakness or strength. For part of the country, a President who isn't interested in the facts, or isn't interested in reading or learning about things, but just acts, knows what needs to be done, no matter what anyone says, is the perfect image of boldness and gut-filled leadership. His faith plays a huge role in this, he doesn't need any knowledge, he has the perfect one-two punch, his gut or manly instincts on one side and guidance from God on the other. For the rest of the country, this is appalling and the reason the country is in shambles, since this sort of relationship to knowledge and learning doesn't give you much ability to adapt, in fact all you're really capable of doing is "staying the course."




To tell you the truth, I wasn't too interested in the W. film until I began to see the ads for it. In Denver in August I saw a huge billboard with the President slouched really low in a chair (so low even I knew that was bad for his back), and a huge "W" next to him. The trailer however is what's really grabbed my attention. And its not so much from what it reveals visually or story-wise. As a long time critique of Bush, I know most of the skeletons that are in his closet and so the drunken, stupid, ignorant behavior that's obvious in the trailer is part of the reason I wish the Democrats had impeached him.




What really sinekkai yu' was the music in the trailer, which is the song "Once in a Lifetime" by The Talking Heads. As the trailer follows the President's life in bits and pieces, from one privileged and ill prepared, ill conceived moment to the next, the song and its surreal lyrics, which are constantly questioning the world around the singer fit perfectly! Uminos i visuals yan i palabras i kanta. What I've come to realize in recent weeks which I knew before but never really connected, was yet another way in which the "McBush" or "Bush McCain" image works, and that is through the incredible, unbelievable privilege that both of these men were given in their lives, which they spent the younger years completely squandering or wasting. If they had been poor or come from less privileged stock, their chances in life would have been ruined, but since they came from rich, powerful and well-connected families, they could not be stopped.

After seeing the trailer, I decided to listen more closely to the song itself, and I was struck by its potential meanings. The lyrics, because of the way they represent somebody going through a period of crisis, of moving in and out of their desires, finding the things they felt they wanted, rejecting them, recognizing and then mis-recognizing them. Realizing that he's been betrayed by both the world around him, which when he arrives seems chaotic and wrong and by his own personal private desire (which is the most horrific realization of all since, that is above all supposed to be your safest space, the place where there is nothing hidden from you). This song could mean almost anything, because at its core it is the trauma drama of any subject, undergoing a period of realization or a period of transformation. Where the way he perceived the landscape of both the world around him and his own desire, which may have once matched, no longer do, and so there's this period of very radical schizophrenia, made clear through the repetition of two opposed phrases each of which is meant to capture what is going on, "once in a lifetime" and "same as if ever was."

When thinking about this opposition, I was immediately reminded of Guam and the impending military buildup (surprise!/duh). If you listen closely to the lyrics, you can see the same hope, lust, potential fear, anxiety, hurt and feelings of betrayal and lastly anger in the singer as you find across Guam today, with regards to what the military buildup will do to our island, how it will fix it, change it, and potentially destroy it. Guam is undergoing a similar process of initial awe as it appears one's dreams will come true, borrowing from the song, that the beautiful wife, the beautiful house and the large automobile will be ours. But on the otherside of this promise of improvement, in the midst of the development and the aftermath there will be inevitable questions of misrecognition, that as the island is gutted to build more baracks and condos, as the population shoots up by at least 43,000 people in five years, and as the island becomes more poisoned by more development, more military presence and just more people, we will most likely look back in shock and question "How did we get here?"

It will be an almost ridiculous moment of "innocent" shock, since we were here the entire time as the island was being changed and being destroyed. We watched it, we most likely cheered it on, enabled it, wanted it to happen because of all the 15 billion promises that were attached to our silence, our inaction, our quiet approval. Much of the imagery of the song towards the end is about being overwhelmed, performing hopeless actions in an effort to change things back, or to more aptly gain some control over the situation and what is happening. The force which this change, the betrayal and the loss of sovereignty takes is water, engulfing the singer.

