Saturday, December 31, 2011

200

I made a silent resolution at some point this year that I would post 200 times on this blog over the course of 2011. My blogging has its ups and downs, as I chronicled earlier this fall in my post "300,000." I don't find as much time to post because of teaching, parenting, activism and writing for other things.

I was determined though to reach the 200 post plateau this year, and with this post I have done it.

It's a great way to end one year and welcome in a new one.

Adios 2011!

Hafa Adai 2012!

Dandan i Panderetas

Here is Sumahi performing "Dandan i Panderetas" at her Christmas concernt for her daycare.

The lyrics are below if you would like to learn to sing this traditional Chamorro Christmas song too.



Lyrics:

Dandan i panderetas, na'fampalangpang
Todu i profesia, esta munhayan

Popble i patgon-ta, gi liyang Bilen
Ngasan i asson-na, kulan ga'ga' gui'

Dandan i panderetas, na'fampalangpang
Todu i profesia, esta munhayan

Popble i patgon-ta, nina'fotgon gui'
Nu i lago' nana-na, sa' tinangse gui'

Dandan i panderetas, na'fampalangpang
Todu i profesia, esta munhayan

Updates on Ethnic Studies in Arizona




Ethnic Studies Ruling Escalates Arizona Schools Struggle

by Michelle Chen


While students were on their holiday break, Arizona issued a disturbing wake-up call to anyone who thought the education system had evolved to reflect America’s diversity. In a legal challenge to a controversial law passed in 2010, an administrative law judge pummeled a flagship educational initiative by supporting restrictions on programs based on Latino history and culture.Tucson students occupy a school board meeting 


The judge decided that the curriculum used in Tucson’s Mexican American studies programs was biased against white people, apparently because it advocates critical historical perspectives and emphasizes struggles of indigenous and Latino communities, as well as the links between that legacy and contemporary politics. The ruling comes as no surprise, as the struggle between the school district and school superintendent John Huppenthal has been dragging on for months. The focus now is on a pending federal lawsuit aimed at halting the law.

CNN quotes from ruling:
In Tuesday’s ruling, administrative law judge Lewis Kowal said the auditors observed only a limited number of classes. He added, “Teaching oppression objectively is quite different than actively presenting material in a biased, political, and emotionally charged manner.”
“Teaching in such a manner promotes social or political activism against the white people, promotes racial resentment, and advocates ethnic solidarity, instead of treating pupils as individuals,” Kowal wrote. He cited a lesson that taught students that the historic treatment of Mexican-Americans was “marked by the use of force, fraud and exploitation,” and a parent’s complaint that one of her daughters, who was white, was shunned by Latino classmates after a government course was taught “in an extremely biased manner.”
So to sum up, it is “extremely biased” to teach critical viewpoints of the oppression, displacement and systematic discrimination that Mexicans and other groups have encountered throughout U.S. history. Because for students to learn about the many atrocities strewn along the path of Manifest Destiny would upset the national narrative of continual social progress, rugged individualism, and free enterprise. And once the veneer of triumphalism begins to crack, students might start to use their often-neglected critical intellect to unravel myths of “personal responsibility” and “equal opportunity” that have propped up neoliberal dreams for the past few generations.

The ruling’s ideological rationale encapsulates the political fictions fueling ethnocentrism in public schools.  That’s precisely why many students yearn for education that pushes past negative media portrayals and stereotypes of people of color (and they’re willing to agitate for it). Tucson high school student Korina Lopez, whose father teachers in the district, told Democracy Now!, “It’s very important to me because I know that it teaches a deeper understanding of history and the things you learn. And it just gives you a whole new appreciation of your community and society.”

Ethnic studies in public schools has long been under siege. Though the programs have flourished, enrolling hundreds of elementary, middle and high school students, the law, HB 2281, aimed explicitly to penalize educators that have fought to introduce more critical pedagogy.

According to the federal legal complaint filed by ethnic studies advocates and teachers this fall, the state’s then-school superintendent Tom Horne declared that the Mexican-American Studies Department of Tucson’s No. 1 unified school district “[p]romotes the overthrow of the United States Government.”

The witchhunt rhetoric surrounding the program reflects the overarching paradox of the state’s charge of “bias” in ethnic studies. A glance at the demographic structure of Tucson’s school system shows that individual opportunity doesn’t exactly thrive in communities riven by deeply rooted racial and economic segregation.

The Arizona government’s preference for “teaching oppression objectively” certainly plays out in ironic ways.  Authorities have no qualms displaying their own biases when it comes to policing schools and communities. The most glaring example is SB 1070, the law that would encourage the profiling and detention of suspected undocumented immigrants. The state has also marginalized teachers who fell short of “fluency” standards–i.e. people with Spanish accents who teach kids with limited English. At one school in Phoenix, reported the Wall Street Journal last year, “State auditors have reported to the district that some teachers pronounce words such as violet as ‘biolet,’ think as ‘tink’ and swallow the ending sounds of words, as they sometimes do in Spanish.”

If only more Arizona officials had been schooled in the very programs that they seek to outlaw. According to the Save Ethnic Studies campaign, the programs have proven effective not only at supporting academic performance in the conventional sense–higher graduation rates and test scores–but helping close the profound “achievement gaps” that plague low-income communities of color. The campaign stresses that the ethnic studies model incubated in Tucson has become a national model:
98 percent of the students say they do homework at night to keep up with the next day’s class.  95 percent discuss what their learning with their parents.  Students have given reports to the TUSD board, Pima County Board of Supervisors, the Arizona state legislature, the Black Congressional Caucus and the Hispanic Congressional Caucus. 
“There’s a big myth up there that these classes are about immigration”, says Augustine Romero, Director of Student Equity at TUSD. “It’s actually about analyzing problems in the real world and addressing those problems by coming up with solutions.”
Analyzing problems in the real world and coming up with solutions. If officials think that’s anathema to a sound education, then they’ve given civil rights advocates the most principled argument yet for why ethnic studies is so vital for the next generation of community leaders.

