Thursday, August 30, 2012

Delegate Debate



The delegate race has been unfolding in an interesting way in recent weeks.

For the first time ever Congresswoman Bordallo has a significant challenge for her re-election as Guam's non-voting delegate.

Frank Blas Jr. is challenging her on the Republican side, but their dialogue has been muted as Bordallo faces off two other challengers, one from within her own party and another an independent wild card. When the primary is over than the real race may be beginning. Delegates tend to have an incept date (Bladerunner reference) of 10 years, and so if Bordallo can survive this challenge, she'll have surpassed Won Pat, Blaz and Underwood in terms of longevity.

Karlo Dizon has shown himself to be very measured and intelligent in terms of addressing the issues, but to me he seems to suffer the populist, everyday appeal to changes someone from someone that a voter may find interesting, to someone they are excited to hand their vote to. In most circles you might refer to him as appearing to be too "wonky" or someone who focuses too much on the details of policies and the ideological artifacts that political communication is supposed to be about, and doesn't have much vibrancy in terms of the art of political communication that is what actually engages voters.

I don't think he's done enough this election to weaken the political legacy that is Madeleine Bordallo, but he'll definitely be poised well to try again at a future date.

Jonathan Diaz was the wild card in this race. He had the chance to make an intervention that was truly outside of the two party system, and in some ways he accomplished this. In the video from PNC embedded above he manifested this well, by stepping down from the stage to walk before the people in the crowd, standing at their level. It was an act that was meant to punctuate his statement that he is one of the crowd, one of the people, not one of the political class, the ones that people always complain about as ruining this island.

But this message hasn't been able to make much of a dent in the conversation as Diaz has been haunted ever since by his remarks that if Congresswoman refuses to debate him that she should undergo a psychiatric examination. Diaz proposed himself as a grassroots candidate, someone who is of the people, for the people, but his choice in rhetoric and his approach makes him seem very isolated and alone. Running as an independent candidate already makes it seem as if you are without friends, as you are counted outside the two-party framework, but given that immediate disadvantage, you have to work to build a coalition that will stand for you and represent you, so that people don't see you as a lone wolf, as someone that it is pointless to take a chance on.

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Students Grill Delegate Candidates
Jerrick Sablan
Guam PDN
August 30, 2012

Students from Simon Sanchez High School grilled the candidates running for Guam's delegate seats on issues that they felt were important at a candidate forum yesterday.

Among the issues was financial aid for college-going students and self-determination for the island.
An Advance Placement Government class taught by Andri Baynum hosted the candidate forum at the Yigo gym last night.

Guam Delegate Madeleine Bordallo, Democratic candidate Karlo Dizon, Republican candidate Sen. Frank Blas Jr., and Independent candidate Jonathan Diaz attended the event.

Baynum said the forum was an opportunity for the students to get involved in politics first-hand.
Baynum said it was a great opportunity to teach government since both the primary and general election during this first semester give the students a chance to participate in different parts of the election process.

"This forum is held in the spirit of education and understanding," Baynum said.

There was a significant crowd in the Yigo gym with each candidate having a set of bleachers with supporters wearing shirts or holding up signs showing their support.

Bordallo's supporters came out in red shirts. Blas gave out free fans to the crowd, which helped in the non-air-conditioned gym. Diaz had a sign that had a play on words saying "Buenas Diaz," with a sun in the background, when translated from Chamorro means "good morning." Dizon's supporters held up signs supporting their candidate.

The forum also attracted people from the community, including Yigo resident Gloria Subido and her daughter Danielle Subido, a freshman at the University of Guam. Both women said they were eager to learn more about the candidates.

Danielle Subido was interested in the candidates' stance on financial aid, self-determination, and what the candidates thought about the Jones Act -- which increases the cost of goods to Guam.
Each candidate had 5 minutes to introduce himself or herself to the audience.

Dizon, a graduate of Simon Sanchez High, told the crowd that he's proud to be a product of the Guam public school system and hopes to bring new leadership the delegate office.

Blas noted that his years of leadership in both the government and private business give him the background to provide the leadership and action needed to be an effective delegate.

Bordallo spoke up to say her years of experience -- not just in Washington, D.C., but also as a senator in the Guam Legislature, as a first lady and lieutenant governor -- will continue to help her push forward issues important to Guam.

Diaz told the audience that he was one of them. Stepping down from the stage he said what sets him apart from the other candidates is he doesn't need to stand on a pedestal or stage.

A member of the student panel asked how the candidates would help a senior seeking financial aid for college.

Dizon said he'd push for more funding from the federal government. Blas said he would make it a priority to help students get the money they need to further their education. Bordallo said her time in office has shown she supports Guam students and noted she has helped ensure student loan interest rates are low. Diaz said he'd push for a card that students would use at businesses where 10 percent of the purchase would go to a fund specifically for local student education.

The primary election is set for this Saturday at various polling sites throughout the island.



