Saturday, November 29, 2008

Critiquing the Military Buildup of Guam

Last Thursday night, I was speaking on a panel at the University of Guam Lecture Hall, as part of a public forum/discussion on the planned military buildup for Guam. I'll be writing more about my thoughts on it later, because there is plenty to consider. I got to listen to and talk to some members of the Government of Guam Civilian Military Task Force, which is in charge of "preparing" Guam to deal with the typhoon of military presence that it will soon be forced to endure. Also, there is the fact that hundreds of people came to attend the forum, and students were even standing lined up along the hall's sides and sitting on the floor.

Here's two article from the Marianas Variety and the Pacific Daily News that covered the event. The PDN article in particular is interesting, since it almost completely ignores the spirit of my comments (which could be considered to be controversial, were viciously anti-colonial and pushing for the island's declonization, but were definitely not wrong or inaccurate), and instead focused on whatever I said which could be twisted in some way to seem "pro-military buildup" and "anti-GovGuam."

More on that later, here's the articles and some pictures from the forum:


Military buildup forum draws huge crowd
Thursday, 20 November 2008
By Beau Hodai
Marianas Variety News Staff

THE forum called “A Critique of the Military Buildup on Guahan” held last night at the University of Guam College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences Lecture Hall drew hundreds of participants who were seeking to know how Guam has been dealing with the preparation for the federal government’s Marines relocation plan.

Students and other members of the community filled the hall to hear statements made by an eight-member panel comprised in equal parts of representatives of community organizations and the Civilian-Military Taskforce under the Office of the Governor.

The CMTF provided presentations on the impact of the buildup on the island’s economy, infrastructure, public safety and environmental.

Several panelists and members of the audience expressed concern and frustration over the lack of input from the local community.

“I unequivocally object to the unilateral and arbitrary U.S. policy to hypermilitarize our home,” said Hope Cristobal, former Senator and founder of the Guam Decolonization Commission.

“The federal government never consulted the people of Guam as to the impact such a move would cause before a deal was made with the foreign Japanese government and that the U.S. military officials will not accommodate Guam’s needs in the already concluded bilateral agreement,” she added.

Chris Duenas, chairman of the CMTF public safety task force, said his committee has been working to improve the safety of Guam residents in years to come as the buildup begins to materialize.

He said there are some pre-construction concerns that the CMTF is working to address, such as port capacity and security and tightened customs security to handle the influx of traffic Guam is set to see in coming years.

In addition to increased port and customs security, Duenas said the Office of the Governor has requested $236 million in additional funding from the federal government for fiscal year 2010.

Of the requested amount, $14 million has already been earmarked for the Guam Police Department for recruitment of 60 new police officers.

He said another goal is to develop “fusion centers” to bring local and federal officials together to facilitate cooperation and coherency in government.

An open forum followed after the panels’ presentations.

“If the military buildup is so great, how come Okinawa wants them out?” Fanai Castro of the Guahan Indigenous Collective asked, rhetorically.

“One of the major drives as to why the people of Okinawa started organizing against the U.S. military was because a helicopter crashed at a university in Okinawa,” said Castro. “So, that question is kind of clever—it answers its self. It is because the U.S. military is so great, it is the reason why the people of Okinawa want the military out.”

John Benavente, Consolidated Commission on Utilities general manager and chairman of the CMTF committee on infrastructure, encouraged the students to take jobs in the environmental field, saying environmental workers on Guam now are overburdened.

Panelist Michael Lujan Bevacqua of Famoksaiyan said every resident of Guam—regardless of their position on the buildup—needs to realize that the buildup will affect them personally. He encouraged residents to take a more proactive roll in the course of their and Guam’s future.

“It (the buildup) is taking place because we are America, and it’s taking place because we’re not. It is not only something that takes place because of our geographic position, but our colonial status as well,” Bevacqua said.

“It is also taking place because we are one of the few American communities where a unilateral announcement by the DOD that it intends to drastically affect life in your community and cause a population increase of 34 percent is met with excitement, celebration and a frightening lack of questioning,” he added.

Whether one supports or opposes the troops buildup, Bevacqua said everyone “should care about the fact that you are a colony and this military buildup is predicated on the fact that you live in a colony and you can be treated as an object for the subject of the united states, as a weapon of the warrior of the United States military.”

“This is the United States military sharpening the tip of its spear,” he said.


Buildup discussion presents different views
By William B. Martin Jr.
Pacific Daily News
November 21, 2008

Sitting and standing room was scarce at the University of Guam's Class Lecture Hall as students and residents gathered to discuss the military buildup.

Panelists for the event consisted of members of the Civilian Military Task Force and two community action groups -- Guahan Indigenous Collective and Famoksaiyan -- who presented their views on the upcoming military buildup of troops, personnel and civilian contractors on the island. The event was hosted by UOG's College of Liberal Arts and Sanctuary Inc.

Presentations were limited to seven minutes initially, followed by three minute closing remarks and a question and answer session made up of inquiries from the audience.

John Benavente, general manager of Consolidated Utilities, discussed his views on the buildup in terms of infrastructure, in light of a projected surge in Guam's population.

"Our goal in this buildup is not only to meet this demand, but to improve services, as well," he said.

Benavente said with a 30-year-old Guam Waterworks Authority the days of utilities being unable to provide services must come to an end, advocating hand-in-hand collaboration with the military. He said the island is too small for multiple power, water and solid waste systems.

UOG economics professor Roseanne Jones said Guam looks to experience a "restructuring" from a tourism-based economy to one that relies more on military contributions.

She recommended the island continue to develop tourism revenues, as well as a possible "third leg" to strengthen the economy, avoiding economic dependence on too few sources.

Buildup 'partner'
Michael Lujan Bevacqua of the group Famoksaiyan encouraged attendants -- many of them university students -- to challenge island leaders in ensuring that Guam receives a benefit from the military buildup.

"If their assumption is that you're all just happy to get jobs, they will just go along with it and do what is easiest."

He called upon those in the audience to envision a situation in which Guam was a "partner' in the buildup -- if island officials were asked before plans were made -- which he said was certainly not the case.

"What are we trading off for our (economy)?" Fanai Castro of the Guahan Indigenous Collective asked. "Will it teach our children to survive when it's gone?"


Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Fanslation Chamoru #4: Tatahgue

Here is my latest Fanslation Chamoru, chapter 171 of Naruto, titled "Tatahgue" or "Replacement."
This is the second part of an earlier fanslation that I did, "I Tilu na Maga'gera," which featured a big fight between the three "Sanin" of Konoha, Juraiya, Orochimaru and Tsunade. This chapter continues that story, and also helps build up that very familiar and regularly tiresome, but inevitable story arc, in that Naurto will one day become the Hokage or leader of the Konohagure.

Apologies ahead of time for those who would like to read this latest fanslation. There might be one or two errors in this one. I saw them when I was first editing it, but in the time since I've forgotten where they were, and no my brain doesn't pick them up when I read the manga. I hate it when that happens. As an academic when you're brain gets blind spots like that and fixes the mistakes you're reading in order to smooth things over, it makes you look like an idiot when other people then find your errors.