Hey Obama, Come Meet Me Nana!

These pictures were taken at the “Guam: Where America’s President Refuels” Protest held outside the frontgate of Anderson Air Force Base, November 19-20, 2011.
President Obama stopped in Guam for less than 2 hours in order to refuel as part of his most recent trip to Asia. Since the President did not leave the base to meet with the people, 50 community members came to hold a demonstration, even waving signs and lights at his plane as it flew overhead.













Kids at Christmas

Este na videos siha ginnen i Dinana' Christmas para i sagan famagu'on para i dos famagu'on-hu.

Todu i famagu'on dipotsi mangahulo' guatu gi me'nan todu i manaina, ya mambaila yan manganta.

Egga' na'ya este na video siha. Annok na mungga siha i dos famagu'on-hu.





Friday, December 30, 2011

Obama's Paths to Victory

Next month the primaries start for Republicans and so that means that the Presidential race will be starting soon. With so much of my focus on local politics, especially those dealing with decolonization, I'm not sure how much I'll be able to devote to following and covering Obama versus whoever the Republicans pick.

One video I just came across on Youtube picked my interest. In it the campaign manager for Obama, Jim Messina lays out the five main paths in terms of electoral math and victories, that would give Obama the Presidency. Given the rough ride that Democrats had in the last election, and Obama's poor poll numbers, their projections have the aura of being both lean and sober, but also optimistic and wishful. I'm hoping for an Obama victory, despite my disappointment in his record thus far.

To see the maps that Team Obama is working with, check out the video below:

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Presidential Visit Calculus

“Presidential Visit Calculus” by Michael Lujan Bevacqua
11/30/2011
The Marianas Variety

The recent visit, but not really a visit by President Barack Obama to the World’s Largest Gas State Where America’s Day Begins caused a bit of a stir. There was a demonstration of more than 50 people at the front gates of Anderson while his plane was refueling. There have been debates about whether this counts as a visit or not. Furthermore, is Guam right to expect the “most powerful” man in the world to give it the time of day? Or is it just being selfish and trying to steal away the time of the busiest man in the world? At a time like this, it is probably important to reflect on the calculus of Presidential visits.

Presidential stops are meant to enhance a Commander and Chief’s reputation. They are meant to give him a little boost, some extra political capital each time he leaves Washington and gets out to eat apple pie with Joe and Jane Six Pack. The calculus could be reduced to a handful of possible equations. For example: Want a shot in the arm for sagging poll numbers? Try going to a safe state and have a huge self-love rally! Worried about 2012? Go to a battleground state and act moderate and down-to-earth to reach out to the independent voter! Want to increase polling support for a particular issue? Go to a place that symbolizes that issue and give a fiery speech about it!

There are also negative dimensions to this calculus, as there is a list of places where the President can visit and the journey would actually work against him and hurt him, in and of itself. By this I don’t mean that the gaffes there might be brutal, but rather that what the President actually says or does there is beside the point. Even if the President has an excellent photo-op there, and shakes plenty of hands and kisses plenty of babies, the problem is simply that he went there in the first place.

The last two states in the union, when they are visited it can create some small grumbles. When the President returns “home” to Hawai’i, the Conservative echo chamber reliably insinuates that he is relaxing too much and wasting tax payer time by being in this faraway island that is not really America. But, the visiting of an island territory, a colony, can potentially cause a lot of problems. Wherever the President goes within the 50 states his visit can be explained through pandering and vote-gathering. He is shoring up support from blue states, reaching out to voters in purple or red states. Even Puerto Rico, a fellow US colony, who does not have votes, can nonetheless be justified as an important site to visit. The island is full of Puerto Ricans, who have connections to the millions of Puerto Ricans living throughout the US, and frankly everyone, Democrat and Republican wants more Latino votes.

But a Presidential visit to Guam serves no political purpose. The people there don’t vote, can’t vote. There are no important minorities there that need to be reached out to in order to get out their votes. There are bases and strategic interests there, but that means that Defense secretaries come to Guam and have photo-ops, not Presidents.

If you recall the 2008 Democratic primary, it was a very tight race, where a huge number of races and places that normally don’t matter, were suddenly important. Hillary Clinton and Obama were very close in terms of delegate numbers, and so every single delegate, no matter where they came from, seemed to count. This resulted in Guam getting phone calls from candidates and Obama’s campaign even opening up an office in Hagåtña. Obama won by a slim margin, and although everyone did celebrate how wonderful it was that Guam got to participate in the process, there were some reservations. They were quiet for the most part, but are instructive of the place that Guam has in the US.

For example, on the liberal blog The Daily Kos, the owner remarked on the participations of territories in the selecting of a President, that it is nice, but “…there's no reason why in future nominating contests, any state in our union should take a back seat to a territory.” There were other murmurs of discontent as well, as people questioned whether those who are not really states and can’t really vote for President, should have a role in deciding who gets to run for President or who becomes President?

Even if we may not like these points, they are nonetheless true. This is part of Presidential visit calculus and part of our colonial status. The President exists to visit those who “elect” him and those who are actually “American” first, and we, like the status that we get from being a colony, will eternally be second.

Thank You Fox News

From Media Matters:

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

How Do You Like America?


"How Do You Like America?"
Keiko Matsui Gibson
1994


Taking off from Osaka
I saw my mother standing
with a handkerchief over her eyes
and my father trying to hide
a hole in his heart-mind.
Then my country blurred.

