Friday, December 31, 2010

More on Jeju Protests

More updates and information on the situation in Gangjeong on Jeju Island, South Korea.

The first comes from Sung Hee Choi who runs the very informative blog No Base Stories Korea. She is currently in Jeju and working with the villagers of Gangjeong. According to her most recent update, protestors were forcibly prevented from setting up a vigil outside of the Jeju Assembly building, two of the protestors were injured by police. According to Sung-Hee:
Yesterday, while I was in the village, the Pan Island Committeee Against the Military Base confronted the Jeju City authorities and police as the city did not allow the activists' tent vigil in front of the Island assembly. One member was arrested and two women - of whom one was greatly wounded in her face - were carried to the hospital.
The second comes from the blog Ten Thousand Things, which gives more information on the ecological importance of Jeju and Gangjeong, and why it is a travesty for a Navy base for US and South Korean troops should be built there, as well as some background on the struggle up until now. 


From No Base Stories Korea:

The members of the Pan Island Committee for Prevention of Military Base and for Realization of Island of Peace, and personnel of the religious fields, Jeju Island having a press interview in the Citizen’ s Room, Island Assembly at 11am, Dec. 29, strongly criticized the oppression by the Woo Keun-Min Island government and Jeju City government who forcefully prevented the people’s plan to install a vigil tent on the street in front of the Island Assembly, by even mobilizing a watering cart and search light, recalling of military operations in the past. They also demanded the city government whole reparation for a woman member of the Pan Island Committee, who had been greatly wounded in her face by being pushed back by a city government officer and fell down into the ditch during the body struggle between the citizens and government officers.

Following the Pan-Island Committee’s three page statement, the Democratic Labor Party, Jeju branch and Democratic Party, Jeju branch have also issued their statements. The Democratic Labor Party, Jeju branch criticized that ‘The Jeju mayor, Kim Byung-lib, led and commanded the oppression as if he is a police chief [on the street in front of the Island Assembly] and some governmental officers looked that they had been drunken then mobilized. And when the government officers were disclosed to take photos of the citizens, they showed absurd behavior lying that they were media reporters. The Democratic Party saying that “The reason that the citizens who had not even been allowed a tent dared the street struggle was to take the democratic & legal right and procedural justice,” criticized that ‘The tragedy yesterday was clearly due to abuse of authority power and the government officers and police invaded the citizens’ right of freedom for expression and rally.”

The Peace Disarmament Center, People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy issued a statement also saying, “We strongly denounce the navy and Jeju Island authorities who are enforcing the construction of the Jeju naval base. The related authorities should immediately stop their staging of violent state power and pay attention to the desperate voices of the citizens who resist against enforcement of the base construction.”

About 10 Gangjeong villagers and Mr. Lee Jong-Hwa from Jeonju, in the southern part of the peninsula joining the Pan-Island Committee’s press interview, expressed their solidarity and thanks with its members. Otherwise, Mr. Lee Jong-Hwa who confronted a cold wind while he was doing one-man protest in front of the planned naval base area early in the morning, told that there would be the strong solidarity between Jeonju and Jeju against the Jeju naval base construction in the future. He also emphasized that the struggle against the naval base should be all Koreans’ struggle.

The Gangjeong villagers visited the movie critic Yang Yoon-Mo who had been arrested on Dec. 27 and prisoned since then. The seniors who saw him said Prof. Yang looked good and expressed his strong will on the struggle. The Pan-Island committee has also discussed the ways to release Prof. Yang and it is expected that the efforts for release him will be centered around the religious fields.

After the visit of Prof. Yang, the villagers visited a woman member of the Pan-Island Committee who was lying on bed after being pushed back by a government officer-according to a witness- fallen into a ditch and lying on the bed of a hospital. Her three teeth were broken and deeply put into her mouth as to the degree that doctors not be able to find them and her chin was holed with her teeth being shown through it. Can anyone imagine her pain and shock? The Pan-Island Committee members and Bishop, Kang Woo-Il who held the Christmas mass for life and peace in the Joongduk coast on Dec. 25, has also visited her.

As the Gangjeong villagers returning back to the Island assembly where the Pan-island Committee members had planned a tent vigil in its court, body struggle between the members of the Pan Island Committee and officers of the Island assembly began in minutes. Like the high-handed city officers on Dec. 28, the Island assembly officers obstinately blocked a truck loaded with tent tools as if they are the SWAT employees of the service corporations. While the Charmin of the Island assembly and Island members are never being shown, it was clear that the city hall officers, as if they knew they were doing shameful activities, could not refute against just criticisms by the members of the Pan-Island committee, civic organizations and religious fields who claimed their basic rights for expression. A woman member of the Pan-Island Committee, hit in the pit of her stomach by an Island officer, fell down and carried out to a hospital. The villagers confronting the Island officers along with the citizens had to return back to Gangjeong village due to an important village meeting in the evening. The Pan-Island Committee, after their emergency meeting, decided to prepare for a bigger mass struggle in the future instead a tent vigil. The national and international solidarity are also needed against the naval base construction in the Jeju Island.

One cannot but be infuriated by the reality in which the Island government and Island assembly prevented the just opinion expression of the Island people’s and villagers. Please send protest call, email and fax to the Jeju Island government as the below:
Jeju governor Keun-min WOO

Jeju Special Self-Governong Provimce

Address. Munyeonno 2, Jeju-si

Jeju Special Self-Governing Province 690-700 korea

Tel. 82-64-710-2114 Fax. 82-64-710-3009
It is told that the resolution to cancel the annulment of the absolute preservation areas in the Gangjeong village would be discussed centered around progressive members of the Island Assembly today. Because it would be the important watershed in the struggle against naval base since the former Island Assembly passed the bill of the annulment of the absolute preservation area on last Dec. 17, 2009 when the majority of the Island members were those of the right wing, Grand National Party, Island people, including the Gangjeong villagers are greatly paying attention to it.
We ask readers’ any solidarity in this important struggle to prevent the construction of the Jeju naval base, which would complete the United States’ strategic war base in the Northeast Asia.

The Gangjeong villagers had to endure the cold weather for several hours in front of the Seogwipo police station after the members of the civic organizations were arrested amidst their press interview on Dec. 27, on the contrary of the administrative officers who could freely enter and exit the police. Hours later, only the Gangjeong village mayor, Kang Dong-Kyun was allowed to visit the arrested in the police station... an example of how the Jeju island authorities ignore their true grassroots.
제주 12월 29일 상황 보고
12월 29일 전날 있었던 제주 시장과 직원들의 도의회 앞 부당한 노숙 농성 탄압에 항의하며 제주 군사 기지 저지와 평화의 섬 실현을 위한 범도민 대책위, 종교계는 11시 제주 시내 도의회 도민의 방에서 기자 회견을 갖고 시와 우근민 도정을 강하게 비판하며 김병립 제주 시시장의 사퇴를 촉구하였읍니다. 또한 불상사로 얼굴을 크게 다친 시민 단체 여성 회원에 대한 시의 전액 배상을 강하게 요구하였읍니다. 기자 회견에 참석한 한 분은 5공때조차도 시민들을 상해시킨 후 표면적이나마 사과와 배상이 있었는데 제주 도정은 그렇지도 않다고 비판하였읍니다. (기사들의 사진 및 링크 참조)

범대위 세 페이지 성명에 이어 제주 민주 노동당과 제주 민주당 또한 성명을 발표하였는데 민주 노동당은 ‘제주시장은 경찰청장 마냥 도의회에서 현장을 진두지휘하였고, 천막 철거 시 동원된 일부 공무원들은 술을 마시고 동원된 것으로 보였으며, 사진 채증을 하는 공무원들도 채증을 하다 적발되자 언론사 기자를 사칭하는 어처구니 행태를 보였다.’ 하며 비판하였고 민주당 역시 ‘한파가 기승을 부리는 가운데 천막마저 불허당한 시민들이 칼바람에 맞서 노숙 투쟁을 불사한 것은 '민주적.법적 권리와 절차적 정당성'을 담보하기 위해서였다"면서 "어제의 참사는 명백한 공권력 남용으로, 제주시청 공무원과 경찰은 헌법에 명시된 국민의 기본권인 의사표현의 자유와 집회의 자유를 침해했다"고 비판했습니다.

