Monday, November 29, 2010

Remembering War and Promoting Peace

In my endless quest to make sure that I always have too many things to do and not enough time to do them in, I've started working with the office of Senator Frank Blas Jr. on an event to be held on December 8th to commemorate the invasion of Guam in 1941 by the Japanese. Each year there is a Paka-level-strength-typhoon of memorialized and commemorating for the reoccupation of the island by US force, known as Liberation Day, but very little takes place to remember the island was first cast into the fire of war. This event will feature a photo exhibit at the Cathedral Gallery in Hagatna, a mass on December 8th as well as a war storytelling event to take place after the mass. This project is the most recent part of Senator Blas' push to get war reparations for Chamorros. If you want more information on that issue then they have created a website devoted to it called Guam War Survivor Story.

I'm pasting information on the project below, the photo exhibit and also some info on the mass and storytelling event, but also I was hired to help research for the exhibit and also help prepare a slate of columns written by the Senator in the weeks leading up to the anniversary. They are being published in the Marianas Variety the first of which appeared just last week. I've pasted that column titled "Strength to Go On" below as well.


Community Collaborates to Remember World War II and Promote Peace

War Survivor Exhibit to Open Nov. 29

November 23, 2010

For Immediate Release

Hagåtña, Guam – When Guam was invaded by Japan on December 8, 1941, hundreds of island residents were attending church services at the Dulce Nombre de Maria Cathedral in honor of their patron saint Santa Marian Kamalen. They were praying as the war began. To remember that history, the Guam War Survivor Memorial Foundation and the Archdiocese of Agana, in collaboration with several community groups, are hosting a photo exhibit at the Cathedral-Basilica Museum entitled, “Take My Hand: Remembering How the War Began, Promoting Peace in Our Land.”

The exhibit will feature photo collections provided by the Notan Museo, National Museum of the Dulce Nombre de Maria Cathedral-Basilica; the Guam Humanities Council; the National Park Service; the Department of Parks & Recreation; the Micronesian Area Research Center (MARC) and the Office of Senator Frank F. Blas, Jr.

“We must remember that the strength and sprit of our manåmko’ helped them survive the war and shaped who we’ve become today,” said Sen. Frank F. Blas, Jr. “This exhibit displays the photos and stories of our war survivors, and reminds us that they are truly our island’s heroes.”

The exhibit will open with a press conference at the Cathedral-Basilica Museum at 10 a.m. on Monday, November 29, 2010. It will run until Wednesday, December 8, 2010.

Exhibit Hours of Operations (November 29 – December 8, 2010)
Monday-Friday: 9:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m.
Saturday: 6:00 p.m. - 9:00 p.m.
Sunday: 9:00 a.m. - 2:00 p.m.
December 8: 9:00 a.m. - 9:00 p.m.

For more information contact Senator Blas at 687-1483 or 472-2527. Please visit our website:
December 8th Remembrance Mass

November 18,2010


Remembering how the war began.

Forgiving what it became.

Hafa Adai!

Last year, our office embarked on a public awareness campaign that documented the stories of 30 of our island's World War II survivors. We published their stories in the newspaper, featured them in a traveling exhibit, created a website, and petitioned United States Congress for war reparations. As a result, thousands of people from Guam and all over the world have learned about this difficult moment in our island's history, and honored those who survived.

Because Liberation Day is in July, our survivors are typically only remembered during the summer, and the narrative tends to focus on the end of the war. But there is so much more to the story that needs to be told. Our office is organizing an event that we hope will deepen our community's understanding of the war, and continue our efforts to honor our war survivors.

We are asking for your support of this worthy project entitled "TAKE MY HAND: Remembering how the war began. Forgiving what it became." We plan to print ads in the newspaper leading up to our event that will include historical details, survivors' memories of the beginning of the war, and lessons on forgiveness and survival. Our event will begin with a Remembrance Mass on the morning of December 8, 2010 at the Dulce Nombre de Maria Cathedral-Basilica to be celebrated by Archbishop Anthony Apuron; followed by the Spirit of Ina'famauleg and breakfast reception at the Cathedral-Basilica Lanai; and the war survivors storytelling and exhibit at the Cathedral-Basilica Museum. The project has three goals: to continue to inform our community about this important moment in our island's history, honor our survivors and promote forgiveness and healing.

Would you or your company be interested in making a financial donation to help defray the costs of this December 8 event? If so, please contact Ms. Norma Aflague at 472-2527137 or email to her at normaaflague@hotmail.comThis e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
We look forward to your favorable participation.

Frank Blas Jr.
Click here to download the event flyer.


Strength to Go On
Senator Frank Blas Jr.
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


Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Few. The Proud. The ...

Don't Ask, Don't Tell: Marines Most Resistant To Openly Gay Troops
Associated Press

OCEANSIDE, Calif. — They are the few, the proud and perhaps the military's biggest opponents of lifting the ban on openly gay troops.

Most of those serving in America's armed forces have no strong objections to repealing the "don't ask, don't tell" law, according to a Pentagon survey of 400,000 active duty and reservists that is scheduled for release Tuesday.

But the survey found resistance to repealing the ban strongest among the Marines, according to The Washington Post. It's an attitude apparently shared by their top leader, Commandant Gen. James Amos, who has said that the government should not lift the ban in wartime.

The Senate is supposed to consider repeal during its lame duck session in December, with many legislators favoring changing the law to allow gays to serve openly. A few staunchly oppose it, however, and both sides are expected to cite the survey in arguing whether to move forward with repeal.

The Corps is the youngest, smallest and arguably the most tight-knit of the enlisted forces, with many of its roughly 200,000 members hailing from small towns and rural areas in the South.

Marines are unabashed about distinguishing themselves from the rest of the military, with a warrior ethos and a religious zeal for their branch of service that they liken to a brotherhood.

"We've never changed our motto. We've never changed our pitch to new recruits. We have hardly changed our formal uniforms in 235 years," said Marine Reserve Lt. Col. Paul Hackett, 48, who has been in the Corps for 25 years. "We are a religion unto ourselves, and we pride ourselves in that."

The Marine Corps traces its roots to an 18th century Philadelphia bar, Tun Tavern, where, according to legend, the first Colonial Marines were recruited in 1775 – setting the tone for troops who still boast they are the toughest, most aggressive fighters in the military.

Over the centuries they have remained faithful to their martial traditions, even in the face of sweeping societal change. The Marines Corps was among the last in the military to open its doors to women, forming the first female Corps in 1943, according to the Women's Memorial in Washington D.C.

But some things haven't changed. Marine recruiting commercials are still full of macho swagger that dare people to become one of "The Few. The Proud. The Marines."

Much has been said about the Marine "mystique," the almost cult-like bonds developed among a force known historically to have higher casualty rates because it is considered the "tip of the spear," or the first to respond to bloody conflicts. Marine officers say that kind of unit "cohesion" – fostered through close living quarters – can literally mean the difference between life and death when headed into battle.

Many Marines say they aren't bothered by the notion of serving with openly gay men and women. Gary Solis, a Marine combat veteran who teaches the laws of war at Georgetown University Law Center, says others have the misconception that openly gay Marines will not be as aggressive or "gung-ho" as their comrades in arms.

"Of course, we know none of that's true about homosexuals," Solis added. "There have always been homosexuals in the Marine Corps, but when you acknowledge it openly, that's a different thing. There are many Marines, particularly the older, more senior Marines, who don't want to see that image diluted."

That image is flaunted here in Oceanside, a coastal community bordering Camp Pendleton, where souped-up pick up trucks with Marine Corps stickers in the back windows rumble down the main street flanked by towering Palms.

The downtown is dotted with barber shops adorned with American flags advertising "military-style" cuts and dry cleaners filled with racks of freshly pressed uniforms.

Marines say they know there are gay troops in the Corps but they prefer that remain an unspoken fact on the battlefield.

