Saturday, May 09, 2009

Bay Area Screening of "The Insular Empire"

If you're in the Bay Area on May 13th, and you're interested in the Marianas Islands or Micronesia, you should check this film out and join the discussion. I'm pasting the info below and continue my post beneath it:


What is it like to be a colonial subject of the greatest democracy on Earth?

Voices from Guam and Saipan, a work-in-progress of a new PBS documentary by Vanessa Warheit.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009
6:00 pm - 8:00 pm

Cal State East Bay (Cal State Hayward)
Old University Union
Room 102

Suggested donation: $10-$20

Music performance by Saipan musician Gus Kaipat
Discussion will follow screening.

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Here is the link to the driving directions: http://www20. csueastbay. edu/about/ visitor-informat ion/driving- directions. html

Here is the link to the campus map: http://www20. csueastbay. edu/about/ visitor-informat ion/maps- campus-locations /hayward- campus-map/ index.html

FOR MORE INFORMATION: 510.885.2598 or 510.410.9052

Si Yu'us Ma'ase and hope to see you then...


I was asked by the director Vanessa Warheit a few years back to come up with some poetry that might be used as narration for the film, to help transition from different points. I came up with a few pages of things, based on stories of the film's main characters and the images being shown. Some of it was pretty cool and so I thought I would share some of them below. The last cut of I saw of the film was more than a year ago, but I'm excited that Vanessa is screening it everywhere she can to get feedback and support. You can read more about what's going on with the film at its blog at The Insular Empire.


1. Hacha:

The liberating Marine brings more than just my freedom, he brings Spam, powdered milk, Coca Cola, nuclear submarines, mustard gas and Global Hawks, all apparently the building blocks for a better life in Micronesia.

As one hand giveth though, the other condemns land and lives left and right.

As the land and language is ripped from the fingers and mouths of my parents, never to be mine, I know the price is not only too much, but that the wares of this way of life are suspect, rotten to the core.

2. Hugua:

There are those who say that our islands are invisible, especially to those we call “country-men” “fellow Americans” yet who constantly respond to our national pleas of inclusion which incredulous questions of “Where or What is a Guam?”

But invisible misses the most strategically important point. We are not silent and we are not absent, instead we are drowned out by the drums of war, the echoes of battles past and the visions of violence that loom on the horizon. Our voices are lost as our islands become hypervisible, as American military sites.

The Marianas Islands make constant appearances in the documentaries of American war, the fantasies of its military historians and the collections of its war buffs.

We endure this daily hypervisibility as we drive upon the names of military officers, are instructed in colonialism in schools that continue to honor our Naval governors, the toxic waste buried in our yards, the rusty relics in our jungles, and the atomic footprints that lead from Tinian to Hiroshima and on to Bikini.

3. Tulu:

A vicious, almost cruel circle of belonging awaits the Chamorro. The flag that was raised above Guam in 1898 and then again in 1944, which Chamorros now raised proudly as their own, cuts our island colonially, constantly.

It states with the emphatic content of a school song, that this land is their land, and no longer my land. The sea of historical and political inclusions and exclusions that comprise the daily existence of a Chamorro, exist at the whim of Congress, the President. When they see military necessity, citizenship we receive. Belonging to the United States is meant literally, why else would we be eligible for welfare, but not voting rights?

4. Fatfat:

A Chamorita cuts the soft heat of the dawning day, as we walk to the fields.
Tilling, planting, harvesting, we once sang of the sweetest taste, the smile and grateful eyes of a well fed community.

As the landscape changes, so do our tools and our songs. We cut new crops and work for new tastes. We now sing of the sweetness of sugar, of copra, and the wants that are met with the wages of a day working for a stranger.

5. Lima:

“self-government” American style, in these dots of overwhelming strategic value, looks suspiciously like colonialism.

A news flash for many American who think it died with the declaration of rich wigged white men that slaves, woman and poor people were inferior, or the imperialist flings of 1898, or was solely the province of lesser freedom loving nations.

In the name of democracy, the United States has assumed the throne of global colonizers, precisely because the exploitation, intentional underdevelopment and lack of democracy all gets portrayed and understood as necessary, for security, for freedom, for democracy.

From the lips of Washington’s legislators, military officers and policy shills, we encounter the height of hypocrisy, namely that the smooth running of American democracy requires its absence on Guam. The prospect of “alien races” having two senators might wrench the nation asunder.

6. Gunum:

As the ornate orient yellow of Asia is re-dyed a menacing red curtain, I find my island still covered in the ashes of war, being pushed towards it, at the tip of America’s military spear. This wound of freedom, rends deeper in my back, as we are thrown by the thousands into Korea and Vietnam, our service crawling in contradictions, fighting for a democracy we are ordered to force at gunpoint to others, but that we dare not be given on Guam.

7. Fiti

Each day, I am compelled to see my island through the gaze of another, to feel its warmth and cool winds through the slogans that place its ownership elsewhere, “Where America’s Day Begins” “America in Asia.”

Welcome to Guam.

An island where the scars of war have healed in sickly tones of red, white and blue, which twist and tangle our tongues so that the language we are meant to speak becomes foreign to the soil that nurtured it for so long.

Stolen even are the sunsets and sunrises, replacing the colors that welcomed the Chamorros to these islands millennia ago, with the colors with which America will begin its day.

8. Gualo

This nation to which we are taught to think of ourselves as a fortunate footnote, is indivisible when its strategically important, but easily divisible otherwise.

What a strategic schizophrenic experience I live, when every Liberation Day, the President places me at the center of what makes America American, while the media, the State Department, and the military places me last on the list of democratically acceptable options.

What am I to think when in the same day, the Department of Interior will call Guam a “partner” in negotiations and then NBC will refer to military exercises taking place on the “US owned island of Guam?”

9. Sigua:

Our homeland prime real estate for the projecting of power and the potential waging of war, we find ourselves well versed in seductive possibility in geography, or what the colonizer wants. On the edge of America and the edge of Asia. But the cost of this knowledge is dear and on a daily basis we are all haunted by a simple question: Would Reagan, Clinton, Bush the Second, or any other Commander in Chief, affirm an Americaness for me, second class or otherwise, if Guam lay on the edge of nothing?

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