For seven years I have heard:
"Where do you come from?
China? Korea? Japan?
How long have you been in America?
Is your family still in Japan?
I sure bet they miss you!
Did you meet your husband there?
Does he speak Japanese?
You speak English very well!
Where did you learn to speak it?
How do you like America?"

I pity, fear, and love it.
America is huge and sick
optimistic and terrifying
immature but lovable.

Americans' friendly questions
dislocated my Japanese bones.
I automatically answered
like a dog watering its mouth:
"I was born in Kyoto, Japan.
It is a modern ancient city.
I've been in America since
Jimmy Carter was President.
My parents are still in Osaka.
Because I'm an only child
we miss each other a lot.
I met my husband at a bus stop
near Osaka University
where he taught.
He has been learning Japanese
ever since.
I have studied English
since I was 14.
Though I am working on a Ph.D.
English is still very strange."

"How do I like America?
I like America very much!
It's a beautiful country!
People are kind and friendly!
Life is so comfortable here!
Furnaces keep us warm!
Public places are clean!
Not so many people smoke
here as in Japan."

"So you are from Japan!
My son married a Korean
who eats kim chi on pancakes.
It's unbelievably hot!
Do you like it too?
My husband was in Japan after the War and loved it!
I used to know a Japanese girl in Hawaii.
She invited me for sushi and tea-ceremony.
Her name was Keeko too.
Her hair was so straight and black.
Such a cute little thing.
Japan is one of the places I'd love to visit some time.
It must be very beautiful.
My mother does flower-arranging in Traverse City.
How do you like America?"

How do I like America?
These cheerful Americans
much better at talking than listening
throw balls persistently without receiving any
and flash commercials of their lives.
Life goes on in many entangling circles.
Americans are hectic and confusing.
When do they calm down?
The land is airy, spacious, masculine.
No canes to hold to here, to stick to:
you can draw your own road where you wish.
It's a country of gushing power
uncontrollable.

Suspended between Japan and America
a stranger in both lands
alienating every being
I have stayed awake all night
hearing drips of
Japan America
Japan America
Japan America

I have lost myself many times
eroded by changing dogmas.
My friend A, becoming a separatist-lesbian
left me
like an old towel under the sink.
My friend B, a conservative pro-family housewife
insists only womanly virtues
are pleasing to her husband
producing many children.
My friend C cannot find a steady job
because he has long hair, like a little girl
and really believes in his poetry.
My friend D, always frustrated
about her health and family,
worries in a suffocating room
with no windows.
My friend E, embittered
by the political impasse
arrogantly retires to nature
to be a weekend hermit.
My friend F, still plays like a kid,
dreaming of making money
to buy perpetual comfort.

Divorce has forced many children
to fly through the air
helpless and resentful
their hearts beating in vain.
The word _Marriage_ rings hollow
The family is replaced by therapists.
As more people consume their energy
in jogging, aerobics, and health clubs
where is the food where it's needed
on the other side of the world?
People dread fat more than
nuclear bombs.

In Japan I was suffocated
panting for sheer freedom
but there I suffer from too much air
too chaotic to feel free.

My honeymoon with America
has ended
something has ended
I am ready for a separation.
America is blurring.
Just as we cannot count snowflakes
my karma piles up across the Pacific Ocean.

My parents are opening their eyes.
They see me winging to them.
In Japan I will speak again
transparently, as I wish
to mother, father, and strangers.
I simply want warmth of hands


I want tears turning me into a river.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Stop the War, on Christmas



I haven't posted anything about it yet, but the war on the war on Christmas, that fantastical past time of people who have way too much time on their hands and are angry about things they aren't allowed to openly hate or discriminate against anymore (women, minorities, foreigners), has long since begun. Talking Points Memo put up a nice video that I've embedded above.

This is such a pathetic thing it almost defies explanation. That people could devote so much time and energy into attacking the phrase "Happy Holidays" and constantly seek out any potential omission of the phrase "Merry Christmas." It is a cruel and sick joke that somehow this issue is taken seriously by people.

The real way on Christmas should be about how greedy Christmas has become and how corporate it has become.The essence of Christmas shouldn't be in the browbeating of people to yell out "Merry Christmas" but rather in reflecting on things such as charity, family closeness and gratitude. If people want to truly celebrate Christmas, they should probably not buy anything at all, and make gifts for each other instead.

A further point is that while this war on the war on Christmas is going on, it is important to remember that wars around the world on Christmas continue, as you can see from this article below from Truthout.

******************************
 Stop the War on Christmas: Cease Fire in Afghanistan
Saturday 24 December 2011
by: Robert Naiman, Truthout
Op-Ed


Shouldn't Americans of every faith tradition band together to stop the war on Christmas? Let us call on President Obama to announce that on December 24 and 25, the United States will observe an offensive cease-fire in Afghanistan and urge others to join the cease-fire as a goodwill gesture to promote peace talks.

This proposal is far from utopian. I claim that it is a pragmatic political proposal, with little cost and significant potential benefits; indeed, according to recent press reports, a US-initiated Christmas truce would complement peace efforts that the Obama administration is already pursuing.

The political cost would be negligible. Would Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich and John McCain denounce President Obama for announcing that US forces in Afghanistan will stand down to mark the birth of the Prince of Peace? If they did, would anyone take them seriously?

This is a decision that President Obama can make unilaterally as commander in chief. He does not need the permission of Lindsay Graham, the Heritage Foundation, the American Enterprise Institute, or the Washington Post editorial board. If President Obama decides that US forces in Afghanistan will not take offensive military actions on Christmas, so shall it be.