Monday, August 27, 2012

To Support, or Not to Support

There has been so much discussion lately about the "positions" of people, especially politicians on the military buildup. The concept of the buildup has been discussed so much for the past seven years, you could think there might be nothing left to say. You might assume that after years of debates, revelations, protests and so on, we might have finally come to the point where the buildup might hold no new ideological turns. It might just simply be a thing that has been hollowed out of all ideological ore and so people can speak about it in banal and normal ways.

You could assume these things and for the most part you'd be right. The years of debate did help bring into the world and into reality the buildup as an idea. Less people believe the hype about it and I mean this on both ends of the ideological spectrum. Less people believe in the buildup as a golden ticket, but also far fewer people believe in it as a rampaging beast. In the early days of buildup discussion so much of it focused on two fantasies, the first that all Guam's economic problems will be solved by it, and second that the Marines will go around raping everyone and pillaging Chamorro culture. Both were not true of course. There was some truth to both, but the scales were always tipped to feel as if the golden ticket fantasy was more true and the concern about militarisitic violence was just the racism of anti-American fringe elements.

Today neither fantasy holds much weight in Guam. If you say either thing in an ideologically mixed group of people you are probably going to get alot of rolled eyes and polite disengagements. As I've written before in many different ways, this disenchantment with the buildup is a good thing. It means that you can talk about it as a real, actual thing. Not something with supernatural evil or good powers, but just something that is out there and can be either good or bad depending on circumstances. The buildup may be good for some, not for others. It can damage some things, help with other things. Getting to the point where the fantasy, the smoke and mirrors around it no longer function is important since then you can actually talk about it.

But for the sectors of society who were most invested in supporting the buildup and making it a reality, they refuse to accept this as being an improvement or as something good. They in fact lament these realizations. The community has become more even keeled and constructive on the buildup, and don't just blindly support it, and for those who want the buildup this understanding is terrible. They want to blame it as ruining everything. They want to pretend that the buildup was slowed or isn't happening because people lost their faith in it or hurt the feelings of the United States and so they are punishing us by withholding their buildup love.

They are rearing their heads this election. For the past few months letters to the editor have appeared, Lee Webber's column in the PDN constantly takes this position and we hear more and more people arguing about punishing politicians (electorally), in particular Democrats who were critical of the military and the buildup. There is nowadays are renewed emphasis on trying to get people to say the right thing about the buildup and renew their blind faith in the military and its ability to save the island (economically). The Chamber of Commerce survey was a clear example of this. While it contains elements of the ideological unpacking of the buildup that has taken place over the past few years, the reference to insisting a candidate support "any" form of militarization reminds us again that those who enthusiastically supported the buildup had few facts or objective arguments on their side, but rather ran fueled by faith and dreams. Simply support the buildup, have faith in it and everything will be ok.

The past few months have been hysterical listening to the attacks on these politicians, painting them as being anti-American or anti-buildup. The "Fab Five" are often the object of these assaults. There are mentions of them verbally attacking Department of Defense officials. Making military people feel unwelcome on Guam. Helping to damage the patriotic luster that some on Guam try to contain. From these attacks you might think that the Rory Respicio of today is the Angel Santos of the 1990's. From these characterizations you might think that Judi Won Pat is being treated like her father was in the late 1940's when he was condemned as a "communist" by the US Navy. The rhetoric makes it seem like these politicians hang out at anti-buildup parties and love to show off their "F**K the Buildup" shirts.

What is hilarious about all of this is that none of these politicians are actually against the buildup. Of all the recent Senators in the Legislature Ben Pangelinan is the one who comes closest to "being against the buildup." All others however have expressed reservations and been critical of it, but have never come out against it. This is a key point in understanding how the pro-buildup position is primarily about faith and not fact. If the buildup is a real, concrete thing then "supporting" it is irrelevant, especially when Guam has little to no say in it. Supporting it doesn't make it better, doesn't make it so that it'll make Guam more prosperous. Support for the buildup is only necessary for maintaining and keeping alive the fantasy. As an actual process you can judge it as being good for something or bad for something, but loving it and wishing it were something, doesn't do much in terms of improving it as a process.

Someone who has been at the center of this storm of "supporting" or "not supporting" the buildup is Senator Judith Guthertz, the chair of the committee on military issues. She has always been in favor of the buildup, but also written about certain aspects that she found troubling. She has been singled out in many ways for attacks because of the many letters she has written protesting certain things and her office likes to make sure that the media knows about every letter that she writes. When something is a fantasy the reality of it doesn't matter, but rather the ideological layer that makes it seem to hum with vibrant life. That vibrant layer is affecting by things such as faith, and so while if you pay attention to everything Guthertz has said since 2007 she has been very consistent on supporting the buildup as it is a "win win" for the island and for the military. If you wanted to quantify her rhetoric into a number of how much she supports it, it isn't 100%, but it is definitely more than 50%. It is probably somewhere in the 70% or even 80%. She definitely supports the buildup, but she becomes a problem because her refusal to support the buildup wholeheartedly, her refusal to be a "true believer" in it, starts the process of fading that ideological luster.