I haven't done one of these in a while, since I've been busy with other work. But I'm slowly getting back in Naruto again. There are rumors going around the internet that Kakashi sensi, the character who is my blogger profile image is already dead or will soon be dead, as the Atatsuki has conducted an all-out assault on Konohagure (sort of). If this is true, then teneki gos triste yu' (I'll be very sad). Kakashi was my favorite character in Naruto, and frankly I would rather have Sakura, Naruto and Sasuke all get killed enough, instead of having cooler and much less irritating characters like Kakashi manaka'.

As I wrote last year in my post "Kakashi Sensei" Kakashi, the character and the story of his origin, was something that touched me profoundly, more than anything in the Naurto universe. I am slowly working on the next fanslation Chamoru and it will be from Volume 27, most likely the chapters of his origin "The Kakashi Chronicles."

Manaitaitai yu' kada puengge gi me'nan Si Yu'us yan Si Kishimoto, na olaha mohon na matai Si Kakashi. Homhom este na tano' sina i dinenggat-na yan i botleha-na.

The Chamorro in this fanslation that I'm offering today is fairly simple, there were no real translation dilemmias or interesting processes of taking the language of the world of ninjas into the world of Chamorro language. This doesn't mean though that it wasn't fun translating this issue. There were still plenty of fun things to write, which helped me see how language is not just an abstract network of meanings that I utilize, but that I always infuse meta-meanings, or extra meanings into it. That prior to even speaking there are always expectations or tendencies which I bring to how I use the language, and help define things such as appropriateness or inappropriateness, or how something can be said, how something can't be said, and then what needs to be twisted in order to have it said.

For instance, in my case, my Chamorro is very formal sounding people always tell me, because I've learned it primarily from reading the dictionary or grammar books, and so it doesn't sound very conversational. This doesn't mean that my Chamorro is wrong, but only that I approach the making of sentences of expressing of ideas differently than those of learned the language in a more "natural" fashion, picking it up from parents or other kids and becoming fluent out in the world.

In another example, with my grandmother my primary speaking partner in Chamorro for many years, my Chamorro was almost always slang and chatfino' free. My grandmother never cusses in English or Chamorro and so the formalness of my Chamorro is enhanced even more to become an almost obtuse respectfulness or formalness, which feels to many people unnatural.

So when I translate these mangas, it helps me break that formalness or break out of the way that I am used to thinking, speaking or writing in Chamorro. Not only do I get the chance to write things I never would have considered before, but I also get to use a voice, a tone or an emotional starting point that I don't usually use otherwise.

So, one of the phrases that I keep cracking up about, each time I read it, is the phrase "I'm gonna get you granny!" which I translated to "Bai hu foyung hao biha!"

Incidentally, the most interesting to translate for so far has been Orochimaru. I've never ever tried to create an atmosphere of menacing mystery in my Chamorro, but with him I've been able to try a few things out.

For instance, as the battle between the three great ninja is over, Orochimaru is sicking/sneaking away into the sand with Kabuto, and as he does he says to Tsunade, "Tsunade…sen taiåmko’ yan taihinekkok…Lao Guahu…taiminatai!" There were so many different ways of expressing the "limitless" remarks of Orochimaru, but it was fun picking the ones I did.

As always, email me if you're interested in get a copy of the fanslation.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Stories and Song Festival

On November 29th, the Chamorro creative arts group "Ginen I Hila’ I Maga’taotao Siha" wil be hosting a Stories and Songs Festival, which is free and open to the public and will feature Chamorro/Guam storytelling as well as arts and crafts. The group has been organizing a series of very enjoyable presentations recently, even having on before Halloween, where they told ghost stories on the beach at Ipan.
I'll be participating in this festival in a number of ways. First off me and i che'lu-hu Kuri will have a table set up in order to display the tools of our grandfather Tun Jack Lujan. My grandpa has been a Chamorro blacksmith for more than 80 years now, and whereas the island once had several dozen tool makers, he is now the only traditional one, or one who comes from a generational legacy. Put i mafana'guen-na i che'lu-hu, esta gaige gi entre i familia-ku kuatro na henerasion herrero. Yesterday I posted some videos of grandpa, Kuri and me working in the shop. Also recently an article that I wrote for the website Guampedia on the history of Chamorro blacksmithing was uploaded.
I'll also be telling some stories. I've got plenty of Sumåhi stories to tell and so I'll be taking up one sessions to share some of them. In one of them Sumåhi is a blacksmith, in another Sumåhi is a storyteller.

The main story that I'm working on right now and trying furiously to translate into Chamorro is based on a blog post I wrote here in July of 2006 titled "How My Grandfather Almost Joined the Military." My presentation is titled "Why I Didn't Join the Military," and the answer to that question has everything to do with how and why my grandfather didn't join. If you're too lazy to find out now, I'll give you a clue, it has to do with taotaomo'na.

To find out more you can click on the link above or you can come out and attend the Festival.

For more information, read the info below/ Para un tungo' mas, taitai i notisia gi pappa'.


Ginen I Hila’ I Maga’taotao Siha Association
Stories and Songs Festival at the University of Guam
Saturday, November 29, 2008

Ginen I Hila’ I Maga’taotao Siha Association is hosting STORIES AND SONGS FESTIVAL on Saturday, November 29, 2008 from 6pm to 10pm at the University of Guam’s Humanities and Social Sciences Building and the CLASS Lecture Hall. The event is free and open to the general public.

CHamoru baked goods, Christmas treats, artwork and crafts will be on sale in the atrium throughout the evening as singers, musicians, chanters, dancers and storytellers will be performing in Room HSS101, 102, 104, 106 and the CLASS Lecture Hall. Invited performers from the island community will be presenting their repertoire in the CHamoru language allowing the community a taste of a unique experience while heralding the approach of the holiday season. Families and visitors to the festival are encouraged to move about the different classrooms and the CLASS Lecture Hall which has been designated for storytelling and entertainment being presented by children from the various public and private schools. The event is free and open to the general public. The goal of the event is to allow children and families an opportunity to experience the CHamoru language through art, stories, chants, music and dance while providing the public with an experience unique to the culture of our island.

The following members may be contacted if anyone is interested in participating as a vendor, artist, crafter, storyteller, singer, dancer and chanter as well as to tell a story or sing songs in the CHamoru language accompanied by a guitar or a ukulele.

For more information contact:
• Beverly Ann Acfalel 689-2843
• Charissa Lynn Aguon 686-2908
• Rosa Salas Palomo 727-5522
• Leonila T. Gombar 734-2868

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Smart Defense

Published on Tuesday, November 18, 2008 by The Nation
Smart Defense
by Katrina vanden Heuvel

Last month, Congressman Barney Frank called for a 25 percent cut in the defense budget--approximately $150 billion in annual spending--saying, "We don't need all these fancy new weapons. I think there needs to be additional review."

Predictably, the Republican backlash was swift. House Minority Leader John Boehner called Frank "incredibly irresponsible." House Armed Services Personnel Subcommittee ranking member John McHugh (R-NY) labeled the proposed reduction "unconscionable." Democrats--especially those on the House Armed Services Committee --didn't exactly embrace Frank's target, either.

But Congressman Frank isn't backing down. In an e-mail to me yesterday he wrote, "Much of the reduction will come from ending the war in Iraq and from cutting unneeded weapons systems. I believe that it's appropriate to reduce defense spending, and this is a goal I wanted to set. I don't have specific details at this point, but I will be working with my colleagues to identify weapons systems that we can reduce, and I also want to look at drawing down the number of our overseas bases."

