One of the reasons why I get this feeling is because of the way I have over the years disconnected myself from alot of the echo chamber where these things bounce around. I don't read comments on either the Guampdn or Marianas Variety websites, even though I do read the physical papers almost every day. The comments for most websites tend to be where minalate' goes to die, and so there isn't much purpose to reading through them, unless you want to see a freakshow parade of different exotic types of human ignorance. I also don't visit many forums or message boards, primarily because of crappy experiences of trying to run on long ago and seeing how cruel and ignorant people can be when they have the safety of cyberspace on their side. I also don't have a Facebook, which is becoming more and more the battleground where people see ideological battles hatched out. They see everything through the heroes and villains on peoples' pages and what comments they put in public forums, and victories are determined by not only those agree with you, but also those who "like" what you have to say.
I sometimes hear that my name is being passed around in these circles in these ways, I get fragments, such as names I am being called or terrible things being said about me, and although I am sometimes tempted to dive in and join the conversation, I rarely ever do. Those sorts of engagements can be so draining and time consuming. Countering and defending points that generally don't matter to people who don't care, but simply want to enjoy the satisfaction of making you suffer and squirm. These exchanges are especially pointless over the internet, where the cloak of anonymity makes the most pathetic and cowardly and intellectual inept people somehow feel like hulking giants of mental capacity and invincibly incapable of being wrong.
For example, over the past week I've been told that I've been called uneducated, crazy, racist, and a communist, and probably a good number of other things too. The conversation which has become so negative surrounds the general issue of decolonization and self-determination, and those who are very uninformed about it or are simply interested in stopping the process or tainting it in the name of the US. This conversation is always around but it has become enhanced with a few new elements. The first is a packed forum that was held last week at UOG on political decolonization. At that forum Julian Aguon, activist, author, attorney made a remark noting that the right to self-determination is so sacred, that the UN is even on record stating that people have a right to resort to violence if self-determination is being withheld from them. Julian did not advocate violence in the case of Guam, but only wanted to illustrate that the right is considered to be so sacred internationally, that it is something you can fight and die for. Some people who attended the forum pounced on this statement and twisted it into many different ways, trying to make the case that Julian was in fact advocating violent revolution against the US. The internet has been full of battles over the past week on this issue, as detractors of decolonization on Guam seek to neutralize the truth of what Julian had to say about decolonization.
A second element is the Marianas Variety and how it, through the Monday columns of Guam's resident angry, old white dude Dave Davis has become a source of anti-Chamorro sentiment. For those unfamiliar with Davis, he regularly writes about the ills of Guam and the world, and does so in ways that can be considered racist. He attacks the Chamorro people and rhetorically spits on Chamorro culture. He says things that if you were to write about in a newspaper about white people on Guam, you would probably be censored. But as he proposes himself as the white defender of America in Guam against the evils of the corrupting local Chamorro/Guamanian culture, he is given alot more leeway than I probably would in my columns. He makes plenty of assertions, but his columns are generally tied together by a clear lack of facts or even research. His columns are actually intellectually a joke. He has a very limited understanding of just about everything he discusses, but makes up for that, by trying to be more forceful in his opinions. A case in point came several months ago when he proposed a list of Guamanian myths, and how things that people take for granted about life on Guam are according to him completely false. In making his arguments, so many of his points actually rested on his personal experiences, and so someone had irritated him or pissed him off, and since he considered himself to be at the center of how Guam should be, people better accept that as solid evidence of the truth. Some of his points boiled down to this, "The people of Guam suck because, I had this one bad experience and so everything must be like this and everyone who I don't like must be like that."
The Marianas Variety publishes Davis even though his voice is loathed by more than who love his ideas, because he is the explicitly anti-Chamorro voice, that counters or balances out my pro-Chamorro voice. His articles are widely read, more so because people hate his rhetoric, than because they love or support it. But these reasons are enough to keep him in the opinion pages depiste his general lack of research or understanding of issues. People are naturally upset that he gets a regular place to make basic attacks on Chamorros and on decolonization. People have requested that he be removed as a columnist, but the Variety has moved to defend him and keep on writing columns.