On Guam, some people are already feeling this. The cost of living has already shot up, especially on the housing market. Condos and homes were built at a rapid pace over the past two years, but all ended up costing more than initially planned due to rising costs, such as shipping. This combined with the banking crisis has created an ocean of empty and unaffordable properties on the island, which most people here will have no chance to own. The waters are already rising, its already being to flood our lives, but I still see so many cling to the initial dream of that house, that car, that wife. Even as the promise rots just beyond your fingertips, it is sad that for so many on the island, it is until you actually touch it and realize its nothing, that won't help you, won't give you anything, that you can reject its influence.

We, on Guam, find ourselves trapped between those two phrases that inundate the song, "once in a life time" and "same as it ever was." On the one hand we are told that this military buildup is a "once in a life time" chance, a thing which we are so fortunate to be receiving, that it will make all our wounds heal and lives better. We just need to secure it, to grab it and caress it and everything will be ours! Yet at the same time, when there are those who say that this is too much, this population increase is too much, the military is too much, the island cannot handle it all, the reply is "same as it ever was." Don't worry about it, there's nothing to see here, Guam has always had plenty of military and always will, this is just the way things are. Guam has more military here than during Vietnam, and less than the 200,000 that were stationed here right after World War II, the island can handle it just fine. Those arguments are of course some of the dumbest things that you will ever be expected to take seriously, because although they are true in the most abstract of senses. Guam's civilian population was much much less in both the 40's and the 70's.

I hope for something different though. I see the island heading towards this build with its eyes wide shut, enchanted with the promise of 15 billion, and a patriotic delusion that America exists to save us and to keep us from destroying ourselves or ruining this island. I hope that as the promises of the buildup begin to rot for more and more people, things will shift. It doesn't have to be this way, but so long as Guam's leaders and the majority of its people think that they best course of action here is to just let the waters drown us, or clutch an American flag patriotically as they do, then this is what will happen.

"Once in a Lifetime"
Talking Heads

And you may find yourself living in a shotgun shack
And you may find yourself in another part of the world
And you may find yourself behind the wheel of a large automobile
And you may find yourself in a beautiful house, with a beautiful
Wife
And you may ask yourself-well...how did I get here?

Letting the days go by/let the water hold me down
Letting the days go by/water flowing underground
Into the blue again/after the moneys gone
Once in a lifetime/water flowing underground.

And you may ask yourself
How do I work this?
And you may ask yourself
Where is that large automobile?
And you may tell yourself
This is not my beautiful house!
And you may tell yourself
This is not my beautiful wife!

Letting the days go by/let the water hold me down
Letting the days go by/water flowing underground
Into the blue again/after the moneys gone
Once in a lifetime/water flowing underground.

Same as it ever was...same as it ever was...same as it ever was...
Same as it ever was...same as it ever was...same as it ever was...
Same as it ever was...same as it ever was...

Water dissolving...and water removing
There is water at the bottom of the ocean
Carry the water at the bottom of the ocean
Remove the water at the bottom of the ocean!

Letting the days go by/let the water hold me down
Letting the days go by/water flowing underground
Into the blue again/in the silent water
Under the rocks and stones/there is water underground.

Letting the days go by/let the water hold me down
Letting the days go by/water flowing underground
Into the blue again/after the moneys gone
Once in a lifetime/water flowing underground.

And you may ask yourself
What is that beautiful house?
And you may ask yourself
Where does that highway go?
And you may ask yourself
Am I right? ...am I wrong?
And you may tell yourself
My god!...what have I done?

Letting the days go by/let the water hold me down
Letting the days go by/water flowing underground
Into the blue again/in the silent water
Under the rocks and stones/there is water underground.

Letting the days go by/let the water hold me down
Letting the days go by/water flowing underground
Into the blue again/after the moneys gone
Once in a lifetime/water flowing underground.

Same as it ever was...same as it ever was...same as it ever was...
Same as it ever was...same as it ever was...same as it ever was...
Same as it ever was...same as it ever was...

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