Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Crazy Talk

“Crazy Talk”
Michael Lujan Bevacqua
The Marianas Variety
July 4, 2012

The same scene happens every couple of months at my grandfather’s shop at the Chamorro village. A military family comes into the check out my grandfather’s handmade tools. They look around and are impressed. I answer their questions and give them some background on my grandfather Tun Jack Lujan’s role in perpetuating the Chamorro culture today as a Master Blacksmith. As they are leaving one of them turns to me and says “I want to thank you for showing this to us and answering our questions, you aren’t as terrible a person as I thought you were.”

The first few times this scene took place I was taken aback. How did they know anything about me and what did they know that made them assume I’d be terrible? We’d never met before and how could they possess such strong negative feelings to me already?

I’ve come to learn that the reason for this is because of my internet presence, primarily my blog No Rest for the Awake – Minagahet Chamorro. For years I have run dozens of websites and blogs, but at the center of it all has been my blog, which I first started in 2004 and have kept going strong eight years later. While many other Guam websites and blogs have faded into oblivion, I’ve constantly been updating my blog and as a result it has become a regular search location for anything dealing with Guam or Chamorros.

A lot of military personnel on their way to Guam naturally search the internet looking for information on where they are headed to. Amidst all the military websites and tourist websites they sometimes end up clicking on my little corner of the internet.

On my blog there are many posts written about Chamorro language, culture and history. There are even dialogues about Bollywood movies in the Chamorro language and lyrics for popular Chamorro songs. You will find a lot of info on Guam History and a lot of pictures of my children. You’ll also find stuff on electoral and progressive politics in the states.

You will also find a lot of criticism of the United States. This criticism stems primarily from the way Chamorros have been treated by the United States over the course of their 114-year relationship, especially in terms of political status. 

These critiques are often accompanied by various ways of arguing for the importance of Guam’s decolonization and the transformation of its relationship to the United States and the rest of the world into something more equitable and less colonial.

On Guam it is possible to take a position like this and not be burned in effigy as “anti-American” or treasonous scum. Guam’s complicated history gives enough reason for your average Chamorro today to either love the United States or hate it. Different people look at different sets of historical variables and then make ideological statements as to what sort of influence the US has had, but ultimately even one that is very negative can be justified. The history itself, with the lack of Guam being incorporated into the United States, make it so that arguing for decolonizing Guam, doesn’t mean you hate America. In truth, you could be driven by a respect for the United States and a desire to see that it actually live up to the principles that it espouses.

In Guam, unless you are completely blinded, you have to admit that being a territory isn’t a great long term plan for the island and that Guam should be given the chance to either move closer to the United States or further away. You may not like a lot of the players involved in that discussion, or some of the issues brought up, but this has nonetheless become an important, normal part of local political discourse.

But if you come from the United States proper, that discussion must appear like insane, crazy talk. How can you imagine people from such a small, tiny, barely visible place on the map, daring to criticize the “greatest” country in the world? What could be the matter with such a place and with such a people? Hence, I’ve learned that so many of those people who I shared those strange moments with at the Chamorro Village, reacted so because of something they had read on my blog and didn’t have the ability to understand or process.

It does not stay at this point however. I am happy to report that often times once they are given some history and introduced to the island in a deeper way, allowing it and parts of its complexity to shine through, then you realize that this talk isn’t so crazy. You may not believe it, you may not care for it, but given the history, given the contemporary territorial/colonial status of Guam, you should at least be able to understand it. 

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