Monday, February 28, 2011

They'll Break Ranks...

From Crooks And Liars:

This is heartwarming -- BREAKING: Wisconsin Police Have Joined Protest Inside State Capitol:


From inside the Wisconsin State Capitol, RAN ally Ryan Harvey reports:

“Hundreds of cops have just marched into the Wisconsin state capitol building to protest the anti-Union bill, to massive applause. They now join up to 600 people who are inside.”

Ryan reported on his Facebook page earlier today:

“Police have just announced to the crowds inside the occupied State Capitol of Wisconsin: ‘We have been ordered by the legislature to kick you all out at 4:00 today. But we know what’s right from wrong. We will not be kicking anyone out, in fact, we will be sleeping here with you!’ Unreal.”
Don't tell me we can't win this. Wisconsin Police Have Joined Protest Inside State Capitol.

UPDATE from John Amato: Looks like Scott Walker was booed out of a restaurant tonight. Digby says it may not be 100%.

Obsidian Wings has a lot of info:
Wisconsin blogger Naomi Houser reports tonight (via Howie Klein on Twitter):

The M******t [a restaurant] in Madison, WI confirms that on Friday night, ******* (one of the owners) politely asked Scott Walker to leave the establishment when other customers began booing him. A bartender at The M*****t said that ‘his presence was causing a disturbance to the other customers and management asked him to leave.’

Maybe he should have stayed home and ordered pizza instead? Okay, maybe not; there might be a long wait.
Pictures from Ryan Harvey, February 25, Occupied Capitol Building, Madison, WI

In Illinois, Fraternal Order of Police Expresses Support for Wisconsin Protesters.

Illinois FOP is ready to stand with all Illinois labor organizations in support of unions facing threats similar to those in Wisconsin.
Midwestern states are standing together. Indiana Informs Wisconsin’s Push (these are selective quote's; I'm making an argument; for Governor Walker's and Governor Mitch Daniels of Indiana's arguments, click through to the article
UPDATE, 8:47 p.m.: Madison police chief troubled by Walker's comments on protesters:

Madison Police Chief Noble Wray said Thursday that he found comments by Gov. Scott Walker made about protesters at the state Capitol during a prank phone call “very unsettling and troubling." [...] “I would like to hear more of an explanation from Governor Walker as to what exactly was being considered, and to what degree it was discussed by his cabinet members. I find it very unsettling and troubling that anyone would consider creating safety risks for our citizens and law enforcement officers,” the chief said. [...]
d-day writes: 100,000-Plus in Madison for Rally for Workers’ Rights

Mike Elk writes in The Atlantic:: The View From Inside the Wisconsin State Capitol

The presence of blue collar workers in the Capitol has made it more difficult for Republican Gov. Scott Walker or Capitol Police to kick protesters out. "Each night one union will take a shift and send down a hundred of its member to sleep in the Capitol. One day the firefighters will come, the next the construction unions," said Sadlowski. "The labor movement understand they have to stand in solidarity with the young people who started this occupation."
=="Right now the only thing we are disrupting is this Capitol," said Sadlowski. "As long as we hold onto this Capitol, we have a chance."
Have you checked out the well spelled signs? It might because there are teachers involved.

The funny thing is that all these people look like Real Americans to me. Real Americans protesting outside in a snowstorm. Hello? Anyone care?

I guess not. But then they don't have their own network setting the news agenda for the country. Too bad.

I am glad to report, however, that CNN's repeating their blockbuster interview with Iman so if you are desperate to find out what's happening in the dirty underbelly of the world of super-models, you won't be disappointed.

Update: I do have to point out just how well phrased and nicely lettered the signs all are. I guess that's to be expected since so many of the "union thugs" are teachers.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Todu Gi Pappa i Atdao

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.

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"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.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Tweeting in Chamorro

For the Twitter account that I just started, I've decided to dedicate it for now to helping teach the informal Chamorro class that I hold every week. The Twitter account is open to anyone to follow should they want, but it's meant to help support the lessons that we learn each week. Everyday I ask a question or make a statement which draws upon the grammar or vocabulary that we learned that week and those learning are meant to respond. For example, in our first lesson we discussed the most basic forms of pronouns in Chamorro, the "Yu'" type pronouns. They go after adjectives, nouns and verbs and make the most basic stative sentences.

With the pronouns we learned 15 vocabulary words, primarily nouns and verbs, as well as how you use the question marker "kao," the negative marker "ti" and the intensifiers "gof, gef, ges, sen, mampos" in a sentence. In the week after I tweeted some basic questions such as the following:




The following week I tweeted some questions which started using the "Hu" type pronouns that we had learned about which are used to make transitive sentences and go before the verb. For example since Valentine's Day had passed recently I asked a Ha'anin Guinaiya related question.



This led to an interesting exchange. First one student Ken Kuper (who is a member of the band Old Man Rebel) answered the question, but in an interesting way.


His response was "You kissed my girlfriend"



I responded asking him if he really meant to say that (since I didn't actually kiss his girlfriend).

Another student, Leevin Camacho (of We Are Guahan fame) decided to join in and took a jab at both me and Ken for his apparent mistake and me for my apparent infidelity.


The other thing which I've decided to use the Twitter account for is to post lyrics from popular English language songs that have been translated into Chamorro, and have my students try to guess what song it is. I try to pick songs which would translate easily, and I try to translate them in a simpler way so they are easier to guess. The translate is meant to be more literal than figurative, designed so that someone looking up words in a dictionary or asking an elder for help will be led in the right direction.

Here are the songs that I tweeted for last week.

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"Ti siña hu sungon este/ Hu tungo’ na Hagu plumaneha este / Para bai hu na'tunas este/ Este na Trankan Hanom”


"I can't stand this / I know that you are the one who planned this / I will straighten this / This Water Gate"

Sabotage by the Beastie Boys



"Ya gi finakpo'/ I guinaiya un chule'/ Chumilong yan i / Guinaiya un Fa'tinasi..."

"And in the end / The love you take / Is equal to the / Love you make (for someone)"

The End by The Beatles



"Minagof / Un maipe na Paki / Minagof / Un maipe na paki nana / Annai hu abrasu hao / Hu siente i kalalot-hu gi desparadot-mu"

"Happiness / Is a hot gun / Happiness / Is a hot gun / When I embrace you / I feel my finger on your trigger"

Happiness is a Warm Gun by The Beatles



"Malago yu' un perfekto na tahtaotao / Malago yu' un perfekto na ante / Malago yu' na un siente / Kada na taigue yu' guennao"

"I want a perfect body / I want a perfect soul / I want you to feel it / When I am not around you"

Creep by Radiohead

 
Here's the most recent song that I tweeted. See if you can figure out what song it is.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Joy of (Watercolor) Painting

This was originally posted on the website Guamology which was run by the Muna Brothers, Don and Kel, but closed down recently after a two year run. I was a writer for the website, sometimes posting every week or so, sometimes once a month. It was a very fun and very informative website and I was happy to help build it since it started in 2008.

I cut and pasted a few of the posts that I didn't have records of because they were on my old laptop which was stolen last year. I decided to share one of my painting posts below:

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Welcome to another installment of the Joy of Painting! Where I take pictures and write up the progress of a painting that I am making, to go beyond the surface of an artwork, and get into the evolution, the beauty, the struggle of making it. This week’s segment is dedicated to Sarah, who requested that I try out watercolor this time around.