Iraq veteran Miguel Jimenez, 37, a staff sergeant who left the Marine Corps in 2008, said he would have been uncomfortable having an openly gay man in the Marine unit he led. His Marines often spent the night in their armored vehicle, he said, changing their clothes and sleeping within inches of each other.

"I don't like that idea" of lifting the ban, said Jimenez, sitting in his truck with his pit bull, Angel, near Oceanside's Surf Museum and GI Joe's military apparel shop. "I think there would be alienation, maybe open hostility toward that guy."

Sgt. David Trentham said allowing gays to serve openly could become a distraction for units engaged in combat.

"I just think it would complicate things," said Trentham, 24, of Sevierville, Tenn. "If you have two homosexuals in a unit, they could have a relationship and if they broke it off, is that going to cause the mission to fail because they are having problems?"

Marine Corps Commandant Amos has expressed concern that the change could disrupt the cohesion of combat units where troops must put their lives in each other's hands.

"There is nothing more intimate than combat and I want to make that point crystal clear," Amos told reporters in San Diego recently. "There is nothing more intimate than young men and young women, and when you're talking infantry, we're talking our young men laying out, sleeping alongside of one another, and sharing death and fear and the loss of their brothers. So I don't know what the effect of that would be on unit cohesion."

Amos also pointed out that the Marine Corps has a policy of two Marines per room on base, unlike other military branches.

Will Rodriguez-Kennedy, a Marine corporal who was discharged in 2008 under the "don't ask, don't tell" law, said the Corps' demanding standards and the strong sense of brotherhood are what prompted him to join in the first place.

"My calling has always been service, and I wanted to go into the best of the branches, the one that showed the most pride, the most challenge," he said, adding that he wants to rejoin if and when the ban is lifted.

He said that Marine Corps officers can smooth the transition to gays serving openly through leadership.

"There's so much discipline that is instilled in our Marines that if they see the senior officers saying this is not acceptable then they are going to say this is not acceptable," Rodriguez-Kennedy said.

Marines say privately they know the policy is on its way out, adding that the older officers will take it harder than the younger ones who have grown up in a more open society.

But in the end, Lt. Col. Hackett says every good Marine follows orders, and "if that's what the president orders, I can tell you by God we're going to excel above and beyond the other services to make it happen and be damn good at it."


Associated Press writers Anne Flaherty in Washington and Elliot Spagat in San Diego contributed to this report.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Famoksaiyan Gi i Rediu

Several years back I posted on Minagahet Zine a page called "Famoksaiyan gi i Rediu" which featured various interviews on the radio given by members and allies of Famoksaiyan regarding issues of militarism, colonialism, decolonization, the UN, cultural revitalization and anything else which someone with a microphone and ten to twenty minutes wanted to chat about.

As the years have passed the links for those interviews have gone dead, the files have been moved and even the server for Minagahet Zine itself has changed and is no longer on Geocities but now can be accessed directly at

Recently, Martha Duenas, who is part of Famoksaiyan West Coast and blogs at Too Late To Stop Now, updated the Famoksaiyan gi i Rediu page, found the new links for interviews and even added some more which have been conducted as the military buildup issue has become even bigger and occassionally garnered the attention of progressive and mainstream national media. I'll be updating Minagahet Zine with the new page soon (when I get around to putting together a new issue), but in the meantime I wanted to share with you the fruits of Auntie Mart's labor, with an all new updated Famoksaiyan gi i Rediu page down below.


Famoksaiyan Gi I Rediu

November 9th, 2006 - Apex Express

Start at: 18:56
And at the UN, the indigenous people of Guam called for the world to recognize their plight. Pratap Chatterjee interviews Victoria Leon Guerrero, Mike Tuncap and Kerri Ann Borja talk about how the US military base build-up on Guam will further erode their rights. We will also have Erica Benton performing live in-studio, as well as music from Guam from Malafunction / Chris Barnett.


November 20th, 2006 - Women's Magazine

Start at: 23:30

Catalina Vazquez talks to Fanai Castro and Nicole Santos, two women from Guam, one of the last colonies in the world, about the U.S. military occupation and militarization of Guam and their recent visit to the United Nations to get support for the independence of Guam and to stop the military's plans to increase that occupation.


November 21st, 2006 - Flashpoints

Start at: 38:10

Nora Barrows-Freidman interviews Michael Lujan Bevacqua, Hope Alverez Cristobal, Sabina Flores Perez and Victoria Leon Guerrero in a report back from their delegation to the UN to protest expanding US militarization on Guam.


November 24th, 2006 - Full Circle

Start at: 41:40

Military Expansion in Guam / History of Resistance

Jen Le interviews Fanai Castro, Julian Aguon, Victoria Leon Guerrero and Sabina Perez


December 11th, 2006 - The Morning Show

Start here: 1:10:30

Impact of U.S. Military bases on Guam (indigenously called ‘Guahan')

Victoria Leon Guerrero is an author of semi-autobiographical children's book about growing up on Guahan called "Lola's Journey Home” and is working on her Masters of Fine Arts in Creative Writing at Mills College. Julian Aguon, writer-activist from the island of Guahan (Guam), is the author of the new book “The Fire This Time: Essays on Life Under US Occupation." Michael Lujan Bevacqua is a Ph.D candidate in Ethnic Studies at the University of California, San Diego and the editor of the Minagahet (Truth) Zine,


September 14, 2007 – The Morning Show

Start at: 1:09:22

Lisa Natividad from Nasion Chamoru and Suzuyo Takazato of Okinawa Women Act Against Military Violence speak with host Phillip Maladari on Women Resisting Militarism and Creating a Culture of Life.

Sponsored by Women for Genuine Security, Famoksaiyan, Friends of Okinawa, American Friends Service Committee


November 17th, 2007

Guam Talk 2:

A discussion between Josette Marie Quinata and Michael Lujan Bevacqua, recorded by Jack Lujan Bevacqua on November 17th, 2007 in Los Angeles, California, related to issues of the Chamorro language, the decolonization of Guam, and the impending military buildup to the island.


November 29th, 2007 – APEX Express

US Troop Increase, Indigenous Rights Decrease? And will there be Pacific Islander Studies at UC Berkeley? Hear how Native Gumanians face military might as they try to re-claim land, language, political power. We talk with Michael Lujan Bevacqua--who testified at the UN--as well as Michael Tuncap who will also talk about plans for starting Pacific Islander Studies at UC Berkeley. Island music and more during Indigenous Peoples' Month.

Contact: 510-848-6767x464;

for more stories: .

For Apex 's hip –hop site:


June 19, 2008 - The Morning Programme

Rodney Olsen interviews Dr. Lisa Natividad and Julian Aguon

The Chamoru people of the island we know as Guam have waged a long struggle for an act of self-determination as a significant step in their struggle to protect their land and culture from the effects of militarisation.

Their movement for non-violent social change in their homeland is largely unknown here in Australia.

The island has served as a military base for many years and now plans are underway to increase the military presence amongst these peaceful people.

Guahan (the indigenous name for Guam) is considered to be an ideal base since it is about three hours flying time or two to three days by ship from Japan, Okinawa, Indonesia and the Philippines. Flying to China or North Korea from the West Coast of the United States takes 13 hours, from Guahan it takes four. A carrier group based at Guahan could reach Taiwan in two days.

Guahan is strategically located close to several of the worlds most important sea lanes, such as the Strait of Malacca, through which some 50% of the worlds oil passes each year.

Dr Lisa Natividad and Julian Aguon of Guam joined me during the Morning Programme this morning to talk about the situation and what we can do about it.


November 13, 2008 – APEX Express

Chamorus who presented testimony to the UN Special Political and Decolonization Committee were interviewed :Senator Ben. Pangelinan and Chamoru poet and scholar Craig Perez .


