Saturday, August 25, 2012

Surveying the Ideological Landscape

It's election year and so the ideological landscape of the island becomes far more vibrant than usual. When I say vibrant I don't mean that ideas are exchanged in a more honest and open way or that ideological transformations will take place in an easier way. I mean instead that the mentioning and invoking of ideology becomes more open and comfortable. The calling of people out. The feeling that certain things that may not normally matter much to you, all of a sudden do. The focusing in on certain details in order to make an argument for what sort of citizen and civil subject you are.

When its not an election year do people care that much about where politicians stand on issues? They probably should, but do they really? When an election comes around they probably still don't really care, but now there is a feeling that you are supposed to show you care. You are supposed to pretend that you care. You wouldn't want people to think that you are a pointless lump of flesh that has no idea what is going on around them right? You wouldn't want to be the person that people point to in the office to prove how democracy is a waste, because people like you are so apathetic and lazy that it screws up the whole system.

So for a couple months every two to four years you randomly collect pieces of information. Small tidbits. Things you hear randomly on the radio, on TV, among friends. You also store up faint insights you get while watching an ad or passing by a candidate's sign by the road.

The most wonderful part of this though is that while you might not normally care about politics, no gaihinasso na politician will call you out on this. You can approach them with all manner of questions and queries and they are expected to respond in a rational and interested manner.  That's why I often create assignments for my classes at UOG for an election year that are geared towards forcing students to engage with politicians. They have to interview them, they have to learn about their positions on things, the accomplishments, if any that they can be proud of.

It is important to use this season in the name of certain truths, but what tends to happen is that things get lost in the ideological haze. People are challenging candidates from so many angles that it is easy to forget that although ideology is everywhere, everything that is ideological is not the same thing. My students when discussing history often times invoke the mantra that there are "two sides" to every story, which is both true and very misleading. Even if there are multiple sides, or at least two sides to every event, that does not mean that those stories are equal. It does not mean that you should value them the same and that you should cancel them out. There are different types of ideological statements, and so you shouldn't cram them into machines for formulating false equivalency and you shouldn't just cast them aside because you may not accept the framework for their genesis.

This was precisely what happened last week when two surveys meant to provide insights into the ideology and psychology of the candidates were distributed. A survey by We Are Guahan meant to gauge the support that candidates have or do not have for certain aspects of the the proposed military buildup to Guam was publicized first. Later a survey from the local Chamber of Commerce was distributed to gauge how much candidates supported the militarization of Guam. The Marianas Variety in two editorials pasted below argued that both surveys were polarizing, turning a very grey issue into something that they demanded be black or white. They politely condemned both for pushing too hard their particular ideological position and that they were doing a disservice to their causes by not giving candidates more wiggle room on such a monumental and complicated issue.

If you pay close attention to the two surveys, while both are crafted in a way to help reveal whether or not a candidate is on their side, one survey is productive and constructive, the other isn't. The We Are Guahan survey is built upon the proposed components of the buildup. It places the reality of the buildup in simple black and white equations and a candidate then has to answer whether or not they think the buildup is worth the price the equation requires be paid. It is born from a position that does assume the buildup isn't worth it, but the objectivity of the survey is that they are not "making up" the costs and the potential damages. Those things are objective, they are just reminding you about them in their survey.

The Chamber of Commerce survey doesn't allow any complexity but seems to be a more refined version of the the petition circulated last year by Para Hita Todo. They are not interested in doing much of anything it seems, except getting people to argue that the military buildup and any military buildup is good for Guam. One survey has the potential to educate, the other simply calls for people to accept their ideological position. The We Are Guahan survey is not meant to make politicians go against the buildup, but just meant to make them consider the potential costs. It is meant to make them think about the buildup. The Chamer survey is not.

Articles about both surveys can be found below:

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We Are Guahan crafts buildup survey

Posted: Aug 15, 2012 4:34 PM Updated: Aug 15, 2012 4:34 PM
by Ken Quintanilla

Guam - The We Are Guahan organization has sent a survey to all candidates running for office this year about issues related to the military buildup.  Specifically, the survey asks candidates to share their views on the Department of Defense expanding beyond its existing footprint, the potential destruction of reef at Apra Harbor, the potential economic benefit of the buildup, and funding for impacts on services that much of our community relies on, such as the hospital, public schools and roads.

Member Cara Flores-Mays told KUAM News, "The buildup and the decisions that our elected officials make will impact everything on this island and will impact everyone in this community, and so the goal of the survey is just for voters to make an informed choice in the upcoming elections."