Even a senior Pentagon advisory group--the Defense Business Board --recently concluded that the current budget is "not sustainable." And according to the Boston Globe, "Pentagon insiders and defense budget specialists say the Pentagon has been on a largely unchecked spending spree since 2001 that will prove politically difficult to curtail but nevertheless must be reined in."

The current budget allots over $500 billion to defense, and an additional $200 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. As a recent editorial in the New York Times tells us, the budget is "nearly equal to all of the rest of the world's defense budgets combined." It represents 57 percent of the total discretionary budget.

In Unified Security Budget for the United States, FY 2009, research fellow Miriam Pemberton of the Institute for Policy Studies, and former US Assistant Secretary of Defense Lawrence Korb, senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, outline not only cuts that need to be made to implement a sane defense budget, but also the shift in priorities required to confront the real security challenges of the 21st century. The Unified Security Budget (USB) pulls "together in one place US spending on all of its security tools: tools of offense (military forces), defense (homeland security) and prevention (non-military international engagement.) This tool would make it easier for Congress to consider overall security spending priorities and the best allocation of them."

In a recent DefenseNews op-ed, Pemberton and Korb write: "The balance between our spending on military forces and other security tools--like diplomacy, nonproliferation, foreign aid and homeland security--needs to change."

For example, the USB demonstrates that forgoing the scheduled increase in the troubled F-22 fighter jet for FY 2008--$800 million--would be sufficient to triple the amount spent on debt cancellation in the world's poorest countries. Or increase by 50 percent US contributions to international peacekeeping operations. Or triple the amount allocated in FY 2007 for domestic rail and transit security programs.

Along the same lines, canceling the Bush administration's initiative to build offensive space weapons could provide the $800 million needed to double the originally requested annual budget for the State Department's Office of Reconstruction and Stabilization.

The report offers $56 billion in cuts to spending on offensive weapons, and $50 billion in new expenditures on defense and prevention. It transforms the Bush administration's 9:1 ratio of spending on offense as compared to defense and prevention, to 5:1. According to the report, "This budget would emphasize working with international partners to resolve conflicts and tackle looming human security problems like climate change; preventing the spread of nuclear materials by means other than regime change; and addressing the root causes of terrorism, while protecting the homeland against it."

The Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) and its Foreign Policy In Focus (FPIF) network of progressive experts also released a report last year-- Just Security--which details how $213 billion could be cut from US military spending. Even with this cut the US would retain the largest military in the world and spend over eight times more than any of the next largest militaries.

Look for an inside-outside strategy to reframe the debate on the defense budget to emerge in the coming weeks. This week, the new American Progressive Caucus Policy Foundation (of which I'm a board member) will coordinate a meeting between progressive thinkers like Pemberton and members of the Progressive Caucus to discuss the issue of unsustainable defense spending, alternatives to the status quo, and tactics and strategies on how to win this debate.

Progressives are under no illusions as to the obstacles to making a real and meaningful shift in the way the US approaches the defense budget. As Winslow Wheeler, director of the Straus Military Reform Project at the Center for Defense Information told the Globe, "The forces arrayed against terminating defense programs are today so powerful that if you try to do that it will be like the British Army at the Somme in World War I. You will just get mowed down by the defense industry and military services' machine guns." Or, as even the Bush Administration's Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said of the scant resources devoted to the diplomatic corps as compared to military equipment, "Diplomacy simply does not have the built-in, domestic constituency of defense programs."

With increased public awareness of the misplaced priorities of the past eight years--runaway defense spending being no exception--and the growing demands and dangers of our cratering economy and broken healthcare system, now is the moment for citizens to seize and organize around an alternative vision that reflects our determined idealism and grounded realism.

Copyright © 2008 The Nation

Katrina vanden Heuvel has been The Nation's editor since 1995 and publisher since 2005. She is the co-editor of Taking Back America--And Taking Down The Radical Right (NationBooks, 2004) and, most recently, editor of The Dictionary of Republicanisms (NationBooks, 2005).

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Hafa i Chalan-ta Mo'na?

I've realized this week that I could run a blog full-time, just by posting regularly what happens in my classes or what I'm doing in my classes.

I'm teaching four Guam History classes at UOG for the month of November, taking over for a professor who is sick and off-island. He's given me space to do whatever I want, and so there were a number of different projects I wanted my students to do, but I'll really only have time for one, and so the description for it I'm pasting below. Its called "Estao Pulitikåt: I Chalån-ta Mo’na," and in it, classes will be divided into three groups, each representing a different political status for Guam, statehood, independence and free association, and they will have to answer "tough" questions from me about what Guam will look like under their political status and why given the island's historical and contemporary problems, is their particular status the best way to go.

The first groups have their debates/forums tomorrow and so I'm busy preparing their questions right now.

This is all an experiment having never done anything like this before, and so what happens is historic for me, and will either enable me or limit me in how I approach this topic and the teaching or consciousness building of it in the long run. Some of the classes have shown to be excited about the assignment and are eagerly organizing and preparing themselves, planning to use powerpoint, placards, team uniforms, slogans and I heard one group even discussing a theme song.

Given the importance of this class in my "professional" development as a scholar activist, I've been irritating my students and taking pictures of them while they are in their groups. Before I paste the assignment description, here are some pictures of some of the different groups while they are actively debating and discussing independence, free association and statehood.



Group Project: Estao Pulitikåt: I Chalån-ta Mo’na

Estorian Guahån (History of Guam)
Mismo na Fafana’gue: Larry Cunningham
Tahtahgue: Michael Lujan Bevacqua
HSS Room 106
Fall 2008

Introduction: The political status of Guam – its existence as an unincorporated territory or colony – is something that affects all aspects of our lives on Guam. From our relationship to the islands around Guam, to our relationship with the United States and the rest of the world, to even simply what we on Guam see ourselves as being capable of, the political status of Guam is central to the character of our lives;, yet this is not something that most people admit to caring about or even knowing about. Those that are interested in changing the island’s political status are often dismissed or reviled by the majority of people on Guam as “activists” or “radicals.” In reality, these activists are simply working to change a colonial relationship between Guam and the United States to something more equitable and fair, and by doing so force us all to confront the harsh reality of our situation on island – namely that while living in a colony may be undesirable, it is easier to deal with so long as no one talks about it.

Project description: For this project, you will all be divided into three groups of “activists.” Each group will represent a different future political status for Guam – i.e. statehood, free association or independence.
 On Nov. ?, this class will become a forum where I will act as a moderator and each group will provide introductions to their political status option, and also be prepared to answer questions about what Guam would look like should it achieve the stated political status, and why their option is the best for Guam.
 As moderator I represent the people of Guam, both those who know and care about these issues, and those that don’t. You must be prepared for any nature of questions.

What You Are Required to Do (as a group):
 Participate in the Forum on Nov. ?
 Prepare an introduction and a conclusion that your group will give on the forum date (this can take any form you’d like, a speech, a song, a power point, a flyer, artwork, etc. Your time limit is 5 minutes total)
 Be prepared to answer questions about your group’s political status, and argue convincingly that it is the best route for Guam to take

What You Are Required To Do (individually):
 Turn in on Nov. ? a one page report (double spaced) on what sort of research or assistance you provided to your group in this project, and some thoughts on what you learned.