November 14, 2008 - The Morning Show
Host Aimee Alison interviews Victoria Leon Guerrero


October 9, 2009 – Democracy Now!
Guam Residents Organize Against US Plans for $15B Military Buildup on Pacific Island

The United States is planning an enormous $15 billion military buildup on the Pacific island of Guam. The project would turn the thirty-mile-long island into a major hub for US military operations in the Pacific in what has been described as the largest military buildup in recent history. We speak with Julian Aguon, a civil rights attorney from the Chamoru nation in Guam. [includes rush transcript]


October 13, 2009 – Asia Pacific Forum

Military Buildup on Guam

Hope Cristobal & Sabina Perez

We take a look at the future of the island of Guam, where the United States military plans to spend $16 billion dollars to expand military facilities there. Some have called it the largest military buildup that the US has ever undertaken. As part of the build-up, the US military plans to move thousands of soldiers from the Japanese island of Okinawa and South Korea there, turning Guam into the largest base for its operations in the Pacific. The indigenous people of Guam, the Chamorros currently make up 37% of the population.


October 22, 2009 – Chicago Public Radio Worldview Series

The Legacy of American Empire: Guam
Interviewee: Tina Delisle was born and raised in Guam. She is a historian who has studied the relationship

between U.S. Navy wives and the Chamorros in the early 1900's.


December 12, 2009 – NOW on PBS
The Marines Are Landing

Over the next five years, as many as 30,000 servicemembers and their families will descend on the small island of Guam, nearly tripling its presence there.

It's part of a larger agreement that the U.S. signed with Japan to realign American forces in the Pacific, but how will this multi-billion dollar move impact the lives and lifestyle of Guam's nearly 180,000 residents?

This week, NOW on PBS travels to the U.S. territory of Guam to find out whether their environment and infrastructure can support such a large and quick infusion of people, and why the buildup is vital to our national security.


May 24, 2010 – Democracy Now!
Start at: 42:10
From Japan to Guam to Hawai’i, Activists Resist Expansion of US Military Presence in the Pacific

In Japan, Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama sparked outrage this weekend when he announced he has decided to keep an American air base on the island of Okinawa. Before last year’s historic election victory, Hatoyama had vowed to move the base off of Okinawa or even out of Japan. On Sunday, he said he had decided to relocate the base to the north side of the island, as originally agreed upon with the US. Hatoyama’s decision was met with anger on Okinawa, where 90,000 residents rallied last month to oppose the base. A number of activists opposed to US military bases were recently here in New York for the International Conference for a Nuclear-Free, Peaceful, Just and Sustainable World. Anjali Kamat and I spoke to three activists from Japan, Guam and Hawai’i: Kyle Kajihiro, Kozue Akibayashi and Melvin Won Pat-Borja


July 12, 2010 – Letters to Washington

Start at: 00:41:40
Mitch Jesserich interviews LisaLinda Natividad on the strategic importance of Guam in the militarization of the Asia-Pacific and the release of the DEIS – Draft Environmental Impact Report on the military buildup in Guam.


KPRG FM 93.1 Beyond the Fence

Sunday, November 21, 2010


On Thursday night I was on a panel for a film screening at UOG. After the film we had a short discussion about the film and took some questions from the audience. The question I received from the audience was about how the people of Guam, Chamorros and non-Chamorros can speak out with one voice with regards to the buildup and thus take control of it. I thought about that questions for the moment, and couldn't really come up with a decent or hopeful answer. That surprised me, but I guess given how things have played out in terms of the US military buildup to Guam since 2005 I shouldn't be.

I have been asked that same question in so many forms in these past five years, more frequently in the past year, but my answer has constantly changed, depending on how the island has changed or has not changed. Early on, I was fighting against the inevitability that people were infusing into the buildup despite not knowing anything about it. My answers were long and rambling, always hopeful and always punctuated with statements such as "of course the buildup can be stopped! It would be silly to think it couldn't. How many movies have we seen where asteroids about to destroy the earth or other massive catastrophes are barreling towards us, and humans find someway to stop them. You would think that with all that money and creative energy invested in making us imagine that humans are capable of larger than life things, we wouldn't see ourselves capable of stopping or stalling a mere troop buildup to Guam! Global warming is hard to stop, the buildup is easy in comparison!"

My answers in this vein would always come with examples of what could be done, and they always contained obvious answers which for some reason people had decided to ignore or just not even recognize.

One of the principles of asymmetrical warfare is that the largeness of massiveness of an opponent gives him a clear advantage, the most public and obvious advantage, but it always increases his weaknesses. This is one of the principles of guerrilla warfare which Mao Tse-Tung discusses and also one of the least favorite things which the Department of Defense enjoys about their reign over the world. The larger the opponent the more unwieldy it is, the less capable of moving and responding it is. The awesomeness and overwhelmingness of it depends on it remaining fairly stable and steady, the more it lumbers, the more it seems to careen, the less secure and safe it seems, its size which was once a marker of stability and groundness can now appear to be deadly, or out of control. Furthermore, the larger something is, the more points of vulnerability it has to assume.

This is the obvious, but less comprehended dimension to history. That large and small are not absolutely hierarchical, the large generally does vanquish or obliterate the small (and right the history of such a victory), but not always. History is replete with examples of small, agile forces, dominating or taking part larger ones. Hannibal in his initial push into the Italian peninsula, where his rag-tag multi-cultural force chewed to bits Roman armies twice or thrice his size, or Nobunaga Oda's first victory of Yoshimoto Imagawa's massive force at Okehazama. The pragmatics of size tend to dominate how we evaluate things in the world. If something is spoken of as huge and overpowering then we tend to impute in it a number of other things which don't truly belong. We ascribe to it invincibility, inevitability, power, order and so many other things which actually help to sustain it and reproduce it, or as they say in academia, perform the thing which it is supposed to be but never actually is. The buildup for instance was never inevitable, never a done deal, but it gained that force through the belief, the faith, the paralysis that people engineered as part of their way of comprehending it.

As I've written about before, most of our leaders during the first few years of the buildup were content to enthusiastically support the buildup, and their critique of the buildup was mere words or letters expressing their consternation or their disapproval. There was unfortunately very little action, so pathetically little which you could call tangible or even concrete.

People found so many ways of saying that nothing could be done, saying that we don't have a voice, we can't do anything about something huge about to happen to our island, it was literally mindboggling. Statements about how nothing could be done about the buildup have been more plentiful than the phrase "hafa adai" these past five years. It makes you wonder at what point does the island reach critical mass? Where is the tipping point of this paralysis and disempowerment? When does this idea that something so bad which we can do nothing about then lead to the slow evaporation of patriotism? When does it lead people who speak it with more fervor and resolve then the rosary to direct some of that energy towards understanding that powerlessness, or countering it, instead of petting it like it is some snooty pet from a James Bond villain in their laps?

The problem was, that there was always things which could be done There was always very serious, small and large things which could be done, but given the massiveness of the buildup, the diminutive and dependent relationship that we have with the US, and the propensity of people to want to go with the flow and let things sort themselves out rather then get involved, the powerlessness argument became a cover for self-paralyzing. You use the excuse of Guam not having any power in this situation in order to do nothing yourself. This goes against most ways in which people would perceive the situation or analyze it and act upon it abstractly, but concretely this is the way most people would respond.

Things have changed in the past year or two and so my answers have changed to. For one, when people ask what can be done, I have one new group that emerged in the last year We Are Guahan, that I can refer them to. There are also regular activities which people can participate in, much of them I help organize in some way or another. The inevitability of the buildup used to shine like a fresh coat of paint on a car, but slowly over time the seamlessness or the perfection of that coat has started to fade, to chip away and flake off. The buildup isn't that golden paint job anymore, it looks much shabby than it did before and there have been so many things which have happened or been revealed over the past year which have helped make it that way.