Already, Reuters reports, the Obama administration is contemplating confidence-building measures to promote peace talks with the Afghan Taliban, including transferring Afghan prisoners at Guantanamo to Afghan government custody and supporting the establishment by the Afghan Taliban of a political office in Qatar for the purpose of participating in peace talks.

Therefore, a Christmas truce would be totally consistent with measures that the administration is already pursuing. However, it would have the advantage that a cease-fire wouldn't just be an olive branch to the Afghan Taliban; it would also be an olive branch to the Afghan people. In particular, an offensive cease-fire would mean a pause in US Special Forces night raids into Afghan homes, night raids that kill civilians and violate the most basic tenets of human decency, night raids which are the object of universal loathing in Afghanistan.

Consider what we just learned from the US military withdrawal in Iraq. According to the reporting of The New York Times and The Washington Post, the key reason that the Pentagon could not win permission to stay in Iraq was: 1) The Pentagon killed too many Iraqi civilians; and 2) no one was held accountable for the killings.

Liz Sly reported in The Washington Post:

In the accounting of what was won and lost in America's Iraq war, [Haditha] will rank as a place where
almost everything was lost ... in dueling [Iraqi and American] perceptions, over the killings in Haditha and others nationwide, lay the undoing of the U.S. military's hopes of maintaining a long-term presence here. When it came to deciding the future of American troops in Iraq, the irreconcilable difference that stood in the way of an agreement was a demand by Iraqi politicians for an end to the grant of immunity that has protected on-duty U.S. soldiers from Iraqi courts.

"The image of the American soldier is as a killer, not a defender. And how can you give a killer immunity?" said Sami al-Askari, a lawmaker who is also a close aide to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.
Michael Schmidt reported in The New York Times:

Charges were dropped against six of the accused Marines in the Haditha episode, one was acquitted and the last remaining case against one Marine is scheduled to go to trial next year.

That sense of American impunity ultimately poisoned any chance for American forces to remain in Iraq, because the Iraqis would not let them stay without being subject to Iraqi laws and courts, a condition the White House could not accept.
The significance of these reports for the war in Afghanistan cannot be overemphasized. A key objective of the Pentagon in the invasion of Iraq was to establish a permanent military garrison in Iraq. But the Pentagon failed in this objective because of the Pentagon's own failure characterized by the killing of Iraqi civilians, as well as its failure to take responsibility for those killings.

Now the Pentagon is pursuing in Afghanistan the same objective that it was pursuing in Iraq: trying to establish a permanent military garrison. In the long run, the Pentagon is likely to face the same paradox in Afghanistan that it faced in Iraq: the Pentagon is intervening in a civil war, and it's the intervention in the civil war that creates the opportunity for the Pentagon to be in Afghanistan; meanwhile, it is US policy to try to end the civil war, but as soon as the civil war ends and the current government is replaced by a government that includes representation for all the people now fighting, it is extremely likely that that government will kick the Pentagon out, just as happened in Iraq. Meanwhile, the more civilians the Pentagon kills, injures and abuses as long as the war continues, the more certain it is that an Afghan government that ends the war will kick the Pentagon out.

Since this is the likely future, why dally? The sooner we can get the Pentagon kicked out of Afghanistan, the more American and Afghan lives will be saved and the fewer tax dollars we'll have to waste on a doomed enterprise that isn't supported by the majority of Americans and isn't in the interests of the majority of Americans.

A Christmas cease-fire will be the camel's nose under the tent. It will introduce the concept of "cease-fire" into the center of discourse on Afghanistan, where it belongs. After ten years of Rube Goldberg efforts to bring peace to Afghanistan by the acquisition of some other objective have failed, it is time to work towards peace directly, by silencing the guns.

There are precedents in Afghanistan for a cease-fire. The United Nations (UN) has successfully negotiated cease-fires to conduct vaccinations. There were cease-fires in the past for elections.

Some will object that Christmas is a Christian holiday and Afghanistan is a Muslim country, and what do the Afghan Taliban know from Christmas?

But we have to start somewhere, and the principal political obstacle to a cease-fire is the Pentagon, and the best way to intimidate the Pentagon from resisting a cease-fire is to announce one on Christmas. If we can get a cease-fire on Christmas, then a cease-fire on a Muslim holiday will surely be next.

The Christmas truce has a rich history, one that we should seek to revive. In December 1914, as war raged in Europe, Pope Benedict XV called for a Christmas cease-fire. The pope's initiative was rebuffed by political leaders, but in one of the most compelling acts of mass civil disobedience in the 20th century, rank-and-file troops carried out the action that the Pope had called for, negotiating local Christmas cease-fires on the Western Front. Christmas 2014 will mark the hundred-year anniversary of the Christmas truce of 1914. Maybe, if we get busy, by Christmas 2014, the guns in Afghanistan will be silenced for good.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

The Life and Death of Chamorro Nationalism

In all my classes that I teach at the University of Guam, the issue of decolonization and independence for Guam always arises. Part of it is because of who I am and what I believe in. Part of it is because of what I teach and how I teach. But regardless of why, it is something that I always end have addressing either in response to students and their questions, or as a matter of wanting to open their minds up to something they have yet to consider. Part of the difficulty though in discussing these two topics is that while Guam is a colony and has been such for more than a century, the Chamorro experience of colonialism has changed so much since 1898, 1941, even 1968. The colonial difference between Guam and the United States is not as wide or as daunting or as disgusting as it used to be. In Guam in 1898, 1941, 1944 and even 1968 you could see where America ended and Chamorros and Guam began. You could see that America engaged with Chamorros only up to a certain point as human beings or as subjects worth anything, and then after that dismissed them.