How to Prepare:
You will be given two lectures to help you prepare. These will give you some background and some ideas that will help you navigate the history of your political status and what it might mean for the future. Most of your work will have to be done outside of class, both individually and as a group. It will be up to your group to decide how to divide the labor of researching, and also preparing your presentations and for your questions.
Think about what sort of questions I might ask and about what topics (economy? education? society? politics? military? environment?). You can divide your group into various people assigned to address different topics. This project is not just about what info you can come up with, but also how well you can organize yourselves in order to complete the project.

Although there is very little discussion about this issue, that doesnot imply that there are no ideas out there, books or websites to read, and people to talk to. Here are some suggestions on ways to start, I will give your groups more concrete help in my lectures:

Contact Senators or Governmental Officials about their ideas on Guam’s political status
Contact the Decolonization Commission/Commission on Self-Determination Office
Talk to the Representatives of each of these three Political Status Commissions
Talk to your Family/Friends about what they see for Guam’s future
There are different organizations that take these issues seriously, speak to their representatives. Conduct research on the internet.
Conduct research at MARC
Contact Guam Election Commission on the Decolonization Plebiscite
Contact the Attorney General’s office on the legal consequences of Guam’s decolonization
(Talk to me if you want some specifics names or resources!)

How You Will Be Graded:
You will be graded mainly based on your group’s performance in the political status forum. So long as your introduction, conclusion and answers to my questions are persuasive and well thought out then you will receive a good grade. You will not each be required to speak during the forum, but if your post-forum report does not indicate that you conducted any significant research or participated in any meaningful way, then you individually will be graded down.

One idea often used to reject the decolonization of Guam, or the changing of its political status, is that it is a “Chamorro only” issue and therefore a racist idea. While, if a political status plebiscite does take place, not all on island will be allowed to vote in it, only those designated by the United States and the United Nations as being derived politically of this right by Guam’s colonization (the majority of whom are Chamorro). But the just as the colonization of Guam affects all of us in different ways, decolonization is something we all should take part in, Chamorro or not.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

I am Splattered with the Blood of your Origin

The past month has been gof mappot for writing. The chapter that I'm working on for my dissertation right now is a MONSTER, un mampos dongkalo na birak, pat GATOS. Guaha nai hinassosso-ku na ha kekepuno' yu'! Guaha nai lokkue', na hinasso-ku yu' na esta matai yu', sa' malingu i titanos-hu, humuyong ya sumaga'naihon gi iyo-ku computer screen, ya nina'langga' yu'.

The chapter involves too many different things, directions from looking at and critiquing sovereignty, and rather than taking the easy way out and simply using what other people say, I've done my best to develop my own route for looking Guam's ghostly place in relation to the concept of sovereignty. Mind you, what I'm saying isn't ginnen taya' or from scratch, its informed by different things, mainly my experiences and my interactions, anecdotal evidence of Guam's colonial status. But I resisted simply putting my dissertation on other peoples' shoulders, for me, that would have shown a weakness in my arguments, and furthermore it probably given the lack of this sort of scholarship on Guam, it would have reinforced the idea there really isn't much there when speaking about Guam anyways. That it is a site, because of its smallness or because of its not that violent colonial history, has to rely on other sites for its visibility or for it to make any sense.

One aspect that I've somewhat enjoying writing about for this chapter, is the role of the development of "sovereignty" as a concept which thus reduces the struggles for "sovereignty" of indigenous or colonized people today, as irritants or minute details, hardly anything worth caring about or considering, merely domestic matters, which in the case of Guam, the United States government can handle just fine. I always enjoy writing about the relationship between indigenous peoples and the nations which are built upon their displacement, there is such rich albeit violent imagery involved. In my master's thesis I used the film Memento to analyze the relationship between the modern nation and its "natives" or indigenous peoples. Writing that section was an important moment for me, because it helped move my frame of reference, my consciousness out of just Guam's examples alone, but also to a larger, more general level about the relationships between nations and indigenous peoples.

In writing for this dissertation chapter, (which will hopefully be done soon!) I absentmindedly wrote the following line, "I am splattered with the Blood of your Origin." as a sort of metaphorical/theoretical point to write of the role that national constitutions or treaties have played in subjugating and neutralizing native peoples. Eventually I edited this, pushed it to the end of the chapter draft where all the other similar points go, which are meant to enable my thinking, but which I couldn't actually find a place to put. As I was writing this section I continually found myself thinking back to what I'd written before, and I decided that since I don't have time to write something new today, I'd just share a section from my Master's Thesis with you, which I later modified to be used in my qualifying exam in my department. Its not the Memento section, but its still very interesting.

Hopefully I'll have something new to write soon! Hu diseseha mohon na ti apmam bai hu mas gaitiempo, ya sina manuge' yu' mas nuebu na posts!


The nation is supported and threatened by an ever-changing mélange of images, narratives and fantasies.[1] It is the modern answer to the problems of origins. In order to avoid that amorphous, catastrophic rupture (which despite being in the past, therefore necessarily constantly looms before us) which is always looming on the horizon, the nation is an attempt to create a concerted rupture, a controlled blast, an act of violence which will stand in for that always present, always absent origin. What the nation represents then is a new communal cut across time, a violent break, that redirects the movement of time forward through a particular group or people.[2] This “new” origin that can emerge violently only from nowhere nevertheless relies upon a somewhere to constitute itself, both in the sense of contrast and filling.

In “A Critique of Violence” by Walter Benjamin we find this paradox in terms of law making violence.[3] When an instance of this violence takes place, there is a radical cut, a new law is constituted, but a new order cannot emerge on its own, it cannot come from nothing. War and conquest are always the moments where law making violence is at its most radical, where the violence between armies, between soldiers, between soldiers and civilians, between armies and prisoners, actively create new regimes of truth and order. But when the battle is over, a “peace ceremony” of some sort always takes place. A shifting through the ashes of the moment prior must take place, to constitute the meaning of any act, the agents it has reconstituted and the new order it inaugurates.

This is the paradoxical double gesture of the nation, which is summed up well in when Benedict Anderson asks, why is it that nations celebrate their age, and not their youth?[4] The nation is always an assertion of a positive, forward movement, a never before now, which can only articulate itself by reaching into the past, which always leaves it haunted by that which it must use, and the ghosts it cannot exorcise or be seen to fear.