I haven't been following these issues very closely but I am grateful to Desiree from The Drowning Mermaid blog, as she is right in the middle of these debates and has been writing posts on her blog about them. I'm pasted one of her posts below so you can learn more about the current ideological battles being waged on Guam today. Through Twitter Desiree contacted me earlier, making me smile at the whole situation.
"Just More Craziness from an Uneducated Commie."
Desiree Taimanglo Ventura
The Drowning Mermaid
Here is a short re-telling of legend pasted in from Guampedia (a site that I love, by the way):
A monster parrot fish was chewing his way through the island of Guam, determined to destroy the island. Night after night, the men of Guam went out in search of the huge destructive fish, but could not find it.
The young women would talk about the monster whenever they gathered to wash their hair and rinse it with orange peels. Their favorite spot to gather was at the Agana Springs. When they finished, the pool would be covered with orange peels. One day, a girl noticed the peels floating in Pago Bay. She was puzzled by their appearance. After some thought, she surmised that the monster must have eaten a hole all the way under the island from Pago Bay to Agana Springs, and that was where it was hiding.
The next day, when the girls gathered at the Agana Springs, they wove a net with their long black hair, and then sat around the pool and began to sing. The monster fish, enchanted by the music, swam up from the bottom of the spring to listen to the singing girls. Suddenly, the girls spread their net over the spring and dived into the pool. The monster fish was caught and the island of Guam was saved.Stumbling upon the painting couldn’t have happened at a better time. It seems as if the females, old and young, who live on this island are pretty tired of the parrot fish circling our island, chomping off bits of the land, and scaring or illogically shaming our people. Evidence of this is on a very funny strand of comments on the We Are Guahan public forum, where one female after another calls out McNinch, mocking him, scolding him, shaming him, and refusing to let him get away with falsely representing the message of a young Chamorro male who spoke on behalf of his people.
If you look at previous blog entries, you have an idea of the kind of irritation I have surrounding Aguon’s recent presentation and Guam’s media. The letter in the previous entry was submitted and published in its entirety. If you read it closely, I never once said that either Dave Davis or Ron McNinch should be barred from sharing their perspectives in the Mariana’s Variety (although that would be wonderful!).
But I also think that if the Variety gave a crap about this island, they would be more responsible and encourage Mr. Davis to exercise more diplomacy when labeling the people of this island. However, Dave Davis and Ron McNinch seem to think that what I wrote was unfair, and an attack against their AMERICAN RIGHT TO FREE SPEECH. Again, they’ve displayed how poor their reading comprehension skills are. I’m starting to think that they’re both missing screws. Anyway, my letter was followed by a few others who echoed my sentiment. Just because other letters said they shouldn’t be allowed to write doesn’t mean mine did. But they seemed to be confused by who wrote and said what (again).
John Anderson, the editor of the Mariana’s Variety, called me to discuss publishing my letter. I told him how horrible I thought it was for him to allow Dave Davis to write such destructive things about our community. I reminded him that Dave Davis accused Dr. Lisa Natividad of “traveling the world and spreading Anti-American lies and propaganda against the US military.” I talked about how Davis referred to those who support decolonization as “looney tunes.” I could have gone on for much longer, because Davis also said that Aguon, “didn’t recognize US law,” and made all sorts of disparaging remarks about Chamorros. Anderson seemed to think that it was okay. He didn’t believe that publishing anti-Chamorro or anti-Chamorro rights articles was the least bit destructive to the community, particularly because he has one pro-Chamorro rights column, written by Professor Bevacqua. Maybe he’s right. Maybe Miget’s diplomatic and non-racist articles make up for all of Davis’ strange accusations. He didn’t believe that it fueled tension in any way.