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Survey disservice

  • Friday, 17 Aug 2012 03:30am 
  • Editorial
  • VARIETY NEWS STAFF
  • These are fine ideas on which the candidates will certainly have some thoughts. But then We Are Guåhan presents them with five yes or no, take it or leave it questions allowing for no contextual analysis, no shades of opinion, and no information about what the candidates really think.

    Here are the questions:
    • Do you support the Department of Defense getting more land?
    • Do you support the destruction of over seventy (70) acres of coral reef to accommodate a nuclear aircraft carrier?
    • Should the Department of Defense pay for impacts on our water system, wastewater system, roads, port, schools and hospital?
    • Do you believe most people on Guam will benefit economically from the buildup?
    • Do you support the military buildup?
    There they are, five yes or no questions. And in bold type the survey says “any other answer will be deemed nonresponsive.”

    Well, that’s a little tough. The military buildup and its impact on our island is a big, complex issue. Only a couple of these questions can easily be answered with a yes or no, and probably none of them should be. The answers need a bit more explanation. Any candidate who responds that succinctly is not being fair with these issues, or with the public that may look to them for guidance.

    We think We Are Guåhan is painting itself into a corner with a survey such as this. Some of the questions contain pejorative words or are structured to produce a particular answer. Nobody is going to say they support the “destruction” of coral reef, for example. That is, unless it is militarily necessary to home port an aircraft carrier here and the dredging and enlarging of the harbor is unavoidable.

    As with most controversial issues, some give and take must be allowed in order to reach a community consensus on what should be done. We don’t know whether consensus on the buildup is what We Are Guåhan seeks, or whether they are simply trying to brand candidates with a label – for or against, yes or no.

    If we were running for public office, we would decline to respond to any survey or question that only allowed for such an arbitrary response. Complicated issues require a little more time, a few more words than a mere up or down, a show of hands.This survey is a disservice to the candidates, and to the public.

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

    Candidates surveyed on buildup

    WE ARE Guåhan is surveying all senatorial and congressional delegate candidates to find where they stand with regard to the military buildup.

    Leevin Camacho, one of the leaders of We Are Guåhan, said some candidates have been very clear about what parts of the buildup they have identified issues with.

    “However, they don’t explain what their concerns are. So we’ve gone out of our way to identify concerns that other elected officials have identified, whether it is through legislative resolution or comments made during the last two years,” Camacho said.

    The survey, which is comprised of five “yes” or “no” questions, asks candidates to share their views on the Department of Defense expanding beyond its existing footprint, the planned destruction of reef at Apra Harbor, potential economic benefit, and funding for impacts on services that much of the community relies on, such as the hospital, public schools and roads.

    “The decisions that our elected leaders make about the buildup will have long-term impacts on our environment, economy, culture and lands,” said We Are Guåhan member Cara Flores-Mays.

    “The goal of this survey is to provide voters with information to help them make an informed decision during the upcoming elections,” she added.

    The deadline for the survey to be turned in is no later than 5 p.m. on Aug. 21. Responses can be made via email at cflores@weareguahan.com or via facsimile at 472-8896.

    Camacho said they should have the answers to the survey completed within a week after the survey results are submitted.

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

    "We Are Guåhan" Conducting Survey of Candidates about Military Buildup Issues

    Guam News - Guam News
    Guam -"We Are Guahan" has announced that they have sent out a survey to all the candidates running for office this year seeking their views on the military buildup.
    The survey asks 5 yes or no questions ranging from the proposed acquisition of GovGuam and privately-owned property, to the proposed dredging of a reef in Apra Harbor and the funding for civilian infrastructure.
    READ the "We Are Guahan" survey HERE   
    "We Are Guåhan" member Cara Flores-Mays is quoted in a release as saying that "the goal of this survey is to provide voters with information to help them make an informed decision during the upcoming elections.”
    The 5 Questions Are:
    1. Do you support the Department of Defense getting more
    land?
    Yes No
    2. Do you support the destruction of over seventy (70) acres of coral reef to accommodate a nuclear aircraft carrier?
    Yes  No
    3. Should the Department of Defense pay for impacts on our water system, wastewater system, roads, port, schools and hospital?
    Yes  No
    4. Do you believe most people on Guam will benefit economically from the buildup?
    Yes  No
    5. Do you support the military buildup?
    Yes  No
    READ the release from "We Are Guahan" below:

    PRESS RELEASE FROM WE ARE GUÅHAN
    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: August 15, 2012

    We Are Guåhan Conducting Survey of Candidates about Military Buildup Issues

    "We Are Guåhan" has sent a survey to all candidates running for office this year about issues related to the military buildup.
    Specifically, the survey asks candidates to share their views on the Department of Defense expanding beyond its existing footprint, the planned destruction of reef at Apra Harbor, potential economic benefit, and funding for impacts on services that much of our community relies on, such as the hospital, public schools and roads.