Both the migrant and the indigenous represent fearsome figures that haunt the edges and centers of the nation, but in different ways. For the migrant, the means through which the nation demonstrates its benevolence and sovereignty through the incorporating, assimilating or consuming of this other can be on the one hand, the means through which the nation is protected from the taint of foreign bodies and the (re)producing of its essential color or core, but these gestures at the same time make tangible and perceptible in regularly traumatic ways, the threads which still reach elsewhere which the nation can never completely cut or re-signify. The migrant signifies the contingency of the nation, the way it was formed of chaos, disparate threads and might not have happened. The migrant threatens to destroy the claim to destiny, to inevitability and to forward progress

In terms of the indigenous other, it is another fearsome and ever-threatening thing. As the nation cuts across time and makes “history,” the indigenous subject through its mere existence cuts across that very cut.[5] If the nation is a collection of longing and dreaming, then the mantra of the national subject to the indigenous thing can be found in Yeat’s “He Wishes For the Clothes of Heaven” as used in the 2002 film Equilibrium. “But I being poor, have only my dreams. I have spread my dreams beneath your feet. Tread softly, for you are treading upon my dreams.”[6]

In the way that the existence of the “indigenous” person represents this conflicting and competing cut, in standing atop these “dreams,” it represents a line which runs through my national now, into the moments prior. This indigenous thing produces anxiety, and must be banished, must be destroyed. But not for the commonly given reasons of its incomprehensible foreignness or difference, it does not terrify me because of the distance I feel from it, but because of the proximity, the nearness to me that it represents. The fact that the indigenous persons straddles my dreams, makes a cut across time that cuts through me, means that there is something in it, a knowledge, perhaps a secret, my secret, which it keeps from me.[7]

The indigenous is a knowing or unknowing guardian of the secret of the nation, the immortal and invincible sentinel at the door of the absent origin of the nation. The one who knows its violence, who cannot but remember its violence, whose existence ensures it cannot be forgotten (it is in the body), but also that that origin, that nativeness, that first position will always be beyond the reach of the modern nation and subject.

These two positions are distinct, but in terms of racialization, continually intermingle and mix, to create different racial and temporal fantasies.[8] The migrant will take on various characteristics of the native, and will be produced as pre-modern, backwards, unable to understand progress, money, improvement, unable to change, mired in culture. They will be similarly reduced to culture, and transformed into either echoes that speak soundbytes to the civilizing and humanitarian prowess of the nation, or nasty fading echoes of previous stages of human development. Similarly the native is always something to be obliterated, civilized, destroyed, and explained to be a migrant itself. In an effort occupy the prized position of the indigenous, we see the settler, the nation working to prove the lies of the indigenous’ indigeneity, by using science, genetics, archeology to reveal the secret of the indigenous, namely that it came from somewhere else as well, and can now be incorporated as just another immigrant in a nation of immigrants.[9]


[1] There are different ways of narrating the existence and genesis of the nation, and depending on you articulate it, you can pronounce certain groups, features, dynamics, fantasies and fears. The narration that I choose here, is by no means the best or the most complete, but is the one which helps me best make the point in terms of the indigenous other.
[2] Homi Bhabha, The Location of Culture,
[3] Walter Benjamin, “A Critique of Violence” One Way Street
[4] Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities,
[5] Ella Shoat and Robert Stam, Unthinking Eurocentrism, (London, Eurocentrism, 1994).
[6] Equilibrium, dir. Kurt Wimmer, 107 mins, 2002.
[7] Jacques Derrida, Archive Fever
[8] Joanne Barker, that the racialization of the native and the migrant as the same thing is precisely what keeps the state legitimate and keeps its aura of whiteness. “Looking for Warrior Woman,” in This Bridge We Call Home: Radical Visions for Transformation, ed. Gloria Anzaldua and AnaLouise Keating, (New York, Routledge, 2001). “Indian ™ U.S.A.” Wicazo Sa Review: Journal of Native American Studies, (18:1), Spring 2003.
[9] Vine Deloria Jr., Red Earth, White Lies, Alice Te Punga Sommervile, Maori: Indigenous vs. Pacific? Paper presented at the Indigenous Studies Conference at the University of Oklahoma, May 2007.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Lina'la Sin History yan Prop A

Last week I taught my first classes ever.

I've guest lectured and substituted for people before, but this was the first time that I had my own classes and that I was the one in charge. Thing went pretty well.

I'm taking over four History of Guam classes for November, since the professor is off-island for medical purposes. At first I wasn't quite sure how to approach the classes, since I'll be the third teacher for them (their real professor, another sub and then me), and what I might want to do, will no doubt conflict with what the others have taught. Also, since I have a dissertation that still needs to be written and finished, I have to find a way to be creative and get my students thinking, without taking too much time away from my writing and research.

For my first round of classes, things went pretty well. At least from my perspective.

I gave some background on myself, gave a little lecture on what I see as being the importance of history, and also talked about how history affects our lives, how different strains, discourses or stories of history end up in our bodies, in our minds, in our being and they set the limits, the points of contention and possibility in our lives in what we see as being necessary, wrong, right, possible, what we are capable of on Guam, etc. Estoria gi i lina'la'-ta siha, ti fakto, fecha, fina'pos ha'. Estoria yan kuttura este dos na DONGKALU na idea siha ni' muna'diside hafa i chi'-ta gi lina'la'-ta siha.

So history isn't about events, facts, dates, famous people etc. At least that's not what history is when we feel it and act upon it. That's not the history that flows in and out of us and enables and disables us. History is images of the world skewed in different ways, to say different things, to make certain claims always towards a representing of the present and a claim to who should direct us towards the future. I tried my best, and I'll admit I was pretty abstract as I was explaining, to explain that history is all about dictating value, so of all the universe of things that happened, which are important? Which gives us a clue as to what we should do next? Which tell us who we are or where we've come from?

In order to illustrate these points, I divided the students into different groups and provided them several dozen newspaper advertisements for and against Prop A, the casino gaming proposition which failed to pass earlier this month. Prop A was something that unless you literally living under a rock, meaning living a monk-like existence without television, radio, internet or interactions with other people, you knew something about the proposition. Maybe you knew that it would help the island, grow some jobs, help give the educational system and the arts more money. Maybe you knew that it would hurt the island, by bringing unsavory elements to the island, by destroying families, or giving the Calvo family and John Baldwin a monopoly on the island.

Regardless, everyone knew something about it, and that week if they were registered, they had an obligation to go out and vote either to be as Prop A. claimed to "be part of the solution," by helping fix Guam's problems, or vote against and side with groups who wanted to "keep Guam good," by keeping casino gambling illegal. I decided to use this base level of knowledge, to have them analyze the ads they were given, from the perspective of the definitions of history that I had provided them. I wrote on the chalkboard the following questions to help guide them:

Who is Guam?
What is Guam capable of?
What is going on in Guam now?
What on Guam works? What doesn't?
What does Guam need?
What can you do to help?
Is Guam made better by insiders or outsiders?
What does Guam believe?

Each of these questions was meant, in different ways to help the class connect the definition of history that I had given them, to the words, images, promises, warnings and ideas that the ads were showing. What were the histories of Guam that these ads were building themselves upon? How did these ads connect or disconnect Guam from ideas like progress, dependency, social breakdown, corruption, responsibility, control, improvement, sustainability, development? Who represents Guam? Who is the subject of Guam? The Guam that when laws or passed, development takes place, who should it benefit and who knows what improvement is best?

My hope was that the class could analyze past the surface of the issue, "gambling good" or "gambling bad," and not get caught up in the arguments for or against the issue, but look at the images of Guam both were proposing, arguing against, arguing for, seeking to change, seeking to keep the same. Because when you look at things from this perspective, they are very different.

For instance. The anti-gambling coalition is primarily known by the names Lina'la Sin Casino (or Life Without Casino) or amongst the less elite Catholic Chamorro crowd, "Keep Guam Good." The base argument from these coalitions is that Guam is already great and fine, and that it doesn't need the addition of casino gambling because it will turn Guam bad. Families will fall apart, people will lose their homes, their jobs, their cars. So again, their argument is that Guam is already great and fine, and that by making this change we will ruin it.