But things have definitely changed. The DEIS period was one full of activity, and so much of it critical of the buildup. But that ended months ago, the final version was released, the ROD was signed. Although the buildup is now more open than ever as a topic of discussion, people are at this point ready to imagine it differently, the process itself, everything. But now when I am asked the question of how people can unite over the buildup my answer becomes, even without me realizing it, very bitter. And this is how I answered the question at the film screening on Thursday night. I ranted about how opportunities had been missed, how so much time had been wasted, how the people who were supposed to lead on this issue instead put their faith in the DOD and the US and led us totally astray. So many different "somethings" could have been done

The process becomes far more difficult now since the openness of it from a procedural stand point is supposed to be over. The ROD was supposed to seal the deal, they got their buildup, and so now everything is in their hands, and the hands of those who will fund the projects. So while people are more than willing to complain about it now, there is always the wonderful feeling that nothing can be done now, but in a totally different way. The paralysis has now shifted from something of inevitability, to something which is now arriving too late for it to be of any use. I almost wonder if the change in attitude about the buildup happened because of the fact that it as a thing was on the verge of a metamorphosis. That it was about to transform from a corpulent caterpillar into the beautiful buildup butterfly and so in that the past few months, that ambiguity over its future lead to the opening up of the discursive space to allow it to be spoken up in unheard of ways by previously uncritical (at least publicly) segments of Guam's population. Perhaps this is one of those cases where people are critical now because of a feeling that it is safe to be critical now because things have been signed and even more formal language has been heaped onto the buildup, and so if it was inevitable back then, it must be tattooed onto the forehead of God by now.

I think that one reason why I couldn't bring myself to answer this question in a more hopeful way last Thursday because of the emphasis on people coming together and uniting, which is a totally different equation than stalling or stopping the buildup. Bringing large groups of people together and getting them on the same page may be nice, but that does not mean it is actually the best way to handle the buildup issue. For example, things could be been strategically achieved for years with just small groups, with no larger community support. The buildup could have literally been stalled or stopped just at that level, without any "unity" of the community. This brings us right back to the issue of size, where people feel that since the buildup is so large it must be stopped and met with an equally large force. Or that something can or only should happen if the majority of the people want it or approve of it. The idea that the community needs to unite is nice and comforting, but not realistic and not really necessary. This things about unity is one of the not-so-hidden pratfalls of democracy, the feeling or need for a mob in order to move. It is a safety mechanism to keep things from changing too quickly, too fast, but it is also frustrating since no community ever fully unites, or ever even comes close.

The other reason is because of that feeling that I shared earlier where so much could have been done but close to nothing was. The activists did great important work and did shift the discussion, help inform the public, help change the way the whole buildup issue was perceived or spoken of, but so many other ways to do something just weren't.

One thing which I should have shared in my comments at the film screening was something that had happened earlier in the day, which we should be excited about, and that is the lawsuit which has been filed over the DOD's acquisition of Pagat. We Are Guahan, the Guam Historic Preservation Trust and the National Trust for Historic Preservation are some of the organizations which have filed the lawsuit, which argues that the DOD violated NEPA rules when they chose Pagat, since they did not adequately address other options. It is, as was stated in the press conference Thursday, not a lawsuit about the buildup, but only questions one component of it, the selection of Pagat.

Part of the reason why this line of challenge was chosen was because of the feeling that most of Guam has unified around the Pagat issue, that the majority of people it would seem, don't want it to be taken. One of the attorneys who is leading the case was part of the group who wrote the NEPA laws and he says that they have a very strong case against the DOD. As someone who read several hundred pages out of the original DEIS, I can attest to it hardly being an open discussion but rather a long, meandering document meant to justify the things the DOD wanted. There wasn't any room in that for other people's criticism or alternatives and so we saw that very clearly in how the DOD responded to the lack of substantive changes from the DEIS to Final EIS. Instead of changing anything, they simply said they wouldn't make any decisions now, but would most likely pick the same choices again later.

I agree that the case for Pagat being taken off the table is strong. It seems that the only rationale that the military has for taking new lands and for closing off that area is the convenience of having five firing ranges next to each other, instead of four in one place and another nearby.

I am so excited at the prospect of this lawsuit, just because for five years so many people missed the point of how to stop or stall this buildup. People invoked those metaphors of inevitability and impossibility and then they further sabotaged things by wanting to wait until everyone was united or that the power of opposition was just as large as the buildup itself. All of this amounted to a Mount Lamlam load of nothing happening and nothing being done, when a small list of somethings would have been so crucial. This lawsuit against the DOD represents something very concrete and very crucial. Even if it doesn't challenge the buildup as a whole, or appears to be narrow by only focusing on Pagat, it is one of those things which can easily become a symbol, in the same way that Pagat itself became a symbol. That is why something like this, especially in a wasteland of powerlessness is so critical. It can easily become far more, but in the moment it shows to all that combination that something both can be done and should be done.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Top of the Island, The Edge of Imagination

This weekend I'll be taking people up to the literal "top of the island," Guam's tallest "peak" Sabanan Lamlam, or Mount Lamlam. It is part of We Are Guahan's "Heritage Hikes." We went to is Pagat two weeks ago, Cetti and Sella Bay last week, and now our third and final hike up to Mount Lamlam.

Even though will be the third time to travel up there in the past month, but I'm still excited about it. Here is one of the reasons why.

My cognitive map of Guam, the network of images, symbols, ideas, sights, smells, and so on which I use to imagine what Guam is on a daily basis is dominated by my classrooms where I teach in, the apartment complex where I live in, and the things I pass by the side of the roads as I travel. I spend most of my time in the central part of the island bouncing between Chalan Pago, Hagatna, Tamuning, Barrigada and Mangilao. As such, Guam is a pleasant concrete jungle, dotted every once in a while with random clusters of green life and views of the ocean. It is full of people, devoid of birds and wired together by roads and power poles.

I have an image of Guam which I am used to and although I know there are exceptions to that image, I know that don't stray too far from it. I think most people live in the same assumptions, it makes life easier to live. There is a medium that you inhabit and once there you can go about your day not fearing that something radically different it out there, lurking somewhere, waiting to surprise you, shock you and make you re-evaluate your identity or your life. Places with regular power and water service, go into shock when that service was interrupted. It is not a mere matter of being inconvenienced or not being able to do the things you normally do with such ease, but it is because of the way that image of the world gets torn in half. Or to change the metaphor, that usual image of the world radically changes in meaning. Things which you accepted that funneled life and meaning into you, become lifeless and blights. Power poles, computers, cars, buildings, when stripped of electricity become scars, sores, on the land, prisons of pointlessness. They mock you because of the way you once relied so much on them, believed in their invulnerability and attributed to them an eternal quality, as if you need not every worry that they might not be there, or might not function the way they used to.

In most ways, having your cognitive map challenged literally sucks, it is something which people work throughout their lives to never experience. But one of the reasons why I love hiking to Mount Lamlam is precisely because it challenges my map of Guam, it gives me a completely different side of Guam. It allows me to see Guam in a whole new way. The closest roads or buildings are miles away in the distance. From the peak you can see bays around the Southern part of Guam, and see a ridge line which extends miles south. When you look northeast you can see parts of Fena Lake. As you hike the hill through oceans of sword grass, you eventually come to the top, and within the crater of the volcano that Mount Lamlam used to be, you find limestone rock, where you find deer and pig tracks everywhere.

There is one particular part of this hike which always stays with me. When you reach the edge of the Mount Lamlam crater before you start your way in to hike up to one of its peaks, you will pass on your right a huge field of foxtails. When I looked around me, my map of Guam was gone, there was not a building around me, no roads, no internet, no cell phone service, no electricity. Just jungle on my left and a field of foxtails on my right.

Some of the value of these hiking experiences and seeing other versions of Guam is that feeling of visiting a place which has yet to be destroyed and has not been paved over. That is part of the reason why so many people feel that Pagat should not be used as a buffer zone for a firing range and cut off from the public. This is a sort of primal pull, but it is not the real reason why those field of foxtails on the top of Mount Lamlam enchants me so much.

Speaking from the perspective of my own limited cognitive map, my own ways in which I imagine and constrain Guam into something I can know and speak of, it is refreshing to see my own limits challenged. It is beautiful to be reminded that what I know, what I want, what I think is far from the limits to the world around me. It goes far beyond, endlessly beyond what I can manage or handle. Man has destroyed and contained much in an effort to deny this, but even so, the world continues on.