또한 서울의 참여 연대 평화군축센터도 ‘물리적 폭력까지 행사하며 제주해군기지 건설을 강행하는 해군과 제주도 당국을 강력히 규탄한다. 관계 당국은 폭력적 공권력 행사를 즉각 중단하고 기지건설 강행에 저항하고 있는 시민들의 절박한 목소리에 귀 기울여야 할 것이다.’ 라고 성명을 발표하였습니다. (기사 및 성명 링크 참조)

강정 마을회 역시 강동균 마을 회장님을 비롯한 10여분의 주민분들과 전주에서 오신 작가 이종화 선생님등이 이른 오전 마을 회관에 모여 범대위의 기자 회견과 회견 이후 즉석 회의에 참관, 연대와 고마움을 표시하였읍니다. 한편 전주에서 오신 이종화 선생님께서는 29일 이른 오전 해군 기지 가설 예정지에서 추운 칼바람을 이기며 1인 시위를 하시고 전주에서 제주와의 강한 연대가 앞으로 진행될 것을 말씀하셨습니다. 또한 해군 기지 반대 싸움은 전국적인 싸움이 되어야 함을 강조하셨읍니다

마을 주민분들은 11월 27일 해군 기지 예정지 가설 현장 기자 회견시 연행되어 현재 제주 교도소에 수감중인 양윤모 영화 평론가 교수님을 면회하였읍니다. 면회는 오전 8시 30분부터 4시까지 매일 1회 5인까지 가능하다 합니다. 교수님을 면회한 마을 어르신들은 교수님이 건강해 보였으며 투쟁에 대한 굽히지 않는 의지를 밝히셨다고 말씀하셨습니다. 범대위 또한 27일 이후 양윤모 교수님을 석방하기 위한 대책 토론을 해왔으며 종교계를 중심으로 석방 노력이 진행될 것으로 보입니다. (첨부 사진 참조)

양교수님 면회 이후 28일 노숙 농성 건으로 범대위 회원들과 제주 시청직원들의 몸싸움 과정에서- 목격자에 의하면-직원에 의해 떠밀린 (기사 참조) 후 얼굴을 크게 다치고 제주시 한라 병원에 입원해 있는 시민 단체 여성 회원을 방문하였습니다. 정씨는 이빨 3개가 부러져 의사들도 찾지 못할 만큼 입안에 박혀있고 턱에 이빨이 보일 정도로 구멍이 뚫렸다 합니다. 그 통증과 충격을 상상이나 할 수 있겟읍니까? 마을 주민분들 외에 범대위 회원들과 25일 중덕 바닷가에서 생명 평화 성탄 미사를 진행하신 강우일 주교님 또한 이른 오전 정씨를 방문하시기도 했습니다(기사 참조)
3시경 범대위 회원들이 천막 농성을 계획하였던 도의회 마당으로 돌아오니 얼마 있어 천막 설치 도구를 담은 트럭을 도의회내로 들이려는 범대위 회원들과 도의회 직원들의 몸싸움이 시작되었읍니다. 고압적인 제주 시청 직원들과 마찬가지로 수많은 도의회 사무처 직원들이 마치 용역업체 일꾼들처럼 차량을 완강하게 막았습니다. 도의회의장과 도의회원들이 코빼기도 보이지 않는 가운데 범대위 및 시민 단체, 종교계 인사들이 국민의 기본권인 의사 표현의 자유를 주장하며 당당하게 맞선 것과 대조적으로 도의회 사무처 직원들은 자신들이 부끄러운 짓을 하는 것을 아는듯 시민들의 타당한 비판에 한마디 대꾸도 못하는 모습이 너무 자명했읍니다. 몸싸움 와중에 범대위 여성 회원 한 분이 팔꿈치로 명치를 맞아 실신하여 병원에 실려가기도 했읍니다.(기사 사진 참조) 주민분들은 함께 맞서다 저녁 마을의 중요한 회의로 제주시를 떠나 강정 마을로 돌아왔습니다. 범대위는 긴급 회의 끝에 천막 농성을 안하는 대신 촛불 문화제 등 더 큰 대중 투쟁을 도 차원에서 벌여 나가기로 결정하였습니다. 해군 기지 반대를 위해 전국적인, 국제적인 차원의 연대가 또한 필요하다 할 것입니다.

28일과 29일, 제주 시청과 도의회의 시민들의 천막 농성 저지 및 탄압에서 드러났듯, 도정과 도의회 어느 누구도 도민들과 주민들의 정당한 의사 표현을 가로 막는 현실에 분개하지 않을 수 없습니다. 부디 많은 분들께서 제주도정과 도의회에 항의 전화 및 이메일, 팩스를 보내주시길 바랍니다.

오늘 도의회에서 진보 회원들을 중심으로 절대 보전 지역 해제 취소를 위한 의결안을 논의한다 합니다. (기사 참조) 이는 지난 2009년 12월 17일 한나라 당이 다수였던 도의회에서 날치기 처리되었던 절대 보전 지역 해제는 물론 해군 기지 반대 싸움에서 중요한 분수령이 될 것이기에 주민들을 비롯한 도민들의 촉각이 모아지고 있습니다.

부디 고압적인 우도정과 미적미적한 도의회를 압박하고 전략적 동북아 전쟁 기지 완성인 제주 해군 기지를 막는 이 중요한 싸움에 전국의 많은 분들께서 힘을 모아 주시길 바랍니다.


강정 주민분들은 경찰서를 자유롭게 드나들었던 행정관들과는 대조적으로 27일 시민 단체 회원들이 연행된 이후 면회도 허락받지 못한 채 추운 바깥에서 서귀포 경찰서앞에서 오들오들 떨어야 했습니다. 몇 시간 후에야 겨우 강동균 회장님만 면회를 허락받은 바 있습니다.


From Then Thousand Things:

(Every summer, hundreds of dolphins, traveling from Alaska, visit the sea off the village of Gangjeong, Jeju Island. Video courtesy of Yang Dong-Kyu, a filmmaker who filmed this hauntingly beautiful footage of the dolphins responding to his calls in summer 2009. )

Jeju Island, a World Heritage Site, is a jewel of biodiversity. The southern coast of Jeju Island is home to soft coral habitat. In 2001, the Korean Cultural Heritage Administration designated it a national monument protection area. The Gangjeong coast is a seasonal habitat for hundreds of dolphins that live there from June until September. They migrate from Alaska through the North Pacific Ocean to Jeju Island, the only dolphin habitat in South Korea.

And now Seoul is about to destroy the dolphin habitat and the traditional farming and fishing village of Gangjeong to transform an island known for biodiversity, international peace, honeymoons, and school trips into a focal point of rising militarism and an arms race in East Asia. Seoul's target: China, ironically the home of many of the tourists who visit Jeju.

In January, the villagers filed one of many lawsuits over the past few years aimed to stop the destruction of their village and the adjacent coast. They argued, “the village’s habitat should be preserved intact before the project violates their right to life and happiness."

A Jeju court ruled on December 15, unbelievably, that the naval base does "not appear to infringe on the rights of the villagers" — even though the project would destroy their homes and livelihood (tangerine groves and the soft coral habitat where they fish).

The proposed Aegis destroyer base is Seoul's attempt to turn Jeju Island, a honeymoon and school-trip destination, into a militarized, tourist attraction version of Hong Kong and Singapore. Seoul wants to model Hawai'i's mix of military and tourist development, despite the fact that Pearl Harbor made Hawai'i a military target in 1941.

Gangjeong villagers, supported by environmentalists, democracy and peace NGOs, and faith-based organizations, are now engaged in a sit-in to prevent the destruction of the the biodiverse habitat in Gangjeong that supports their traditional village life.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Gangjeong Update, Jeju Island, South Korea

I'm writing a post right now about the "beauty" of the current situation in Gangjeong Village on Jeju Island South Korea where the people there have been resolutely resisting the building of a 400,000 square meter base which will be a dock for Aegis Destroyers from the US and South Korean militaries. Protests and civil disobedience were begun to stop construction, 34 people were arrested yesterday and I'm waiting for more details to say more. But in the meantime, I wanted to share some pictures from the current attempts to stall construction and also share a statement of solidarity with the people of Gangjeong from Japan.


【緊急声明】 Urgent statement 긴급 성명


We oppose the construction plan of a navel base on Jeju Island, Republic of Korea.

우리는 남한 제주도 해군 기지 계획 건설에 반대합니다


The government of ROK is about to force through the startup of the construction of a naval base on Jeju Island despite the opposition by local people. We, those who seek peace in northeastern Asia, demand the cancellation of the startup of the construction work and the thorough withdrawal of the naval base plan.

남한 정부는 지역민의 반대에도 불구, 제주도 해군 기지 건설의 개시를 강행하려 한다. 우리 동북아의 평화를 구하는 이들은 건설 작업 개시의 취소 해군기지 계획의 완전한 철회를 요구합니다.


Constructing the planned naval base would surely deal an irretrievable blow to the coral reel in the sea around the island, which is registered among the World Natural Heritages by the UNESCO, as well as destroy the life of locals and their fishery.

계획된 해군 기지를 건설하는 것은 섬 주위 유네스코에 위해 세계 자연 유산의 하나로 지정된 산호 군락에 돌이킬 수 없는 치명타를 가져올 것이며 지역민들과 그들의 생업을 파괴시킬 것입니다.