But in the arguments of societal decay and death, that Guam will be overrun with greed and immorality, we can see that the core of Keep Guam Good's argument is that actually, Guam is a fundamentally bad place. Casino gambling will release the truth of Guam's being, that it is an evil place where fathers if given the chance will gamble away everything, and mothers will eagerly abandon their kids in the car while they risk everything inside the casino. The only things that keep Guam's evil at bay are the lack of a casino on Guam and religion. Although the surface of Keep Guam Good's position is that Guam is good place, there is this dimension that drives their arguments which depends upon people on Guam believing the exact opposite, that Guam is a horrible place, and that their families are full of horrible people.

Most of the students had trouble getting to this point in their discussions, leaving their comments about whether or not Prop A is good or bad. Some however did dip somewhat below the surface, and I was happy when I heard some of their comments.

In general this exercise was interesting, since the discussions showed that at least amongst my 130 students, the Prop A campaign which focused on trying to get young people and youth motivated to support it through slogans on change and seizing their role in improving and developing the island, did not make any headway in their target demographic. The overwhelming majority of students in my class were against Prop A, and I even held elections in which they were to vote, for or against Prop A and then write a sentence or two stating why.

In trying to figure out why this was the case, I came up with different ideas, but one of which struck very close to home for me. Guam is a Catholic island, the majority of both Chamorros and Filipinos on Guam are Catholic, and the church is a very dominant social, political and cultural force on the island. But the dominance of the Church in today's Guam is nothing like the impact its dominance would have meant prior to World War II or in the centuries prior. Whereas 80-90% of my students are probably Catholic, the level of their commitment and worship in the church is probably very limited.

In speaking to my students and in listening to their comments and debates, I was struck at how so many of them were apathetically or weakly resisting Prop A, and weren't necessarily using religious arguments to mount their resistance (some did though), but one could guess that their resistance came from some Church or anti-gambling resistance source, whether whisper campaigns, the pulpit, a family member, etc. It seemed that Prop A was gaining a huge amount of Catholic support, through guilt, through a sort of tokenistic Catholic gesture, meant to make up or fill the gap where a much larger and more time consuming commitment to the Church should be.

I say that this touched close to home for me, because as I am a Seventh Day Adventist who doesn't really do much in the way of practicing my religion, I regularly found tiny, tokenistic ways to make up for my lack of faith and commitment. These are largely symbolic ways, but they put me at ease, make me feel better. The main way that I personally do this, is that while I don't really follow much else from the SDA church on a daily basis, I am firmly and "religiously" devoted to following the dietary restrictions of my church, such as no pork, no shrimp.

As I saw many of my students invoking similar tokens of devotion it definitely opened up my mind, in perceiving my own behavior.

I'll have more on my classes later, I have a political status group assignment that they are working on right now. But in closing this post off, just thought I'd share some of their votes for the Prop A vote and discussion:


Against Prop A
Anyone could easily book a flight, print an itinerary and then cancel. Then use the itinerary to get into the casino.

For Prop A
Because it will open more jobs at the Convention Center, which will also be used for cultural activities.

Against Prop A
Because I don't know how to gamble and if I ever learn, I'm scarred it's going to decome an addiction like it is for one of my relatives.

For Prop A
A convention center will attract big promotions to Guam which might give Guam more recognition.

Against Prop A
I feel that gambling in general can and will ruin our children's future.

For Prop A
YES! Because it will help with the financial crisis the government is facing right now, especially DOE.

Against Prop A
Because only the Calvos will be able to monopoly for the whole 40 years. No one else will be able to profit off Prop A.

For Prop A
I am for Prop A because it will create more jobs.

Against Prop A
Prop A. is only giving 10% of profit, but casinos in the states give 30% of profit back to the community.

For Prop A
Prop A will bring much needed educational funding to Guam.

Against Prop A
Because there are already many problems on Guam and until we are financial stabled, we can't consider it.

For Prop A
It might make Guam's economy better.

Against Prop A
I don't know what Prop A would bring to the island. Why vote yes on it when people have been voting no.

For Prop A
They envision that Guam will be a better place for everybody.

Against Prop A
It may bring more jobs to the island but overall I don't think it would be good for local people.

For Prop A
While Prop A is probably not the best answer, the revisions made on this version make it palatable to everyone but the Catholic Church. And I would rather have some change be made, rather than remaining at the current status quo with no solutions.

Against Prop A
Gambling is gambling whether it is controlled or not. From a religious view, the word gambling is mentioned in the Bible, when the soldiers were gambling for Jesus' clothes while he was on the cross. It is sin.

For Prop A
Because change is not bad and it doesn't have to be scary. Gamerooms and gambling have been around for longer on the island. Let's regulate it!

For Prop A
It will provide funding for the island.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Nation of Firsts

In my Guam History classes last week I gave my students the lyrics to a number of different Chamorro songs, each of which said something important about post-war Guam. The songs were An Gumupu Si Paluma by Johnny Sablan, Binenu by J.D. Crutch, Green Revolution by Johnny Sablan and lastly Guam USA by K.C. Leon Guerrero.

For An Gumupu Si Paluma, I talked about changes from pre-war to post-war Guam, the disappearance of the Chamorro language, Chamorro birds, the Chamoritta style of singing, and so on, and how Johnny Sablan's song ends with a powerful call for Chamorros to come together and stop these changes, to reverse them. For Binenu, I talked about the shifting public perspectives on the US military presence on Guam and in the minds of Chamorros. How those who returned from Vietnam, died, alive, addicted to drugs, suffering from diseases or nightmares and mental trauma, all helped shift the view of the military on Guam, tarnishing the clean, white liberating image that it gained from World War II, and how the activism that we see today on Guam, and the discontent which lies in all of us about Guam's historical and contemporary treatment by the US military and its members is able to find public expression through experiences of Vietnam, and the work of Vietnam veterans or local activists who came to public consciousness during that era.

For Guam USA, my argument to my students was simple. This song is all of our lives. This song is all about the exciting, ridiculous, schizophrenic existence that all of us on Guam feel, where we stand, sit and wait at the tense and ever-fickle intersection of the marrying of "Guam" and "USA." As I regularly write on this blog, Guam is sometimes "Guam USA," but other times it is simply "Guam." This sort of back and forth, this sort of vicious circle of recognition and lack of recognition is the fundamental experience of colonialism in a world where colonialism is supposedly gone. This is the blueprint for it.

Guam is included in the United States in some ways, excluded in others. And this is not a simple matter of eventual full inclusion, but rather this sort of always inside and outside existence has long been formalized by the United States most prominently through the Insular Cases, which basically laid the foundation for friendly American colonialism. Guam from this perspective has no rights or authority save for that which the United States Federal Government allows it to have. The relationship is not supposed to be equal, but even when it appears to be equal, it is meant to display this benevolence, that Guam is not an equal partner, but rather the United States is such a great master for allowing its bastard colony to be given this token recognition.

So, naturally a song such as Guam USA is frustrating to me, because its vibrant lyrics and rock style provide yet another representative of Guam and the United States being tied together in an equal, exciting, patriotic way. The lyrics of the song, as I wrote two years ago, both reinforce this idea and also defeat this intention.