In addition, the Variety, didn’t feel McNinch’s letter to the editor needed any official clarification. They felt it was completely okay to allow McNinch to tell the island that Aguon sent out a “call for violence,” because he said so within a “Letter to the Editor.” Apparently, Anderson doesn’t believe misinformation can occur within a letter to the editor. He believes that as long as it is within the opinion or “letter to the editor” section, then it’s okay, and the Variety is not irresponsible. The next morning, John Anderson and Dave Davis called their friend, K57’s Ray Gibson. The three of them joked on air while discussing the high volume of letters that the Variety had been receiving since the publication of McNinch’s letter. The letters expressed a sincere hurt, insult, and disappointment in the Variety for allowing content like that to be fed to the community. The three men continued to joke about it. The whole thing seemed very entertaining to them. Ray Gibson explained that he hoped to see Davis’ column continue “for a very long time” and suggested that Anderson raise the price of the Variety to a dollar (instead of .75). In addition, Davis explained that those who disagree with his article are a very small group of very uneducated people. He also aligned disagreement with his perspective to communism. I tried to politely respond to Mr. Davis on the Variety’s comment thread, but he seemed very defensive about the whole thing. I reminded him that many of the people who wrote in are very educated Chamorros, many of whom have advanced degrees.
He quickly replied to explain that he wasn’t referring to all Chamorros and just those who wrote in; he was referring to the Chamorro voting population. Silly me! His clarification didn’t really make me feel better. I spent a lot of time responding to their very strange, illogical responses, and trying to help them improve their reading comprehension skills; but they really struggled. Davis, in particular, seemed very annoyed by me. I realize that he is an elderly gentleman, and a part of me wondered if all of this back and forth was going to have him keel over and have a heart attack in front of his computer. But then I reminded myself that he has been writing angrily about Chamorro rights for a very long time. I comforted myself by thinking of his long history of resilience. “Mr. Davis will be okay,” I told myself.
Through the whole thing, McNinch started to clarify, via various online forums, that his concern came more from the audience’s reaction than Julian’s explanation. He was now saying that he was disturbed because the audience seemed to interpret Julian’s message as a call for violence, not necessarily that Julian made a call for violence. I told the distinguished professor that it would have helped if he made that more clear in his letter. However, his poor reading comprehension skills prevented him from responding on-topic (again). He continued to repeat the same, strange, irrelevant responses about the UN not sanctioning violence.
Julian didn’t say that the UN would condone or support violence. He just said that with international crimes, like genocide and colonization, it was understood that any kind of resistance, even violence, was warranted; and warranted is different from condoned. But again, you can’t spend all day going through vocabulary words with Ron McNinch. Maybe I’ll just send him a set of SAT vocabulary flash cards. At one point, McNinch couldn’t really think of anything productive or non-repetitive to say, so he complained that my letter to the editor was too long. It’s true; I didn’t bother to check if there was a length requirement. I just sent it in. I figured they would chop it up as they saw fit. It’s not my fault the Variety published it in its entirety. Maybe he was annoyed because they cut up his letters.
I promise that the next time I send in a letter to Mr. Anderson’s paper, I will remember the rules... I mean RULE. Because the only rule they have is to keep it within 500 words and include your name with contact information. They reprinted their requirements for sending in a letter. Basically, they have no other standard than keeping it within 500 words. I think their lack of standards is kind of cool. It means that now, anyone who wants to write doesn’t have to bother trying to write with credibility or truth. If it’s in a letter to the editor, you’re allowed to say whatever you want, even if it’s racist or libelous. As long as you keep it within 500 words, you’re good! I can even write a letter saying that “John Anderson, Ray Gibson, and Dave Davis told Chamorros to ‘Shut the fuck up’ because they’re just uneducated communist,’” and it’s completely okay. I don’t have to clarify that it was just my interpretation, because if it’s in a letter to the editor or column, I don’t have to. The general population will immediately understand that. Anderson feels that their lack of standards help to create dialogue and make Guam a more beautiful place. I can certainly appreciate Mr. Anderson’s good intentions.
I’m at home with strep throat this week, so I had all the time in the world to cough, blow my nose, and read or respond to the silliness. I wondered if Ron McNinch, Dave Davis, and the anonymous commenter online had strep throat too. They seemed to have a lot of time on their hands. I wondered if the University of Guam knew Ron McNinch spent so much time playing on online forums and facebook comment threads. Doesn’t the guy have papers to grade? Doesn’t he have work to do? Aren’t experts usually busier than that? I wish I were an expert like that. I wouldn’t bother to do any real work. I would just play on facebook all day, comment and debate on internet articles, and privately message people and creep them out. That sounds way more fun than researching, working, and all that other “grown up” crap. I bet that everyone is going to be much happier when my strep throat goes away. I'll have less time to play online with the "experts."