Our history would be very different if World War II had not taken place, or if it had happened even just a little bit differently. In the period between World War I and World War II, the US government knew that Guam was a target and would no doubt be dragged rather violently into any conflict with Japan. The government however became deadlocked over what to do with Guam. Small attempts were made to fortify Guam in anticipation for the conflict the War Department knew was coming, but all serious moves to defend Guam or prepare Guam were abandoned. As a result Guam was "sacrificed" in the words of historian Don Farrell to the Japanese. When the Japanese invade, their tactics in dominating Guam are much more brutal and aggressive than those used by the US and so Chamorros pray for the US return and eagerly welcome them when they come back in 1944. Chamorros emerge from the war drastically different than in prior years. In 1944, they cannot imagine a world without the US at the center of it, whereas before, it really didn't matter to them if the US was at the center or not.

But what if history had happened differently. One of the things which has kept the colonial difference stark and real for some Chamorro families is the illegal land takings in postwar Guam for strategic military purposes. In the generations of Chamorro activists or fierce critics of US policy since World War II, their ranks have been filled primarily with those who lost pieces of land (maseha dikike' pat dangkolu) in order to create the many US military facilities that Guam hosts today.

What if, instead of abandoning Guam for the 20 years prior to World War II, what if the US had instead militarized it? And not just a tiny bit, but went full out and transformed Guam into the fortress some analysts imagine it could be? Strategists in the era between world wars claimed that Guam was indefensible and that it would cost far too much to attempt to defend it. What if Congressmen and Senators ignored these recommendations and instead pumped a huge amount of money and effort into Guam? What if the US used the powers they had at that time (and still have today) to take large tracts of land and build their bases and dredge the reefs and so on? What if the period of displacement had happened before war took place?

Things would be very different to say the least.

When Chamorros lose large pieces of land in postwar Guam, the loss of the land is explained and integrated into the logic of chenchule' and a great debt owed to the US for saving people from the Japanese. Chamorros felt indebted to the US for its return, and so when the prospect of giving up their land in order to help the US came up, most were grateful for the chance to give back, to do something to repay their debt. The land takings were seen as traumatic and terrible, especially by 1948 and 1949, when the war was long over and Chamorros could not understand why lands were not being returned or why lands were still being taken. But, they were not seen as something foreign. It was not something that arose in Chamorros such indignity or displeasure at how they were being mistreated that they organically created an oppositional consciousness in challenging it or explaining it. The logic of chenchule' held strong, and Chamorro understood the land takings as a greedy move on the part of the US, in the same way someone who once brought binadu to a fiesta, later assumes that this means he can borrow your car whenever he wants. Chamorros did not use the land takings as a reason to push away from the US, as others might have, because they already felt bound to them through this relationship, and so rather than breaking away, they instead sought to move closer and to hopefully cause the US to change its behavior and treat Chamorros better.

It was funny in 2009 when the dump issue (both Ordot's closing and the Layon opening) was all over the papers, and Federal judge Frances Tydingco-Gatewood was wielding much power in the name of the Federal government, a possible walkout of the Guam Legislature was discussed. For those who don't know, an infamous walkout was held in 1949 by the Guam Congress in response to the US Navy's actions in Guam. It received international attention and was a small part of why the US policies towards Guam changed and the US Navy was replaced with the civilian Government of Guam in 1950.

As the Feds were again seen as acting unfairly towards Guam, different activists (myself included) and local leaders were discussing holding another symbolic walkout in 2009. Nothing came from this, except for lots of discussion and several posts on this blog included one of my favorites "A Guam Legislature Walkout?" The Legislature, under the leadership of Speaker Judi Won Pat (whose father was speaker during the Guam Congress Walkout), held a laughable and very embarrassingly small "forum" in front of the Federal Courthouse in Anigua where they discussed the walkout and other issues of Federal Territorial Relations. The rhetoric for that forum were far more interesting than the event itself, which was planned at the very last minute with almost no one who didn't work at the Legislature knowing it was taking place.

The coverage for the event, claimed that there might be on Guam a "rise in nationalism." Government rhetoric, especially from the Legislature seemed to be more openly critical of the US government, and so one article from the Marianas Variety identified that as a sign of an emerging nationalism. I found this analysis cute but woefully incorrect. The expression of discontent in both 1949 and 2009 are not nationalistic in nature. They do not argue the primacy of a local nation or a Chamorro nation. They do not seek to establish the alterity of said nation. In both cases, if you pay attention to the rhetoric it is still very much caught in the chenchule' dynamic. It is discontent that seeks a better deal from someone or something that it recognizes as being in charge or being better. Their discontent is expressed in terms of not being fairly, but as to what they invoke as the proper treatment, it is not human rights, it is not the rights of a people of Guam, but as people attached to the United States. They are not being treated the way people who are Americans or part of an American dependency is being treated. That is not nationalism. You can call it anti-Federalism or local antagonism, but not nationalism.

Part of the frustration of trying to push for decolonization in Guam today is that way that what should be nationalism is always entangled in Americanization. That even those who critique and challenge the US often do so from the stance of being American or not being treated as proper Americans. This means that seeing the truth of the relationship that Guam has with the US is always problematic, because even those who appear to be critical, may in many ways only be able to see the situation within an American context and nothing else. That means so many things, but in a fundamental sense it means that people on Guam will always have trouble dealing with the US, and never be able to see the relationship for what it is because of how they take their presence in the US as the basis for their ability to speak, to think, to exist and to have rights and be a possible subject.

You could say that a Chamorro nationalism was formed in postwar Guam, but it is a minor and dependent nationalism. It is one that relies on the US for existence. This would have been very different however if the counterfactual that I mentioned above had taken place.

