Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Gangjeong Dreams

My pare' Julian Aguon always talks about people on Guam today having no imagination. How they cannot see the world as having any richness or possibility, especially in a local context. They see the world through dependency and inadequacy, and as such everything around them, especially the future is fearful and frightening. You feel like you can't do anything because the delicate threads that you depend upon might snap if you do. 

I agree with this metaphor for understanding things on Guam, but I often use "dreams" instead. Dreams are closely related to imagination. Imagination is what you can see, how you can stretch what you take as given in the world and expand it and push it, and hopefully yourself further. Dreams are what you see as possible, viable or beautiful as you move towards the future. It is a question of desire and what you want. Imagination is what you can want, dreams are an indication of what you want and where you see yourself moving in order to obtain it. 

"The American Dream" is the most famous dream on Guam right now, although Governor Eddie Calvo is pushing hard for something called "The Guamanian Dream." Dreams are meant to be something very intimate to you, so much so that you may not even fully be able to understand them. They may actually consume you and end up dictating things about you and how you live your life, without you even realizing it or understanding it. For example, where do people get their ideas of happiness or comfort from? What are the dreams that they are connected to that give them the direction through which they will strive in life? On Guam so much of the dreaming that people do in the past century is about Americanizing. It is about reaching for the United States and becoming more like the United States. These sorts of dreams can animate you to a certain point, but then they actually start to drain you of life. They actually start to torment and haunt you, especially if there is something so ridiculously obvious in front of you that is telling you they aren't real or they can't come true. 

Dreams are also important in solidarity work and in trying to connect communities, create bridges between them. I often use that metaphor in order to make people understand how I feel we can form real, strong and productive solidarity between for examples communities in the Asia Pacific region that host US bases. The answer is finding a way to share the same dream. To visualize us moving in the same direction towards the same point. Perhaps a more peaceful world? One where controversial bases are closed? Where militaries are used for defensive and not offensive purposes? A world where the interests of the common man trump military industrial complexes?

Whatever form it takes, these dreams are crucial. And it is not that you see yourself or your land or your island in that dream, but that there are others there as well. That you bring others with you and feel that their fate is yours as well. There are a handful of places across the Asia Pacific that I dream regularly about. For years it was Okinawa, as I saw Guam and Okinawa as being so similar, the much discussed military buildup just the most recent connection. Since 2010 I've also felt a connection to Jeju and the village of Gangjeong, where there has been some very passionate resistance to the construction of a joint US and South Korean Navy base.

I've written about it on this blog and I've also posted some information about the protests and crackdowns there. Earlier this year I was asked to write a letter for a Jeju/Gangjeong Solidarity website/newsletter. I've pasted it below.


by Michael Lujan Bevacqua

For many in the Asia-Pacific region, Guam is “where America’s Day Begins” and a tourist paradise. When there is discussion as to where countries like South Korea or Japan should put unwanted US bases, Guam is always mentioned due to its close proximity to Asia. There is a danger to this sort of discussion as Guam’s status today is very complicated, especially in terms of its relationship to the US military.

Guam is not “a part” of the US, but rather territory “owned” by the US. First taken as in 1898 during the Spanish American War, it has been militarized to the point of becoming “the tip of America’s spear” today, where 28% of its 212 sq. miles host US military bases. The relationship between the US and Guam is a colonial one as the US Federal government can pass any law over Guam even though Guam has no representation in the Federal government and does not even get to vote for the President.

In 2005 the US military first announced a massive troop buildup to Guam that promised to bring billions of dollars to Guam’s economy. But as the years passed and people learned more and more about what the buildup would entail, they began to realize that it would damage the coral reefs, drive up the cost of living, overcrowd the hospitals and schools, and place more land behind military fences, they began to turn against this buildup.

A key point in the struggle is an area in northern Guam called Pagat, which the military planned to turn into living firing ranges for Marines who would be transferred from Okinawa to Guam. Pagat is considered to be a sacred place full of spirits. When the people of Guam realized that this sacred place could be in range of the 10 million bullets the US military planned to fire each year, they began to protest. Pagat became a great symbol for how the people of Guam, their interests and their concerns were not included in this military buildup. As a territory, a contemporary colony, Guam is not supposed to have a say over how its colonizer uses it.

It is for this reason that the solidarity networks across the Asia-Pacific need to be strengthened. So that we can see our islands such as Guam, Jeju and Okinawa as connected through militarism, and work effectively for our collective demilitarization and decolonization.

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