The joy in this post’s title is in quotes because watercolor isn’t always a joy for me. Its not a medium that I’m very good at. This will become clear as you read the progress in my painting and see how my instincts in applying paint or mixing paint all work against me when using what I see as a very delicate and precise medium. But art is supposed to be about challenging things, pushing boundaries, even if those limits being transgressed are those within the artist.

The painting for today is titled “Xiao Qiao,” the name of a historical figure from Ancient China. The image was drawn from the portrayal of this figure by the Taiwanese actress Lin Chi-Ling from the John Woo directed film Chi Bi. In English the title translates to “Red Cliff” or “Red Wall” and is based on the epic battle of Red Cliffs which was one of the key battles in making possible the Three Kingdoms Era of Chinese History. In the film the character of Xiao Qiao is supposed to be the most beautiful woman in the world, and the desire of the antagonist to have her creates the impetus for the conflict between three kingdoms. I don’t know about her being the most beautiful woman in the world, (that title currently belongs to i haggå-hu Sumåhi), but there was an elegance to her character that I did want to try and reproduce. I think it turned out pretty well.

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#1: A simple pencil sketch to start us off. I have to admit, that there have been some paintings where I started off with the pencil or pen sketch and then just left it like that because it looked nice the way it was.


#2: One thing I always consider at this point is how dark or visible do I want this pencil sketch to be? Depending on how you paint watercolor there is a good chance that these initial lines will still be visible when you are finished. If you have a very faint or washy touch, and the lines are dark enough they will still be hanging around. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, because the initial sketch showing through is often a really nice touch. It appears like a ghostly skeleton, or perhaps even the soul of your painting. Viewers of art often love to see touches like that, it makes them feel like they are connected with the creation of the work when they can see a fragment of its blueprint.


#3: My workspace for this painting. 24 colors that I bought from National Office supply, watercolor paper and my palette. I’ve developed a habit over the years of using CD and DVD cases for my palettes. I’m not sure why I started this, but I have dozens of cases now covered in paint. The good thing about watercolor is that it can be washed off. In honor of the founders of Guamology, I’ll be using the Shiro’s Head DVD case to paint on today. As a warning though. Ideally and traditionally, palettes are supposed to be white, or provide a neutral surface on which you can mix your colors. Using a surface already covered with colors, shapes and lines can throw off your mixing.


#4: When you paint with watercolors you’re supposed to begin with some simple, harmless washes, to start with. Black is supposed to be the enemy or the Major Bison (sorry for the random SF reference) of watercolor painters. This is so because watercolor is supposed to represent a more natural tone or palette, and black as a color never appears in nature. When painting with watercolor you are supposed to use as little black as possible. My instincts of course run contrary to this and so I always use black first, whether I’m using acrylic or watercolor. It traps the space for me, helps me visualize the potential space for painting better.


#5: Ma’å’ñao yu’ nu i mata, I’m afraid of the face, since its usually my favorite part to paint with acrylics and the part I am most prone to screwing up with watercolors. That is one thing to remember about watercolor is that painting over mistakes or parts you don’t like is far more tricky than with other media. So I decided to start with the clothes. I put down a pretty thick wash, applying more paint to some areas which would be more shaded and more water to areas which are lighter.


#6: I’m very pleased with the green wash I put down and so before ruining it I thought I would move on to the undershirts. Here Masakåtsu is displaying for all the colors that I’ll be using for the undershirt.



#7: Phew. That worked out well. I followed the folds and the shadows of the undershirt with darker blues and even some traces of purple. The rest of the shirts were all washy light blues, with some traces of yellow here and there. Lastly, just for effect I threw in some dry red lines.


#8: More paint now for Masakåtsu. I’m going to be painting over the green wash for the shirt now and so these are the colors that I’ll be using. Watercolor is a medium in which it’s ideal to have your colors figured out ahead of time before you start throwing paint on the water. The reason for this is that mixing on the paper itself can tend to make the image increasingly darker and muddier. It can also, if you really go far actually ruin the paper and pierce/soak through to the other side.


#9: The muddiness that I was just talking about is starting to happen. I was trying to place atop the deep dark green wash some multi-colored streaks or strokes to give the clothing some definition and some texture, but the colors started mixing up too much and getting too brown, ya ai adai gof chatpago ayu na amariyu lokkue’! On the sleeve in this image you can see where I’ve had to take drastic action to start over. I ended up obliterated what I’d started, covering it over with plenty of black and white. To give me another fairly even dark surface on which I can try to build texture and definition again.


#10: Yeah! Everything worked out pretty well. The style of painting, washing and mixing that I had tried for the undershirt wasn’t working on the clothes because the base I was starting with (the green) was already way too dark and deep, so the shirt rather than looking textured and regal was starting to look dirty and kalakas. I decided to forgone that strategy and instead use quick, dry strokes to create the texture. The result is that it creates a certain depth, with the streaky curvy dry lines atop a flat washy green. It worked much better and contrasts nicely with the varying strokes used for the undershirt.



#11: I’m worried that some of the problems that I had with the clothes will happen again with the face and so I’m working very tentatively and slowly. Using very light washes at first and testing out some possible color palettes. Although the original image is of a Taiwanese actress meant to be the wife of a prominent Wu Viceroy (Zhou Yu) from right before the Three Kingdom’s era of Chinese history, I’ve decided to nonetheless give her Latte earrings.



#12: Ai lana’ its all going to hell. I started off nice and slow, but let my instincts get away from me and started trying to mix on the paper. There’s a lot of lines and marks at this point that I do like, but there’s some trouble spots as well which could get muddy and gross and ruin the whole thing. I love the bleeding dark blue line which snakes down the front of the neck and so I’m hoping to find a way to leave it. I like the mixes of yellow, red and blue on the right side of the neck. On the face itself however, under the right eye I’ve thrown in some puke yellow. Its so nasty, I should have been more careful when I mixed it. It looks like that horrible couch that Sonya Artero sits on in KUAM New Extra that clashes with everything she wears. The left side of the face, the side with cooler colors is nice, but I’m worried if I keep the palette too cool, she’s end up looking like a deathly heroine from a Tim Burton movie.


#13: This is why I love thick black lines. In order to get some perspective on the painting thus far, I went over all of the main lines with black (again). I often find that when I’m screwing up with both watercolor and acrylic, this helps me see the colors differently, it helps compartmentalize the space into different sections and helps me predict which colors will work better and what my next steps should be.


#14: The solution to the face problem appears. After dumping un binila’ pinturra onto the face trying desperately to somehow make it work I decided to simply wash it out, soak the whole area with plenty of water tinged with some yellow and peach/pink. All of the colors that I initially clouded the face with are still there, they’ve been mixed into the deluge of water, creating tiny little variations. Faint traces of previous colors, lines, shapes, forms, that give an unexpected and welcome depth to the face. I divided the face into three color zones, with the cool colors, blues, grays and purples dominating the sides of the face, where the color would be the darkest, or around the nose where there’s shadow. As you moved towards the middle of the face, the area around the cheeks is flushed with reds, pinks or peaches, and eventually the yellow dominates much of the middle of the face.




#15: A close up of the face. Notice that the pencil lines are still visible and that some of the previous muddiness can still be seen in some areas.


#16: Usually my favorite part of my paintings, the eyes. At this point however I still need to fix the eye balls, since they have a sort of blue evil cyborg look to them. This is the point where all the different layers of painting, all the different mistakes too come together to make a very nice and striking image.