It is inevitable that the planned new military base would become a hub for deploying ‘Missile Defense’-system-equipped Aegis destroyers and for port calls by such watships, being used not only by South Korea but also by the US and possibly by Japan. Such a naval base plan is for strengthening the military encirclement against China. So if constructed, that would obviously amplify tension in this area, through which process Jeju Island could become a target of military attack, with local people’s life put in danger rather than under protection.
계획된 새로운 군사 기지가 남한 뿐만 아니라 미국과 아마도 일본에 의해 ‘미사일 방어’ 시스템으로 장착된 이지스 구축함들의 배치와 그러한 전함들에 의한 항구 기항지를 위한 허브가 될 것은 피할 수 없습니다. 그러한 해군 기지 계획은 중국에 대항, 군사적 봉쇄를 강화하기 위한 것입니다. 그러므로 건설되면 지역민의 삶이 보호를 받기 보단 위험에 처하게 되며 군사 공격의 대상이 되는 과정을 통해 분명히 이 지역의 긴장을 분명히 증대시킬 것입니다.


Currently in Northeast Asia, military tension is rising high. The countries concerned are on the path to military intimidation against each other and military buildup, instead of cancelling military drills on their parts and easing tensions, which should be rightfully dealt with by those countries. This situation is feeding military industrial complex with their desirable markets there.

현재 동북아에 군사적 긴장이 높아져 가고 있습니다.관련된 국가들은 그들의 군사 연습들을 취소하고 긴장을 완화하기 보단 서로 군사적 위협과 군사 증강의 길위에 있는데 그 국가들에 의해 옳게 처리되어야 합니다. 이 상황은 그 탐하는 시장들과 함께 군산 복합체를 살찌게 합니다.


We should end this residue of the Cold War remaining in North East Asia and set in place sustainable peace. For that purpose, it is the installation of military-exercises free zones, signing of peace treaties, and regional disarmament measures that is needed. Additionally, it is necessary to reduce and then remove all the military bases of foreign forces in this region.

우리는 동북아에 에 잔존하는 냉전의 잔재들을 끝내고 지속될 수 있는 평화를 건설해야 합니다. 그러한 목적들을 위해 필요한 것은 군사 연습이 없는 지대들, 평화 조약에 서명하는 것들, 그리고 지역적 비무장들입니다. 추가적으로 이 지역의 외구구 군대들의 모든 군사 기지들을 축소하고 제거하는 것이 필요합니다.


No need of military bases on Jeju Island, South Korea, as well as in Henoko, Okinawa. No need of a new military base in North East Asia. We must change the sea of distrust into that of trust, the sea of confrontation into that of peace.

오키나와 해노코와 마찬가지로 남한 제주도에 군사 기지가 세워질 필요가 없습니다. 동북아에 세로운 군사 기지가 세워질 필요가 없습니다. 우리는 불신의 바다를 신뢰의 바다로, 대결의 바다를 평화의 바다로 변화시켜야 합니다.


We send our hearty cheers in solidarity to residents on Jeju Island who are opposed to the planned base construction, and demand that the administration of Republic of Korea fully withdraw its construction plan of a naval base on Jeju Island.

우리는 계획된 기지 건설에 반대하느느 제주도의 거주자들에게 연대로 진심어린 박수르르 보네며 남한의 행정부가 제주도 해군 기지의 건설 계획을 완전히 철회할 것을 요구합니다.

Dec.28th, 2010

2010년 12월 28일


Co-signers of the above statement against

the planned military base construction on Jeju Island

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Third World Native America

I want to write a longer post about how I detest the use of the "Third World" trope to try to call attention to how unfortunate or wrong things are in the United States. One of the reasons why I loathe it is because so much of that complaint is secret exceptionalist strain, an assumption that of all the places in the world where bad things should happen, none of it should be in the United States. Whether natural disasters, shootings and violence, social breakdown, government corruption, whenever something which tests the cognitive limits of people in the United States, the Third World trope emerges to provide some sense of what happened. It is a way of letting a bit of chaos into the homeland, some nasty, brutish, dark slivers of discourse get to sneak in and give some color and some understanding to something which is supposed to be beyond the white-picket-fence-comprehension of Americans. The worst part about this citation of the Third World is how it can help to reinforce the World Order Hierarchy, where the world is not something where the sun shines on all, and good and bad luck can visit anyone anywhere, but there are horrible things which belong in certain parts of the world, which are natural and basically endemic to those places, and then there are places where such violence is unnatural, is not supposed to happen.

I wish I could say more tonight, but I am too busy reading up on how Francisco Pizzaro conquered the Incan Empire and how Hernan Cortez conquered the Aztec Empire in order to prepare for lectures tomorrow. My thinking on this came from reading yet another "Third World America" piece from the website The Huffington Post. What caught my eye this time was about how the story (originally from the website The Daily Beast) was about a Native American tribe in New Mexico. I've pasted the story below for you to check out.


A Teen's Third World America
Eliza Griswold
The Daily Beast
December 26, 2010

E.J. Montoya, 16, has the well-muscled shoulders of a football player and a glossy, black braid down his back. He is a member of the Santa Ana Pueblo, one of the 22 tribes in New Mexico. On the reservation, Montoya lives with his mother and older brother in a trailer at the end of a rough dirt track about 30 miles north of the city of Albuquerque.

Waking at 6 am to make the 2 to 3 hour commute to school, Montoya peels a pair of headphones blasting heavy metal from his ears. He sleeps to the blare of Rush to drown out the sounds of his brother, a 20-year old high school drop out, and his friends who party all night in Montoya's room, which they call "the man's den."

If it's not raining so hard that the dirt road he lives on is impassable; and if his mother's white sedan is running on this morning; and if she has gas money, plus two dollars to give E.J for the rail runner train and a city bus; then Montoya can make the two-hour trip to school.

Montoya's short life story is the unsung tale of America's crumbling infrastructure—bridges, roads, drinking water, sewage lines, and the list goes on. Essentially, everything we rely on to move through our daily lives, and never stop to consider—until it breaks down.

In the next five years, the American Society of Civil Engineers estimates that the United States will have to spend more than one trillion dollars simply to sustain what we already have.

On Indian reservations, the situation is even direr. The state of New Mexico estimates it needs one billion dollars to address such everyday concerns as the lack of clean water, sewers, good roads, and electricity.

"Indian people are wards of the state," New Mexico's Indian Affairs Secretary Alvin Warren said. In exchange for laying down their weapons, Native Americans are supposed to have their basic needs guaranteed by the state. "That means that the government is responsible for projects like supplying running water and electricity to reservations, where, even at the beginning of the 21st century, there is none at all."

It would seem that infrastructure could be a pretty remote subject for a teenager, but mention it to Montoya, and he'll provide an immediate list of obstacles from bad roads to ruined buildings that keep him from getting to school. On his reservation, the most dangerous place is the broken down public pool. "Grown-ups take kids down there to get them drunk," Montoya said. His solution: "Either fix it, or blow it up."

"Kids do drugs because they have nothing to do," he said. Basketball, baseball, soccer, he plays every sport and signs up for any after-school activity to stay off the reservation for as long as possible. "Being busy keeps me out of trouble," Montoya said one recent evening when I drove him home from school.

We were parked outside his trailer in a rented white SUV. Around us in the darkness: a broken baby carriage, a rattletrap Volvo sedan, an anonymous pile of junk littered on the bare ground. I've seen this kind of chaos in refugee camps in Eastern Congo and gypsy settlements in Rome, but not in America.

Of all he does, Montoya is most proud of the care he has taken of at least nine of his dogs—Brian, Zoe, Waffles and Waffles, among others. He is proud they have died "of natural causes," that none have wandered onto the rushing highway nearby and been killed.
He surveyed the yard with a survivor's gaze. "School is my family," he said. Montoya is a tenth grader at Native American Community Academy, a cutting edge charter school for nearly four hundred Indian kids. School, he believed, was the only thing keeping him from becoming a drop out and drug addict, or worse.
Native American kids between the ages of 15 and 24 are nearly four times as likely to commit suicide as others, according to the Department of Health and Human Services. Several factors contribute to these staggering rates—failing schools, no jobs, isolation on reservations or inner cities.

"Suicide rates are as high as they are because there's no recreation," said Warren.

Montoya's cutting-edge school, Native American Community Academy, is an innovative effort to break that cycle of isolation. Several years ago, its founder and principal, Kara Bobroff decided to start a charter school. For the first time in history, she brought together the University of New Mexico and the public school system to service Native American kids. With 400 students from sixth to twelfth grade, NACA is now bursting from the pressed metal seams of the temporary buildings called portables.

The school is essentially a cluster of 27 portables sitting on a gravel lot in a neighborhood of downtown Albuquerque known as the "International District." Inside the chain link fence, the students had planted a small garden of tomatoes and healing herbs they were learning about. A larger garden had just been razed to make room for a larger trailer. There was a charred stump left where once the kids had made a painted pole for ceremonies. One night, it simply vanished—cut down either by vandals or by cold neighbors who could have chopped it up for firewood.

This site is supposed to be temporary. And Bobroff has raised $12.6 million dollars to break ground on the site where her school is supposed to be standing. Yet, due largely to red tape, construction has yet to begin. So her students are stuck in portables. For obvious reasons, winter poses a particular challenge.