If the US had built up Guam prior to World War II with the same intensity that it did after the war, then Chamorros would have been given a less appetizing view of US militarization. They would have seen the negative aspects first, prior to seeing its liberating potential. They would have seen these acts of land taking and dispossession in a radically different light. They would have felt the sting of losing land not as something that they are doing to pay back the US, but something is unfair and unjust in their own light. It would be something that they would not make excuses for, but struggle to find a way to rationalize politely in their minds. They would look and think about what the US has and hasn't given them, and how the US has treated them up to that point. They would feel the colonial difference as a massive gulf between them and those who are not displacing them, and it would play a huge role in whether or not they can justify this as being something alright since the US is defending us and helping us, or that the US is taking advantage of us and oppressing us.

The key point here is that the suffering of World War II and the Americanizing aspects of it would not exist yet and so all the reasons that Chamorros used to justify that them being treatment with such disrespect in post war Guam couldn't easily be invoked here. As a result, the seeds of a Chamorro nationalism might have been sown. The loss of so much land and the bringing of so much military to Guam might have created a deeper rift between Chamorros and the US, and that rift would have then changed how they interpreted their occupation by the Japanese. It could have made them become more attached to the United States, it could have made them less attached.

I often wonder how my life and how Guam would be different if an strong nationalist spirit existed. As a historian it is an interesting exercise to consider and imagine how things might have happened differently, but ultimately we are still stuck with the way in which history ran its course. But thinking about those counterfactuals can still be helpful in giving you an insight into the way things did turn out, and what factors brought things there.

The Ideological Adjustment Bureau

For my Marianas Variety column this week I wrote about the current Republican pack of candidates as a colorful collection of barely electable political Pokemon (in homage of Herman Cain's suspension speech). It was a naturally partisan piece, meant to draw attention to how crazy the Republicans are this time around. No doubt some who read it and lean to the right will be offended by it and would love to remind me about all the craziness of the Obama Administration and the terrible things that he has done or that they feel he is doing in the darkest most. Perhaps a few months ago or a few years ago, I would have responded in true partisan form, downplaying all and making excuses for all, except for the racist fantasies which require no response.

But watching Obama and his rise and fall as a Democratic figure, leader and symbol, I am fine nowadays with talking about his limitations. He has become a true Democrat, a model of caving in, compromising and disappointing people. Some say he is the President of everyone, even those who he doesn't agree with, but every President still has some ideological foundation, and Obama seems too willing to give away his end of the debate or the negotiation. We'll see if his centrist game will win him broader support next year.

In the meantime, here are some statements of criticism by an early Obama supporter, actor Matt Damon. He isn't impressed with Obama's performance over the past year either.

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Matt Damon Slams Obama, Democrats
Huffington Post
12/21/11

Matt Damon, one of Barack Obama's earliest supporters and once one of his most staunch advocates, slammed the President in the new issue of Elle Magazine.

"I've talked to a lot of people who worked for Obama at the grassroots level. One of them said to me, 'Never again. I will never be fooled again by a politician,'" Damon tells the magazine. "You know, a one-term president with some balls who actually got stuff done would have been, in the long run of the country, much better."

Referring to the Occupy Wall Street movement, Damon continued: "If the Democrats think that they didn't have a mandate -- people are literally without any focus or leadership, just wandering out into the streets to yell right now because they are so pissed off ... Imagine if they had a leader."

That echoes the President's own words to Diane Sawyer in March of 2010 when he said, "I'd rather be a really good one-term president than a mediocre two-term president... There's a tendency in Washington to think that our job description, of elected officials, is to get reelected. That's not our job description. Our job description is to solve problems and to help people."

The slam follows in the same vein as a number of other criticisms Damon has made of the President and the Democrats, including in March, when he criticized Obama's education policy.

"I really think he misinterpreted his mandate. A friend of mine said to me the other day, I thought it was a great line, 'I no longer hope for audacity,'" Damon told CNN host Piers Morgan. "He's doubled down on a lot of things, going back to education... the idea that we're testing kids and we're tying teachers salaries to how kids are performing on tests, that kind of mechanized thinking has nothing to do with higher order. We're training them, not teaching them."

Later that month, he hit Obama on his handling of the economic crisis.

"I think he's rolled over to Wall Street completely. The economy has huge problems. We still have all these banks that are too big to fail. They're bigger and making more money than ever. Unemployment at 10 percent? It's terrible," he told the Independent. Damon also criticized the President's inability to get transformative things done, saying, "They had a chance that they don't have any more to stand up for things. They've probably squandered that at this point. They'll probably just make whatever deals they can to try to get elected again."

Currently, Obama and the Democrats are fighting with the House GOP over passing a compromise two month extension of the payroll tax cuts and unemployment benefits, amongst other things; they've already removed increased taxes on the wealthy from the deal.

Damon's criticism rings with disappointment after he so publicly lent his support to the then-Senator Obama during the 2008 election. He spent time campaigning for the then-candidate at rallies, promoting him through a MoveOn video contest and attending fundraisers for the man who would become the 44th President.

In August, the star ripped a cameraman and reporter from a conservative publication who challenged his stance on education at a Save Our Schools event in Washington, DC. He then moved on to economic policy criticism.

"The wealthy are paying less than they paid at any time else, certainly in my lifetime, and probably in the last century," Damon told a reporter at the same event. "I don't know what we were paying in the Roaring '20s; it's criminal that so little is asked of people who are getting so much. I don't mind paying more. I really don't mind paying more taxes. I'd rather pay for taxes than cut 'Reading is Fundamental' or Head Start or some of these programs that are really helping kids. This is the greatest country in the world; is it really that much worse if you pay 6% more in taxes? Give me a break. Look at what you get for it: you get to be American."
Speaking of the then-protracted negotiations over the debt ceiling, he did show some sympathy for Obama.