As I lectured to my classes about this song I wrote on the board "Guam USA" and then as I would provide different examples to students about the ways in which we all privilege either "Guam" or the "USA" when we talk, plan, argue, debate, remember, etc, I would either circle or highlight one or the other. At the end of each discussion, which always resulted in most students confused, some enraged (at American colonialism), a few concerned, and the rest all startled, I would position myself and where I was coming from in setting up the discussion.

I would say, that as an activist, as a person who wants to see Guam improved and take better care of itself I am interested in this, and would circle Guam, this is what matters to me, I would reiterate, and then I would tap the chalk on the "USA" and say, this doesn't mean much to me, this isn't what I care about Guam, and then proceed to cross the "USA" out.

I could see on the several students faces, shock, disbelief, as if I had just burned an American flag by crossing out the "USA" of "Guam USA." Obviously for all of these freshmen at the University of Guam, whether they ever really thought about it or not, the USA was an integral part of both Guam and them, to casually cross it out like that or attempt to get rid of it, I'm sure brought up in all sorts of strange and unwelcome feelings that they would want to quickly wash away as soon as they left class.

Obviously, for anyone who is a regular or even casual reader of this blog, issues of Guam's political status and American colonialism are always on my mind. And last week, despite all the exciting news that was pouring into my inbox, my voicemail box or even just my brain through the media and news, these things were still there with me.

History was made last week, and not just with Sachin Tendulkar becoming the first cricket player to reach 40 test centuries (stupid cricket joke, despensa yu'). But also with the election of Barack Obama as president of the United States. I am feeling alot more detached to this taking place, for a variety of reasons, some of which have to do with no longer being in a "state" of the United States, but instead one of its colonies, definitely does put a damper in the celebration of America's grand democracy, others with my becoming even more busy lately with teaching and dissertation writing.

But part of my distance all has to do with the self-congratulating nature of the celebration. Obama's election so far has helped usher in several days of non-stop self-aggrandizing media and everyday discourse in the United States, on the history being made, the potential changes that are taking place in the United States, and all the exuberant "firstness" that this election means. I knew all of this would take place, and I knew that it would be frustrating, but that doesn't make it any easier to put up with.

The "first" discourse and its relationship to history is particularly aggravating. It is such a pathetic discourse, one which is so potent and powerful precisely because it provide an overwhelming aura or appearance of change, with very little actual change or transgression taking place. I have long heard Republicans use that argument that Bush appointed the "first" person of this ethnicity to this position in the Federal government and that therefore shows his and his party's commitment to minority rights or concerns. I know Democrats make the same case, these sorts of tokenistic gestures are designed to elicit that sort of loyalty or provide cheap evidence of your integration, inclusion or necessity to the party or the nation. This is unfortunately the way in which most people in the United States (and in most contexts actually) understand oppression, marginalization and the easiest, most simplistic means of resolving or dealing with it. The reason of course, is that as one or two get through, you find the system itself that long kept them out or that has now just let them rise up, not explicitly challenged, and in fact the system itself can become reinvigorated with the ascension of what was once their prey and anathema. As the system itself can now take credit for the progress that has taken place.

Barack Obama is America's first black president, he is also the first president to be born in Hawai'i and his wife will be the first black first lady. I'm sure there's more.

I like Obama, I've long liked him, because of his pragmatism, his occasional truth speaking and his cool skills with the basketball. I wanted him to win for so many reasons, some very personal, others more Ethnic Studies related, and some just dealing with nagging and interesting questions of what would things be like if a black man was President? So many people in the past few days have spoken up and said that they never imagined that something like this could happen in their lives. I can admit to being one of them too. But as I saw Obama rise up from 2004 to today, there was always a flicker of hope with him, that he could actually do it. And it wouldn't be so much that he was responsible for getting elected, but that his organization, combined with the mood of the United States would make it happen.

So in this sense, I wanted Obama to win, much in the same way that I know Jon Stewart wanted a Democrat to win this time around. Because he wanted to see what Fox News would do to itself, contradict, rip itself to shred, go insane, in trying to flip its entire philosophy to accommodate a new Executive, a new Commander in Chief. Fox News in the Bush years had helped build a firm discursive wall around the President, siding with him on so many issues, and did not articulate them as being tied to the President itself or his personality, but went even further in tying them to a particular strong Executive vision of the United States. Fox News buying into Karl Rove's permanent majority mentality, has now cornered themselves in terms of what they will do next, how they will re-balance themselves. For instance, now that it'll be Joe Biden in charge and not Dick Cheney, will Fox News now suddenly see all the power-grabbing and accumulating that Cheney did as evil because a Democrat is in charge or will there be some continuity? I'm sure you don't have to think too hard about this, ideologues have no problem dealing with shifting sands, so long as their ideological vision is rock solid.

I look forward to America twisting itself in and out in trying to deal with a black President. There will be blood, yes, he will have good days and bad days, some days when everyone seems against him and others when they all seem to be on his side. But, the actual of election of Obama means nothing, but where we go from here, what we can do with this "emergence" is what matters. All in terms of making use of this opening, which can be seen in terms of progressive politics, but also in terms of making inroads in American race thinking.

This is similar to the way I intellectually enjoy making my students squirm and uncomfortable when I thrust upon them a history they either don't want to know or don't know, but one which is incredibly relevant to their lives and even their casual desire to need to not know anything about their island's colonial status.

But, does all this excitement and history making, mean that I am ready or willing to erase and re-write the "USA" next to Guam, without any crosses or strikes through it? Does this mean that I'm eager or happy to connect Guam in new and exciting ways to the soon to be christened Obamanation?

Hell no! I am still someone for whom the "Guam" alone is what matters. America in my mind is something on Guam which holds the island back. It provides money yes, it provides assistance in some ways, but the catch is always so strong, its always help meant to keep the island dependent. The "USA" in "Guam USA" is always a trap, something with a colonial stench to it, something to keep Guam as the "tip of the spear," to provide some small token of recognition or help in order to keep it as that fantastic power projection point.

Since I've talked a little about firsts in this post, I'll tell you what it would take for me to "give America" another chance, or rethink the crossing out of the "USA." It would take, frankly a much more radical first. I'm not impressed or eager for any other election or political firsts such as the first "gay president" or the first "Asian American president."

I'm waiting for the day when I can celebrate and witness, a first such as the first American colony to be decolonized. Or the first Native American tribe that was truly given sovereignty. Or the first day of life for a newly sovereign Native Hawaiian kingdom, republic or people. I would give America another chance, or rethink my critique of it, the day that something like this happens. The day that the United States actually is interested in the self-determination of indigenous peoples or is actually interested in fairness, justice, democracy and not just when it is convenient or strategically useful.

Is Barack Obama a step in this direction? Probably not, but you never know and that's the point of this election. There is an very tangible openess that exists out there. The United States will undergo a transition period, where it will be forced to confront certain things, rethink things about itself, its history. The discourse on "firstness" and history goes a long way in taking the transformative possibility out of those confrontations and realizations, which is why I can only allow myself a small bit of hope.