For these students, who are used to feeling like second-class citizens, going to school in portables is demoralizing. What makes it worse is that their portables are parked next door to a neighboring public school. Since NACA has no gym, no cafeteria, no basketball court, no library, they have to ask to borrow them for dances or games from the school next door. This, too, has led to trouble. Last year, Montoya nearly got in a fight during lunch at the school next door.

"One kid killed called me a dirty, little Indian," he said. The insult was unremarkable, he explained, most kids at NACA are used to such taunts from their old schools.

As a makeshift solution, Bobroff has wrangled a way to serve hot breakfast and lunch at NACA by using the scant budget to hire an outside cook, and teaching kids about eating healthy food as part of the curriculum.

This winter, as the snow falls, these kids will either sit at lunch tables in the snow, or cram into makeshift cafeteria classrooms to eat, what is for many, their only two meals of the day.

Eliza Griswold, a Senior fellow at the New America Foundation, is the author of the New York Times bestseller The Tenth Parallel

Saturday, December 25, 2010


This week for my column When the Moon Waxes in the Marianas Variety I wrote about video games. I wrote about how for most of my life I harbored a very secret dream, un gof mana'atok na guinife, that somehow, someday the cards of fate fall in place around me and I get the chance to make a living by playing video games that I enjoy.

Although most people know me as an activist, an academic, an artist, most people don't know me as a video game geek. My brothers and I poured plenty of our lives long ago into games like Final Fantasy 3, The Secret of Mana, NBA Live 95 on the SNES. I later poured some more of my life into some Gamecube games like Eternal Darkness, Super Smash Brothers Melee and my first online game Phantasy Star Online. When I started grad school all of this video game playing stopped as I switched my spare time mode from hours staring at the TV screen with a controller in my hands, to hours spent reading books and searching through archives. The only real video game that I played regularly through my Ph.D. program was Guitar Hero and Rock Star Band, because while the financial investment in the games could be high, the time investment could be limited to a song or two a day.

Since finishing up I started finding more and more time to unwind each day playing video games. Last Christmas I got myself Rock Star Band: The Beatles, which kept me busy for a while working on singing and playing bass at the same time. I later transitioned to Monter Hunter Tri for the Wii, which was my second ever online game, which I really enjoyed for a while, but started to feel the strain that so many of those types of leveling up, RPG, Hack and Slash games induce. The game is what you put into it and so if you don't put in enough time, you find all your friends leveling up and moving on, while you remain the same. If you do decide to make it a priority in your life, then there is the guilt of thinking as to whether or not it was a good idea to ignore your children this afternoon because it allowed you to finally get all the materials to make the Tenebra sword. Then there was also the issue of the fact that the internet seems to be, more than a great means of communication and sharing, an ultimate weapon in the terms of asshole behavioral stimulation. For every fun hunt with a good party of people, there would be hunts where someone would spend the entire time boasting in ways which made you wonder if they were human or simply random egotistical statement generators. People who whine about noobs before they do noobish things and then a surprisingly large number of people who become indignant and puritanical when you are a certain sex and don't play that sex as your character.

The internet, with its perceived cloak of anonymity, the idea that one might never have to back up the things which are said or pay the price for saying them to someone's face was in full effect in MH3, and that was something which definitely ended up dampening my enjoying the game. I didn't play much games for the next few months, as I became busy with activism, art and academic things. But when my brother began to get into Starcraft 2: Wings of Liberty, a few months ago, I found myself being dragged right into another game. I really only began playing Starcraft 2, to pass the time and also to find out what was keeping my brother glued to his computer for hours each day. I had heard plenty about Starcraft 1 from my brother, because it was one of those games which had been successful when it was released, but as the years went on, had achieved an iconic status. Part of the reason for this status was that an entire professional world had been created around Starcraft. For both SC1 and SC2 there are international tournaments that take place around them, and there are professional players who are sponsored by sometimes major corporations and make a living playing these games. While I was in South Korea I was shocked to see on the TV of my extremely inexpensive hostel room that there were SC1 games being broadcast between players who were considered to be sort of celebrities. My brother Kuri is pretty good at SC2, so good he is at the top of his league in it, and regularly ranks in the top 500 players in the world and top 200 in North America. I got into the game to support him and try to find some ways of helping him get better and support him should he ever try to take his gaming to the next level.

Although my interest was at first just superficial I've slowly gotten into the game quite a bit. Part of the reason was enjoying the game not just as a purely personal leisure activity, but more as a form of "esports," something which you follow along with a community just as if it were one of the more "mainstream" sports, such as baseball or cricket. I actually have favorite players now and enjoy watching matches between high level players. Last week the 3rd GSL, which is a major SC2 tournament in South Korea wrapped up and we even had a party at a friend of Kuri's to watch the final matches. My only other leisure activity in this vein is following international cricket, but unfortunately being on Guam it is difficult to impossible to watch any matches and so I am always stuck reading the commentary on Cricinfo. At least with high level Starcraft tournaments there are numerous ways to watch the matches either live or via people who have uploaded them to sites like Youtube.

But part of the reason why I enjoy playing SC2 now is the fact that I can play online with people and work with them on developing good strategies for winning games, and that cooperating and winning is a great feeling. The best part of video games is that team aspect, the working together, fighting on the same side for a purpose. I'm hoping to eventually start up a Guam clan for SC2 players and have been talking to some people about holding a local tournament next year.

Put este na nuebu na guinaiya, because of this newfound love of Starcraft 2, I have even started a new blog for some of my random thoughts or updates about the game. If you're interested in reading more about it, you can click here: Inetnon Starcraft Guahan.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Interesting Week

This past week, in Washington D.C., "Don't Ask Don't Tell" was finally repealed and War Reparations for Chamorros was once again defeated.


Message from President Obama

Friend --

Moments ago, the Senate voted to end "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."

When that bill reaches my desk, I will sign it, and this discriminatory law will be repealed.

Gay and lesbian service members -- brave Americans who enable our freedoms -- will no longer have to hide who they are.

The fight for civil rights, a struggle that continues, will no longer include this one.

This victory belongs to you. Without your commitment, the promise I made as a candidate would have remained just that.

Instead, you helped prove again that no one should underestimate this movement. Every phone call to a senator on the fence, every letter to the editor in a local paper, and every message in a congressional inbox makes it clear to those who would stand in the way of justice: We will not quit.

This victory also belongs to Senator Harry Reid, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and our many allies in Congress who refused to let politics get in the way of what was right.

Like you, they never gave up, and I want them to know how grateful we are for that commitment.

Will you join me in thanking them by adding your name to Organizing for America's letter?

I will make sure these messages are delivered -- you can also add a comment about what the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" means to you.

As Commander in Chief, I fought to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" because it weakens our national security and military readiness. It violates the fundamental American principles of equality and fairness.

But this victory is also personal.

I will never know what it feels like to be discriminated against because of my sexual orientation.

But I know my story would not be possible without the sacrifice and struggle of those who came before me -- many I will never meet, and can never thank.

I know this repeal is a crucial step for civil rights, and that it strengthens our military and national security. I know it is the right thing to do.

But the rightness of our cause does not guarantee success, and today, celebration of this historic step forward is tempered by the defeat of another -- the DREAM Act. I am incredibly disappointed that a minority of senators refused to move forward on this important, commonsense reform that most Americans understand is the right thing for our country. On this issue, our work must continue.

Today, I'm proud that we took these fights on.

Please join me in thanking those in Congress who helped make "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" repeal possible:

Thank you,

President Barack Obama


War reparations removed: Senate takes out measure for war survivors

By Erin Thompson
Pacific Daily News
December 23, 2010

Just 24 hours after being told she and other survivors of the Japanese occupation of Guam may finally receive war reparations, Rita Santos Cruz had to be informed that the war reparations provision had been rejected by U.S. senators.

"To be honest with you, then if that is the case, then no buildup. Forget it," said the 73-year-old war survivor. "You know, the leaders of Guam better wake up, because we, the manamko', are not kidding them."

Language in the National Defense Authorization Act of 2011, passed by the House of Representatives last week, provided $100 million for Guam war reparations. The reparations plan provided $10,000 to $25,000 for victims of the occupation or the living relatives of those killed during the war, who could submit claims until 2016.

Guam Delegate Madeleine Bordallo had expressed optimism that the provision finally would be accepted when the Senate worked on a compromise defense authorization bill. But yesterday, Michigan Sen. Carl Levin announced that the language providing for the claims had been rejected by the Senate, according to Bordallo's office.

"I am extremely disappointed in the decision by Senate leaders to remove Guam War Claims from the compromise defense authorization bill," Bordallo said in a statement. "I will be meeting with House and Senate leaders tomorrow to discuss the way forward for this important legislation."

The Senate is currently considering an amended version of the defense authorization bill passed by the House of Representatives.

According to Bordallo's office, the Senate can pass the defense authorization bill only by unanimous consent. Because Senate leaders knew that several senators continued to object to the war claims language in the defense authorization bill, they made the decision to amend the bill and pass it without war claims.

As of yesterday afternoon, the bill had not been passed by unanimous consent in the Senate.