When I stand at the edge of that field of foxtails I am standing at the edge of my own imagination. We place a map over the world in hopes of dominating it, of managing it and making it ours, but the universe always awaits at the edges of our fences and our walls, waiting to rush in and wash away all the semblance of control and order. But at that edge, where we end and the world begins, that is where human creativity, progress (in good or bad forms), imagination stem from. When I look out over that field, I am reminded of something so obvious yet so powerful. That the world is far beyond what I can imagine, and more importantly that it can be made completely different than what I imagine it now. But when one stands at the border between the human and the natural, the question becomes one of willingness to take that risk, to seek to harness that power to change the world, or simply leave it as it is.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

What I'll be Doing Thursday Night


The third film in the Global Militarism: Global Peace? documentary film/discussion series for the Fall semester 2010 is scheduled for 6 p. m. Thursday, November 18, CLASS Lecture Hall, UOG Campus. This series is co-sponsored by the Division of Social Work and the Communication Program at the University of Guam in cooperation with the Guahan Coalition for Peace and Justice and WeAreGuahan.
Each film in this series explores the dynamics of global militarism and its impacts in different parts of the world. Each screening is followed by commentary by three panelists and facilitated discussion. This event is free and open to the public. UOG and GCC faculty and high school teachers are encouraged to offer this film event as an extra credit option.

The featured film on November 18 is Noho Hewa: The Wrongful Occupation of Hawai'i by Hawaiian filmmaker Anne Keala Kelly. Kelly is a native journalist and filmmaker who has reported on politics, culture, the environment and indigenous peoples. This film features interviews with Hawaiian activists and academics and chronicles the realities faced by the Kanaka Maoli (native Hawaiians) in their own homeland. From the military exercises and bombings at Makua and Pohakuloa and the desecration of burial sites at Hokulia and Wal-mart, to Maoli homelessness --- in stark contrast to the widespread construction of upscale gated communities --- and the resistance to the Akaka bill, Kelly's film weaves a context of understanding of how the US overthrow and continuing occupation of the sovereign kingdom of Hawaii affect every aspect of native Hawaiian life. Noho Hewa was more than six years in production and in 2008 won the Hawai'i International Film Festival Award for Best Documentary. It was also awarded a special jury prize at the 2010 Festival International Du Film Documentaire Oceanien (FIFO) in Tahiti.


The three panelists for this event are:

Therese Arroyo-Matanane, a filmmaker whose latest work on the impending military buildup aired to a nationwide audience of 2 million viewers on the weekly news program Now on PBS. Entitled, " The Marines are Landing," the American public was introduced the plans the military has for Guam and the impact it will have socially, culturally and economically. She and her partners at GreenLight Media Productions prepare to launch their own television channel with live and recorded television programs about life in Guam, health, lifestyles, food, entertainment and culture.

Sam C. Walker is the Institutional Researcher for the UOG Center for Island Sustainability. Born and raised in east Africa, Sam Walker learned the value of sustainability from an early age. He has lived in Yemen, Israel and the West Bank before coming to Guam four years ago. He views inclusive justice as an integral part of building and maintaining the social and cultural fabric of communities. He holds two Master degrees, in education and history and the other in archaeology and heritage. He was actively involved in archaeology and various projects including research with the American Center for Oriental Research in Jordan and has been involved in numerous sustainability projects.

Michael Lujan Bevacqua is an activist, artist, and instructor in History at the University of Guam and blogs at No Rest for the Awake - Minagahet Chamorro. He writes a weekly column for the Marianas Variety titled "When the Moon Waxes," where he frequently discusses issues of Chamorro language, decolonization, peace and war, and how cute his two kids are.

For more information, please contact the event coordinators, Dr. Vivian Dames ( or Patricia Blas (


Monday, November 15, 2010

Fun With Footnotes Mina'Kuatro!

It has been quite a white since my last installment of Fun With Footnotes, where I post on my blog some of my more excessive or informative footnotes from my academic work.

I wrote a poem several years ago which described Guam as one "Big American Footnote," and that was in one way the first seed which later became my dissertation, various articles, some of my favorite talking points and numerous posts on this blog. The metaphor of the footnote was something I felt could help me explain Guam and its colonial predicament, and how it exists, it means something, it matters, it reveals something crucial or important, but like most footnotes it is assumed to matter in a way that doesn't matter. I remember when I was in grad school at UCSD and in one class, another student who had read a draft of my Masters Thesis noted that my long footnotes were irrelevant and pointless since she, like everyone else in the world didn't read them anyways, and to make them any longer than a single line, meant that they would not only not be read, but sneered at for their pretentious pointlessness.

But that was the point. The United States has fifty states. It is a nice round number, it has a flag to prove it. It feels like it has been that way forever. It is something which functions like the body of a text. It holds everything important. That which is at the margins matters in some ways, it is connected somehow, but if it truly did matter then it would be in the body, it would be a star on the flag, it would be in the real paragraphs on the real part of the page. Part of the reason why Guam doesn't matter is because it is, like so many other places a messy little footnote. It is something which doesn't fit, doesn't make sense along with everything else and therefore has to be cordoned off, isolated and marginalized.

It is a detail, something which has to be noted, but is better off subsumed or reduced to an emptiness. There are plenty of ways to do this. Unincorporated territory is the most legal and formal way of doing it. Other prefer the more celebratory way of doing so which is akin to celebratory sloganeering "Where America's Day Begins." Or you can take the rotue of our non-voting delegates and argue our political status as "state-like treatment." All of these are footnotes and they are tiny, minute footnotes. They are glib, succinct and don't describe much, but exist in that way because that is their purpose. Reduce the sprawling inconsistency or hypocrisy of what cannot or should not be included (or taken out completely), to a single, faint line. To make it a trace of nothing and not a trace in Derrida's sense.

This is part of my argument as to why I use long, overflowing footnotes in my academic work. It is my own metaphoric way of challenging that ease by which Guam is reduced to nothing by so many people, and reduced to nothing in a variety of ways. In some of my papers, the footnotes have more text than the body of the article. Some footnotes go on for several pages. They are not long for long-sake however. They are not rambling pointless discussions, but rather reflect the fact that even a place which appears on a map as a tiny dot in the Pacific, is a universe, connected to other universes and although academic conventions require that it be limited to be readable or legible, we should never mistake the ease at which something is read, digested or incorporated as being the truth of it or the reality of it.

Below I've collected some of the more interesting footnotes from the second chapter of my dissertation.


#2. As will be made more and more clear in this dissertation, much of Guam’s anxiety over its identity in the world and in relation to the United States is the way its ambiguous political status and geographic distance from the United States, constantly trap it between the status of being a first world colony and a third world country. The regular tropes of Guam being only mentioned or recognized as a site in the world through the movement of military tropes and a site of an impoverished people in need of humanitarian aid however does not skew Guam’s identity one way or the other, but instead maintains the desperate ambiguity. They identify it as more similar to third world developing nation’s, full of violence and in need of help, but they are also acts of God and man which bring the gaze of the United States to Guam and allow it to be recognized, most importantly by the rest of the United States. Kelly Kautz-Marsh, “Guam: Year in Review,” The Contemporary Pacific, 16:1, (2004), 120.

#12. Obama was very successful in using his otherness as a means for invoking some very practical and everyday feelings of American exceptionalism and greatness. Being born from a black father from Kenya and with a name like “Barack Hussein Obama” it could be assumed that Obama had little to no chance of being elected president of the United States, simply because he was too different, too much “change” for America to handle. But in truth, this otherness served him well in being able to touch the exceptionalist core of the United States. As he regularly stated on the campaign trail, that only in America is there place where a skinny kid, with a name like Barak Hussein Obama could ever hope to rise to the highest office in the land. Senator Barack Obama, Speech Given to the 2004 Democratic National Convention,, Boston, Massachusetts, 27 July 2004. Site Accessed 15 January 2010.