#17: Masakåtsu at the end of painting. Si Yu’us Ma’åse Masakåtsu na un na’usa yu’ ni’ matå-mu. Ti mappot para bei na’gasgas hao, gos faset mafunas este pinturran watercolor.



#18: Munhåyan. The background colors were just chosen at random, mainly making use of the colors still left on the palette. Then they were blended together. It works well for the background, cause all of these colors are also found throughout the main image itself and so its a way of tying everything together visually and keeping the eye happy as it moves around the painting.



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Thank you once again for watching and reading the evolution of another painting in progress.

Remember, if you’re looking to beautify your life or your home, Guam has plenty of artists who create all types of work that you can choose from and can use your support!

Monday, February 21, 2011

GOP Attacks on Women

From MoveOn.Org:

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1) Republicans not only want to reduce women's access to abortion care, they're actually trying to redefine rape. After a major backlash, they promised to stop. But they haven't yet. Shocker.


2) A state legislator in Georgia wants to change the legal term for victims of rape, stalking, and domestic violence to "accuser." But victims of other less gendered crimes, like burglary, would remain "victims."


3) In South Dakota, Republicans proposed a bill that could make it legal to murder a doctor who provides abortion care. (Yep, for real.)


4) Republicans want to cut nearly a billion dollars of food and other aid to low-income pregnant women, mothers, babies, and kids.


5) In Congress, Republicans have a bill that would let hospitals allow a woman to die rather than perform an abortion necessary to save her life.

6) Maryland Republicans ended all county money for a low-income kids' preschool program. Why? No need, they said. Women should really be home with the kids, not out working.
 7) And at the federal level, Republicans want to cut that same program, Head Start, by $1 billion. That means over 200,000 kids could lose their spots in preschool.


8) Two-thirds of the elderly poor are women, and Republicans are taking aim at them too. A spending bill would cut funding for employment services, meals, and housing for senior citizens.


9) Congress just voted for a Republican amendment to cut all federal funding from Planned Parenthood health centers, one of the most trusted providers of basic health care and family planning in our country.


10) And if that wasn't enough, Republicans are pushing to eliminate all funds for the only federal family planning program. (For humans. But Republican Dan Burton has a bill to provide contraception for wild horses. You can't make this stuff up).

Sources:

1. "'Forcible Rape' Language Remains In Bill To Restrict Abortion Funding," The Huffington Post, February 9, 2011
http://www.moveon.org/r?r=206084

"Extreme Abortion Coverage Ban Introduced," Center for American Progress, January 20, 2011
http://www.moveon.org/r?r=205961

2. "Georgia State Lawmaker Seeks To Redefine Rape Victims As 'Accusers,'" The Huffington Post, February 4, 2011
http://www.moveon.org/r?r=206007

3. "South Dakota bill would legalize killing abortion doctors," Salon, February 15, 2011
http://www.salon.com/news/feature/2011/02/15/south_dakota_abortion_killing_bill

4. "House GOP Proposes Cuts to Scores of Sacred Cows," National Journal, February 9, 2011
http://nationaljournal.com/house-gop-proposes-cuts-to-scores-of-sacred-cows-20110209

5. "New GOP Bill Would Allow Hospitals To Let Women Die Instead Of Having An Abortion," Talking Points Memo, February 4, 2011
http://www.moveon.org/r?r=205974

6. "Republican Officials Cut Head Start Funding, Saying Women Should be Married and Home with Kids," Think Progress, February 16, 2011
http://thinkprogress.org/2011/02/16/gop-women-kids/

7. "Bye Bye, Big Bird. Hello, E. Coli," The New Republic, Feburary 12, 2011
http://www.tnr.com/blog/83387/house-republican-spending-cuts-pell-education-usda-pbs

8. "House GOP spending cuts will devastate women, families and economy," The Hill, February 16, 2011
http://thehill.com/blogs/congress-blog/economy-a-budget/144585-house-gop-spending-cuts-will-devastate-women-families-and-economy-

9. "House passes measure stripping Planned Parenthood funding," MSNBC, February 18,2011
http://firstread.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2011/02/18/6080756-house-passes-measure-stripping-planned-parenthood-funding

"GOP Spending Plan: X-ing Out Title X Family Planning Funds," Wall Street Journal, February 9, 2011
http://blogs.wsj.com/washwire/2011/02/09/gop-spending-plan-x-ing-out-title-x-family-planning-funds/

10. Ibid.

"Birth Control for Horses, Not for Women," Blog for Choice, February 17, 2011
http://www.blogforchoice.com/archives/2011/02/birth-control-f.html


Saturday, February 19, 2011

Chamorro Twitter

Last year I started holding some informal Chamorro language classes, with anyone who was interested in learning the language. I had a mixture of UOG students and professionals, we even had a few people Skype in to the meetings sometimes from as far away as Seattle. The meetings were free and very simple. Each lesson would be a different part of Chamorro grammar. I would teach the basic parts and then we would practice for a while.

I had helped organize meetings like this many years ago when I was a graduate student at UOG, with others who had gotten a slight foundation in the language from taking classes at UOG, but felt nowhere close to being fluent and found it difficult to find people to practice with. We would meet at places like Kings every week or so and just talk for a while, trying our best to compare notes on what was the proper word to use here, the proper way to say this. If Chamorro was a healthy and vibrant language learning it would be easy, since you would take lessons or read books and then immerse yourself in the language to pick up its flow. But since Chamorro being an official language of Guam is more symbolic than anything else, learning it is much harder than it should be. It becomes this irritating puzzle which lasts for years and years. You learn some ways of speaking in classes, which tend to differ from those you learn at home. And as you use your Chamorro with others and expand your circle, you find that people are heavily invested in the ways they speak and don't respond well when you speak to them in a way that they understand but aren't used to. You will find some people who tell you it is ok to speak a certain way, use a certain word and others who will mock your use of the word and tell you to just stop trying. Guam can be a very hostile landscape for people trying to learn Chamorro nowadays, and peiople may not intend to be hostile or unhelpful, but it really comes down more to issues of ginagu yan mina'a'nao, people are too lazy to help perpetuate the language or too afraid to admit their limits. It is tragic how much effort people put into helping people not try to speak the language instead of supporting those who try.

For those trying to learn to speak Chamorro, some of the character you might find unhelpful along the way are as follows:

Older Chamorros tend to not like it when you use words older then they are which they didn't learn growing up. It doesn't matter if you learned the old word from another old Chamorro person, a dictionary or a Spanish account from Ancient times, if they don't know it, then it can't be a word and so you can't really be speaking Chamorro if you use it. There is a long list of words which are slowly coming back in Chamorro, but amongst older speakers you'll still find incredible resistance, evern after they've come to learn and accept what the word means. Some examples of this are the word hula' which means tongue in contemporary Chamorro, but also has an older meaning of being "swear" as in to make a promise. Most Chamorros nowadays use kontrata or prometi or ofresi to say "promise" or "swear," and so if you do use hula', even though you are technically correct, you will still most likely be told that you aren't speaking correctly.

Amongst younger Chamorros who don't speak the language, actually speaking the language is not what's important, but speaking in the way that sounds "right" is what you are supposed to do. This means that someone who speaks English, but with an accent and some malafunkshun style slang, can be perceived to be more authentic can be interpreted as speaking more Chamorro than someone who actually speaks Chamorro, but who doesn't have some cartoonish Jofis-For-Ofis accent. It is for this reason that many people nowadays too lazy to learn Chamorro will instead hone their chaudy accent, since in the minds of most that's just as Chamorro as being able to communicate in the Chamorro language.

