It is very easy to go through life and see so many things that tower above you as invincible, as constant, as eternal, as something which once had a beginning, but cannot seem to possibly have an end. If you ever wonder why despite the geographic and political distance between Guam and the United States, why people here are so desperately loyal to America, it has alot to do with the idea that what is American is permanent or that what is American comes with some sort of guarantee. Whatever is American can bring stability and order, anything else, whether it comes from Guam or from another island or another country cannot really be trusted. Ti anggokuyon hafa ti Inamerikanu.
That is of course one of the main reasons why in most people's minds in Guam there are two very simple equations to understanding the military buildup.
1. More military = more money.
2. More military = more security.
The first one is debatable, but leans towards being true. More military on island does provide the means for economic improvement and advancement. It has at different points since World War II been the means for Chamorros and others on Guam to improve their lives economically, and help build (with a lot of help from GovGuam) a shaky middle class on island. This doesn't mean though that the stupid wishful promises that we have been hearing since 2005 about the buildup making Guam's economic dreams come true are anywhere close to being real. This current buildup will bring money into Guam's economy, but also (most likely) exasperate existing inequities and push alot of people down, as we've seen in other places.
But so many people blindly believe this equation and refuse to even consider the larger picture, not because this money comes from the military, but because it comes from the American military, it comes from the United States and therefore has this aura of stability of being something that we can trust, that we can really build ourselves and our economy upon.
This same principles carries over into the idea of more military making Guam safer. For every 1,000 American troops, or every new generation of military hardware that gets brought here, the danger to Guam automatically increases. The more American military that Guam has, the more it becomes a target, and not just any target, but a key target that has to be and is close enough to be destroyed by all the cold and hot enemies that the United States is making in the region.
But it is this simple, colonial fact which has made dealing with the military buildup so difficult for Guam, because as a result of this logic, there is nothing to deal with. In the subconscious minds of most, things will improve, things will get better, things will become more stable, if we just let it happen and just go with the flow. So much of this idea comes from the fact that we see whatever comes from the United States as being stronger, being better, being more important to our survival than anything else, especially the things we have to offer. These are some of the fundamental reasons why Guam is what it is now, that unassailable durability of something that comes from the United States, that feeling that it cannot and must not be questioned. That it cannot and must not be challenged, that we can't improve upon it, but only have to accept it and live with it.
People may feel this wave of apathy, but its not really the way things are. Every moment of every day carries with it the possibility of some sort of upheaval, of a small or a large revolution. Or that somehow by building yourself up, by entrenching yourself you are actually increasing the likelihood that the opposite will take place. When regimes crack down on their populations in order to pacify them, sometimes it does cow them, but in other instances it leads to the dissolution of the regime. The higher a sovereign builds their house in order to avoid those starving peasants on the ground, the more likely that his house will tumble and fall and take him right back down to that point.
But in any society, there are mechanisms, ideological, economic, political, social, and sometimes physical which are meant to keep people in place, to keep them from perceiving that something which is pinning them down, which is oppressing them, which is stealing from them, can ever be stopped.
The military buildup, as a concept, a discursive force and as a loose collection of people and institutions who are pushing for it to happen has for four years now been a willing and eager beneficiary of all of these protections. It feels like it can on so many levels solve so many of Guam's problems. It feels like it has to happen, like this is what Guam exists for, to take more military, by keep being that tip of America's spear. It feels like it can't be stopped, or that while it may be unfortunate that Guam doesn't have a negotiating role in the process, that there isn't anything we can do about it. All of these things, resulted in most people on island keeping quiet or staying silent since 2005. Concern and worries about the buildup and what it would do to the economy, the environment, self-determination, culture, natural resources, all of these things were felt, and as most will admit, they were discussed in private amongst family members, to close friends, but it was not something that you stated publicly or dared to say in front of people you didn't absolutely trust.
But something has definitely changed in recent weeks. Since the release of the DEIS, more and more, people on Guam seem to feel like they can and the must speak out. That they must get involved, that they must talk to others openly about what they feel and what they are worried or frightened about. So far Guam has had two public comment meetings for the planned military buildup, where people are supposed to provide feedback on the DEIS. So far the vast majority of the comments have all been either critical or negative, with people from all sectors of Guam life standing up and stepping up to the microphone to have their voice heard and to give voice to the discontent that is out there.
You can find more than a dozen of these testimonies uploaded onto Youtube. I've pasted them below. The videos are from the Channels, We Are Guahan, Voice of Guam and Famoksaiyan.
Ekungok nu i fino'-niha. Nina'na'i animu yu' ni' este na mananachu pa'go. Gi i kuentos i minalalgun Obama, "Hunggan Sina Hit."