Monday, November 03, 2008

Four Votes

I'm on Guam now, but I'm not registered to vote on Guam (lao giya California). There's an election coming up and this is the first time I've been on island for one since I voted for Robert Underwood and Tom Ada in 2002 (lao ti manggana siha).

I've been following the campaigns here closely, and even last week gave out different awards last week for Guam's politicians and their roadside signs. The battle over Proposition A has been hard not to follow since each Pacific Daily News edition for the past week is completely full of ads both for and against, which sometimes featuring local political celebrities. I had hope to write something about Prop A before the election, but with a dissertation to write, and classes that I'm teaching next week to prepare for, I don't have much time to blog (ai na'triste!).

I guess you'll have to settle for this video that I took of a big Prop A rally held last week at Chief Kephua circle in Hagatna. The thing I learned from this protest is that if you want to have a lively, successful protest on Guam, bring signs and have high school students bused in to hold them and yell at cars as they drive by. You can even turn it into a parent-child sort of event to double or even triple your numbers!



My brother Kuri (Jeremy) will be voting for the first time this election and I asked him to give me four of his votes since he isn't sure if he'll use all fifteen that he gets for picking candidates for Senator.

(otro fino'-ta, in my head I was just laughing a little bit, because when I was first learning Chamorro, I was messing around with the language, and tried out using the word "bota" or "vote" in different contexts. I tried using the word "botayi" which means to "vote in place of someone." After hearing this a Chamorro instructor admonished me saying that it wasn't a proper term, that you would never use that word and its not correct. I'm chuckling because as I was just writing, I was also translating what I was typing into Chamorro in my head, and it spat out "botayi" as in "pau botayi yu' Si Jeremy gi i botasion henerat" or "binetayi yu' as Jeremy gi i botasion henerat.")

Here are the four that I'm asking Jeremy to vote for me. He might already be voting for some of them, but if I only had four votes these are the ones I could choose.

Jesse Anderson Lujan (R)
Telo Taitague (R)
Robert "Rumbo" Benavente (D)
Matt Rector (D)

Note, if I had fifteen votes, I would use all fifteen, but since I only have four, I'm trying to vote for the candidates who really need it. Those who I feel strongly should be elected alongside the usual suspects who will most likely be elected.

Some of you, depending on how much or how little you know about me, might be surprised by my picks. For instance, since most people interpret me to be a "Chamorro nationalist" or an "ethno-nationalist" picking Matt Rector might be a surprise or a shock since he's not Chamorro. Well, I am a Chamorro nationalist, but not in any simple stupid way, like I'll vote for only Chamorros. Although in 2002 I did only vote for people who could speak Chamorro. My reason for picking Matt Rector was the way he represented himself recently in a survey circulated by Peter Onedera's Fino' Chamoru classes at UOG. In these surveys, each of the senatorial candidates had to answer a series of questions about Chamorro issues, political, linguistic and cultural. I was very impressed with Matt Rector's, maybe because I wasn't expecting very much. He pandered like all politicians pander, but promises made by politicians only get kept if they feel they have to or need to. And if they don't have their own inner sense of integrity and commitment it is up to the community to force their hands. If he is serious about his promises, then he really will help create a better Guam, one which is informed by liberal and progressive ideas, but also a respect for the political and cultural rights of Chamorros as the island's indigenous people.

But as with Chamorros in government, words, nor blood bind anyone to a particular politics, and so all people who have power over the lives and legislating of others lives should be held accountable.

Here's Rector's survey below, which was posted on his website:

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Questionnaire: For Matt Rector #3(D) for Senator

(The different spellings of Chamorro come from the questionnaires' authors)

1. What is your background on Chamorro language usage?

I have to admit that my background in the Chamorro language is very limited. The Chamorros that work in my office don't speak it regularly nor do a lot of my Chamorro friends. That being said, I have managed to pick up enough over the years that I can generally follow the gist of a conversation, if not the specifics.

2. What is your stand on the perpetuation on CHamoru language?

I think that it is incredibly important and we as a society must invest in it. At a recent American Federation of Teachers Convention we became members of the Four Winds Caucus which is a Native American group. They are having the same problems in regards to preserving their languages in our MySpace, cable tv world and they explained to me that they were trying to set up full immersion schools on their reservations. I am told that if children are immersed during the early years (2nd or 3rd grade) they become fluent. I think that this is a program that would be good for Guam.

3. What is your interpretation of CHamoru culture?

Family. This is why my wife and I have made Guam our home, because of the sense of family and community that I believe is integral to the Chamoru culture. Of course there are other nuances, but it seems to me that it all revolves around the family. From birth and Christening to the first birthday, graduation, marriage, anniversaries, and finally Rosaries it's all about family and community. This is what makes Guam special and I believe that I am fighting to preserve it.

4. Do you believe that the CHamoru language is dying?

Yes, but we can turn that around. Once we make an economy and public structure that works for our families instead of for off island corporations and big business we can start giving our Chamoru language program the resources necessary to make it truly functional.

5. Do you believe the Chamorro Culture is endangered in the island of Guam?

If we stay on the same path we have been on for the last decade, yes. Fortunately though, we can change our direction if I get elected and get my three step plan passed. The Chamorro culture is becoming a victim of the broken economic system that we have allowed off island corporations to create with "their legislature." First, Chamorros are a minority on their own island because there are better economic opportunities for them in the mainland. It used to be that Guam had good middle class jobs that someone could raise a family on, but after a two decade long war on our public structure and Guam's working families they have destroyed Guam's middle class. Teachers and the media have told us for years that if you graduate high school and college you'll make a decent middle class living, but today on Guam that just isn't true. The overwhelming majority of UOG graduates enter the workforce on Guam in a poverty level job making eight or nine dollars and hour. Public Service jobs are even worse these days with the majority of public servants earning below $10 per hour on top of which they have the worse retirement and health insurance in the Nation. This isn't the way it's supposed to be but together we can fix it.