Secondly, people who feel they are very cultured and very Chamorro, even if they don't speak or really understand Chamorro, can often put up a show of judging those learning, despite the fact that they don't really know what they are talking about. These are people who consider themselves to be very Chamorro, but lack that crucial element of actually being able to speak Chamorro. They may have been raised hearing alot of it, or come from a family who is known for it or be the child of some culturally or linguistically famous person, but the language itself eludes them and has eluded them throughout their life. These are people who will say to those learning that "it doesn't sound right" or "I don't think you say it like that." They are people who don't know what is actually wrong with that you're saying, but will still find the latte stones to say you are incorrect. When I was learning to speak the language, I was apalled at how many people fit into this category, and would say they could speak Chamorro, but couldn't, and would find excuses in the way I spoke Chamorro in order to not reveal their inadequacies. This was most apparent sadly in younger Chamorros from the CNMI, who represent the dying tendencies of the language there, but are too proud to admit it, and so instead of working to improve themselves in the language mask their lack of ability, by questioning the abilities of those who do try to learn the language.

Both of these responses stem from the same impulse. A desire to be a master over something, to be able to identify with it very strongly, yet not put in the work or effort to truly occupy that position. Instead they find shortcuts, excuses to not speak the language in order to keep up the facade that they do. They critique in vague and unhelpful ways, focusing on things they think aren't right, in hopes that you won't yell at them "Kao magahet na sina fumino' Chamoru hao?"

The last group that makes things difficult are those who do speak the language, but don't really understand how the language works, and so they teach the language in narrow, limited and generally unhelpful ways.They are people who heavily rely on certain words to say things, regularly make the same types of statements over and over, and have a very limited grasp of the possibility and range of the language. They may only know one of three possible words for something and they may defend ferociously that word as being the only proper one. They will understand what a prefix or suffix means when it is part of one word, but don't understand when it is attached to another word. These are people who can be very closed about the language and tend to react badly to things they haven't heard before. They work to shut down things they aren't used to or don't understand, saying that it isn't really Chamorro. Because of their limited understand of the language, they tend to clamp down on the diversity of the language and instead work to enforce their own particular idiolect as the way things are supposed to be. This is always a sign of a language's poor health, is how many types of registers of the language can be used and understood. When the intolerance for different ways of saying things reaches high levels, it is also discussed in terms of keeping the language pure or proper, but in truth it is keeping the language limited. English is a  powerful language because it is flexible and because it can accomodate anything and brings in new words constantly. So many Chamorros keep their language contained and marginal by implicitly and unconsciously assuming that you only use Chamorro language for certain things or that you cannot transform the language as the world around the language changes.

A case in point is the issue of Chamorro being an oral language and therefore not meant to be written down. Such an idea makes some abstract historical sense, but in practical terms is ridiculous. One of reasons English is so significant is because it is one of the strongest written languages out there, and has become the primary means of communication across borders on the internet. Chamorro is the same way, it can remain something from the past that you are supposed to preserve in some silly form, or it can be the things that changes with you as the world changes. Language is not static and should never remain so, it must change to adapt to the world you live in, and so since internet is such a primary means of communication and investigation, if the language is to survive or become healthy, emphasis must be made on converting it to a strong written language.

I am having fun with the new Chamorro language meetings. They are open to anyone who wants to learn and right now I have about half a dozen people who are investing their own time in hanging out with me for two hours each week and listen to be ramble. The happiness is of course tinged with some sadness. When I think back to my early days of learning the language, there were so many people who said, like me that they wanted to become fluent. I remember practicing with people I took UOG classes with, and when I look at them now, unless they already spoke Chamorro prior to coming to class, they still don't speak it today. It depresses me that out of all the classmates I had (that I can remember and still see) and out of the people I used to meet with informally to practice, I am the only one who became fluent in Chamorro. It is a testament to how "unnatural" the language is on Guam today, how one has to work extra hard and struggle quite a bit in order to keep alive its indigenous linguistic heritage.

I hope that of the learners I have now, some of them go on to become fluent in the language. And that they use it with others and most importantly their kids, because as I've written about before many times on this blog, fihu siniente-ku na taiga'chong yu' gi este na lenguahi. I often feel alone in this language, and especially when I think about my daughter Sumahi, and how she will struggle as she gets older to maintain her Chamorro fluency when there is so much pressure to just speak English like everyone else, then I get very worried. When my students asked why I was teaching them, for free, I responded that I want people to talk in Chamorro and I want their kids to talk to my kids and so just about anything I can do to help that, I'll try.

In order to support the new Chamorro language learning group, I even went so far as to sign up for Twitter, and create an account to support our learning. The address is Minagahet so http://www.twitter.com/minagahet. Everyday or so I tweet a sentence or a question in Chamorro and people are encouraged to use what we learned in the past week in order to respond. Just yesterday I tweeted: "Kao geftao pat chattao hao? Ya put hafa na geftao pat chattao hao?" The question being "Are you generous or stingy? And about what are you generous or stingy?" If you'd like to join the lessons, you just have to email me and I can tell you when and where they take place. But if you'd like to follow me on Twitter and join the conversation, just click on the link above.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Progressives United

Ti manggana' Si Russ Fiengold gi i botasion-na gi i ma'pos na sakkan. Annai hu taitai este na tinige' ilek-hu nu Guahu na maolek na ti kumeketu pat ti kumakasao Si Russ. Annai mapedde' gui', ti ha yute' iyo-na principles siha. Ha gu'ot siha, ya ha daggaon maisa gui' ta'lo gi i mimu.

**************************



Published on Wednesday, February 16, 2011
by Huffington Post
Russ Feingold Launches 'Progressives United' To Combat Corporate Influences In Politics
by Amanda Terkel

WASHINGTON -- When some senators retire, they decide to take lucrative lobbying jobs. Others go straight to Wall Street. But Wisconsin Democrat Russ Feingold, who lost his re-election bid in November, is continuing on his principled -- and often lonely -- path by starting an organization to combat corporate influence in politics, an effort he hopes will spark "a new progressive movement" that will truly hold elected officials accountable.

Launching on Wednesday, Progressives United is an attempt to to build a grassroots effort aimed at mitigating the effects of, and eventually overturning, the Supreme Court's infamous Citizens United decision that opened the floodgates to corporate spending in the U.S. electoral system. In addition to online mobilization, the political action committee (PAC) will support progressive candidates at the local, state and national levels, as well as holding the media and elected officials accountable on the group's key priorities.

"In my view -- and the view of many people -- it's one of the most lawless decisions in the history of our country," said Feingold of Citizens United in an interview with The Huffington Post. "The idea of allowing corporations to have unlimited influence on our democracy is very dangerous, obviously. That's exactly what it does ... Things were like this 100 years ago in the United States, with the huge corporate and business power of the oil companies and others. But this time it's like the Gilded Age on steroids."

Feingold, who is now also teaching law school at Marquette University and writing a book on foreign policy, has first-hand experience with the effects of big money in politics. While he shunned outside spending on his behalf in his campaigns, his 2010 opponent, Republican Sen. Ron Johnson, was the beneficiary of millions of dollars from conservative interest groups. After his win, Johnson even went to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's national headquarters to personally thank CEO Tom Donohue for the lobbying group's unsolicited support of his candidacy.