For advocates of war reparations on Guam, the decision is a blow to a decades-long fight to receive recognition and compensation for the suffering of those who survived the Japanese occupation.

"How many times do we have to go through this? How many more years? What is it going to take?" asked Sen. Frank Blas Jr. yesterday. "Are our people worth it?

The president of the Guam War Survivors Memorial Foundation, Blas has been pushing for the reparations through a traveling exhibit sharing the stories of survivors, as well as through a newly launched website,

"Obviously I'm disappointed," Blas said. "Greatly disappointed in the decision to remove what was supposed to be a compromise."

He said he was disappointed with the Democratic leadership in Washington, as well as with Bordallo's efforts.

He said even if Guam received funding from the federal government to support the buildup, it wouldn't compensate for the lack of funds for war survivors.

"In lieu of this, Guam is going to be receiving so many billions of dollars in construction money? Tell that to an 85-year-old war survivor who's not going to be around," said Blas.

Cruz, who was just 7 years old when the first bombs fell, said she watched Japanese soldiers brutally beat her pregnant mother during the occupation. Even though she was a little girl, the soldiers forced her to work.

She said that after years of pushing for reparations from the U.S. government, she was so frustrated she would even consider legal action to get reparations for the island's aging survivors.

"I'm getting pissed off already, because they are treating us like toys," she said.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Act of Decolonization # 18: Rejecting Colonial Logic

One of the things which has frustrated me about the Chamorro language, as someone who uses it everyday, writes in it and is passionate about its revitalization is how weak our general usage of the Chamorro language is. And when I say weak, I mean how superficial it is. The Chamorro language is a social thing, something used for casual talk, even emotionally important talk, connecting to old friends or elders, but something which fills the time with chatter and banter until people switch to English to talk about more important things.

I often say that we can see the colonization of Guam, its effects in our lives through the way we divide things into the limited and supplementary local and the essential and central colonial. So as I wrote in my masters in Micronesian Studies, even if things are constantly blurred in our lives, there are moments when we make clear distinctions and take strong stands on what is Chamorro and what is not Chamorro. What is local and not local. What is American and not American. For instance most Chamorros or people on Guam may never consider the laptop that I am typing on right now through any racial or political lens. It is technology, it has no inherent racial or national value. But, there are moments where something such as this does start to assume a clear value. For my masters thesis that moment was around discussions of decolonization. For most people on Guam, the laptop has no particular political meanings, but for some when the topic of decolonization is discussed, suddenly this laptop becomes part of the privileges and enjoyment of being a colony of the United States. Once decolonization is mentioned, then my access to this laptop and all other things which I secretly or implicitly associated as coming from the US and being derived from or made possible by the US controlling my island is threatened. In this moment, people began to feel those colonial divisions like a knife jammed between your ribs. They tend to cringe and plead for the access to America to not be threatened, that the discussion end since it will lead to insane things happening; time traveling, becoming savage primitives again, not being able to live happy and comfortable lives.

The US proposes itself as the thing which makes this island possible, whether through its influence, its control, its military, its benevolence, and Guam as a "good" colony accepts that as true and as a necessary subordination in order for us to survive. This means that the future of the island is also always seen through the lens of the US and how our future gets brighter or dimmer, more hopeful or full of horror and chaos depending on how much America is involved in getting us there.

It is a cycle of crippling dependency. When you back you see a richness which always seems to be stuck in the past, too rooted in the particular moment you find it and so pointless for the present and for the future. It is for that reason that Frederico Garcia, a Chamorro living in Southern California once asked on his KUAM blog why activists on Guam are looking to the naked men of 500 years ago and their ideas or their lives in terms of arguing what Chamorros or Guam should be like today. He then went on to ask "are we looking to progress or regress?" As I've written about many times already, part of the problem here is the stuckness of indigenous and colonized people. Where the colonized only authentically exists in the pre-colonial past, the distant past, beautiful in that authenticity, but limited and paralyzed in any other moment.

The perceived gifts from the US or the colonizer are given an incredible permanence an elasticity that the Chamorro, the native, the colonized struggles to match. Even if we could argue very forcefully that capitalism as an economic framework has failed in some of the most spectacular ways, it is still understood as being the future, the best. If you were to try to argue that Chamorros should focus their economy in ways drawn from their past, you would be met with sneers and jeers about trading shells and how Guam can't grow an economy on coconuts and stone money (achokka' ginnen Yap este). Even though we can see the world moving towards being more sustainable, which is opposed to most modern theories, this doesn't release indigenous or colonized peoples from that burden of them and their cultures being stuck in time and not able to mean much  in today's world.

Take for instance Guam today. Although the Government of Guam is full of Chamorros, it is not a Chamorro entity. It exists to prop up and promote the United States. The same can be said about most things on Guam, that they were set up, not to fit Guam or match Guam or draw from Guam's history or reality, but instead they were imported because it was simply understood that this was how America does things and Guam should just follow its example. Although the health care system on Guam is plagued with problems, there is no push to reform it in anyway based on what a Guam-based health care system, influenced by Chamorro culture might look like. Most would snicker that we can't have suruhanus taking care of everything and everyone and so a Guam-style health care system would be pointless, but that joke is based on the limited notions of possibility for the colonized. In truth, if we were to stray away from the expensive, profit motivated, health care is a privilege not a right framework that we get from the US, how might we instill a very different set of values into a Guam health care system? How could it be different if we were to reject the idea that just because America does it, we should too?

Life in Guam is all about that dance between the assumed valuelessness of Chamorro or local things and the assumed abundance of value in things perceived to have derived from the US and its influence/presence. The central things, the truly important things must come from the US, must be imported, while other less important things, can come from Guam or somewhere else. As a result, we are hooked and hopelessly dependent on the US because we see it at the center of everything. In my masters thesis I gathered so much of that dependency discourse, the feelings that if the US were not here, Guam could not be prosperous, could not have education, an economy, safety, security, everything. So therefore the US and its influences must sit at the center of everything, it must be protected there, it cannot be challenged or threatened.

Nowhere is this more clear than how the English language is used in Guam, and Chamorro made a pathetic supplement to it. Chamorro language is part of the flavor of life on Guam, it is not part of its blood anymore, not part of what makes it live and breathe. That is why as we have seen, there is more emphasis on "sounding" Chamorro, than speaking Chamorro. You are more authentic if you have some sort of thick Chamorro accent as opposed to actually speaking the language. The superficiality of the language in relation to one of the island's to which it was home becomes mirrored in our expectations of the language itself. If you speak in Chamorro, less people can understand you, and you are always limited by that feeling of Chamorro belonging to a small people, an old time, not the big modern present. That is why using the Chamorro language for things which people might say we aren't supposed to, is so important. We maintain that colonial logic when we accept that Chamorro is just for the edges of things, the spices of something, never the core, the main dish, just something which is supposed to be doled out in hints or dashes.

I was impressed several months back when I came across a column of Chetta' Galaide by Professor Peter Onedera in the PDN, which illustrated well my point today. In this particular column Onedera addressed the issue of self-determination and whether or not Guam should start to seek independence from the US because of the way the island has been treated over the years. Self-determination and decolonization are common topics in Guam nowadays, but what made this different was that the column was in the Chamorro language. Onedera was talking about decolonization in a language which almost everyone, even those who speak Chamorro, struggle to imagine it in. Onedera's columns, even on other topics are crucial because they give us a sense of the other side of that colonial logic, the possibility which is so obvious, yet so many people still assume cannot and should not exist. Chamorro can be used to talk about anything and it should be.

For those who are interested, I've pasted Onedera's column below.


Kao esta måtto i tiempo para ta hassuyi Indipindiente?
By Peter R. Onedera
September 21, 2010

Ha sangåni yu' si nanå-hu gi i dinikike'-hu, na gi i tinituhon i gera, ha lakngos i Estådos Unidos i militåt-ña giya Guåhan ya ha bira siha tåtte para i sanlagu. Ti hu komprende este guihi na tiempo sa' hagas di hu pega gi i hinasso-ku na maneståba ha' i militåt todu i tiempo ya siha manma espipiha nu i sendålon CHapanes, lao in fin, tumunok asta unu ha' na taotao, si George Tweed, marinon Estådos Unidos.

Taimanu na manggof metgot siñenten-ñiha i Mañamoru put iya Estådos Unidos sa' annai manmåtto ya ma na'fanlibre i tinaotao, meggai na silebrasion gi enteru i isla. Kantidå na estoria siha ginen as nanå-hu yan i manachaiguå-ña ya manmåtto di manggof dibotu para håfakao na Amerikånu ni'rumiprisesenta iya Estådos Unidos. Simbolo i banderan Gloria para ayu na linibre ni' mumalingu gi durånten i gera.

