Showing posts from November, 2011

Okinawa Dreams #7: Fights Not Worth Fighting

Veteran’s Day passed recently, and that is always a frustrating time of the year for people interested in peace. Veteran’s Day as it is celebrated nowadays in the US and its empire is a blind sort of celebration of militarization. Through the auras of the troops, we are expected to support whatever the military means or is or represents. We are supposed to be teary-eyed and all choked full of emotion at the sacrifice of so many, that we should suddenly forget everything else and just pick up a flag, wave it, and give the screaming eagles of militarization soaring above, a hearty thumbs up!

It is easy to forget that Veteran’s Day began as Armistice Day. It was not a celebration of living troops or military might, but a holiday meant to provide the country a time to reflect on how terrible war was, through the lives lost and how it should not happen again. Over time, it has moved to becoming the exact opposite, becoming a place where you should support any and every way the US enters in…

Okinawa Dreams #6: Asia Pacific Without Bases and Nukes

Just for clarification, there are two components to the conference that I attended in Okinawa last week.

The first component is an international forum on the topic of how to create an Asia Pacific region that is free of military bases and nuclear weapons. For this forum, there are roughly a 100 or so people in attendance, all of whom are the leaders of various anti-base, peace or anti-nuclear civil society groups throughout Japan. The title of this forum is “For a Nuclear Weapon-Free Peaceful Asia-Pacific without Military Bases – Solidarity among Okinawa, Guam and Asia-Pacific.”

The second part is the yearly Japan Peace Conference, which is always held in a part of Japan where the local community hosts US bases. Last year’s gathering was in Sasebo, in Nagasaki. This part of the conference is massive compared to the forum. The International Forum takes place in small hotel in Naha. The full-fledged peace conference takes place in a large amphitheater, that seats 2,000 people. The orga…

Okinawa Dreams #5: Number 9

A reception was held on the first day of the conference to welcome the activists from Okinawa and Japan and also celebrate the presence of the overseas delegates from the Pacific. As part of this reception, there was food, music, and gifts were exchanged. During one particularly touching exchange, we all received beautiful Article 9 folders. The gift came from the daughter of a very famous communist community leader in Okinawa. He had been the Naha city mayor in the 1950's and later a member of the Diet. He was imprisoned for two years prior to becoming a politician for hiding two suspected communists who were supposed to leave Okinawa. He came to prominence at a time when the island was part of Japan, but governed by the US military after World War II. He had been instrumental in getting the island returned to Japanese control in 1972.

I apologize for not posting an image of the folder now, I'll be sure to take one later.

After receiving these gifts we all joined hands and fo…

Okinawa Dreams #4: Three Arguments

I have written before, on this blog and elsewhere about any large scale gathering such as the conference I am attending in Okinawa this week, can result in a very skewed image of reality. Most gatherings of that sort bring together people who are of similar minds of certain things, and as such the discourse, the discussion and the assumptions that emerges will be hegemonic for those in attendance, but most likely not for anyone else. For example, if you were to go to Japan and attend one of its annual conferences against nuclear weapons in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, you might get the impression that all Japanese are anti-nuke peace loving activists.

This is hardly the case of course. Although the peace movement is strong in Japan, it is far from the norm. Not everyone is incredibly critical and not everyone has the same ideas of what would be peaceful and not everyone wants a world without nuclear weapons. In fact, if you were to talk to a random Japanese person there is a good chance th…

Okinawa Dreams #3: Decolonize Okinawa?

Although you can call both Guam and Okinawa colonies, there have been historically different in terms of decolonization discussion. Both were incorporated into a colonial country which took steps to destroy the culture and dictate the levels of the colonized people. Both of them receive benefits from the colonial relationship, but have also been mistreated or afforded a lower status. Although both have a high level of inclusion with their colonizer, and have assimilated and accepted much of the way their colonizer wanted them to exist, they nonetheless still struggle with very practical feelings of difference. Both feel that they have not just a casual difference with their colonizer, but one that their history of colonization insists be taken seriously. But while Guam has spent the past 30 years developing a lexicon for discussing political status and decolonization there, has Okinawa undergone a similar way of creating a framework for speaking of their colonial status and how it mig…

Okinawa Dreams #2: Guam Leads the Way

My trip to Okinawa is a solidarity trip, a networking trip, and in many ways a research trip. It is different than my trips in the past to South Korea and Hiroshima and Nagasaki, because this time I am travelling with a large delegation from Guam. We are all friends and have worked together before on various activist projects and so the time of travelling and waiting passes fairly easily since we always have things to talk or joke about.