But as someone who comes from one of the world's last official colonies, which is facing a military buildup over the next few years, which promises to wreck the island in the nicest and most polite ways possible, it feels good to allow myself some.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Sakigake Chamorro #2: FLCL

Last month I started yet another regular post thread which brought together my love for anime and the Chamorro language. I named it "Sakigake Chamorro" which translates to "Charge ahead Chamorro!" and is taken from the manga/anime Sakigake! Cromartie High School! What this thread amounts to is the theme songs for anime translated into Chamorro in more fun, less precise fashion. I named it "Sakigake Chamorro" because the first song I chose to translate was from Cromartie High School.

This evening, as I was trying to unwind from a long, stressful week of teaching I decided to translate another anime song. I decided to pick one that would be a lot of fun to translate, this meaning one which is really catchy, but also completely nonsensical and insane. The one that immediately popped into my mind from those on my computer was "Ride on Shooting Star" from the anime FLCL. I've never really liked this one, but i che'lu-hu Jack really does, and always used to make me listen to the soundtrack, and I have to admit, achokka' ti ya-hu i anime, ya-hu i dandan-na. The Pillows is the name of the band that does FLCL's songs, and they are one of those ridiculous sounding Engrish rock regularly non-sequitur lyrics group.

I looked up a translation of the song and I was not disappointed. The song contains intriguing phrases such as "lobster of revenge" and "grunge hamster" which I'm pretty sure have never been contemplated in the Chamorro language.

These are the types of things which make learning and speaking Chamorro fun. Expanding the language, using it in ways I never imagined possible, to talk about things which Chamorro isn't usually used to capture, describe, explain, etc. Estague i mismo na palabras-na gi fino' Chapones:

orange no slido utsusu sora
sponge no pride burasagete

iketotta sono yokanwa
kakusanakutatte iinda
irono tsuita yume mitaina

Ride on Shooting Star
kokorono koede sandanjyuno youni
utai tsuzuketa

Grunge no hamster otonabite
Revenge no lobster hikitsurete

fuchidotta sono sekaini
naniga mierutte iunda
neraumaeni sawaritaina

Ride on Shooting Star
kimiwo sagashite kindan shoujyouchuu
usowo tsuita

Ride on Shooting Star
kokorono koede sandanjyuno youni
utai tsuzuketa

Since alot of the lines were completely nonsensical, and probably just written or used because they sounded cool, or because the person who wrote them was bileng, I was alot freer in this translation in terms of saying whatever I wanted to that sounded good or sounded cool to my ears. This meant that instead of saying phrases like "orange slide...sponge's pride" which in Chamorro sounds weird in a not exciting way, I could used cooler archaic, antigu Chamorro words, which people probably don't even use anymore, or have such specialized meanings that their meaning is captured today in more generic ways using other more general and basic Chamorro words, or its simply said in English.

One word which I've wanted to use for a long time, but frankly never have a context where I can is "guahne" which according to Topping's Chamorro English Dictionary means "to remove feces." Its a cool sounding word, which I have never heard and never known about prior to seeing it in the dictionary. If I was to say in Chamorro "did you clean up/remove the feces that was in your room?" before learning this word, I would say "Kao un na'gasgas i take' gi i kuatto-mu?" with "na'gasgas" or "make clean" the verb I would use. This is the way Chamorro is trending, and even amongst i manamko' na Chamorro siha who would have used or heard these words much more frequently when they were young or younger, these sorts of words are disappearing, fading from memory. Often times when I go through the dictionary looking for a word to say something, I'll also ask my grandmother if she has heard this word before. Around half the time, she'll say to me, "Gof apmam desde hu hungok enao na palabra." or "its been so long since I've heard that word."

But, since the song "Ride on Shooting Star" is not your typical song, with a coherent theme, but rather a collection of cool sounding or interesting words and sentences, and images, I felt free to used some gof antigu na palabras Chamoru in my translation, just to spice it up and make it really really weird. Naturally, to make it even weirder, I was determined to find a way to use "guahne" in the translation. I also wanted to try and rhyme words, and it was an interesting challenge trying to use words I've always wanted to such as "guahne" or another one "gifan" which means "dislocated jaw," and then find another word which rhymed with it!

Here's the translation that I found on the internet:

Orange slide, the sky that it reflects
Sponge's pride, being dangled

The apprehension that was caught alive
It's okay even if I don't hide it
I want to have colored dreams

Ride on Shooting Star
With the voice of my heart, like a shotgun
I kept on singing

Grunge hamster, be grown up
Lobster of revenge, bring it along

I'll say, "What can you see
In that fringed world?"
I want to touch it before I aim for it

Ride on shooting star
Searching for you, and in withdrawal syndrome
I told a lie

Ride on shooting star
With the voice of my heart, like a shotgun
I kept on singing

Ya estague i gof chaddek na pinila'-hu yan hafa ilelek-na gi fino' Ingles. The antigu words that I've used are as follows: a'ok: a wedding gift from the groom or groom's family to the bride. guakkle: to empty out the contents of something. guahne: (as I said already) to remove feces. sufan: to peel the skin of something, such as a fruit. gulek: the crush something to dust, to grind or make powder out of something. kalankangi: to shake out the contents of something. ñatas: scum, that builds on the surface of liquid. uke': To carry something on your shoulders. (One note before I go, when I say "antigu" or "archaic" I don't mean to say that no one knows these words, but so what if everyone who speaks Chamorro knows these words, I for one have never heard anyone (and this is from speaking Chamorro for seven years) say in regular conversation any of these words. Preserving the language means just knowing these words, revitalizing the language means using these words and making sure that they are there for those from subsequent generations who will be learning Chamorro).

Kinilili ni' Sumåhi

Annai eståba yu’ ginifan, i langhet masakke’
When my jaw used to be dislocated, the sky was stolen
Iyo-ku “ego” gui’ sinifan, ya ma u’u’ke
My ego was peeled (like a fruit), and it was carried (on their shoulders)

Make it tremble (like breaking waves)
Este minalago’-hu mapongle yan manlaolao
This desire of mine was imprisoned and it trembled
Put i mitkulat mafa’sahnge
Because of the abundance of colors it was set aside
Gi i patmå-ku bei kalankangi
I'll shake it out in the palm of my hand

Kinilili yu’ ni’ sumåhi
I was carried away by the waxing of the moon
I bos gi korason-hu, kulang pinaki
The voice in my heard, like a gunshot
Ya sigi ha’ yu’ kumantåyi
And I kept singing to it

Chå’ka gaiñatas, mungga mafatani
Scummy rat, don't placate it
Mahonghang gaiemnok, puru ha’ gumuahne
Vengeful lobster, all it does it clean up feces

Treat it like a human
Ilek-hu “Hafa siña un hokka’
I said, "Hafa can you collect
Gi un tano’ på'go ha' ma gulek?”
In a land that was just ground to dust
Ya-hu bai pacha antes di maguakkle
I want to touch it before its emptied out

Kinilili yu’ ni’ sumåhi
I was carried away by the waxing of the moon
Hu aliligao hao gi i afao i minalangu-hu
I searched for you in the fog of my sickness
Mañodda’ yu’ a’ok
I found a wedding gift

Kinilili yu’ ni’ sumåhi
I was carried away
I itak gi korason-hu, kulang yinugi
The bird in my heart, like a firestarter
Ya sigi ha’ yu’ dumandåni
That I keep playing music to


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