Annai umåmko' yu', ma iduka yu' mås put i presion inapåsi ginen i Mañamoru para ayu na linibre yan på'go kulan ti siguru yu' esta put i entension iya Estådos Unidos ni' tratamento-ña nu hita tåtkumu tiritoriåt taidinanña' (ti akomprendiyon este). Mistet buente bai hu patriåtku sa' magof yu' ni' salåppe' Amerikånu yan i kombiñenten ayu na kostumbre, desdeki sesteman idukasion asta guatu gi i sinostienen lina'la', ya ha na'fanhahasso yu' nu i hinanånao-ta, piot i hinatsanhulo' militåt, kao båli håfa bidadå-ña iya Estådos Unidos nu hita.

Gi kinahulo'-hu, tåya' yu' na hu fattoigue otro båndan kollat gi iya NAS Hagåtña, ni', gi lahihot para songsong-hu, iya Espitåt Marinu yan i sagan ginima'-ñiha gi iya Tutuhan. Ayu dångkolon tiningo'-hu na guaha kumunidåt entre sanhalom kumunidåt gi ayu mismo na lugåt ya probidu para bai in hatme. Bula kuestion-hu siha guihi na tiempo ya tåya' siña hu faisen sa' tåya' tiningo'-hu na taotao militåt.

Annai sumaonao i che'lu-hu låhi gi i marinu gi ittemon 50 na såkkan, fihu ha' taigue ya yanggen lumibettå gui' ya måtto tåtte, tåya' tiempo-ña para guåhu maya sa' tinane' yu' ni' bishion famagu'on lokkue'. Fueradi i setentai singko pesos na alåtmen chek kada mes ni ha risisibi si nana-hu, tåya' ha' tiningo'-hu put militåt.

Lao på'go sa' 2010 ya desde i Estetmenten Pinachan Uriyan Lugåt Finetma ni' ha yåma i isla kantidån simåna siha asta i ittemo-ña guini gi alacha, guaha ta'lo atborotu put i Rekot Disision para hinatsanhulo' militåt ginen iya Washington.

Put mås, humåhnanao ha' ta'lo ti ma ekungok i taotao Guåhan ya duda yu' kao u fanma ekungok ha' ta'lo achokha' ginen i Ufisinan Prugråman Guåhan Dinanña' ni' gine'helulu'i as Hiniråt Mayot Ritirao David Bice asta guatu gi i Dipåttamenton Difensot osino håyi ni' responsåpble nu i finatton marins siha ginen Okinawa.

Para u ma tulaika fåson Guåhan gigon ma chule' ta'lo kantidån tåno' siha ni' para u fanma na'fañahnge para guma' militåt yan i familian-ñiha, yan ginima' ta'lo para i hotnaleru siha ni' para u fanma konne' mågi para u ma "håtsa dinuebu" Guåhan. Ta'lo, para u ma desmurona iya Pågat yan iya Bahihan Åpla' ya esta nahong na difekto ni' ma estira imahinasion piot sa' para u inafekta senhassan gå'ga' siha taiguihi i sihek, i ke'ko', i pulattat, i aga, i fanihi, i chachaguak, i haggan siha yan i ababang Guåhan.

Håyi para u tåtte? Kao para i mismo CHamoru? Sa' put esta hit manma midi ni' pineddong linahyån-ta, kao para hita gi ti åpmam na tiempo? Kuånto tetehnan para ta nangga?

Hu hongge na ti u nå'i hit iya Estådos Unidos opottunidåt para ta fanma dikålonisa. Achokha' duru i Nasion Estådos ha eppok pumalu siha na gubetnamento para u fanma nå'i ayu siha na lugåt ni' este na opottunidåt, ti malago' ha sotta hit iya Estådos Unidos. Hagas di ta nå'i siha ni' nisisidat-ñiha desdeki 1898 na såkkan. Fuera di annai manaigue kuåtro åños gi durånten i gera, despues ma dispensa iya Hapon put i manailayen-ñiha, kastigon-ñiha, inestanen-ñiha nu i famalao'ån-ta, yan i manma puno' taotao-ta.

Hagas di bishion Estådos Unidos ni' ma kontenunuha ha' desde på'go, ni' ngai'an na u fanma konsutta osino u fanma faisen i manma'gås-ta Mañamoru put siñente osino hinasso. Manaibali hit para konsederasion achokha' håfa. Sigi ha' hit manma disatende. Ni' ngai'an na ta fanma kombida para i lamasa para deskutasion osino nigosiasion. Tinaotao ha' hit ni' siña ta fanma chånda yan manma honño' lao petlas i tano'-ta para iya Pasifiku yan entråda para Åsiha.

Meggai iya Estådos Unidos para meggai na taotao. Ginen un tiempo ha na'sesembanidosu yu' este na nasion yanggen ume'egga' yu' sirimoñas Olimpiks yan huegu siha osino dångkolon huntan pulitikåt yan ta'lo hu lili'e' matan sendålu siha gi noskuåntos mundo desdeki Vietnam asta guatu Afghanistan yan iya Iraq. Lao esta ti fitme yan siguru siñente-ku. Hu lili'e' taisiñente nu hita ginen i fidiråt yan i tratamento-ña nu hita.

Gof tåddong riniparå-hu piot på'go ni' kulan chenglong ta'lo i priniponen riparasion gera gi iya Senåt. Hu pega gi i sanhalom kurason-hu na ni' ngai'an hit na ta li'e' este na priniponi guatu giya hita. Hu senhongge lokkue' na ni' ngai'an iya Estådos Unidos na u nå'i hit estao estådu. Hu senhongge lokkue' na ya-ña iya Estådos Unidos na para ta fanaiguini ha' todu i tiempo, ya siha ha' la'mon nu hita achokha' tiempon gera osino tiempon pås. Fabot ha' na manma nå'i hit nu i estao siudadånon Estådos Unidos.

Ya olåha mohon ginen as Yu'os, na yanggen måtto gera ta'lo gi iya Guåhan, ti bai hu chalamlam babale'-hu yanggen ha lakngos ta'lo iya Estådos Unidos i militåt-ña ya manma abandona hit. Ginen ha susedi este gi fine'nana na biåhi.

Friday, December 17, 2010

North Korea Threatens World's Remaining Unicron Population; US and South Korea Announce Joint Exercises

The Korean peninsula has been in the news on Guam for the past few weeks after a North Korean attack killed two South Korean Marines and two civilians on the island of Yeonpyeong which both nations claim to be on their side of the border.

I have found the coverage of the issue to be frustratingly simple and incomplete, following the predictable narrative of blaming North Korea for naked aggression despite the fact that the South Korean Government has admitted firing first. They claim they were not directed at North Korea, but just part of a training exercise which was simulating a possible attack on North Korea and involved 70,000 troops near the North-South border.

I traveled to South Korea earlier this year on a research trip in order to interview different communities affected by US bases there and also activists working towards the reunification of the Koreas. My entire trip was completely overshadowed by an earlier incident on the Korean peninsula, the sinking of the South Korean ship the Cheonan, killing 46 sailors. The South Korean Government was quick to assume it was North Korea, although it was never conclusively proven.

The sinking of the ship became something which allowed the conservative government to crackdown on all sorts of activities that they perceived to be weakening the national security of South Korea. The main targets became social democratic and civil society groups, primarily those who have a core precept that the two Koreas should be someday reunited. For just the week that I was in South Korea, I could see it in the eyes of so many activists, that the sinking, regardless of what the truth behind it was, would be used against them, would be something which Right wing elements could twist into turning the country into a blind nationalistic and militaristic frenzy.

They were right, various reunification groups have been threatened by both Rightist elements and the South Korean Government, and the military has been conducting regular military exercises on the border of the two countries and in direct provocation to them. One of those exercises contributed to the incident at Yeonpyeong.

One of the many frustrations that activists in South Korea regularly repeated was over this Chenoan issue, and how the US government and other around the world were too quick to side with the South Korean government in blaming North Korea. It was almost a blind knee-jerk reaction to support an ally over what might the truth. The US and the current South Korean Government are both in the throes of shifting and increasing their military power on the peninsula and so the idea of North Korea as some hulking, evil danger helps them quite a bit. Even if a report was released stating that North Korea was threatening the world's remaining unicorn population, you would find scathing news articles about it and announced new joint multi-national exercises to take place in the Asia-Pacific region in anticipation of a possible North Korean strike on Fluffy and Bobo, the world’s two last unicorns.

One of the problems with how people in the US and its territories understand the situation in the Korean Peninsula is that it is filtered through the lens of the US, which means that most attempts to understand or comprehend the current and historical situation there are filtered through US national interests and biased towards who are US allies. Despite the fact that the US has a very long history of supporting horrible regimes and toppling democratically elected ones, we still assume that whoever is an ally would always act in self-defense while their enemies must always be the aggressors. For a place such as Guam, which sits on the edge of one of the regions the US sees full of current and future hotspots, this is not an ideal way to see the world.

