I have had an online presence for quite a while now. I've had websites or some sort of presence here for so long that I started a geocities website when it was still cool to have one, and have lived long enough to see geocities close down and most of the sites wiped from the face of the earth (a few were saved by generous mirrors). I've seen the internet landscape of Guam change somewhat. Every year or so a handful of websites which are meant to be the ultimate or premiere online presence for all things Guam or Chamorro appear, and most of them fade away very quickly and very quietly. The creation and popularization of blogs didn't lead to any real change in the emptiness of Guam's online world. If you google around for Guam/Chamorro blogs you'll find several pages which were created and never actually started. You'll also find plenty of blogs with a few posts and nothing else for several years. I was jealous of Saipan for quite a while because while Guam languished in terms of blogs and regular commentary, there were almost way too many blogs being published from Saipan.
I always encourage people to blog more, start up websites or just find a way to articulate their thoughts and share with others what is happening on island or in the Chamorro community. I was happy last year when Selina Onedera-Salas, who currently works in the office of Senator Ben Pangelinan and is the daughter of Peter Onedera, who is a Chamorro language professor at UOG, started a blog titled Everything Under the Guam Sun. Last week she posted a digital comic that she had made, commenting on the claim of the Calvo Administration that Guam is now at the table or in the driver's seat in terms of the military buildup.
She posted something yesterday about her experiences recently during the confirmation hearings for various appointees to GovGuam comissions and directorships. I found her post very interesting ya puede ha' para u konsigi' mangge' put i hinasson-na yan i lini'e'-na siha. Meggai i hinasso-ta i Chamoru, put i estoria-ta, put hafa gi oriya-ta pa'go, ya chinathinasso put hafa mamamaila, lao na'ma'ase na ti ta fanmanunuge' mas put este na asunto siha.
"I Don't Know You"
Not long ago, the Guam Legislature conducted a slew of Confirmation Hearings for people who have been appointed to the cabinet or various boards and commissions by Governor Calvo. The process involves the appointee appearing before a panel of senators who have oversight over respective agencies and departments for which the appointees have been selected to lead. The public is invited to these hearings to speak either in support of or in opposition to the appointments, and while some testimonies were filled with praise there were also some that challenged the professional or educational background and qualifications of the appointees. The general public is invited to deliver these testimonies, and the senators are expected to either comment or to ask questions thus providing the opportunity for the appointees to relay their plans and expectations of their terms of service.
The process involves people from all walks of life and could be rather entertaining if you’re not familiar with how these hearings are conducted.
Since I have never been privy to sitting through as many Confirmation Hearings as I have before this year, I paid close attention to what was said and to how the appointees were received by the senators and those who were in attendance. Quite a bit of the testimonies spoke of how so-and-so is a good man and is heavily involved with this or that or how this woman is a very accomplished one with skills that take her to the top of her field.
The senators were usually positive and engaging but also dared to challenge the appointees to think beyond the scope of the present environment of our island and asked questions about what our future holds for us if the appointees were confirmed. Some senators went so far to say things like, Are you sure you want to do this? Are you sure you want this position? Those remarks were usually met with a sense of humor. But there was one comment that was made by one senator at several of the hearings, and for some reason the tone of the comment and the very context of it bothered me enough to BLOG about it.
But before I elaborate, I just want to point out that I am completely aware that a voter and a candidate do not have a reciprocal relationship in many cases. At one point, the voter is the decision-maker with the task of putting the candidate in office or removing the candidate from office. The candidate has no control over the situation above persuasion or convincing the voter. Eventually, the candidate who assumes office becomes the decision-maker thereby (once again) convincing or persuading the public to see that these decisions are made for the benefit of at least the majority of the population. Nevertheless, in many, many cases, the candidate is less likely to know the individuals who make up her/his voting bloc. Voters spend a lot of time getting to know our candidates, but our candidates have no possible way of getting to know all their voters. Naturally, the ratio of candidates to voters does not allow for this to happen for the most part. Regardless of whether or not our candidates know who we are, we vote for them in confidence that she or he will do us right. And they appear to know us by legislating and creating policies that are meant to represent our interests. (Ideally.)
When I first heard this senator say to an appointee, “I don’t know you,” I didn’t think much of it. But after the third time, I thought it was a little silly that she felt it necessary to say this to people—publicly.
I’m not one who thinks that senators or other public officials should pretend or have to censor themselves, but I started to think that her comments could mean one of two things: she is an introvert and prefers to stay close to people she is familiar with or she is someone who feels that it’s important for someone of her stature to know the who’s who among the Whos.
What her comment translates to, in my opinion, is “I don’t know you, I’m sorry you’re an unknown, but I’ll try to know you now that you’re on the same level I’m on.”
My reaction to comments like that is, i nåhnalao. Ke? Ya håfa yanggen ti un tungo’ yu’? Kumeke’ilek-mu na put i ti un tungo’ yu’ na kulan ti gaige yu’ åntes di på’go? (Wow. And what? So what if you don’t know me? Are you trying to say that because you don’t know me that I never existed before?)
If a senator was to tell me to my face that she or he ‘doesn’t know me,’ I would feel insulted or even humiliated—it sounds like she’s saying, Your opinion and your worth is not valuable enough to me unless I know you. What more, if I was to ask her for assistance? Should I approach her, because I know she doesn’t know me? Perhaps if I preface my first personal conversation with her with the line, “You don’t know me,” I’d save myself the embarrassment.
I hope I’m wrong about this, and I hope I’m just overreacting.