Below is her response to criticism that she's been receiving that she has "changed" her stance on the buildup, and now supports it where in the past she was against it. 

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

Military buildup stance has been constant

2:00 PM, Aug. 25, 2012  |  

Guthertz
Lee Webber, the retired publisher of the Pacific Daily News, contends in his column of Aug. 23 that I have experienced "a change of heart" and suddenly decided to support the Guam military buildup/realignment. This is based on a letter I wrote concerning use of CNMI airports to divert plane traffic in the event of a typhoon or attack on Guam and not part of military buildup plans at all.
As the record that Webber either doesn't share or doesn't know shows, I, as well as the Guam Chamber of Commerce, have supported the proposed military buildup from the beginning of the discussions in 2007, provided that it is reasonable and fair to the people of Guam.

As Webber said, the Guam Chamber has asked candidates for the 32nd Guam Legislature to answer yes or no on whether they support a "proposition" in favor of "any program by our military to enhance its presence in the Mariana Islands."

Two statements from 2007 show that I and the Guam Chamber have long shared similar positions and support a military buildup that is a "win-win" for both the military and the people who make their home in Guam. That is not a statement approving everything the military wants to do in advance, as Webber and some of his like-minded colleagues are demanding from Guam's elected leadership.

April 2007: "I want it well understood that I fully support the movement of the 8,000 Marines and their dependents from Okinawa to Guam. As a patriotic American and a devoted Guamanian I believe that we will welcome our Marines 'home' with our noted hospitality." (My statement).

Aug. 13, 2007: "The Guam Chamber of Commerce pledges its full support for the planned U.S. military buildup, subject to the reasonable adjustments required to satisfy mutual concerns of the military and residents of Guam and the CNMI." (Statement by Stephen Ruder, chairman of the Guam Chamber of Commerce Board).

When I became chair of the Guam Military Buildup Committee of the Guam Legislature in 2009, I again took the position that Guam should benefit from the buildup: "Our primary responsibility will be to make sure that Guam truly benefits from the buildup. The motto for the committee is 'If it is not win-win, we both lose.'"

And this was echoed in a 2010 "white paper" by the Guam Chamber of Commerce supporting the buildup: "We believe that it is in our interests, the interests of the larger community that we serve and, in many respects, the interests of the government of the United States and its Department of Defense (DOD) to adjust the proposed actions in such a way as to enhance the benefits and reduce the potential negative impacts of said actions for Guam's civilian community."

As I told the Guam Chamber of Commerce in my submission this week, these statements by both myself and the Chamber "reflect positions that emphasize support for a positive and sustainable buildup. I continue to stand by my statements and I applaud the Chamber's like-minded position -- they read just as well today as they did when they were originally made."

The Chamber's proposition also suggested that if Guam allows the military to do anything it wants with no advance conditions, it will help us win U.S. statehood. I've been an active and vocal supporter of Guam statehood for many years, and while I agree with the Chamber's hope that support of the Guam military buildup would be a factor that "will open the doors, too long closed to us, to being recognized as a constructive and integral part of the United States," no true U.S. entity with full representation and constitutional rights would be expected to agree to such conditions as allowing the military to do absolutely anything it wants to do in Guam.

Reasonableness and fairness to the people of Guam must guide the military in designing and executing the military buildup in Guam. This is the commitment made by Department of the Navy Undersecretary Robert Work to all Guam residents during his visit to our island in January 2011. This has been and continues to be my position since the beginning of the buildup discussions in 2007.

Judith P. Guthertz is a senator in the 31st Guam Legislature.

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.

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    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.

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    "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.

    Thursday, August 23, 2012

    Mensahi Ginnen I Gehilo' #5: Not Just for Protestors


    Mensahi Ginnen I Gehilo’ #5
    "Not Just for Protestors"

    The Independence Task Force for Guam has been meeting for several months now and we finally held our first event in July. Days after Liberation Day supporters for Independence as Guam’s next political status gathered early in the morning to pick up trash along the beach and road in Hagatna. Twenty-two volunteers showed up to collect beer cans, cigarette butts, tires, newspaper and all other types of trash. All in all more than a dozen bags were collected. The Mayor’s Office of Hagatna was generous enough to dispose of the trash once the cleanup was over. Jon Guerrero, a recent graduate of the Masters in Clinical Psychology program at the University of Guam was the lead organizer for the event. Guerrero felt it was important to take on an activity like this because people think of Independence as being very abstract, but in truth its really about feeling like you can take care of yourself.