#23. Matt Corley, “Brown-Waite Refuses to Apologize for Referring to Puerto Ricans and Guamanians as ‘Foreign Citizens,’” Think Progress,, 9 February 2008. Site Accessed 29 May 2009. The initial press release which contained the dread phrase referring to the people of the territories as foreign was later changed by the Congresswoman’s office, to simply refer to the residents of Puerto Rico, Guam and other territories. She defended herself by saying that she might have used the wrong terminology (and that ‘territorial citizens’ would have been a better term), but that the spirit of her statements, that these territories are unfairly receiving money and benefits from the United States was still true. Interestingly enough, the blog post which I cite for this incident, which was one of the main articles about it, contains a very glaring error, in that it states that Chamorros became US citizens in the year 1900.

#30. On the May 9th episode of Hardball with Chris Matthews, the show’s host Matthews engaging in an interesting discussion with a Senator Clinton representative about whether or not Puerto Rico should count as a primary since they don’t get to vote in the election that counts. Some of Matthews’ more interesting remarks were when he demanded to know of Howard Wolfson whether or not Clinton’s campaign was “willing to say that you have a right to the nomination based on Puerto Rican votes?” After Wolfson responded by asking which votes Clinton should exclude when arguing for her right to the nomination, Matthews exclaimed, “Just people that are not American—are not voting in the American presidential election. That‘s all.” After more discussion about whose votes should and should not count, Matthews out of nowhere mentions Guam, and how its nice that they get to participate and all. The exchange on American territories ends with Matthews making a joke that if territories like Guam and Puerto Rico get to participate in the US Democratic primary elections, shouldn’t “the canal zone” participate as well? “Do we still have the Canal Zone?” he asks referring to the former military colony that controlled the Panama Canal, “I guess we don‘t have that one anymore.” Hardball with Chris Matthews, MSNBC, Transcript:, 9 May 2009. Site Accessed 14 May 2009.

#37. A Slate blog called the “XX Factor” described the long drawn out primary as a long boring long-term relationship, and invoked Guam as one of those minute meaningless things you should care about, but for some reason seem to in those types of situations. Under a post titled “All Politics are Relational,” Melinda Henneberger blogged the following: “I've started viewing it like any long-term relationship, in which just when you think you will never laugh at that stupid joke ever again—well, you do. And just when you're sure that if one more person says superdelegate you will run screaming into the traffic, you suddenly find that embarrassing as it is, you do care about Guam. Or so I can imagine.” Melinda Henneberger, “All Politics are Relational,” Slate,, 4 May 2008. Site Accessed 18 February 2009.

#39. We see a similar dynamic in the primary race itself, over the issues of whether or not America is “ready for a woman or a black man” to be their leader. In one of his more lucid moments, Jon Stewart, in an interview on Larry King Live, dismissed the stupidity of these discussions about how much change America could handle, sarcastically characterizing the fears implicit in these comments. So if Obama were to be elected, will black people be allowed to do whatever they want? If Hillary gets elected, will men still be allowed to drive? Interview with Jon Stewart, Larry King Live, 20 February 2008. Transcript:, Site Accessed 14 November 2008.

#45. Ironically the “ghost of Guam” is usually used in reference to George Tweed, a US Navy radioman who was the sole survivor of the Japanese occupation of Guam in World War II. He was considered to be a symbol of American belonging during World War II, a desperate soul in need and through helping him Chamorros could therefore act upon their desires to remain and stay loyal to the United States. Following the war, he became a much loved and much loathed figure. Towards the end of the Japanese occupation, searches for Tweed, who had been sheltered and provided for by hundreds of Chamorros during the war, became more violent and more intense, resulting in deaths of several Chamorros and near death beatings of others. Many Chamorros thus recall him as a kubåtde or coward for letting innocent Chamorros die or be beaten for him, while he cowered in the jungle. His memoirs were published immediately after the war, and a universally panned movie titled No Man is an Island loosely based on his story was released in 1962. While most Chamorros today have never heard of this film, those who do know of it, tend to have very angry opinions about it. The film is not remembered as being particularly good, interesting, or historically accurate. For those Chamorros who do know about the film, it’s most memorable qualities are sources of ethnic irritation. Hollywood in general doesn’t have a very good track record for ensuring that ethnic roles are taken by actors who are of that ethnicity, or that films are shot in the locations where the story take place, but for Chamorros unaccustomed to having their island or their race featured on the silver screen, their particular holiday treatment in the film was not appreciated. No Man is an Island was filmed in the Philippines, with Filipino actors playing the roles of Chamorros, and when the actors speak to each other in Tagalog, it is referred to (in the film) as Chamorro. George R. Tweed, Blake Clarke, D. Turner Givens, Robinson Crusoe, U.S.N.: The Adventures of George R. Tweed, Rm1 on Japanese Held Guam, (California: Pacific Research Institute, 1995).

#54. The liminality of Guam in this conversation is connected to the idea that colonialism is over, or that whatever form it takes now isn’t so bad. Such is the argument of the book The Last Colonies, the old colonial wish, that the taking and conquering of these lands could be accepted as based on the need of the newly acquired colonies. Or the idea that this system of dominance was based on their (the colonized’s )need. That they were dependent upon the colonizer. This is authorized the text The Last Colonies where they argue for not calling the “last colonies” colonies, but instead dependencies. To be fair, they support his claim based on the idea that the calls for independence or decolonial nationalism of the previous century have long died out. Robert Aldrich and John Connell, The Last Colonies, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998), 3-4.

#62. One of the great difficulties of the decolonization process in Guam, is that despite the fact that it is meant to provide (should Chamorros chose it) a path outside of the sovereign authority of their current colonizer, the United States has long insisted that any attempt at “self-determination” or “decolonization” in Guam must be consistent with United States Federal law, such as the US Constitution. Underwood, Status of Having No Status…

#63. This will be discussed more in Chapter 6. In framing of texts such as Sovereignty, the WTO, and Changing Fundamentals of International Law and The Twilight of Sovereignty: How the Information Revolution is Transforming Our World, the thing sovereignty, already exists, and so questions of its existence are never directed to a previous moment which might deal with issues of how it comes into being, but rather these questions are securely focused on where sovereignty is going. Rather than called into being, we find sovereignty articulated as a once relatively stable and secure concept, which because of various shifting factors is now being called into question, or more appropriately being besieged or threatened. The how of sovereignty here becomes a topic of analysis, but only through the trope of threat. Whether it be, Empire, illegal immigrants, Capital, rhizomic terrorist cells, the internet, there is a cavalcade of subjects and objects which are crossing borders constantly, and making discernible and open for interrogation the existence of sovereignty, but always in such a way that the “future of sovereignty” is the focus, while the questions of its everyday existence and production are lost. This is also known as the “erosion-of-sovereignty-thesis.” Karen Litfin, “The Greening of Sovereignty: An Introduction,” The Greening of Sovereignty in World Politics, Karen Litfin (ed), (Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press, 1998), 3. For some texts which are examples of this see: John Jackson, Sovereignty, the WTO, and Changing Fundamentals of International Law, (Cambridge, Cambridge, 2006). Gidon Gottlieb, Nations Against States: A New Approach to Ethnic Conflicts and the Decline of Sovereignty, (New York, Council on Foreign Relations Press, 1993). Walter B. Wriston, The Twilight of Sovereignty: How the Information Revolution is Transforming Our World, (New York, Scribner Book Company, 1992).

#73. It is likely that I can be criticized for using a voice such as Senator Alan Cranston’s in this dissertation in order to establish academically durable ideas or claims. Cranston, although the author of several books and papers on international affairs, is not an academic and I could be accused of using his text to help set up a straw-target, due to the fact that it isn’t very academically sophisticated in its writing. Cranston invokes sovereignty in more clear and essentialist ways than most academics might, and so citing him is like shooting fish in a barrel. I don’t entirely disagree with this point, however I chose to use Cranston despite this potential critique because of the way in which non-academic texts, or those which are so mired in the conventions of a discipline, often times say better or say more clearly, the very things which that discipline is built up, but secretly disavows. Cranston for instance, will say openly and wholeheartedly things which the discipline of political science has a mess of discursive formations which will appear to qualify and minimize and neutralize the same idea, while nonetheless allowing it to remain intact at the foundation of the conversation. Slavoj Zizek, The Ticklish Subject: The Absent Center of Ideology, (London: Verso, 2000), 257.