One issue which Guam was discussing a great deal when we left, that we have carried with us as we've come to Okinawa, is the recent lawsuit by Dave "Arnold" Davis, suing the Guam Election Commission in Federal Court for not allowing him to register to vote in a self-determination plebiscite. Davis has been threatening this for years, and even tried to get the US Department of Justice to investigate a few years back. They declined. The timing of the lawsuit was no doubt spurred on by the recent revival of decolonization efforts at the Gov…

Okinawa Dreams #1: The Fadang Between Us

I am in Okinawa for the next four days for two conferences dealing with peace and demilitarization in the Asia-Pacific region. I am in my hotel room right now, and have great internet access and so that means that I'll be blogging while I'm here. The name of my blog posts about my experiences in Okinawa will be "Okinawa Dreams." In the coming days keep returning to my blog to learn more.

I spent yesterday and the day before reading up on Okinawan history, trying to find any possible historical connections between our islands. By now, everyone knows that we have been connected in terms of force realignment and that Marines are supposed to be transferred from Okinawa to Guam at some point in future, but this connection is relatively recent and is a result of the regional interests of the US military. What other connections could there be?

In my cursory research, I found references to Okinawans coming to Guam in the 1800's as farmers, and other references to people …

My Okinawan Dream

Today I'm heading to a peace and demilitarization conference in Okinawa. I'm travelling as part of a delegation of people from Guam who are going to discuss Guam's role in the larger strategic vision that the US has for the Asia-Pacific region. Delegates will also be coming from Hawai'i, Palau, the Marshall Islands, the Philippines, South Korea and mainland Japan. For my part, I've written a speech on the dream of a world without nuclear weapons that I'll be sharing the day after tomorrow.

For me, this trip to Okinawa is a dream come true.

I have read and heard so much about Okinawa since it was first announced as the place that Guam was scheduled to receive 7,000 Marines and 8,000 dependents from in late 2005. Since then, the buildup has changed many times, I've changed many times, and the people around me who discuss this issue and work on this issue has changed as well. Okinawa has become an strangely intimate part of my life over the past few years be…

Act of Decolonization #19: Show Me Your Wound

This was written Saturday, November 19, 2011, before the "We Are Here" protest of President Obama during his short visit to Guam.


Pau fatto magi Si Obama lamo'na hun.

Supposedly President Obama is stopping in Guam tonight. People estimate he will be here at around 10 or 11 pm tonight, and only stay for at most two hours. He was scheduled to stop in Guam last year, but his pit stop was cancelled at the last second because of the Health Care Reform debate. We Are Guahan led a petition drive requesting that when he come to Guam he hold a townhall meeting to hear concerns about the buildup. They collected over 10,000 signatures in less than a month.

Although the urgent momentum from the buildup process is for the most part evaporated, and now people see it more as stalled than going anywhere, the self-determination process appears to be picking up new speed. Gof likidu este na momento, ya magof hu na gaige yu' guini gi hilo' tano' pa'g…

We Are Here

I just came home from the "We Are Here" Protest, or as some might know it as, the "Guam: Where America's President Refuels" Protest. Esta i protest yan i ti nahong i maigo'-hu gi painge muna'yafai yu', and so I'll write about it and post photos of it tomorrow.

To say the least it was inspiring and fun.