6. What is your response to the remarks made by tourists when they say that they did not find or experience anything "Chamorro" at the Chamorro Village?

This is a direct effect of allowing businessmen and the Chamber of Commerce to control our economy. When we start following the Catholic Church's economic plan, which in essence says that our economy should work for people, not people for the economy, we will begin developing an economy that that supports local artisans, craftspeople and farmers. The first step is making universal healthcare a reality for every person on Guam. Then artists and crafts people can concentrate on their work without having to have another job just so they can get healthcare. The second step is to reward local businesses, crafts people, artisans and farmers by giving preferential bidding for any GovGuam contract. While this may cost a little more up front, it keeps the money in Guam's economy where it circulates ten times as opposed to sending it to off island off-island farmers, manufacturers and shippers, where it leaves our economy instantly.

7. Other nations have implemented "cultural properties" laws that are aimed at preserving those things that define the cultural heritage (past, present, future) of their people. Do you believe it is necessary that a law like this should be enacted to protect cultural heritage of the Chamorro people?

Without a doubt; but it is important that we pass laws that are enforceable and have the resources attached for the enforcement. Too many times have we seen laws with nice names that are never enforced because there is no funding behind them. We need big businesses to start paying their fair share for the privilege of doing business on Guam so that we can afford a public structure that has the resources to implement and enforce Cultural heritage laws.

8. Do you support the indigenous rights of the Chamorro? For example, the rights for traditional fishing, hunting, and farming.

Yes. Farming is a renewable resource and a valuable asset to our economy as is fishing. However, we need to make sure that we don't damage the ability of future generations to enjoy these same rights by over-fishing or over-hunting today. I believe that our reefs, wild deer and pig are sufficient to take care of our families’ needs but we need to be careful that these big off-island corporations don’t take advantage of indigenous rights in order to increase their profit margins at our children's and grandchildren's expense.

9. Do you support the building of a Cultural Center that perpetuates the Chamorro culture through the arts (performing, visual, literary, etc.)?

Without a doubt, and when we get the tourism industry to start paying their fair share for the privilege of doing business on Guam, we will be able to afford it.

10. What is your position in getting Guam its political self-determination status?

I believe that this is a right of the Chamorru people that has been denied for too long and whatever decision the Chamorru people make, I will support it and give assistance in every way possible.

11. Do you think the Commission on Decolonization should be dismantled as ineffective or reorganized to become effective? Please explain your reasons for either alternative.

I don't believe that the "commission" has been very effective and I suspect that is because Chamber of Commerce and the GHRA (which are controlled by people and corporations from off island) have controlled our democracy and through the people that they have gotten elected with gigantic campaign contributions they have managed to neuter the "commission." The key to solving this and many other of our problems is to take the big bucks out of our democracy. The average first time Senator spends over $100,000 and there are candidates in this election that will spend over $250,000. This money isn't coming from us and our families, it's coming from big corporations whose only purpose for existence is to make profit.

12. Why do you think the movement towards decolonization has remained static for so long?

Because if we change the current power structure certain families and off island corporations will lose out on their golden nest egg. Don't forget almost 90% of Guam's businesses are owned by people and corporations from off island. While they may not care about the people of Guam, they certainly care about the money they can harvest from our island and they and the rich and powerful of Guam don't want anything to interfere with their gravy train.

13. Do you support the reunification of all the Chamorro in the Marianas? I.e. Guam and the CNMI. If so how would you begin?

I believe that there is strength in numbers and power in unity. That being said this is a decision that needs to be made by the Chamorru people. But before this can even be contemplated, our economy needs to be fixed. This, as with many of the other issues brought forward, will cost a significant amount of money which we currently don't have. This is a direct result of the economy that we have allowed the big corporations as well as Guam's rich and powerful, to create which drains our island of billions of dollars a year.

14. In your view, how will the increased militarization of Guam impact on the Chamorro Culture? Please cite both positive and/ or negative views.

Currently, the decision of militarization isn't ours; it's made in congress. However, our Legislature can make it as beneficial as possible for our people, if we act now. If we make critical law changes right now we will be able to weather the military storm that is coming, but if we keep doing the same thing, the buildup will drain our economy, thereby perpetuating the exodus of Chamorro families. This of course will have a negative impact on Chamorro culture.

15. The Chamorro language is now part of our school curriculum but is rarely practiced in the community. What Ideas do you have that may be implemented into the community to help perpetuate the Chamorro language beyond the classroom?

There is a decent sized group of Chamorros that would like to live a traditional Chamorro lifestyle and literally practice the old ways and customs on a daily basis. Why can't we as a society support that, other societies and cultures do? We have enough land and resources that we could quite easily build a real Chamorro village where families can live a traditional life style while at the same time know that they are protected with universal healthcare and a public structure that works for them. We need to allow public servants to leave their jobs so that they can live a traditional life style for a couple of years and know that they can come back and continue their career. This would be good for every aspect of life on Guam and can be done once we fix our economy. Of course there are other practicle ways to allow the Chamorro language to flourish such as mandating that every Government publication in any media as well as all street signs be in both Chamorro and English. We could also mandate that every business has a Chamorro only teller/cashier.

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