Thursday, September 23, 2010


The US military buildup to Guam "officially" starts now.

The Record of Decision which is supposed to mark the end of the Environmental Impact Assessment process was signed earlier this week and so now construction on the projects outlined in the Final Environmental Impact Statement can "officially" begin.

At this point, there is almost too much to be written about this issue and not enough time in my day today (since this is my long teaching day) or energy in my body (since this is my long teaching day) to do it. Although I've been writing about this DEIS and FEIS issue for months now and been actively participating in conversations and actions challenging the military buildup at so many levels, I still can't help but feel as if I did not do enough, that I could have done far more.

But for all the feelings filtering through my mind and body right now screaming that something has ended, something is over or we have moved into a new phase and something can't be changed, I know the truth that nothing is actually over.

For those who have been paying attention, plenty of documents have been signed, plenty of promises have been made, and Guam made an industry out of finding new and creative ways to say that something is going to happen no matter what we do and so we shouldn't bother doing anything. The fact that so much energy was put into making people feel like the buildup was inevitable or that it would happen no matter what, the more we can argue it truly wasn't. The past year for instance, so much of that certainty has collapsed, fallen off, had to be picked up by the Chamber of Commerce, JGPO, local politicians and duct-taped back on. The conversation has absolutely changed, and that should remind us that this latest end to the discussion or end to the issue is like all those before, just another point in a long road, which could be called a beginning of an unraveling just as much as it could be called the end of an unraveling.

People called this thing a done deal the moment Congresswoman Bordallo sent out a press release about it. People said it was a done deal before it had even been decided what was going to be done or what was going to be brought to Guam or be built here. This issue was supposedly decided last year when Secretary of State Clinton signed a piece or paper in Japan, yet over the past year and a half, when it has come to specifics and funding, the buildup seems far less secure or certain then it ever did before. Right now funding for the buildup was cut in half in the Senate and the White House is lobbying to get it put back in.

So much of the buildup conversation was so pathetic, especially from Guam's leaders, but also from so many people as well, because of that aura of inevitability that they infused into it, so often without even knowing what they were talking about, or what the buildup was supposed to be. The conversation was so sad and so poor because Guam was never truly in the conversation, it was never really a part of it, and instead of working to create a place for us, most people on Guam and most politicians found ways of not being able to understand or grasp the whole of what might be happening, but letting that inevitability fill in the gaps. It is after all just a few mental leaps to move from, "we can't do anything about it or be against it, because it'll happen no matter what" to nothing matters because it'll happen no matter what. The inevitability is not a tiny dimension of this, but it is the overpowering force in the way people understand it.

It locks the minds of people who try to understand it, who try to think about it or even analyze it, speak of it. It locks you in such a way that half of the problem is masked, half of the problem is unintelligible to you because it requires that you not see the buildup as inevitable and not as some force of nature, but as something which simply can or can't happen, and that you might have a role in deciding that.

As I've written about before many times, the military buildup has not really changed in and of itself in anyway over the past year, other than the fact that the military at last stated what their desires and intentions are. The reason that things feel different has little to do with the buildup itself, but rather to do with how people on Guam see it, namely what is different is that they see it at all. It is no longer some floating dream, something castle of fantasies and illusions which floats above Guam granting wishes to those who faithfully believe in it and don't question its power. It is something here on the ground in Guam. It is something which will affect everything from the less than tangible to the very tangible. The military buildup, at last has become something here on Guam, no longer something buttressed by its inevitability and the fantasy that it will somehow be better for Guam the less we know or understand about it. It has promise and it has problems, but it is no longer automatically seen as something with all promise and some minor negatives. When the buildup is viewed in as much of its sprawling and island-capsizing size and dimensions as your brain can handle, it is hard to sustain the argument every pathetic politician and person on Guam makes about it; that it is mainly good, but a little bad and so we need to make sure that we use all that good to mitigate that very little bad.

Once you strip away all that inevitability that gives the feeling that you are somehow winning by merely supporting it or saying it will happen, that you are on the side of reality and common sense, you are left with something which is more of a problem than a boon. More like a curse than a blessing. Something with far more concrete potential problems, than abstract assumed gains. And the primary reason that this is so, is because of that accursed inevitability, that permeates the issue and gives it more power than it should have and far less scrutiny than it requires. The buildup is more of a problem than a solution, not only because of things such as overpopulation, overextension of utilities, damage to economy/society and so on, but because of the way it keeps intact (and invigorates) so many forms of dependency and inferiority that pervade this island, and finally because of the fact that so few people seem capable of considering it in anything close to an objective, practical or even useful sense. And the crux of objectivity is the ability to consider the merit of things which go against what is assumed, commonsensical or natural. To be objective about something requires that you entertain its anathemas, that you spend time with its antagonists and that you understand what drives that opposition, that you treat it not like some supplementary ridiculous, maladjusted, fake opposition, but something that could be very real.

I guess the point of this post is that don't think for one second that this issue is over and done or that somehow, at last you can say the the buildup is a done deal. If anything, the rollercoaster of the past five years has taught us the lesson which haunts Adrian Veidt at the end of the graphic novel Watchmen. After engineering a massive hoax against humanity, which cost the lives of millions in order to try to convince the world that aliens are attacking earth in order to prevent the world from being obliterated in nuclear war, Veidt asks Dr. Manhattan, another superhero, one with god-like powers and god-like detachment from the world, "I did the right thing didn't I? It all worked out in the end?"

Dr. Manhattan, politely mocks Veidt and his hope that he can find some security or stability in meaning or order after what he has done, in hopes that he can stamp some finality on this act to keep it from slipping away from him or unraveling. He says to him, "In the end? Nothing ends Adrian. Nothing ever ends."

That as much as the military might hope that the ROD means the battle over the meaning of the buildup is over, such is not the case. The ROD, like so many other things works in their favor, but it does not end the issue. It does not magically make money appear or politicians fall in line. It may swoon those who don't care about the issue that much and are more interested in appearing to be "normal" ideologically on the issue than stand on what they believe is better for Guam, but it does not win over those who see and worry about the buildup in all its vast complexity and insanity. It does not fix the numerous flaws and problems in the buildup and what we've seen so far in the DEIS and FEIS. It does none of these things, it is like everything, a wishful symbol, a hope that if you say something is finished, over and done with enough times, it might at some point magically come true.


RealityZone said...

achakma said...

As this hydra continues to transform, acquiring yet, new heads, we have finally begun a transformation for our island, our culture, our people, and all the people of Guahan.

This is NOT a done deal. It ain't over 'til it's over.

Kel Muna said...

'In the end? Nothing ever ends.' Great post. Done Deal. It's like making sure you convince people to look at your right hand when what they should really be concerned with is your left hand.

achakma said...

We need to get to the editors and start posting comments on this blog to give them the "real news" of what is happening on the island.

DoD is getting kicked out of Okinawa because they have never been "good neighbors" to them or to Guam. Ever.

The article is reporting the "official" story only.

Desiree Taimanglo Ventura said...

"For those who have been paying attention, plenty of documents have been signed, plenty of promises have been made, and Guam made an industry out of finding new and creative ways to say that something is going to happen no matter what we do and so we shouldn't bother doing anything."

Everything you wrote in this entry rings true; and those questions, about what we could have done or whether we could have done more seem to creep their way into all our minds. I find them keeping me awake at night, keeping me from wanting to eat something, or focus on any one thought for too long.

We need to keep reminding each other that it's not over. we need to hear it from each other more than ever.


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