    This is the approach to promoting Independence that the Task Force will be utilizing. Due to misconceptions about what Independence would mean for Guam and the fear that people have of appearing to be unpatriotic or anti-American by discussing it, the idea of Guam becoming Independent is much maligned and in many ways feared. Independence has gained much passionate strength from advocates who insist on righting the wrongs of the past and reminding people of the sins of Guam’s colonizers. As a result people have come to associate Independence with protesting and angry rhetoric, rather than something which holds a great deal of opportunities for Guam to grow and evolve. Seeking Independence for Guam is a sort of protest, it is a protest against the way the US has treated Guam since 1898. But it is also a new beginning for the island. It is something to build upon. As such we cannot be seen as a status for the protestors, but a status that anyone can support.

    The approach we are seeking to take now would naturalize and normalize the idea of Independence for Guam. The beach cleanup was our first attempt to move Independence out of context as being something only an outspoken activist would care about and put it in another context, one where people can more freely consider it or think about it. We pay tribute and honor the generations of activists who endured the criticism and scorn of others in order to bring us to this point where we can discuss more easily ideas such as decolonization and independence. We must build upon that and make these ideas others can take part in.

    Over the next few months we will have more activities, several of which will focus on the village of Umatac, to build upon this strategy.  Stay tuned for more details.


    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. 

    Tuesday, August 21, 2012

    A Punk Prayer

    For those of you who have been hearing about Pussy Riot and their being put in prison, here are some English lyrics to the song that got them convicted of "Hooliganism" motivated by religious hatred.

     freepussyriot.org

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

    Punk Prayer

    By Pussy Riot

    English version by Carol Rumens

    (Chorus)

    Virgin Mary, Mother of God, banish Putin, banish Putin,
    Virgin Mary, Mother of God, banish him, we pray thee!

    Congregations genuflect,
    Black robes brag gilt epaulettes,
    Freedom's phantom's gone to heaven,
    Gay Pride's chained and in detention.
    KGB's chief saint descends
    To guide the punks to prison vans.
    Don't upset His Saintship, ladies,
    Stick to making love and babies.

    Crap, crap, this godliness crap!
    Crap, crap, this holiness crap!

    (Chorus)

    Virgin Mary, Mother of God.
    Be a feminist, we pray thee,
    Be a feminist, we pray thee.

    Bless our festering bastard-boss.
    Let black cars parade the Cross.
    The Missionary's in class for cash.
    Meet him there, and pay his stash.
    Patriarch Gundy believes in Putin.
    Better believe in God, you vermin!
    Fight for rights, forget the rite –
    Join our protest, Holy Virgin.

    (Chorus)

    Virgin Mary, Mother of God, banish Putin, banish Putin,
    Virgin Mary, Mother of God, we pray thee, banish him!

    Sunday, August 19, 2012

    Demilitarization is Not a Dirty Word

    I came across this article pasted below on the blog Ten Thousand Things. It is a great resource for issues of peace and justice in the Asia Pacific. The question of militarism and militarization are so important in this world today because the nature of war has changed. For much of the word war is still bloody and gritty and in your face. But for the First World and its allies they get to embrace a different technological relationship to war, one that makes it far more virtual that real. While soldiers still die and still bleed, much of the war has been privatized and has become digital. It is now easier to wipe humans and communities from the map than ever before. A screen of irreality sits between you and the human lives on the other side. Buttons take the place of weapons, so in a way you actually don't hurt much of anything, tin men and metal birds do it all for you.

    In Guam, a place that sometimes celebrates the fact that it is the tip of America's spear, having a conversation that is critical of militarism is even more difficult. The military makes up a huge part of life on Guam, it supports the economy, gives meaning to people's lives, there is such a strong negative and positive relationship to it. But this intimacy makes it even more difficult to question it, to ask simple questions of what how an excessive amount of military presence might negatively affect the community outside of its fences.

    ****************************
    Demilitarization Is Not a Dirty Word

    HUMAN SECURITY FOR GLOBAL SECURITY: Demilitarization is not a dirty word, nonviolence is not inaction, and building sustainable peace is not for the faint of heart

    by Jody Williams, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate (1997)

    The political, social and economic changes we all face are serious. Some might call the state of the world today chaos. The ongoing, dramatic changes in technology and communications are other elements adding to uncertainty and the feelings of insecurity that people around the globe are confronting. No one can predict the future but we can work hard to shape the outcomes.

    Clearly there are huge obstacles to creating a world of sustainable peace with justice, equality and an end to impunity. A world free of militarism, armaments and the arms trade in which human and other resources are focused on meeting the needs of humanity rather than fueling conflicts and war. A world of sustainable development that nurtures our planet instead of continuing to devastate the environment and threaten life on earth. This will not happen over night. But worrying about the future is not a strategy for shaping it.

    My own work, beginning with protests against the Vietnam War, has been against weapons, war and militarism. It is based on an understanding that sustainable peace is not simply the absence of armed conflict. The absence of armed conflict provides the bare minimum for the possibility of constructing sustainable peace based on socio-economic justice and equality. And to accomplish that we must change the understanding of security.