Feingold said that Progressives United will follow the example of his own campaigns and not take any soft money or unlimited contributions. "We're going to be reporting every dime that we get, whether required by law or not," he insisted. "Every penny of every contribution -- a practice I used as a U.S. senator. So it will be very different from the 527s and other groups that have been spawned by Citizens United. It will be 100 percent accountable, and that is an important principle that I believe in that we'll follow to the T with Progressives United, as a way of contrasting it to what's going on with the corporate money power that's been unleashed by Citizens United."
Looking back on his time in the Senate, Feingold cited two examples of corporate influence that most troubled him: 1) the debate over the estate tax and 2) the BP disaster.
"I was amazed at the way in which the corporate powers in the country turned the conversation from everything we needed to deal with -- from stopping unwise interventions overseas to having to deal with the deficit -- to things like demanding complete repeal of the estate tax," said Feingold. "There were 10 years there we didn't have an estate tax because all of the powerful, corporate, wealthy interests in the country said, 'We want this now. We don't want to have to pay any estate tax at all.'"

He pointed to the BP oil disaster as an example of how corporate influence can permeate the executive branch, which turned the agencies who were supposed to be enforcing the laws into "tools of the oil industry," a reference to the oversight problems at the federal Minerals Management Service.

Campaign finance reform advocates have been discouraged by the new Republican majority in the U.S. House of Representatives attempting to dismantle the structure of checks that were put in place following the Watergate scandal, and have called on President Obama to take a larger role in shedding light on the issue.

White House officials originally considered having the President reiterate his support for the DISCLOSE Act during his State of the Union (SOTU) address, but it ended up getting nixed because of time constraints.

"[I]t's not for any lack of enthusiasm about the issue because we feel very, very strongly about it and we're going to continue to push for it," White House senior adviser David Axelrod told The Huffington Post. "There are a number of things that got trimmed out at the end just because, to be brutally frank, as we ran through the speech it was fairly lengthy and we just cut it down."

Feingold applauded the President for criticizing Citizens United in his 2010 SOTU speech -- prompting an unhappy response from Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito, who was in the audience -- but he would like to see him do more on the issue.

"I would like the President to take it up a few notches on this issue, and I hope he will in the coming year and in the campaign next year," said Feingold, adding, "I'm hoping the President will recognize that what we're trying to do here is begin a new progressive movement that will hold our elected officials accountable."


© 2010 Huffington Post

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Biba Ha'anin Guinaiya

Usually for Valentiene's Day I paste one of my rare love poems on this blog. This year, after spotting this on Maile's Kith and Koko blog I decided this was a much more interesting.

Biba Ha'anin Guinaiya, ko'lo'lo'na nu i famalao'an mannatibu, guini yan gi todu i tano' siha!

Monday, February 14, 2011

A Place of Peace and Life

My column this week for the Marianas Variety will be on Gangjeong, South Korea and the resistance there to the construction of a joint-US-ROK-Naval Facility there. My column will focus on a speech I gave while I was there in June of last year, but things have changed much since then. When I visited the village in Southern Jeju the start of construction was several months away, and there was still hope that their protests and a lawsuit they had filed would stop it. Since the start of the new year, there were protests, crackdowns and construction has begun and so I am always on the lookout for any information that I can find about what is going on in Gangjeong.

I came across this article below which is a great update about what is happening now from Bruce Gagnon's Organizing Notes blog. When I visited Gangjeong, I traveled as part of a delegation which included Bruce, who was representing the United States, Shinako, an activist from Okinawa, and Corazon Fabros from the Philippines. Bruce's blog is a great source of all sorts of progressive and peace-orientated information from a variety of sources, and so I highly recommend checking it out.

**********************

Jeju's planned naval base to generate more controversy in 2011
By Nicole Erwin (Jeju Weekly)
2/6/11

Maritime Security in Northeast Asia has been a common topic of conversation for a while now, and with recent escalations in the naval arms race, the North Korean threat to South Korea seems more real than ever. In the midst of the looming possibility of war, the people of Jeju find it difficult to accept their land’s fate as the new home of a large naval base.

The South Korean government approved construction of the naval base in May of 2009, although talk about the issue started in the early 1990’s. Due to resistance, however, little development has been done. The majority of the people on the island agreed with the central government that a base was needed, just no one could agree where, until now. Actually, not everyone has agreed. Those able to force the issue have.

Eugene Craig Campbell lives near Gangjeong, the proposed site of the base, and frequently visits the beautiful shoreline area.

“There are two motives here, one of the motives is NIMBY, not in my back yard, the other motive is, well, anti-military or at least anti-military on Jeju. I’m on the NIMBY side, but at least I respect that the base has to be. If isn’t going to be here it’s going to be somewhere else. I just wish it were somewhere else that’s all.”

Campbell also said he has grown to trust Koreans and their insight. After all, this, Gangjeong village, is where he has made his home. Campbell said although his feelings regard NIMBY, the idea itself is harmful to the greater good.

Many of the people of Gangjeong have been adamantly against the base since realizing their village’s destiny as its new home. Protesters shaved their heads, cried, and pleaded for reconsideration. Several protesters were taken to jail and accused the police of brutality. The Environmental News Service reported that a 70-year-old man hit his head on a rock after being pushed by police officers.

When the newly-elected Governor Woo Keun Min came into office on July 1, he halted construction due to unresolved issues. This was considered another setback for base development after the Seoul Administrative Court rejected a lawsuit by the village claiming the Ministry of Defense approved construction without completing an environmental impact study. The results of a final vote in Gangjeong, however, showed that 62 percent of eligible voters chose to accept the proposal unless another location chose to house the base.

Bruce Gagnon is coordinator of the Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space. He and several other representatives opposed to the base visited the island to express concern at a panel held in early 2010 by the Gangjeong residents. The panel consisted of individuals from Guam, the Philippines, and Okinawa, all locations affected by naval base construction.

“When we were out on the coast today and the mayor was showing us the pictures of the fish and the coral, he was crying. You know, they are not just fighting for their land to grow tangerines, not for just their way of life but they are fighting for the fish, for the coral, for the rocks, a kind of depth of consciousness that I have seen very few times in life as an organizer,” said Gagnon.

Jeju is the only place in the world to achieve UNESCO “triple crown status” because of its remarkable geography. The former Roh Moo Hyun government also designated Jeju a “peace island” as a form of apology for the April 3rd 1948 Massacre.

Gangjeong village leader, Kang Dong Kyun said at the panel that bringing the base to the village would make the island a target if there were ever a conflict and that the notion of a base here negates the idea of an island of peace. Kang went on a 14-day hunger strike in protest.

Kim Myung Yeo is a 43-year-old Jeju resident. He said he is in favor of a naval presence on the island for development opportunities and military strategy, but only if the location is agreed on by everyone.

“Those in charge of bringing the naval base here must follow the will of the citizens and avoid destroying the environment,” said Kim.

Kim also said he would not want a US military presence on the island.

Gagnon said the base is provocative and dangerous, that it will turn the island of peace into a projection of power for the “US Empire.”

“It’s important to know that the US has recognized that it can’t compete with China economically anymore, but the theory is that if you can control their access to oil then you will hold the key to their economic engine, and thus be able to manage or control China. And so as it turns out, China imports 80 percent of its oil via ships, right along, guess where — the sea way just between China and Jeju Island,” said Gangnon.