#94. In Lisa Lowe’s article “The International Within the National: American Studies and the Asian American Critique,” she provides an example of this. She frames her discussion of what Asian Americans studies as offering American Studies a means of understanding the ontological structure by which the nation and its I and the rest of the world as Other are created. She argues that “Asian American critique asks us to interrogate the national ontology through which the United States constructs its international “others,” and through which the nation-state has either sought to transform those others in subjects of the national, or, conversely, to subordinate them to objects of the national ontology.” Lisa Lowe, “The International Within the National: American Studies and the Asian American Critique,” The Futures of American Studies, Donald E. Pease and Robyn Wiegman (eds), (Durham, North Carolina: Duke University Press, 2002), 76.

#110. Candace Fujikane in several of her texts makes a very similar argument about indigenous issues of sovereignty in the Pacific in relation to American-based Ethnic Studies and Asian American Studies. Despite the critical or radical dimension of disciplines such as Asian American Studies, American Studies or Ethnic Studies, they still nonetheless have difficulty reconciling with what the political persistence of native/indigenous populations in the American territories and colonies indicate. Namely, that part of any attempt at understanding that nation or that nation-state require that distinctions between settle/native and indigenous/minority not be swept aside, but be understood to be an integral part of making those things possible or legible. Fujikane details a number of reasons why there might be quiet yet firm resistance in these intellectual domains to what pushes for sovereignty of the native peoples of the United States. These include a general distrust of nationalist-sounding arguments, claims of native movements as being essentialist as in harkening back to an essence that never existed, or relying on simplistic and impossible binaries of colonizer/colonized or settler/native. One of the most interesting arguments that Fujikane invokes, is when she draws from the work of Native Hawaiian activist/scholar Haunani-Kay Trask to up the ante of indigenous struggles, by pushing beyond identity into the realm of materialty. Trask argues that indigenous people seeking sovereignty are not limited in their claims to one’s of identity or wanting the ability to define their own identities, they also seek to gain control over the resources, the land upon which all in the United States rely upon to position themselves. The difficulty in recognizing the right to self-determination, decolonization that indigenous people have is that it, as Fujikane notes it requires self-interrogating and reeducation. Effectively supporting that right or that struggle means first implicating yourself and admitting to how regardless of how critical of the United States nation/nation-state you may be, you nonetheless occupy that category of settler. Second, it means accepting that any possibility of justice in this situation will require that something be given up. This does not mean that power or security only be taken away from some massive institution or from white people or racist people. It means that you might be required to give something up as well, a pound of theoretical flesh so to speak, which could mean setting aside claims to belonging or owning this nation which you may not want to verbalize in polite company, but are nonetheless the ground for your own identity and place in the world. In line with the earlier critique of Andrea Smith with regards to the inability of American Studies to see beyond America, this very much extends into the inability for American Studies to see the Pacific beyond their own imaginary, as a region with some cases which should be analyzed without America, and movements to move beyond America which should be supported as well. Candice Fujikane, “Foregrounding Native Nationalsims: A Critique of Antinationalist Sentiment in Asian American Studies,” Asian American Studies: After Critical Mass, Kent A. Ono (ed), (Malden, Massachusetts: Blackwell Publishing, 2005). Asian Settler Colonialism: From Local Governance to the Everyday Habits of Life in Hawai’i, Candice Fujikane and Jonathan Y. Okamura (eds)., (Honolulu, Hawai’i: University of Hawai’i Press, 2008). Michael Lujan Bevacqua, “Apologies, Power and Justice,” No Rest for the Awake – Minagahet Chamorro,, 29 May 2009. Site Accessed 16 January 2010.

#112. One of the reasons that I don’t see my project possible in the same way, is because Kaplan’s model for her chapter on Hawai’i is a common form of American Studies engagement with the Pacific, whereby you follow a noted and accepted American figure who sojourns into the region and then unpack his writings. One of the ways in which I half-jokingly resist any embrace of American Studies with regards to Guam is because no famous American author has ever visited the island and written racist things about it.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Heritage Hikes

For those of you who like hiking, learning more about Guam’s history and natural environment or, like me, are looking for an excuse to get some exercise, I’m helping organizesomething this month you might be interested in.

I’m working with We Are Guahan to hold three “Heritage Hikes” on three different Saturdays in November.

Last Saturday we hiked down to Pagat Cave, Cliff and Village. This coming Saturday we'll be hiking down to Cetti Bay and up Sella Bay. Next Saturday we'll be taking our last hike up to Humuyong Manglo and Mount Lamlam. I'll be helping lead each hike and be talking to people about some of the historical, cultural and biological importance of each area.

The Pagat hike was very successful with more than 30 people joining us. I'm hoping for at least the same amount, maybe more for the next two.

If these hikes are that successful and people really enjoy them, then I'll work on organizing some more early next year, perhaps to some different sites.

More information on the hikes can be found below:


As part of its continued efforts to engage and educate the community on the impacts of the proposed buildup, We Are Guåhan is sponsoring “Heritage Hikes: Tungo’ i Estoriå-ta” throughout the month of November. These hikes will focus on sites that will be affected by the proposed buildup (Pågat and Mount Lamlam), as well as historic sites that were previously threatened by proposed military expansion (Cetti and Sella Bay). Professor Michael Lujan Bevacqua will be giving information on the history of each site throughout the hike.

The schedule is as follows:

November 6, 2010 – Pågat Village (Meet at Pågat trailhead along The Back Road)
November 13, 2010 – Cetti / Sella Bay (Meet at Cetti Bay parking lot)
November 20, 2010 – Mt. Lamlam (Meet at Sella Bay parking lot)

The show-time for all hikes is 8:30am, go-time 9:00am. All participants must bring LOTS of water and should bring light snacks or lunches. All participants should also dress appropriately and bring gloves. There will be sword-grass on some areas of the hikes.

If you have questions about the Heritage Hikes, contact

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

The Tip of the Spear is the First Thing to Get Bloody

One of the better articles that has come out recently about the military buildup, and I'm not only saying this because of the fact that I was interviewed for it. In most national articles or press about the buildup, China haunts the edges of the discussion, but is rarely drawn out in any meaningful way, and as a result the danger to Guam is rarely mentioned ever. This is not to say that people like me on Guam when we talk to people from The Washington Post or The Chicago Tribune, we don't mention it, we always do since it's something we can't dismiss or edit out of the picture. But from the perspective of the US, the national discussion is heavily ambivalent on the China issue, and so that complexity and uncertainty around the issue makes it something that always has to be other assumed or marginalized. There can be no "peaceful" intention to the US militarizing Guam or militarizing other places around the Asia-Pacific region meant to box in China, but since American media, political and cultural discourse is so incredible poor on issues of foreign policy, imperialism and its empire of bases, Guam's role in that is rarely every analyzed or discussed critically.


Guam: An Early Casualty of U.S.-China Tensions?

Posted by Krista Mahr Friday,
October 29, 2010 at 12:44 am

Sometime after World War II, the Boiga irregularis, or the brown tree snake, is believed to have hitched a ride on a cargo ship and landed on the Pacifc island of Guam. For the snake, Guam was paradise, home to a large number of prey and no natural predators. By 1970, the snake had colonized the entire island, pushing several bird species to the brink of extinction, clearing the forest of small mammals, terrorizing human residents, and causing thousands of power outages that persist today. On average, there is a snake-caused power outage every third day on Guam; costs due to damage and lost of productivity are estimated to run as high as $4 million every year.