    For centuries security has been defined as “national security” – which essentially has meant assuring the security of those in power and the apparatus of the state. Defending the state requires military power based on nationalism and patriotism. “Us” against “them.” How else could armies be formed that send other people’s children off to fight battles for resources, territory and to project the power of the state?

    Now, with globalization where all aspects of life are increasingly and more rapidly interconnected around the world, it is time to move away from state-centric security to security based on the individual – “human security” not “national security.” The human security framework understands “security” as directing policies and resources toward meeting the basic needs of the majority of people on the planet: providing decent housing, education, access to medical care, employment with dignity, protection of civil and human rights and governments that respond to the needs of citizens. It means creating a world where people live with freedom from want and freedom from fear.

    One part of being able to create that world is reclaiming and reasserting the meaning of “world peace.” It isn’t meditation, a rainbow with a dove flying over it, or singing peace songs. Nonviolence is not inaction and building sustainable peace must be understood as hard work every single day. We must all be active participants in change for the good. It doesn’t matter what issues people choose to work on – it could be global warming, an end to militarism, an end to poverty, or HIV/Aids for example.

    What matters is that we all work on issues we feel passionate about and that our actions are for the benefit of everyone. By doing that our combined efforts enhance human security. We also must talk about our work in the context of human security so that people become familiar with the concept and understand the various elements that contribute to promoting and protecting human security.

    Another aspect of creating a world based on human security not national security is to tackle demilitarization and the glorification of violence head on. It is an abomination that with the current global economic shake-down, countries still managed to find billions of dollars for weapons and the military while at the same time they are cutting funds for education, health care, job training, social services –the elements of daily life that are the basis of human security.

    Demilitarization is not a dirty word. Civil society and national nongovernmental organization should confront demilitarization in our own countries. At the same time we must collectively press regional bodies such as the European Union, the African Union, the Organization of American States, and so on for global demilitarization. We also have another means of collective action, which is Article 26 of the UN Charter – not that we have illusions about the ability of the UN to seriously work for demilitarization. But every country that joins the UN commits to fulfilling the articles of the charter and Article 26 states:

    In order to promote the establishment and maintenance of international peace and security with the least diversion for armaments of the world's human and economic resources, the Security Council shall be responsible for formulating…plans to be submitted to the members of the United Nations for the establishment of a system for the regulation of armaments.

    In the more than six decades since the establishment of the UN, the Security Council has done absolutely nothing to fulfill its Article 26 obligation. But the member states of the UN have not done a thing to pressure the Security Council on Article 26 either.

    Collectively, global civil society should begin actions to force the Security Council to “formulate plans” under Article 26 as soon as possible. Knowing that they will do everything in their formidable power to continue to ignore those obligations, global civil society should draw up its own plans and recommendations for demilitarization and how to use the resources resulting from demilitarization to enhance global human security. We can develop strategies and tactics around our plans and recommendations to pressure governments nationally, regionally and internationally to begin the process of demilitarization.

    With demilitarization, the possibilities of positive change and human security in our world would be limitless. Humanity has the right to the real security of sustainable peace not the false “security” of militarism, armaments and war.

    Friday, August 17, 2012

    Chamorro Classes for the Fall

    My Chamorro lessons for the Fall start tomorrow, Friday, August 17, 12 noon at Java Junction in the Agana Shopping Center.

    The lessons will be for beginners and are free and open to anyone.

    If you are committed to learning the language and want to be in a supportive environment to learn the rules of grammar and expand your vocabulary, come and join us!

    Wednesday, August 15, 2012

    Sweet Colonial Lies


    A question that more people should ask themselves on island, "Are you down for the movement?"

    You shouldn't downgrade this question to simply asking are you on the side of the people singing, or are you a part of an activist group or a chant group. Although the people who will ask you those things may be avowed members of groups, and may be the one to assert very forcefully and openly that they belong to something, este na kinalamten, ti iyon-niha ha'. This movement is larger than them alone. It is something that has been so long in coming, and has always been here as long as Guam has been a colony. It has taken so many forms, but it is always nurtured forth by the discontent of being ruled by another, being lied to by another, being taken advantage by another, and not getting the basic respect or dignity you deserve.

    Colonization comes with fictions, it comes with dichicheng na mames na dinagi, it comes with so many sweet little lies. When your house is on fire, colonization comes with lies that can make you feel like everything is alright, you don't have to move, you don't have to lift a finger, someone else will save you, nothing is going to happen to you, because so long as the colonizer is in charge, you will always be ok. Colonization is a process that rids the colonized of the feeling of their own momentum. You wait for cues or signs as if the colonizer is God and you hopes and pray that all will be well so long as you are loyal and faithful. This is why "self-determination" is supposed to be essential to fixing the problems of colonialism. Is that the colonized was prevented from moving during their colonization. They were cut off from their resources, their lands, their culture, their destiny and so on. Self-determination is meant to be an act that will create anew their lost momentum. That is what it ideally is supposed to be, but as history as shown, it doesn't always turn out that way, as newly born countries become easily entangled in neo-colonial frameworks, that work suspiciously just like the colonial ones.