The Red Velvet Cake of Political Status

“The Fourth Kind of Cake”
Michael Lujan Bevacqua
The Marianas Variety

My column two weeks ago “The Fourth Kind” received some interesting feedback. Some were supportive, some weren’t. For example, some criticized the outdated nature of the UN framework and how the sheer amount of local, national and international inertia on the issue means that new blood, particularly a Fourth Kind of blood should be injected into the discussion through the introduction of a new hybrid status.

While this is true, Fourth Kind gospels attract attention in the same way fads do. They feel new and cool, but generally lack any enduring qualities. They are proposed to capture attention, to create conversation, but don’t do much else. History shows, both locally and elsewhere that the Fourth Kind of status has a way of making things appear to be fresh, new, and possible, they also derail the process away from decolonization and towards a solution that doesn’t solve what was initially intended to be r…


From We Are Guahan:

In order to engage and educate the public on the "Compatibility Sustainability Study" or "CSS", We Are Guåhan is inviting you to join us:

at a village meeting

on November 16, 2011

at the Yigo Senior Center (next to the Yigo Softball Field)

from 6:00pm – 8:00pm

The purpose of the CSS is to protect the quality of life for all residents of Guam. The village meeting is an opportunity to learn more about issues discussed in the CSS such as land use, noise, health and affordable housing.

For example, according to the CSS, the number of helicopter operations at Andersen Air Force Base will more than double by 2014 to over 100 flights a day. The CSS also states that there will be about 400 airplane operations a day at Andersen. The noise from airplanes and helicopters flying overhead will affect over 2,500 residents in Yigo and Dededo. The CSS gives our leaders an opportunity to proactively address issues such as night-time flights over our homes and f…

I Pilan Yanggen Sumahi...

“I Pilan Yanggen Sumåhi…”

by Michael Lujan Bevacqua
Marianas Variety
Many people have asked me why I would name my column “When the Moon Waxes.”
The simple answer is, I pilan yanggen sumåhi…which in English translates to “when the moon waxes.” These are my favorite words from a famous old Chamorro love song called “Dalai Nene.” The word “sumåhi” always stuck with me. It shares the same root word “såhi” with another well known word on Guam now, “sinahi.” This word is most famous as the Chamorro men’s necklace made of hima shell, but is also the word for “new moon.” The tragic lyrics combined with the imagery of the moon stuck with me so, influencing me to name my first child Sumahi.

Like many cultures, the moon has been very important to Chamorros, especially in helping mark the passage of time throughout the year. The Ancient Chamorro calendar had 13 months, one for each moon. In the naming of their months, they noted that different moons symbolized different ideal moments f…

Pagat Point Photos


Veterans Day

More troops lost to suicide

By John Donnelly

For the second year in a row, the U.S. military has lost more troops to suicide than it has to combat in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The reasons are complicated and the accounting uncertain — for instance, should returning soldiers who take their own lives after being mustered out be included?

But the suicide rate is a further indication of the stress that military personnel live under after nearly a decade of war.

Figures released by the armed services last week showed an alarming increase in suicides in 2010, but those figures leave out some categories.

Overall, the services reported 434 suicides by personnel on active duty, significantly more than the 381 suicides by active-duty personnel reported in 2009. The 2010 total is below the 462 deaths in combat, excluding accidents and illness. In 2009, active-duty suicides exceeded deaths in battle.

Last week’s figures, though, understate the problem of military suicides because the ser…

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The Pursuit of Justice for Guam

The Forum held at the Legislature a few weeks back was both inspiring and disappointing.

It was disappointing because it was so poorly attended. You had two titans of community engagement and local leadership (hun) working together on holding a public forum and the room wasn't even filled half way. I got there in the afternoon ya nina'triste yu' nu i ti meggai na manmatto. As I wrote about last week, events that we have held at UOG on the same issue, with a much less star-studded line up of speakers are usually packed. Given that some of that is due to the fact that students are given credit to attend doesn't excuse the Legislature-UOG forum, since students still could have been given credit to attend this forum. In this regard it was almost pathetic to attend the forum, since despite all the senators being there, the people who the forum is partially supposed to exist for, were nowhere to be seen.

It was on the other hand inspiring because of the talent that was there …