    “The decisions that our elected leaders make about the buildup will have long-term impacts on our environment, economy, culture and lands,” said We Are Guåhan member Cara Flores-Mays.  “The goal of this survey is to provide voters with information to help them make an informed decision during the upcoming elections.”


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

    Who will sign it?

    THE Guam Chamber of Commerce has sent a letter to each candidate for the 32nd Guam Legislature, asking them to consider the following proposition:


    “The realization by the United States government that Guam must play a strategic role in the defense of U.S. interests presents the people of Guam with challenges and opportunities that will have a lasting impact on Guam’s place in U.S. and world history, a history that will be made with us or without us. I believe that it is in Guam’s best interest to seize the opportunity. I support any program by our military to enhance its presence in the Mariana Islands.

    It is certainly a noble opportunity to serve our country’s interests as well as our own. But more importantly, it is an opportunity to strengthen our economic and social well being and widen our horizons for the benefit of all Guamanians and their future generations. Our hope is that this will open the doors, too long closed to us, to being recognized as a constructive and integral part of the United States, with full grant of all constitutional rights of citizenship and representation.”



    The candidates are asked to respond by this Friday indicating whether they support this proposition, signing their name to whatever choice they make. At next week’s Chamber meeting, the responses – including any non-response – will be publicly announced to the membership and the island. The solicitation is signed by Mark J. Sablan in his capacity as current chairman of the Chamber's board of directors.

    Here’s how one observer reacted upon seeing the letter: “Seriously? Any program? With no exclusion for chemical/biological/nuclear weapons testing? Or a Guantanamo-like prison? Or establishing a few toxic waste dump sites? I’m not trying to stir up more trouble, but it seems to me that their closing sentence says we should seek statehood. I’m not against a change in our status, but I do support the people, not the Chamber, making the choice.”

    Indeed. This letter from the Chamber of Commerce ranks right down there with the yes-or-no questionnaire sent to all the candidates by the We Are Guåhan organization last week. Both are unacceptable.

    These issues are not black or white, either-or questions; they are complex and shaded in gray.

    This is just another attempt to brand the candidates with a scarlet letter – for or against the buildup. We’re glad we’re not running for office, given this level of polarization, but if we were, we would not sign this proposition any more than we would respond to the yes-or-no questions. These kinds of things are intended to stifle debate, not promote it, and should be ignored.

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

    Republicans respond to Chamber position letter

    REPUBLICAN Party Chairman Mike Benito yesterday announced the party is in unity with the Guam Chamber of Commerce in supporting the Guam buildup.

    Benito said, however, that the party is asking for a slight revision.

    “We have had the opportunity to review the Chamber’s proposition, but have requested that a single word be removed from the pledge, as it may be taken or used out of context,” Benito said.

    Benito was referring to the word “any” in a sentence that states “I support any program by our military to enhance its presence in the Mariana Islands.”

    But Benito stressed the Republican Party is in full support of the military buildup and that it is a key component of the party’s platform, which emphasizes that a Republican majority will work collaboratively with the federal government and the Department of Defense to bring the buildup back on track.

    “The Guam buildup is critical in creating a prosperous economy that will sustain our growing community,” Benito said.

    “We will leverage the buildup to create a strong and vibrant economy that supports higher paying jobs for our families, and opportunities that will encourage Guamanians living abroad to return home,” Benito added.

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

    GOP wants buildup pledge modified

    Posted: Aug 24, 2012 10:32 AM 
    KUAM News
    by Sabrina Salas Matanane

    Guam - Republican Party of Guam chairman Mike Benito says the party is unified with the Chamber in supporting the Guam buildup, but is requesting a revision to the pledge, asking that a single word be removed. In the sentence that states "I support any program by our military to enhance its presence in the Marianas island". Again the GOP wants the word "any" removed from that specific sentence.
    Meantime Benito says the party supports the buildup and that it is a key component of the party platform.  As for the Democrats, buildup chair Senator Judi Guthertz says she advocates a win-win buildup that will beneficial and positive for all of the people of Guam, military and civilian a like.
    As for Majority Leader Rory Respicio he declined signing the chamber survey but he agrees with most of what is set out in the proposition with respect to the buildup as long as it is done right, to the benefit of both military and civilian communities.

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