One joke that I heard more than once in South Korea was about missile testing and the difference between American media treatment of the two Koreas. Each time that North Korea launches a missile, when it (if ever) is successful, it is the end of the world and a threat to world peace. When it fails (which it usually does) it's a sign of North Korea and how pathetic and weak and crazy its leaders are. It dares to challenge and stand apart from the freedom-loving world, yet it can't even launch a mere missile?! The importance however is that, every single step that North Korea takes, the US media is watching and covering it through the lens I just described. The same doesn't go for South Korea, who recently had a failed missile test of their own, but was not reported in the American media in anywhere near the same way. The punchline to this is of course that if the US media is interested in reporting the threats that are out there to "world peace" then it should make a distinction between the well-funded and increasingly growing and modernizing South Korean military, which is constantly supported by the US and its attempts to strategically box in China, and that of a weak, isolated regime like that of North Korea’s.

Although everything we hear out of that region paints North Korea as the belligerent regime and South Korea as a meek victim of its aggression, if we look objectively at the situation, who is more likely to fire the first shot, the most likely to attack the other? One country which seems to sometimes struggle to feed itself, whose parent state wants less costly aggression and posturing, or the other who is flush with foreign military aid and forces, and who is urged at every step to not back down?

South Korea is an ally not to us, but to the one who holds us. To their military and their interests. South Korea is a shield in one hand to the spear-tip that we are in the other. And as I told a Time blogger last month, it is the tip of the spear which is always the first thing to get bloody. So our enemy, as a small island in the midst of superpowers is never any particular country, but always war itself. Should war ever break out in this region, especially involving the masters of both North and South Korea (China and the US), Guam would most likely lose.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Lesson of Peace from Times of War

I wrote about last week that I was working with the Office of Senator Frank Blas Jr. on their Real Stories. Real People. project, which has been working to collect the stories of our manamko' who survived World War II and also push for war reparations with the US Government. Most of the discussion on island around World War II happens around July of each year when the island transforms itself to celebrate Liberation Day. This year the Senator's office wanted to do something different and try and get the island to remember its history and this important event, not when the war ended, but when it began, in December.

Part of my job with the office was conducting researching and helping the Senator write four columns on what sort of lessons we might draw about the war, by looking at it from its tragic and traumatic beginnings, rather than its celebratory and grateful ending. These columns were published in the Marianas Variety over the past month. I've decided to collect them here in my blog, because even though they are short, they contain important messages for Guam to consider, not just about its history, but its present as well.


Strength to Go On
Senator Frank Blas Jr.
The Marianas Variety

When I think about the struggles our island’s World War II survivors have overcome, and the need to pass War Reparations legislation as soon as possible to recognize them, I am reminded of a famous survivor from South Africa. A man who spent 27 years in prison for no other crime than fighting for equality and freedom for his people in their land. This man is Nelson Mandela, and the words that helped him endure his hardest times seem to perfectly capture the spirit of our manåmko’.
If you were to meet Nelson Mandela and ask him how he survived nearly three decades of his life in that tiny cell on Robben Island, or why when he was released he didn’t seek violent retribution against the people who had put him there, but instead became South Africa’s first black president and focused on healing his divided nation, he might recite for you some lines of poetry. According to Mandela, during the times in prison when he would find himself no longer able to go on, no longer able to stand strong, he would read the poem “Invictus” by a 19th century British poet named William Henley. This poem was something he held closely to his chest, and when he would recite it, the words would burn into his mind, and he would find iron again in his back, and steel in his will.

Here are a few lines from that poem that truly remind me of our own survivors:

“I thank whatever gods may be, for my unconquerable soul ... I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul.”

When I say those lines to myself, inside my head, they conjure up images of what Guam must have been like during World War II, or I Tiempon Chapones as they used to call it. Our parents, grandparents and great-grandparents were caught in a terrible place during that time. Their island transformed for 32 months into a battlefield for two superpowers. One of these powers claimed that Asia and the Pacific was its domain and conquered Guam and many other places in order to turn itself into a modern empire. The other deemed that Guam could not be defended, and left our island to be sacrificed to their enemy.

Many historical accounts have shown how the Chamorro people, in order to endure the trauma of war, used the hope that the US would return to Guam. The song “Sam, Sam, My Dear Uncle Sam” is a testament to that. But to reduce our war stories to that narrative, or even to say that this is the idea that should define that experience does not do justice to our survivors.

As my team and I have been working on a public awareness campaign documenting our war survivors’ stories and pushing the United States Congress for War Reparations, we have found that survival requires not a belief in someone else, but a deep strength that can only be found within.

Our survivors’ stories have taught us that it was not Uncle Sam who worked in the rice fields. It was not Uncle Sam who was forced to watch as his or her relatives were beheaded. It was not Uncle Sam who was forced to “comfort” occupying soldiers and then remain quiet for decades about the abuse. It was our manåmko’ who did all that. And even if the hope that Uncle Sam would return helped them, it was the Chamorro people who endured and survived the War.

Although I doubt many of our manamko’ were aware of the poem Invictus during the war, and Nelson Mandela himself was just in his twenties, the spirit of that poem was something they brought to life in their own ways. Guam’s former delegate to Congress Ben Blaz once wrote, “The Chamorro spirit was not an abstraction; rather, it was demonstrably real during those years and I have drawn inspiration and sustenance from that reality my entire life.”

When faced with swords and bayonets during the war, and later American bombs and bulldozers, the Chamorro people did not lay down to die. They did not give up or give in. They held tightly to their families, their culture, and their unconquerable souls.

I imagine an island of 22,000 people – mothers, fathers, children, elders, each reaching deep within themselves to find that strength to go on, to endure and live another day. I can imagine each in their own way, whispering to themselves, “Estegue i taiå’ñao na ante-ku, ya put este, Guahu i ma’gas I lina’la’-hu.”
To learn more about Guam’s war survivors, please visit


The Dangers of Blind Faith in War
Senator Frank Blas Jr.
The Marianas Variety

On the morning of December 8, 1941, rumors spread rapidly around Guam that Pearl Harbor had been bombed, and the war in Europe had truly become a World War. But when Chamorros who looked to the sky in Hagåtña saw nine airplanes flying south, many thought they were American planes sent to protect the island. They could not fathom that they were in fact Japanese planes about to bomb Sumay.

The late Guam historian Pedro Sanchez once noted that to understand how Chamorros reacted to the war, it is essential to know of their almost blind faith in the United States as the most powerful country in the world. This is what they had been taught in schools and told by the Naval Government. As such, even though war was looming, many Chamorros believed they had a protector who would never let anything bad happen to them.

The surprise and shock of that fateful day thus became the fact that the United States allowed Guam to be taken so easily, and that it took them so long to return. Then Naval Governor George McMillin surrendered the island to Japan on December 10, 1941 – just two days after the attack. And the United States did not return for two-and-a-half years.

One of the main lessons we must learn from World War II is that our island, because of its strategic location, will always be a prized chess piece for both our friends and our enemies. With that in mind, we must always be ready to think about our place in the world in broader and more complex terms. The people who call this island home, who may have done so for thousands of years, may think of our land as one thing, but Admirals, Generals, Congressmen and Presidents see it differently.

This is why another lesson to be learned from the war is to be wary of blind faith in the United States, of believing that they will always look out for the best interests of this island and its people. In the decades that led to World War II, we can see that this clearly wasn’t the case. The faith Chamorros had in the US wasn’t deserved as the country had anticipated war with Japan for decades, but did little-to-nothing to warn the people of Guam, or defend the island from attack.

Japan had surprised the Western world by defeating both China and Russia at the start of the 20th century and then rushed into World War I, seizing German holdings in Asia and the Pacific. This left Guam the sole US possession, surrounded by new Japanese islands in the Marianas and Micronesia. As early as 1906, the US had begun to develop War Plan Orange, or plans in anticipation of possible war with Japan (which was given the color Orange).

The reasons for war began far earlier than Pearl Harbor, and have to do with competitions between nations for dominance over parts of the globe.

Japan sought to become a global power and was merely following the example that Western powers had already established. Europe had divided up the world into separate colonies; the US got its independence, but later acquired its own slate of colonies (including Guam) and argued through the Monroe Doctrine that Central and South America were its regions to “influence.” By the 20th century, Japan sought to create an empire of its own in Asia and the Pacific, a prosperity sphere through which it would have easy access to markets and raw materials. Naturally, the US did not want the threat or the competition.

Robert Rogers writes in his book Destiny’s Landfall, that for more than three decades War Plan Orange was continuously revised, and several increasingly large proposals for the fortification of Guam were made. For instance, the Hepburn Report released in 1938 called for $200 million to transform Guam into a major air, submarine and fleet base. This recommendation, along with many others, was rejected.

In the 1930’s, Japan invaded Manchuria, started to militarize the Micronesian islands around Guam, and began to make more aggressive moves in Asia, yet the US did little to prepare Guam for war. Throughout the decade, none of the plans presented were implemented because the US Navy had come to assume that Guam simply could not be defended.

Discussions about Guam being indefensible, and the possibility that the island would be sacrificed to Japan were not made public. These discussions were held behind closed doors, and Chamorros did not hear about War Plan Orange until after the war.