    The colonization creates fictions, but it also creates its counter, it creates a movement that moves against it. That is why, even though Guam can be considered one of the luckiest colonies in human history, there can still and should always still be discontent, there should always be a problem with the colonial relationship. The movement that you should ask yourself if you are down with, is the one that is derived from this decolonizing impulse. As people seek to resolve and get past all the trauma of Guam's colonial past, as they seek a better future and not one where they feel hopelessly dependent upon the US, as they seek to be more sustainable and take better care of ourselves, these are all parts of that movement.

    The question that every person should ask is whether or not they are down with this movement? Are they ready to accept that Guam's status should change? Are they ready to accept that the current way of life here is not sustainable? Are they down to do something about this, or will they merely consume more of the sweet, comforting lies of colonization?


    Tuesday, August 14, 2012

    Chamorro Public Service Post #22: Suette Si Nano

    -->
    Juan Malimanga is one of my favorite parts of the Pacific Daily News.

    It serves a couple purposes for me. Number one, it helps me practice my Chamorro everytime I read it. Number two, it sometimes makes me laugh with its silly jokes. That being said, sometimes the jokes confuse the hell out of me because of weirdness in the translation or references to things I'm unfamiliar with. Number three, the comic can be useful for helping to explain certain aspects of the Chamorro culture, especially parts which aren't as commonly references nowadays due to cultural changes. And finally number 4, I use the comic to help teach the Chamorro language. For my Chamorro language classes last year I regularly used Juan Malimanga strips to practice speaking and translating Chamorro. We would work through them panel by panel, until we reach the punchline. This was the moment when most of my students would groan because of the silly pun that joke was based on.
      
    Below is the text from the panels from a Juan Malimanga strip that I read recently.  I've included the translation as well for those who can't read the Chamorro parts. 

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

    Panel 1:

    Nano's dog is chewing on the leg of a sofa.

    Kika: Handa! Handa! Basta mangasngasngas ennao I patas I sufa!

    (Shoo! Shoo! Enough chewing on the leg of the sufa!)

    Panel 2:

    Kika ordering Nano to take his dog away.

    Kika: Nano! Nano! Maila fan ya un konne’ I ga-mu ga’lagu!

    (Nano! Nano! Come and take your dog!)

    Panel 3:

    Juan joins the scene in order to make a joke.

    Juan: Maolek sa’ I pumalu na ga’lagu siha manggaiulo’, lao enao ga-mu Nano siempre bula termites.

    (It's good because other dogs have worms, but that dog of yours Nano is definitely full of termites.)

    Monday, August 13, 2012

    Made in the USA


     As part of his re-election campaign you can go on President Obama’s website and buy a mug that features “Made in the USA” on one side and a copy of his birth certificate on the other. It is meant to be a cute jab at those who continue, despite a mountain of evidence, to claåim that President Obama is not only Muslim and Socialist, but is also Kenyan. It is both astounding and appalling to report that an estimated 1 in 10 Americans and 3 out of 10 Republican believe that Obama was born in Kenya and therefore ineligible to hold his current office.

    While the Obama campaign created this mug as a joke, this refusal to recognize Obama as American is not really funny and is indicative of the racism that still exists in the US. These “birthers” are not just fringe elements, but parts of their beliefs have made it into mainstream Republican talking points. Birthers are racist, but the ideology they draw from is used by far more people than just themselves. Racism is not just vocalized contempt for another race. It is a system of value whereby bodies are assigned certain positive or negative values; where some bodies are considered normal, while others are abnormal.

    After Obama became President we saw a rash of Tea Party-style protests across the country. In a few well-publicized instances where President Obama was speaking, conservatives made a display of openly carrying weapons as they stood outside of the venue. The majority of these protestors were white and they were not arrested and treated respectfully. Can you imagine how the media or the police would respond if a group of young black men showed up brandishing weapons outside of President Bush’s speeches? They would probably be rotting in GITMO right now.

    If we were to compare further the way in which Obama and Bush are criticized we can also see a difference. At worst Bush was a “war criminal” and he was incompetent who may have let 911 happen. But although Bush was terrible he was never not American. For Obama he gets the same antagonistic rhetoric, but it ends not with him being terrible, it end with him being foreign and not belonging.