Now Guam is getting ready for a new invasive species to come ashore: the U.S. Marines. At least, that's how some of Guam's 178,000 residents see it. A U.S. territory since 1898, the military has had a long presence on Guam, but a U.S. agreement with Japan to transfer over 8000 Marines from Okinawa to the island will significantly increase the military presence there, and, according to critics, further upset Guam's natural and cultural environment and strain its limited resources.

The buildup, as its come to be known on Guam, is one of “the largest movements of military assets in decades while helping to maintain a robust military presence in the Asia-Pacific region,” according to the Department of Defense. Right now, projected costs for the relocation and new facilities are estimated to be over $10 billion, with Japan footing more than half the bill. The move is part of the military's broader strategy of strengthening its presence around Asia as China builds up its own navy; the U.S. is also upgrading facilities at Diego Garcia, a British-owned island south of Sri Lanka, where navy equipment is kept for deployment.

The expansion of the Guam facilities has been met with decidedly mixed reviews, both from residents and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Labor needed to complete the construction could raise the island's population 45-50% by some estimates, in addition to the 23,000 Marines and their dependents who will be relocated there. The EPA, in evaluating the navy's Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS), gave the draft plan its worst rating, warning that it could cause island-water shortages, overload sewage treatment systems, and “exacerbate existing substandard environmental conditions on Guam.”

During the statement's open comment period, in which the U.S. accepted comments from the public, thousands of Guam residents responded, voicing their concerns over issues including coral that would be destroyed in new dredging in the harbor, the impact of new firing ranges on Pagat, locally sacred land, and how the local government would cope with the infrastructure upgrades the buildup would require. “The U.S. military has no plan for how the civilian community will be able to adapt to this,” says Michael Lujan Bevacqua, a history professor at the University of Guam. “The government is [talking about] all the money being spent 'inside the fence,' but the same amount needs to be spent 'outside the fence'" to improve things like water, wastewater, education, and hospitals. (Here's a photo essay about Pagat and other endangered places in the U.S.)

In the final version of the EIS, released in July, the Navy addressed many of these concerns, extending the timeline of the project, agreeing to look further into the dredging, delaying a decision on where to put the firing ranges, and committing money to help upgrade the island's wastewater treatment and power facilities, among other things. “We have made a commitment to not exceed the capacity of the infrastructure on Guam,” says Major Neil A. Ruggiero, a public affairs officer for the Marines in Guam. This week, the USDA also announced that it was loaning the Port of Guam $54.5 million to help modernize the port, in addition to a previous $50 million committed by the DOD earlier this year. “There are always going to be people who are happy, people who are not so happy, and then there are people in the middle,” Ruggiero says. “Now, there are all three.”

Bevacqua is skeptical whether the military's final plan, which is now underway with the awarding of the first two contracts, was drafted in the true spirit of compromise. “They said that we will delay those decisions, but all indications are they will make the same decisions at a later date,” says Bevacqua. “This whole thing is about showing that they're listening, but they don't want to listen at all. They want the option that they want.”

But he admits that he and other anti-military activists are in the minority. Many Guam residents, though they cannot vote in presidential elections and have no congressional representation, feel decidedly more a part of the U.S. than Asia. Particularly after the U.S. recaptured Guam from Japanese occupancy in 1944, the American military has been seen by many on the island as a positive force in the community that lends a hand when natural disasters hit the island, and the coming buildup as a sorely needed source of jobs in a limited economy. (This is an interesting audio slideshow about the U.S. military presence in the Pacific.)

Strategically, Guam has often been called ‘the tip of the spear' in America's Pacific arsenal. But as the U.S. bulks its presence up next door to an increasingly confident China, Bevacqua thinks Guam is getting the short end of that stick. “When the U.S. starts posturing toward China, I start to worry. People in Oklahoma aren't going to get bombed. We're going to get bombed,” he says. “The tip of the spear is the first thing to get bloody, you know.”

Read more:

Monday, November 08, 2010

Olbermann Interview

I like Keith Olbermann, because he is an angry nerd. Most nerds wilt and die, and swoon at the sight of almost anything, but Olbermann, is a nerd who is angry and not afraid to look a little bit foolish in order to seek some way of unleashing that anger and trying to mix it with some humor and intelligence.

He just got suspended from MSNBC for making some campaign contributions to three Democratic candidates, without obtaining permission from his employer first.This has, for liberals and the left become a sort of mainstrem media "teachable moment." While Fox News nurtures its commentators and anchors and hosts to be the media arm of the Republicans Party, MSNBC comes nowhere close to playing that role for liberals or for Democrats, and this is a clear example of that.

The interview below was taken days before the suspension. The particular like the exchange where he talks about his dad's favorite not so well known baseball players from back in the day.


November 5, 2010
Pleading Sanity
Interview with KEITH OLBERMANN
New York Times

Two days before his suspension from MSNBC, the anchor talked about his partisanship.

At his Rally to Restore Sanity, Jon Stewart complained about the shrieking tone of cable news. Were you watching when a montage juxtaposed footage from your news show with that of Glenn Beck’s?

I saw that. I was sitting at home, with my notebooks for the election, in that Saturday haze that anybody who does five shows is still in until the middle of the afternoon on Saturday. I was thinking: That’s odd. I wouldn’t think of myself in those terms. Why is my videotape there?

He characterized MSNBC as the lefty version of Fox News.

To present all this as the same is both unfair and injurious to the political system at the moment. One of the big flaws now is that there is all this noise on the right. When I yell there is a reason for it. There is a political and factual discernment behind it. I am not doing it gratuitously.

You wrote on Twitter that Stewart had jumped the shark. Are you suggesting his show is in decline?

I said he jumped a small shark. If he believes he has no political viewpoint, that’s ludicrous. For him to now say, ‘‘I’m not in the media, I’m not poised in this world of political expression, I never take gratuitous shots at people or go over the top and I’m not particularly pointed in one direction,’’ each of those things was ludicrous.

But two days later you seemed to have softened, announcing on your show that you were abandoning a popular and vitriolic segment called "Worst Person in the World.’’

At least temporarily but probably permanently.

Have you ever been a guest on Jon Stewart’s show?

No. I was invited in 2003 or 2004, within the first year of my show. We were still in Secaucus, N.J., so to do the show I would have had to have taken the whole day off at that point, and they wouldn’t let me at MSNBC. I will say that there was never another invitation, and I’m not sure why.

Is it fair to describe you as the first left winger to express anger as a television host? Fury used to be the province of right wingers, until that day in 2006 when you delivered a tirade against Donald Rumsfeld.

I once had a conversation with the man who is now the vice president when he was still in the Senate, who asked me for advice about how to turn anger into righteous inspiration.

Joe Biden took you to lunch to ask you for tips on getting angry?

He said, ‘‘I just come across like I’m angry and out of control, and you seem to focus it and make it look useful and expressive.’’

It’s certainly true that Democrats have been criticized for not getting angry enough and wimping out. Do you think President Obama lacks vitriol?

Now we will have Mitch McConnell saying you need to repeal health care reform, you need to defund health care reform. This is a freaking war out there, and it is to me somewhat unrealistic to approach it any other way. I’m not saying that President Obama should throw off the dignity of the office and start going in and head-butting opponents.

Your new book, ‘‘Pitchforks and Torches,’’ is dedicated to your father, an architect who died this year. Was he as devoted to the Yankees as your late mother, a regular presence at the stadium?

My mother was the real fan. My dad — literally we discussed this within three weeks before he died — was mad at the Yankees for trading away his favorite players in 1949 or 1950. Steve Souchock and Snuffy Stirnweiss.

Should we know them?

Neither was famous when I was a kid. Who was Souchock? I was like, ‘‘Dad, he hit .203.’’ He said: ‘‘It doesn’t matter. He was my favorite player.’’

What do you say to critics who find you smug?

I don’t know. I don’t have a good working definition of smug.

Do you think you have an anger-management problem?

No, not at all. That’s another thing that would have come to the surface long ago in television if it was actually clinical in any way. No, I’ve worked for people with anger-management issues. I am a happy amateur on the subject.



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