Jeju is in the center of Northeast Asia, which gives the island a political and geographic advantage. To the east, the island faces Tsushima Island and the Japanese territory of Janggi. To the west, Jeju faces Shanghai across the East China Sea. The South China Sea lies south of the island while mainland South Korea lies to the north.

The naval base built on Jeju was earmarked for 97.5 billion won, or $86 million.

The new base will be home to up to 20 Aegis destroyer warships. The Korea Times reports that the Aegis combat system, built by Lockheed Martin, is the world’s premier surface-to-air and fire-control system, capable of conducting simultaneous operations against aircraft, ballistic and cruise missiles, ships and submarines. Only a handful of countries, including the United States, Spain, Japan, South Korea and Norway, deploy Aegis warships.

“It’s my contention, and this is shared by many other analysts, that the United States is massively expanding its military within this particular region in order to develop the military capability to be able to essentially hold China hostage if it wish to. Now all this sounds wild and crazy and oh my god this is conspiracy theory, the US wouldn’t do anything like that,” said Gagnon. “But you should know that the space command has been annually war gaming a first strike attack on China set in the year 2016, and so they are actually moving through the process of creating both the theoretical military engagement plan, but also more importantly the military capability, the actual boots on the ground, the ships in the ocean, the planes in the air to put this kind of military strategy in motion.”

United States Forces Korea denied comment, stating that the base was South Korean and all questions should be directed towards the ROK Ministry of National Defense, who also denied comment.

Eugene Campbell worked 13 years at the Korea Institute for Defense Analyses in Seoul and six years for the Korea Institute of National Unification. He said the purpose of Korean blue-water naval capability is not to oppose China but to help protect Korea’s vital sea lanes coming in from the Middle East.

“Washington has long been demanding Japan and Korea to take their fair share of responsibility for that,” said Campbell. He denied Gagnon's theories.

Governor Woo said in November that he had considered the concerned parties and is now on board with the central government’s chosen site in Gangjeong. However, on Dec. 22, the proposed date to begin construction, 34 protesters including priests, citizens, and local politicians were arrested on site in an attempt to stop construction.

The protesters were held for 12 hours and then released. Sung Hee Choi represents the Gangjeong villagers resisting the base. She said that although the decision has been made and their voices may seem weak, the struggle is still real.

Friday, February 11, 2011

To the Haters

Like everyone out there I hate haters. Even haters most likely hate haters, and while it is usually better not to think about them, sometimes you just can't help yourself. Este na post hu tuge'i'i i manggaichatli'e' siha!

Although I am by no means a celebrity on Guam, or anywhere else, there is something to be said about when your name does become increasingly larger than yourself. No human can control the world of discourse around them anymore than the world of discourse about them. They may seek to try and dominate it, make it follow a certain course, mean what they would wish, and while it can appear to follow your desires, it never actually does. Part of becoming larger than life means being reduced to mean certain things, reduced to certain social/political shortcuts.

In my case, there are people out there who I don't know, who know about me. The number of people who know about me in some way seems to be getting larger than the number of people that I consciously know. This comes from a number of different sources. I have a heavy internet presence and so many people who search for things about Guam or Chamorros or Ethnic Studies or Naruto or other random things end up on my blogs and seeing my name. I am a teacher at UOG and so more and more people think of me as being one of the people who "teaches Guam History," and therefore some sort of expert at it. I love the way in which my name is joined with others as being the pillars of something, the easily identifiable markers of how you passed through something. "Who did you take for Guam History? Cunningham?" "No. Bevacqua." For some it is simply the naming of a professor, a last name, but for others it actually has some political or social value. In times past if you took "Underwood" for Guam History is meant something, not always the same thing, but something for sure. In time "Bevacqua" may symbolize something similar, although I don't know if it'll be good or bad.

In addition I am also other things, activist, artist, a relatively young person who speaks Chamorro, grandson to a cultural master, father to two cute albeit crazy kids. For many years now I have had "haters" in my life, many of whom used to leave comments on my blog or send me stupid emails. At first, since so many of those hater relationships were filtered through the void of cyberspace, they were crippling and frustrating since too often I had no idea who they were, where they were, and they lived in comfort by the fact that I could not find them and tell them to their face to "get a life" or at least "get some knowledge." But as time went on, I got used to my gang of haters, and didn't care so much.

But part of becoming larger than you think is how you collect not just anonymous haters, haters who you know but don't know who they are. But you collect haters who you don't know who they are, and you don't know that they exist as well! I can't but help be reminded of that old philosophical conundrum offered up by former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld:

"Reports that say that something hasn't happened are always interesting to me, because as we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns -- the ones we don't know we don't know."

I find it interesting whenever someone tells me that my name is appearing in the comments of the PDN website. I never actually go and check it out, since it is usually pointless. It is like witnessing people privately burn you in effigy or loudly protest you from places that they know you won't hear them from. When I look at some of the ways my name or things that I have done have been thrown around over the years, it is like people created a hate-filled club which says "Absolutely No Migets Allowed" but then forgot to do what those clubs exist for, to actually invite me to tell me I can't be a part of it. It is a little surreal sometimes, when you find a message thread about you, or a series of comments posted in your dishonor. It is like a grand ball, beautiful and laughable in the same way as the story The Red Masque of Death, but also naturally irritating because of the way people mouth off in a blissful insular ignorance about you.

But as I have had my fill of Haterade throughout the years, I've come to wonder now, where do haters come from? Are they truly the work of the some pernicious devil? Or are they really the work of some loving God? It is easy to see them as being spitefilled, maleficent creatures, like the trolls with pikes from Dore's vision of Dante's Inferno. Sharp rows of teeth which they desperately wish to use, but are too frightened to ever actually bite into something and so they spit and poke, looking very menacing, but are always quivering because of some primal fear of inadequacy or ineptitude. It is easy to hate haters because they say things you don't agree with, they say things which have no connection to how you see yourself or reality, they say stupid things frankly, and stupidity in movies or in Fail videos can be comforting and funny, but when it is directed at you and attempts to define you politically or as a person, it really sucks.

This came up recently as I was talking to other young Chamorro activists and sharing different stories about the random, mindless things which people often say about us on websites such as the PDN. I have been called a communist on many occassions on the website, and have been attacked many times for not really being Chamorro since I don't have a proper Chamorro last name, and many other things. Haters are the enemy because they seem to symbolize a breakdown in your attempt to define yourself, or a flaw in how you perceive yourself. They remind you that no matter what you think about who you are and what you do, the world keeps spinning, and discourse keeps moving, and so your intentions, your hopes, your wishes, matter little, the world, like the cave from the movie Sanctum doesn't care about any of it.

But this is why I question nowadays if haters come from good or bad. They are obviously a symptom of reality, they will exist no matter what. Everyone has haters, and if someone doesn't appear to have any haters there will be people who will hate simply to fill the void and make sure that hate is represented and that nothing appears to be onesided. I have fulfilled this role many times in my life and continue to do so. If everyone appears to like or enjoy something, I feel a primal pull to hate it. I remember as an undergraduate writing a paper which criticized Schindler's List because I felt that too many people liked it or thought it was incredible and I didn't like it, but felt like I couldn't articulate why I didn't like the film. I wrote a paper which didn't get me a good grade primarily because the film was at that time a sacred cow, but it was an important moment in my life in terms of not just hating, but learning to actually research and articulate that hate in a real way.