"I'm so disgusted," he said. "I mean, no, I don't know what you do in the face of that kind of intransigence. So, my heart does go out to the President. He is dealing with a lot."

Scarlett Johansson, Damon's co-star in the upcoming film "We Bought A Zoo," recently said that she wanted Obama elected to another four year term. The President still enjoys support in Hollywood, having recently attended fundraisers in Los Angeles filled with stars.

Obama responded jokingly to Damon's criticism at his White House Press Correspondents Dinner in late April, saying, "It's fair to say that when it comes to my presidency, the honeymoon is over ... Matt Damon said he [has been] disappointed in my performance. Well Matt, I just saw the 'Adjustment Bureau,' so ... right back atcha buddy."

Earlier this month, Damon said he found the dig, which referenced his poorly reviewed sci-fi action film that came out last winter, pretty funny.

For more, click over to Elle.

Racist Ron

This is a very concise but still very insightful overview of Texas Congressman Ron Paul and his politics from Talking Points Memo. I have always liked Ron Paul as a Republican, because of the way he reflects a more consistent set of ideological stances as opposed to most of the other party who pander to various factions and thus use powerful drugs in order to rationalize that you can massively cut taxes and continually increase the defense budget. But in general, Paul has always been a racist and if he was running as a Democrat, that fact would never be forgotten. But in the Republican "great white hope" style of politics, it is still too early to tell whether or not being racist hurts you as a candidate or helps you.

Check out the video below:

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Charlotte 2012

In 2008 I was able to attend the Democratic National Convention in Denver because of something called "The State Blogger Corps." This was a grassroots effort by the party to bring to the convention local blogs and progressive groups from all 50 states and even the territories to join the conversation and get access that they would surely not be able to get otherwise. With my press credentials from the State Blogger Corps, I was basically a member of Guam's delegation and also a member of the press. I got to go almost anywhere, even in places that normal member of the press weren't allowed to.

I want to attend the 2012 convention in Charlotte, North Carolina. I don't see any mention of the State Blogger Corps this time around on the Democratic Convention website. I don't know if I just can't find it, or if they aren't offering it this time around. The 2008 campaign appropriated alot of grassroots elements in order to symbolize that Obama was riding a true populist tide. 2012 will be different as Obama is no longer on the "oustide" pushing in, but now inside, sometimes appearing to keep the people who voted him in, out.

If anyone reading this has any information on the State Blogger Corps please let me know! If I don't find anything, then I'll just apply through the normal channels and hope for the best.

Okinawa Dreams #12: International Statement

Below is the joint statement from all the delegates who attending the International Forum during the 2011 Japan Peace Conference last month in Okinawa.As delegates came from around the Pacific and Asia, each area has a separate paragraph which deals with their particular issues. You can see some of the concerns that I raised in my earlier Okinawa Dreams post on Nationalism and Solidarity however. While this statement lays out a clear map of solidarity, the question always remains, how do these ties become more than strands of knowledge or awareness of things? When do they become imbued with power?

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International Forum

Joint Communique
For a US-Base-Free, Nuclear-Free and Peaceful Asia-Pacific
without Military Bases
Japan Peace Conference
Okinawa
Nov. 24-25, 2011

The International Forum “For a Nuclear Weapon-Free Peaceful Asia-Pacific without Military Bases - Solidarity among Okinawa, Guam and Asia-Pacific” was sponsored jointly by Japan Peace Committee and Guahan Coalition for Peace and Justice in Naha City, Okinawa on 24 and 25 November, 2011, bringing together 150 representatives from seven countries: Guam, Japan, South Korea, the Marshall Islands, Republic of Belau, the Philippines and the U.S. (Hawaii). Gathering in Okinawa, we mutually strengthened our resolve to develop both movements in our respective countries and international solidarity, particularly to Okinawa and Guam. We call on you to join your hands to achieve a U.S.-base-free and nuclear-weapon-free peaceful Asia-Pacific, from Okinawa where people have continuously suffered from the massive presence of U.S. bases since their lands were confiscated with “bayonets and bulldozers” after the end of WW II.

As demonstrated by the struggle of Arab people for democracy and dignity, the mounting protests staged in the Wall Street and elsewhere against the tyranny of big capital that is widening the social gap as well as the global spread of the opinion and movement calling for a “world without nuclear weapons,” the voice and actions of the citizens are changing the world. Now is the time to spread and develop this tide widely in the Asia-Pacific region.

The U.S. military presence in the Asia-Pacific not only poses a threat to peace and security of this region, but infringes on the sovereignty and human rights of the host countries and undermines the living and security of the people of these countries as well as their economy, community bonds and natural environment. These military bases that tramples upon the human dignity must be removed without delay.

In Japan, there are over 130 U.S. bases stationed, and 75% of them are concentrated in Okinawa. Now the opposition of Okinawan people against the relocation of Futenma base of the U.S. Marines, the “most dangerous base in the world”, within Okinawa prefecture and against the construction of a new base at Henoko, Nago City is growing as a firm will of whole residents, and it’s driving the governments of Japan and the U.S. into a corner. There is no way but to immediately close Futenma base. Nation-wide solidarity with Okinawa is developing, and it’s a key to the victory. Yokosuka base where U.S. nuclear aircraft-carrier is deployed and those bases in the metropolitan Tokyo, Iwakuni, and other parts of Japan are also increasingly becoming areas of grave concern. The damage caused by the bases such as crimes and accidents involving U.S. servicemen, stems from the violation of Japan’s sovereignty and humiliating subordination of Japan to the US under the Japan-U.S. alliance. That alliance hinders Japan’s rejection to U.S. “nuclear umbrella” and its diplomacy based on the peaceful provisions of Japanese constitution. Thus the abrogation of their security treaty has become more important to make a Japan of nuclear weapons free and peace.