    In 2009, when Sonia Sotomayor was nominated as the first Latina for the Supreme Court, a former Republican Presidential Pat Buchanan candidate made an interesting comment:
    "White men were 100 per cent of the people that wrote the Constitution, 100 per cent of the people that signed the Declaration of Independence, 100 per cent of the people who died at Gettysburg and Vicksburg, probably close to 100 per cent of the people who died at Normandy. This has been a country built basically by white folks…” 
    Buchanan was upset at the way white people are being marginalized in the US and Sotomayor, with her pride in her ethnicity was evidence of that. It is important not to associate this quote only with Buchanan, as it is something that animates the consciousness of many in the US, and not just those who are white. What Buchanan is arguing is that the US, despite being diverse has been historically strong because of its whiteness, and in today’s multicultural world this fact is often forgotten.

    In Buchanan’s mind what makes America great is its white soul. This is a point that you need not mention in order to accept, but it is based on the idea that the normal, the real Americans are those who are “white.” The Birthers respond to Obama in the Oval Office as a clear threat to that white soul they believe has made America great. He and other ethnic groups tarnish that greatness and dilute and complicate what America has been.

    Whiteness as we know it has only been around for about 150 years, and every step of the way there were people of everything ethnic group there, some forcibly included. Blacks, Latinos, Native Americans and Asians built this country, but unfortunately did so while being chained, displaced and discriminated against.

    Even if most people can agree that Buchanan’s statement is both factual wrong and racist most people accept some version of this as true. In the office of the President there have been over 40 different white men. There have been both good and bad leaders, but scarcely has anyone ever uttered anything close to resembling “can American handle another white male President?” The idea of a white man in charge is the norm in the US, but should a woman or a person of another race occupy that position, people like the Birthers appear.

    Barack Obama represents an important step in challenging the white soul fiction of the US. And since I can’t vote for him in November, I’ll do my part by buying one of those “Made in the USA” mugs.

    Saturday, August 11, 2012

    First Stewards #6: The New Tip of the Spear


    The defining difference between the indigenous person and the settler, or the native and the subject of the modern nation, is the ability to change, to adapt and to grow. The native, the indigenous person is defined in relation to the modern nation as a stagnant thing.
    They have been living in the same place in the same traditional way for centuries, perhaps millenia. They embody old cultures, ancient cultures, and as such are never prepared for the modern world of today. They are the stagnant, stuck images that define the prowess and the adaptability of the modern subject.

    In the case of the United States for example, this relationship is necessary because of the way in which the origin of the nation is inundated with a dependency upon the native. Early settlers of North America struggled to survive and only did so through their cooperation and learning from Native Americans who were already familiar with the land and the climate. Without them the first settlers would have died out, never survived. They were only able to take root because of the pity that Native Americans took upon them.

    The Thanksgiving Holiday is intriguing in the way in which it effectively takes that primal dependency and transforms it into a rite of passage. In most Thanksgiving stories the dependency is largely absent, as is the eventual genocide. What instead becomes front and center is the exchange that takes place between the pilgrims and the natives. That exchange becomes the metaphor for the assumed bequeathing of the land and the destiny of the land from small tribes to the great white country that would later be born. The gifts of ma’ise that the Native Americans gift are in truth the “keys” to the American nation, it is a moment in which they give up their previous sovereign control, that resulted in centuries of charming and quaint stagnation and instead let the white settler take charge and guide the land into a bold new direction.

    It is a similar sort of scene that is portrayed in the infamous Marshall Cases. In a sort of racial/legal alchemy that should leave one breathless, the political gold of treaties signed between Native Americans and the United States become the lead chains that are meant to forever enslave them as subordinate to US Federal interests. The treaties the Native Americans signed and the relationships that they had started to form with the United States were used in the Marshall Cases as evidence of their dependency upon the US, and as evidence that even if they once had sovereignty, that had clearly lost it long ago. This should confuse you since the purpose of treaties is the opposite, it is meant to establish a relationship between equals, but since the US was full of people who wanted Native lands and governments that wanted Native Americans gone, a massive fantasy took the place of truth and has been built upon ever since.

    The Natives, the indigenous people thus become a residue leftover from the birth of the nation. There is an icky, unfortunate quality to their existence. Something that you don’t quite know what to make of. There is also a sort of magical quality to them, because they bear the marks of the birth of the nation and so they also exist to perform the sovereignty of the nation. As the natives that remain even after the nation has surpassed and usurped them, they are stagnant fragments of the nation’s origin that you can still make use of it to reflect back the power and ability of the nation.

    The indigenous person gets stuck in time and stuck in history. The past may belong to them, but the future and the present always belong to someone modern. That is why indigenous people are always supposed to be just about to disappear. The horizon of their non-existence waits just around the corner. Their culture has been disrupted and has been shattered. What they have now are just simple pieces of it. With each generation they become less and less of who they are, always lured away by the promises of the present and the future. The modern ensnares them and pulls them away from their stagnant, grounded culture.

    This is the way things are supposed to be. This is the way that the world and history have been established, especially through the previous epochs of colonialism and imperialism.

