Thursday, June 23, 2011

A Petition of Chains

Fellow activist and instructor at UOG Victoria Leon Guerrero and I just finished our letter to the editor weighing on the emergence of Para Hita Todu and the recently reinvigorated pro-buildup bias of the Pacific Daily News. This past week has had alot of letters in support of the buildup, many of them exceeding the usual limit the paper puts on submissions. All of these letters made similar points and talked about opportunities being missed and the buildup been a once in a lifetime or golden chance for so much more. None of them were particularly helpful for the discussion and were all built upon the hopeful, wishful but pointless premise that good things will happen if we believe in the buildup and support it.

Gof na'chalek nu Guahu, that opponents of the buildup were for so long accused of not offering anything but just negativity and critique, whereas those supporting the buildup were somehow offering a real concrete solution to problems despite not even knowing what they were talking about. It is intriguing how this still hasn't changed. Support for the buildup doesn't require much, in fact it requires less than opposing it. All you need is faith. All you need is to not think, to not question and to just hope and pray that good will come from it. Opposing the buildup tends to require a little bit more since the mere act of challenging or countering requires more critique and use of your facilities than to have faith in something.

In addition to all the pro-buildup letters that were published, a number of more cautious or moderate letters were featured as well. One which caught my eye was the letter below from Senator Rory Respicio. Para Hita Todu built their entrance into the debate on the buildup around their much touted and much maligned petition of support for the buildup. They argued they were going to get 15,000 signatures in a matter of no time, but have struggled after weeks to reach their target. Given their advantage as captains of industry and rich people with thousands of employees, you would think their task would be easy, but such hasn't been the case.

When you read their petition you can easily see why. The petition was drafted in some sort of ridiculous ideological bubble, as if no thought whatsoever was considered as to how a living breathing human being might react to what was being handed to them. Para Hita Todu attempted to create a petition which no one could be against, even going so far as to basically make three of their five petition statements banalities about the troops and supporting them. All of the stupid, idiotic things which conservatives regurgitate in order to make themselves seem patriotic or to deflate the patriotism of their opponents must come from a tall, smooth black obelisk similar to the one that appears in 2001: A Space Odyssey. It appears that Para Hita Todu in the conjuring of this petition made a pilgrimage to that rock, similar to the ones Muslims make to the Ka'bah perhaps. Once there, rather than having a meeting about what would be the best thing to put in their petition, they simply cut slivers of that foreboding black rock and when each piece landed on the parchment they had brought it shimmering and contorted itself into the following five glittering generalities:

These are all things no one can be against, or no polite and God-fearing patriot is supposed to be against. And while few to none would ever openly challenge these points, they are much stronger and much more potent when they are unspoken or unwritten. These points are sometimes deployed as talking points to silence a political opponent or characterize your enemies as being against the things no one is supposed to be against. They are powerful when used in that strategic context, but in an everyday sense they are things which are better left unsaid, since to remind people of them can end up unleash in them a desire to refuse them or be against them simply because they are being presented as things you must support. That is the dangerous dynamic of anything which is considered to be commonsensical or something all must stand behind. Is that while is gives you a sense of security, a strong identity, something you can assume a feeling of normal, angokkuyon community around those bonds in a positive sense can quickly began to feel like bonds in a negative sense. Those ideas can transform into ideological chains, things which while you still may believe in, you still feel the need to chafe against, to struggle against. Once revealed they are things which you almost feel like a interpollated punk for accepting. The petition shows a place in the world carved out for you, waiting for you to sign and accept, and in that sense it strips you of your feelings of agency, it deprives you of the ability to feel like you are your own person or you make up your own mind. These petition statements, normally things you might love or adhere to begin to feel like they are commands, orders issued through the social superego. To put it in the most simple terms possible, the petition reveals that these are not truly points that you want to follow, but are things that you must follow. That feeling naturally can quickly take the wind out of your sails and pop the enthusiasm bubble of your petition.

What I found interesting about Senator Respicio's letter was his attempt to re-write the petition to make it more accurately reflect what the people of Guam want or believe. While I am not a supporter of the military buildup, I do have to admit that if Para Hita Todu went around gathering signatures with the rewritten petition of the Senator, they would most likely have a much easier time. The rewrites are compromises and so they don't have the gusto of the original, but interestingly enough in that gray, mushy area of both supporting and not supporting something, or placing conditions on things, that is where humans feel alive. That is where they feel like they have a say, a place, like the world is not mapped out for them already, but in the miasma of moderation and middleness, they have choices and the ability at the least to move back and forth across that gray area.

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Buildup Support Petition Needs Amending
Senator Rory Respicio
Guam PDN
June 22, 2011

I seem to have hit a nerve with Lee Webber, as his June 11 column suggests. The statement I appreciate most is that he said I was "very young." Thank you very much, Mr. Webber. As I am approaching 40, with more than 20 years of government and private sector experience, I always appreciate being called "very young," even if it's not quite accurate.


Also not accurate was Mr. Webber's statement that I "lamented" his service to our country as a corpsman. Military service is an honor, not something to lament. He put himself in harm's way to help the wounded and injured, and that is to be commended. My father and other relatives have also served in the military, and I have only respect for those who defend our island, country and people.

Mr. Webber has also failed to understand my perspective on the buildup. He has convinced himself that I am against it.

Although I haven't been asked, here is my suggestion to improve the petition being circulated by Para Hita Todu, the group that he mentioned. If the five statements were just slightly altered, as I have done below, I would gladly sign it, and many others may, as well. I haven't removed any of the original language, just modified the statements (changes are in italics; I've included an explanation for each to eliminate any question that the buildup should be "at any cost"):
•I welcome a military expansion that will create more good-paying, middle class jobs for our community. ("More jobs" shouldn't mean just minimum wage and temporary H-2 jobs).

•I want to be a partner in the fight for freedom, and in the fight for equality for Americans on both sides of the fence. (Freedom must mean equality for all).

•I welcome the servicemen and women who defend our nation, and welcome all efforts to help create 'One Green Guam.' (As the White House has stated: "construction [in Guam] must take into account the needs of not only an increased troop presence or Marine presence, but also the needs of the people of Guam [and] the impact on the environment.").

•I want what's best for Guam's future, for both the civilian and military communities. (Self-explanatory)

•I support our troops who protect our freedoms, and I support every American who has ever been denied our freedoms. (The war claims for Guam's greatest generation have yet to be fully addressed)

I hope this helps Mr. Webber understand why some still have concerns about a buildup "at any cost." Mr. Webber and I have a great deal of common ground.

Sen. Rory J. Respicio is majority leader of the 31st Guam Legislature and chairs the Committee on Rules; Human & Natural Resources; and Federal, Foreign & Micronesian Affairs.

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