In Guahan (Guam), the transfer of Marines from Okinawa to the island poses great concern to the island’s people and the native Chamorro inhabitants. The United States has denied native Chamorros their right to self-determination and political decolonization. The United States currently occupies about 29% of the island. Part of the Guam Build-Up also includes the construction of a Ballistic Missile Defense System and the berthing for a nuclear aircraft carrier. Roughly 60% of the Guam Build-Up is being funded by the government of Japan and direct cash payments have already been made to the U.S. Treasury to subsidize it. The island has been contaminated by military activities that include exposure to radiation, PCBs, dioxins, agent orange, and agent purple. This has resulted in high cases of cancer for Chamorros and other indicators of ill health. Many acts of protest has been developed against these acts. .

In South Korea, We have a deep concern on the construction of Jeju naval base. The Gangjeong villagers in the Jeju Island have been opposing the construction of the Jeju naval base in our village since 2007. Many people say the base would be used as part of the U.S.'s containment against China, triggering arms race and intensifying the possibility of war against China, at the sacrifice of the peace of the people in the Jeju Island that has been designated as the Peace Island in 2005. The destruction of beautiful nature by using undemocratic methods in disregard of the will of the people is not acceptable. We sincerely hope that the beautiful nature and peaceful community of the Jeju Island will be preserved.

In the Philippines, the United States has put in place a new basing and global deployment strategy that avoids the problems of traditional basing. The new form is less visible, more numerous and scattered, in small teams, flexible and mobile and more involved in rescue and reconstruction civilian activities meant to win the hearts and minds of the people. There is now a US facility within a Philippine military base in Mindanao. Renewed interest on the Philippines and the promise by the United States for more military aid and assistance and affirmation of the existing Mutual Defense Treaty indicates the possibility of the establishment of US presence beyond the Visiting Forces Agreement and in violation of the Philippine Constitution. The United States continues to deny any responsibility to clean up the former US bases as communities continue to suffer the impact of toxic and hazardous wastes left behind.

In Hawai’i, the U.S. military-backed overthrow of the independent Hawaiian Kingdom caused environmental ruin and negative economic, cultural and social impacts for Kanaka Maoli people. Hawaii is both a victim of U.S. empire and a weapon of that empire. Yet many people in Hawaii continue to resist U.S. militarization. In Makua, the community is at a turning point to push for a complete end to the military occupation of that valley. But the burden of military activities are now shifting to Pohakuloa, Mokapu and Waimanalo. And offensive missile programs on Kauai contribute to rising nuclear tensions in the region. So Hawaii groups are intensifying resistance in these locations.

In Palau, We will continue to fight for our nation to be a nuclear free nation. Our Constitution is still nuclear free in the world. The people of Palau stand with other Asia-Pacific people to turn the region into a nuclear free and peaceful place on the earth.

In the Marshall Islands, Although the problems occurring on Ronald Reagan Missile test base on Kwajalein differ from those facing other bases within the region, injustices including social problems exists regardless. On a small base like Kwajalein harbors the problems of discrimination against and mistreatment of local employees and families not to mention wide varieties of social problems due to high density population and breaking down of traditional culture caused by westernization of lifestyle influenced by the heavy American presence.

The forces that are aiming to maintain and strengthen the U.S. military presence and alliances try to justify their position by claiming that it is to “deter” potential foreign threats. However, the “deterrence” policy supposes threats by military force and only leads to heightening international tension, increasing the risk of military collision and seriously endangering peoples’ lives and livelihoods. The “nuclear deterrence” policy in particular totally runs counter to the internationally affirmed objective of a “world without nuclear weapons”, not only causing enormous catastrophe by the use of nuclear weapons, but also inducing the proliferation of nuclear weapons.

Although there are still problems that may develop into tension, the dominant trend in this region is to try to resolve these problems through diplomacy as represented by the effort of ASEAN working for the resolution of conflicts by peaceful and diplomatic means and the Six Party Talks to deal collectively with North Korean nuclear issues. Many governments of the region are also playing an active role in achieving the elimination of nuclear weapons and a convention banning these weapons. In order to promote this mounting tide for peace, it is crucial that we the civil society oppose any action threatening peace and security and strengthen international joint initiatives and cooperation.

The realization of a U.S. base-free, nuclear-free and peaceful Asia-Pacific is essential for all the people living in the region to gain respect for their dignity and enjoy the right to live in peace without any fear and want. Hence, we call on all movements and campaigns for human rights, justice, peace, protection of natural environment and better living conditions to work together in solidarity to achieve this goal.

Let us develop our actions especially around the initiatives set out below:

--March 1 Bikini Day, 2012 World Conference against A and H Bombs, 2012 Japan Peace Conference;

--Provide support for the exercise of the Chamorro right to Self-Determination to resolve Guahan (Guam’s) political status issue as an unincorporated territory of the United States;

--February 19-24, 2012, bi-annual meeting of the International Network of Women Against Militarism in San Juan, Puerto Rico;

-- An international week of actions in Asia and the Pacific against foreign military bases called by the Moana Nui Conference in Honolulu.

We extend our sincere gratitude to the members of the Organizing Committee of Japan Peace Conference who worked hard to make this Forum a success while engaging in the campaigns to support the rehabilitation of victimized people and areas by the East Japan Great Earthquake and to bring the accident at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant under control and to reduce nuclear power plants to zero. We also thank our friends of Guahan and other overseas friends who helped us to organize this Forum. Let us pledge that we will continue to work harder together and back in our respective countries.

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