Haters can serve an important purpose in lives of activists, especially if you are someone who is predisposed to believing what people say to your face. Last year, when attorney Mike Phillips was asked if he would run for Governor, he said he was cautious because in Guam, no one will ever say they won't vote for you. No one wants to hurt your feelings and so they will lie to you or say something, anything to make you feel like you have their vote. This can be true, even if they really hate your guts and can't stand you.

Most of us surround ourselves with people who agree with us or think in similar ways, and then we unconsciously steer away from those who would fundamentally challenge us, or create a few token slots for them, which we sometimes think of as our "pets." A special someone in your life who you hate almost everything about, but still like to have around when you feel like having some sort of friendly ideological slugfest.

Discovering a hater's ball can be an important check on yourself. It is very easy to feel like you are accomplishing far more than you really are. When people around you are all telling you what you would like to hear, or at least not telling you the things you hate to hear, then it is the easiest thing in the world to assuming things like, "everyone wants this" or "no one wants that." It is the easiest thing in the world, to take the circle of friendly faces around you and transform them into "most people" or worse yet "the people" and then start to change your strategies or your beliefs and your activism based on this perception that what those around you think is what everyone else beyond them must think as well. As I've written before on this blog, you are always both stronger than you think, but never as strong as you think you are. You can always have some extra ability or power beyond what you might think, but you can always assume you have far more than what you probably do and easily overreach. It is a constant battle to try and not give in to the despair of thinking you are powerless and the drug of believing that you are already so powerful.

So even though I can't stand mindless hate, I still have to recognize that it can serve an important purpose. It can remind you that there probably are many who don't believe what you believe and who you cannot count as being on your side, but it can also clue you into how your message or your work is being interpreted by other groups, factions and ideological pockets. While many haters hate instinctively not really knowing why or what they are hating, they still draw from the world around them, and that can give you clues on how you are being perceived and how to enhance your political presence and power.

And so it is for that reason that I want to follow the example of the rapper Chamillionaire, and wish all the haters out there a "Good Morning!" and "Si Yu'us Ma'ase" for all their not so hard, but sometimes important work!



"Good Morning"
Chamillionaire
2009

I wanna show all of my haters love, this song's for you
If you acted like me, and I was in your shoes
I'd probably hate on me, too

See when you gettin' big cash stacks
All the haters hate that
'Cause they hate to see you to be successful

I wanna show all of my haters love
So I wave to you like
Good morning, ha-ha-ha-ha-haters
Good morning, ha-ha-ha-ha-haters
Good morning

Yeah, today gon' be a good day, I'm feeling like I'm Ice Cube
I'm waking up like can't nobody mess up my mood
Knowin' I'm a boss, I'ma do what I choose
If I was you, then I would probably hate on me, too

If it's true that money is time, then watch this
I ain't tryin' to run outta time, so I purchased some watches
Y'all sick, the chips got the haters nauseous
They chicks jumpin' in my whip like a mosh pit

I wish I could be infected by any hate
But I can't 'cause I just get infected by the bank
It's great to never know the feelin' of bein' fake
I awake, then I go take a visit to the sink

Uh, dirty money got me sanitizing my hands
Lord knows what the previous owner did with these grands
Yeah, I ain't sayin' it just to brag
I say it so you can be motivated to gettin' cash

I wanna show all of my haters love, this song's for you
If you acted like me, and I was in your shoes
I'd probably hate on me, too

See when you gettin' big cash stacks
All the haters hate that
'Cause they hate to see you to be successful

I wanna show all of my haters love
So I wave to you like
Good morning, ha-ha-ha-ha-haters
Good morning, ha-ha-ha-ha-haters
Good morning

Look, success is a woman I always had dreams of sexin'
If wanting her is a crime, just take me in for possession
Even in a recession, I'm leavin' a good impression
Reflection on the rims, so they can see they expressions

I'm busy, man, you need to schedule an appointment
Haters on they job, and they act like they enjoy it
Wake up in the mornin', I hop into my foreign
Walk into the bank, and just like a housewarming

Hey, we get the money by the minute
They said we couldn't do it, but we already did it
I'm fresh outfitted, and my Benz got getted
'Cause I ge-ge-get it, and you di-di-didn't

And I admit it, I'm really 'bout to show you how I do
If you know you a hater, this dedicated to you
You hatin' my last move, I'm way on my next move
See they hate to see you to be successful

I wanna show all of my haters love, this song's for you
If you acted like me, and I was in your shoes
I'd probably hate on me, too

See when you gettin' big cash stacks
All the haters hate that
'Cause they hate to see you to be successful

I wanna show all of my haters love
So I wave to you like
Good morning, ha-ha-ha-ha-haters
Good morning, ha-ha-ha-ha-haters
Good morning, ha-ha-ha-ha-haters
Good morning, ha-ha-ha-ha-haters
Good morning

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Not Siding With The Executioners

Around this time last year Howard Zinn passed away. He was most famous for his seminal counter history of the United States A People's History of the United States, but he wrote many other works as well and was a long time activist and support of numerous progressive causes.

After I began teaching World History last year, I found that much of the way I talk about things, even history, tends to be at a level which is hard for your average UOG undergraduate to understand. When you starting talking like Levinas, Derrida, Benjamin, Slavoj Zizek and Avery Gordon to talk about history even if students are interested, they sometimes lack the vocabulary or a friendly framework to even engage with what I'm saying. The first time I taught World History 2 (from 1500- the present) I made the mistake of giving my students Walter Benjamin's Theses on the Philosophy of History, without prepping them much or giving them an idea of what it was about. Needless to say the discussion was gut-wrenchingly difficult, with students twisting and turning in their seats to try and understand what the hell the author was saying and what the hell I was saying when I was trying to tell them what he was trying to say. This doesn't mean that the students couldn't have understood or come to their own conclusions about the reading (other than mampos mappot tumaitai), but more so that they weren't properly prepared or even comfortable in talking about history in that way, and so the gap was an awkward place that we spent 35 minutes wallowing around in.

When I taught history again, I decided to talk about some of the points that Benjamin, Derrida and others mention about history, but also found that one of the easiest and most accessible ways to get students to that sort of critical point is through the ideas of Howard Zinn. In A People's History he sometimes found excellent ways of making clear the stakes involved in learning and knowing history. One of the most important comes in the first chapter on Christopher Columbus, where he discusses why it is important to talk about the atrocities of long ago, even if we may feel an impulse to dismiss them as things long gone (from a different world) or things which other people did which we shouldn't really care about.

He begins by discussing the dangerous and disgusting hero-making that has surrounded Christopher Columbus:
Thus began the history, five hundred years ago, of the European invasion of the Indian settlements in the Americas. That beginning, when you read Las Casas-even if his figures are exaggerations (were there 3 million Indians to begin with, as he says, or less than a million, as some historians have calculated, or 8 million as others now believe?)-is conquest, slavery, death. When we read the history books given to children in the United States, it all starts with heroic adventure-there is no bloodshed-and Columbus Day is a celebration.


Past the elementary and high schools, there are only occasional hints of something else. Samuel Eliot Morison, the Harvard historian, was the most distinguished writer on Columbus, the author of a multivolume biography, and was himself a sailor who retraced Columbus's route across the Atlantic. In his popular book Christopher Columbus, Mariner, written in 1954, he tells about the enslavement and the killing: "The cruel policy initiated by Columbus and pursued by his successors resulted in complete genocide."