By 1941, however, the Navy knew that war was coming. They conducted blackout drills and reconstituted the Guam Militia as the Insular Guard. In October, they began evacuating all Naval dependents from the island. This was one of the clearest examples of how the US Navy saw itself and its interests as separate from the people of Guam. None of the island’s people were allowed to evacuate. Chamorros in the Navy, such as former Senator Adrian Sanchez, tried to have their own dependents evacuated when they received word about the Navy’s plans, but they were rebuffed and told that only white dependents would be allowed to leave.

It is very common nowadays for Guam to be called “the tip of the spear.” In some ways this is true, because we are the closest piece of America to the threats it perceives from Asia. But, just because the US has thought of this island for more than a century as a piece of real estate, a sleepy outpost, or the tip of its spear, doesn’t mean that we need to settle for being a strip of land to be used one moment, and then sacrificed the next. We must not make the same mistake of having blind faith in the US to always have our interests at heart, but instead rely on our own intelligence to see our place in the world.

To learn more about Guam’s war survivors, please visit

The Power of Prayer
Senator Frank Blas Jr.
The Marianas Variety

The week before Guam was bombed on Dec. 8, 1941, Chamorros were busily preparing for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception; war was probably the furthest thing from their minds.

Families had spent the week setting aside crops, slaughtering animals, hunting fanihi or panglao, and cooking up their best dishes for the taotao tumåno’ who were on their way to the island’s biggest fiesta. When news began to filter around the island that Pearl Harbor had been bombed, and soon after so had Sumay, the cheerful atmosphere turned gloomy.

The masses were packed that morning throughout the churches on Guam, and these large spiritual gatherings soon became full of whispers. The Bishop at that time, Miguel Olano later wrote in his autobiography that for the congregation that sat before him in the Dulce de Nombre Cathedral in Hagåtña, “The joyous songs of rejoicing at the beginning of the Mass had ended in mournful agony and silence…” What was to be a celebration became the prelude for a very dark and difficult time.

He sent the congregation home without finishing the mass, and told them to prepare for the worst. People fled the church to gather their families and hide, but they kept their prayers close. Whenever survivors of the war recount their memories, they always attribute their strength to their faith and belief in God, and to the power of prayer.

This year, the Guam War Survivors Memorial Foundation will celebrate that faith by allowing survivors, their families and the rest of our community to finish the mass that was interrupted on December 8, 1941.

At 7:30 a.m. tomorrow, Archbishop Anthony Apuron will celebrate a remembrance mass at the Dulce Nombre de Maria Cathedral-Basilica. After the mass, our manåmko’ will recount their memories of how the war began and how their lives were drastically changed.

When stories of the war are recounted on our island, we tend to focus on the end of the war and Liberation Day. The start of the war, an equally tragic and important historical moment, is often given far less attention. It sometimes passes without any historical commemoration whatsoever. When Liberation Day comes, we insist that we remember lessons and that we honor heroes, but when the eighth of December arrives, why do we not remember it with the same determination?

We commonly say today that everything changed with World War II, and I’m sure that during the trying times of the war, our elders must have commonly thought to themselves that nothing would ever be the same. Our people today were forged in the fire of that war. We still have the burns, like scars on our hands and our hearts. We still feel the wounds, so deep they can even be passed down to future generations. This pain can never be fully spoken of and we all try to find imperfect ways of healing or of demanding justice. Some choose to swallow the pain and seal it up.

I have been working for several years now on finding my own ways of bringing closure to our manåmko’ for this period of their lives. The main way in which my office has done this is through the program Real People. Real Stories, where we have been documenting the struggles of our manåmko’ who survived World War II, and have also been advocating locally, nationally and internationally that the Chamorros of Guam, at long last, receive the recognition and compensation they deserve through war reparations from the United States.

Through my office we have interviewed many of our brave war survivors, some of whom may be familiar to the people of Guam, as their stories have been told before in documentaries, books or newspaper inserts. But there were many others who had never shared their stories before. My staff and I consider it a great privilege to work with so many people, many of whom have become very dear to our hearts. Sadly, a handful of those we interviewed have already passed on.

The mass tomorrow represents the next phase in our journey, a hopeful way of taking our difficult history and bringing closure to it. The celebrations of Liberation Day are only part of our war story, the easiest to confront because it appears to be such a happy ending. But we must also find a way to return to the solemn and somber beginning of the war. In order to bring closure to this part of our history, we must return to that moment where the happiness of prewar life on Guam was shattered, and where indeed so little would ever be the same. It is important that we come together as an island once again and finish that mass on our own terms. I hope you will come and join us tomorrow morning.

To learn more about Guam’s war survivors, please visit


Remembering Our Greatest Generation
Senator Frank Blas Jr.
The Marianas Variety
During his homily at the 7:30 a.m. mass on December 8, 2010, Archbishop Anthony Apuron asked all the survivors of World War II in the congregation to stand. More than 100 manåmko’ rose proudly but gave humble smiles to the children, grandchildren, friends, and leaders gathered around them in a packed Dulce Nombre de Maria Cathedral-Basilica.

It was powerful to watch their facial expressions as the Archbishop recalled that terrifying day exactly 69 years before when they were told Guam had been bombed and the war had begun. These strong survivors, many just children during the war, carry their memories in their eyes. And for just a moment, as they stood before us and the church filled with applause, we felt peace together.

After the mass, as we gathered behind the church for breakfast, the storytelling began. Our elders, who for years kept the war a secret they’d never share, were laughing as they recalled more lighthearted memories of the Japanese occupation – the food they ate, how they got it, where they walked, the new language they learned, and the adventures of hiding at the ranch.

The day was full of their stories, and everyone who came learned something they never knew before. In a more formal sharing of memories, the breakfast was followed by a storytelling session featuring four war survivors. More than 100 people of all ages and backgrounds stayed to listen to them.

I often refer to Guam’s World War II survivors as the greatest generation because despite the suffering they experienced and witnessed, and despite their quiet acts of heroism, many of them have never sought fame or fortune. They simply wish that future generations learn from their experiences, and that this history never repeats itself.

Many have only heard a summary of our elders’ war experience, which tends to focus on the end of the war. Very rarely do we take the time to learn what life was like everyday during the two-and-a-half year Japanese occupation. During the storytelling session, I was reminded that there is still so much that we don’t know, and that we must begin to record.

There were more than 20,000 Chamorros who survived the war, each with their own unique experiences and memories.

The four stories that were shared made this abundantly clear.

For Rita Cruz, the war was hell. One day while at Japanese school, she and her classmates were called into the yard to witness something horrific. Her pregnant mother was beaten to near death for refusing to bow to Imperial soldiers. So much of Mrs. Cruz’s story centered on the strength of her mother, who always protected her family, even when it almost cost her, her life. Mrs. Cruz’s mother never lost her voice, and spoke openly to her children about the injustice of the war until the very end. Mrs. Cruz said that although she and her mother were grateful to see the Imperial Army leave, her mother reminded her that the Americans were not there to liberate them, or to save them. “They came here for our land, never forget that,” she said.

Joaquin Lujan, or Tun Jack as many know him, shared a different story. He was 21 when the war began. While this time was not easy for him, Tun Jack and his family were left alone for two interesting reasons. The first was that a Japanese general who had moved into the house across from Mr. Lujan’s Anigua home, enjoyed talking to his younger sister. She reminded the General of his three daughters in Japan. The second was that this same general, after learning that Tun Jack and his father made farming tools behind their house, told them to continue their work because it was important to both the Japanese and the Chamorros. The Japanese believed that as long as Chamorros were working in their farms, and were happy and well fed, the Japanese would prosper on Guam, too. As a result, Tun Jack and his family were rarely harassed in the ways many other families had been.

Gloria Nelson, who was only five-and-a-half when the war began, told her story with wide-eyed honesty. Because she was just a child, Mrs. Nelson had some fun times during the war. She liked being with her relatives at the ranch, climbing trees and swimming in the swamp. The Japanese soldiers and their fancy uniforms amused her. She also enjoyed learning the Japanese language, and recited her numbers for the audience to show that she still retained what she was taught then. She also laughed as she described the strange tasks she was assigned like filling a jar with flies. She liked catching flies because she’d be awarded with small “goodies” when she returned with the jar. Another survivor in the audience said she had the same memory, and was told that the flies would be used for soy sauce. Mrs. Nelson, however, said the Japanese simply wanted to irradiate the insects.

The final elder to speak was Cristobal Reyes, who was only a little more than 100 days old when the war broke out. He spoke very briefly, but read from a list of things that he felt could be considered good about the war. Although the war was terrible, he said that it brought out the best in people, especially in terms of their faith. For 32 months, people prayed constantly and held Santa Maria Kamalen so fiercely in their hearts. According to Mr. Reyes, she had performed a miracle and kept the Chamorro people from being wiped out.

As we move into a new year, with new leaders in our government, we cannot forget these stories. Our manåmko’ continue to wait for justice. It is my resolution in the year ahead to avidly pursue war reparations for our island’s survivors. I will work with both local and federal leaders to remind the United States Congress that they have a moral and legal obligation to finally recognize the sacrifices and suffering of our greatest generation.

To learn more about Guam’s war survivors, please visit


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