That is on one page, buried halfway into the telling of a grand romance. In the book's last paragraph, Morison sums up his view of Columbus:

He had his faults and his defects, but they were largely the defects of the qualities that made him great-his indomitable will, his superb faith in God and in his own mission as the Christ-bearer to lands beyond the seas, his stubborn persistence despite neglect, poverty and discouragement. But there was no flaw, no dark side to the most outstanding and essential of all his qualities-his seamanship.

One can lie outright about the past. Or one can omit facts which might lead to unacceptable conclusions. Morison does neither. He refuses to lie about Columbus. He does not omit the story of mass murder; indeed he describes it with the harshest word one can use: genocide.

But he does something else-he mentions the truth quickly and goes on to other things more important to him. Outright lying or quiet omission takes the risk of discovery which, when made, might arouse the reader to rebel against the writer. To state the facts, however, and then to bury them in a mass of other information is to say to the reader with a certain infectious calm: yes, mass murder took place, but it's not that important-it should weigh very little in our final judgments; it should affect very little what we do in the world.

It is not that the historian can avoid emphasis of some facts and not of others. This is as natural to him as to the mapmaker, who, in order to produce a usable drawing for practical purposes, must first flatten and distort the shape of the earth, then choose out of the bewildering mass of geographic information those things needed for the purpose of this or that particular map.

My argument cannot be against selection, simplification, emphasis, which are inevitable for both cartographers and historians. But the map-maker's distortion is a technical necessity for a common purpose shared by all people who need maps. The historian's distortion is more than technical, it is ideological; it is released into a world of contending interests, where any chosen emphasis supports (whether the historian means to or not) some kind of interest, whether economic or political or racial or national or sexual.

Furthermore, this ideological interest is not openly expressed in the way a mapmaker's technical interest is obvious ("This is a Mercator projection for long-range navigation-for short-range, you'd better use a different projection"). No, it is presented as if all readers of history had a common interest which historians serve to the best of their ability. This is not intentional deception; the historian has been trained in a society in which education and knowledge are put forward as technical problems of excellence and not as tools for contending social classes, races, nations.
He then goes on to connect this to contemporary atrocities and how to cleanse history of violence in the name of progress, allows that same dynamic to continue and be celebrated up until today.
To emphasize the heroism of Columbus and his successors as navigators and discoverers, and to de-emphasize their genocide, is not a technical necessity but an ideological choice. It serves- unwittingly-to justify what was done. My point is not that we must, in telling history, accuse, judge, condemn Columbus in absentia. It is too late for that; it would be a useless scholarly exercise in morality. But the easy acceptance of atrocities as a deplorable but necessary price to pay for progress (Hiroshima and Vietnam, to save Western civilization; Kronstadt and Hungary, to save socialism; nuclear proliferation, to save us all)-that is still with us. One reason these atrocities are still with us is that we have learned to bury them in a mass of other facts, as radioactive wastes are buried in containers in the earth. We have learned to give them exactly the same proportion of attention that teachers and writers often give them in the most respectable of classrooms and textbooks. This learned sense of moral proportion, coming from the apparent objectivity of the scholar, is accepted more easily than when it comes from politicians at press conferences. It is therefore more deadly.


The treatment of heroes (Columbus) and their victims (the Arawaks)-the quiet acceptance of conquest and murder in the name of progress-is only one aspect of a certain approach to history, in which the past is told from the point of view of governments, conquerors, diplomats, leaders. It is as if they, like Columbus, deserve universal acceptance, as if they-the Founding Fathers, Jackson, Lincoln, Wilson, Roosevelt, Kennedy, the leading members of Congress, the famous Justices of the Supreme Court-represent the nation as a whole. The pretense is that there really is such a thing as "the United States," subject to occasional conflicts and quarrels, but fundamentally a community of people with common interests. It is as if there really is a "national interest" represented in the Constitution, in territorial expansion, in the laws passed by Congress, the decisions of the courts, the development of capitalism, the culture of education and the mass media.
Zinn connects this point to one that he often made over his life and his writings, namely that we must always make a careful distinction between the country and the people, because there are always those who will take advantage of some perceived unity or community in order to excuse some violence happening here or elsewhere:
"History is the memory of states," wrote Henry Kissinger in his first book, A World Restored, in which he proceeded to tell the history of nineteenth-century Europe from the viewpoint of the leaders of Austria and England, ignoring the millions who suffered from those statesmen's policies. From his standpoint, the "peace" that Europe had before the French Revolution was "restored" by the diplomacy of a few national leaders. But for factory workers in England, farmers in France, colored people in Asia and Africa, women and children everywhere except in the upper classes, it was a world of conquest, violence, hunger, exploitation-a world not restored but disintegrated.


My viewpoint, in telling the history of the United States, is different: that we must not accept the memory of states as our own. Nations are not communities and never have been, The history of any country, presented as the history of a family, conceals fierce conflicts of interest (sometimes exploding, most often repressed) between conquerors and conquered, masters and slaves, capitalists and workers, dominators and dominated in race and sex. And in such a world of conflict, a world of victims and executioners, it is the job of thinking people, as Albert Camus suggested, not to be on the side of the executioners.
Governments and powerful factions create fantastic arguments in order to get you to side with the "executioners" of history. They make it seem like violence or domination is the only answer, or oppression is somehow necessary in not just a brutal and immoral sense, but can actually be a good thing. There are great benefits by being the one who strikes first and who strikes without conscience, and afterwards the entire country mobilizes in order to try to keep you from feeling guilty or making up for what you have done. The quote from Camus fits perfectly for all of those who are seeking to live as ethical life as they possibly can.

I ended up writing this post after seeing on the Huffington Post last week a short message from actor Josh Brolin, famous for films such as Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, No Country for Old Men who also played President W. in Oliver Stone's biopic W. Brolin was apparently a good friend of Zinn and so he wrote this message a year after his death to remind people of his importance and also just to say that he misses not only his politics but also just his spirit.

*********************

Josh Brolin.Producer, actor
Posted: February 3, 2011 02:20 PM
The Huffington Post

It was a year this past January 27th that my friend, Howard Zinn, passed away in Santa Monica, California. He had sent me an email about meeting up the next day. The next day came and, alone in this recently acquired No Man's Land of his death, it hit me that I would never see Howard again.

I had a good friend call me that night in a panic, "I don't know what to do. What are we going to do? What are we supposed to do with this?" as if Howard was never supposed to die, ever.

The impact that Howard Zinn has had on the world of fair, conscientious people is profound, and the impact that he had as a friend will be forever felt by me and by all those that knew him with the deepest, most visceral tickle imaginable. He was mischievous, fun, childlike, and an appreciator of all things beautiful. My wife was so smitten with him and he knew, in that classy old-school way, how to sustain it. We had spoken about women and how we both felt that they are, ultimately, the keepers of all things good. He was a smart man, a gentle man, and a gentleman.

To admit: I still speak with him at times when I am alone. He brings that kind of solace. It's not exclusive to crisis, no -- it's as a friend, as someone I could always have a laugh with, and as someone who could inspire with the simplest glance. He understood that to bring a smile to someone's face was as important to our well being as was protesting the myriad issues that Howard did. His motive, how it resonated in me, was simply to carve a more loving life for our children and those to follow.

You are so missed dear Howard, but your smiles will always live on.

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