    A very different narrative was asserted at the First Stewards Climate Change Symposium, one that inverted this idea in an inspiring and interesting way. While the modern subject may argue its existence as the spear of history, the thing that pierces the veil of the future in the name of all mankind, the thing that can change its stars, determine its own destiny and the destinies of others, we have come to a point in history where this is clearly no longer true. In terms of climate change, global warming, rising water levels and other environmental problems, what we see from the modern world is stagnation and paralysis. They are unable to do much of anything. They can talk big about it, can blame everything under the sun for it, but in the face of the next level of existence, the natural order, mankind, especially in its most modern dimensions appears to be almost pathetic in its inability and stuck in ways that you could easily call criminal.

    Indigenous people on the other hand are the ones who are leading the charge for radical action in terms of climate change. They are the ones who are changing the most and appear to be the most adaptable to the situation. Throughout the First Stewards Climate Change Symposium, stories were told from across the Pacific and the Western United States of communities who were taking aggressive action to try to fix things, to adapt to what is becoming more and more obvious and clear in our lives. Part of the reason is of course because they are being affected the most. They are the ones who depend most directly on certain resources, for example the ocean and the creatures that are in it. For much of the world adverse effects may take much longer in order to be felt as so much of what people eat comes across borders and is dependent upon the exploitation of lands and labor from elsewhere. For a fishing tribe in Alaska the effects of global warming are apparent and clear as land is literally disappearing beneath the water, glaciers are melting at alarming rates and fish are no longer found where they have traditionally been.

    It is an interesting turn of events when the nature of the world is reversed in this way. The question is whether or not those who have placed themselves at the top of the world and oppressed and subdued indigenous people in so many ways, will set aside their pride and allow things to change.

    Friday, August 10, 2012

    Oak Creek

    Sikh Coalition Responds To Tragic Shooting in Wisconsin

    For Immediate Release

    Contact:
    Sapreet Kaur: sapreet@sikhcoalition.org212-655-3095 x 81 (will be forwarded to cell)
    Amardeep Singh; amar@sikhcoalition.org212-655-3095 x 83 (will be forwarded to cell)

























    (New York, New York) August 5, 2012 – The Sikh Coalition, the largest Sikh American civil rights organization in the U.S., has started an emergency response in the wake of the tragic shootings in Oak Creek, Wisconsin this morning.

    With multiple news outlets reporting varying facts on what transpired at the Sikh temple (or Gurdwara) earlier today it remains clear that this story remains an evolving and fluid situation.
    “The Sikh Coalition’s thoughts and prayers are with the victims of the shooting, the Sikh community of Milwaukee, and the larger community of Wisconsin, which we know will stand with their Sikh neighbors with their support and prayers during this very trying time,” said Executive Director, Sapreet Kaur.

    The Gudwara in Oak Creek, Wisconsin was founded in 1997 and had over 400 peaceful worshipers that worked and lived in the greater Milwaukee area. The Gudwara, known as being a wonderful neighbor, had come to represent the valued contributions of the Sikh faith in a community where Sikhism was understood to be another contributing fabric in the cloth of American plurality.
    "I just want to say this temple was built a number of years ago and there have never been any problems with this temple," Oak Creek Alderman Dan Jakubczyk said. "They've been a plus to this city and to my district.”

    With over 25 million followers worldwide, Sikhism is the fifth largest religion in the world, with over 500,000 followers in the U.S. For more information on Sikhism please visit our website here.
    The Sikh Coaliton has been in touch with both the FBI’s Civil Rights Division and the White House and both have promised to continue to be in touch with our staff as they monitor the situation closely. Additionally, the Sikh Coalition is in direct contact with a Trustee of the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin in order to learn more about the shooting before taking further action.

    “There have been multiple hate crime shootings within the Sikh community in recent years and the natural impulse of our community is to unfortunately assume the same in this case. Let’s let law enforcement investigate the case and as new facts emerge the dialogue can change. Americans died today in a senseless act of violence and Americans of all faiths should stand in unified support with their Sikh brothers and sisters,” said Sapreet Kaur.

    The Sikh Coalition has experts available for commentary on Sikhism, Sikh civic engagement, and past incidents of violence directed against Sikhs both in New York and in Washington D.C. For all media inquires please contact Sapreet Kaur: sapreet@sikhcoalition.org, 212-655-3095 x81 or or Amardeep Singh; amar@sikhcoalition.org, 212-655-3095 x83 and somebody will get back to you within 30 minutes.

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

    Americans Stand Together As New Details Emerge on Wisconsin Shooting Suspect
    For Immediate Release
    Primary contact: Satjeet Kaur; satjeet@sikhcoalition.org, 646-845-0630.
    Secondary contact: Amardeep Singh; amar@sikhcoalition.org, (917) 628-0091

    (New York, New York) August 6, 2012 – As details on this tragic shooting and the suspected shooter continue to emerge, law enforcement officials have formally moved to investigate the case as an act of domestic terrorism.

    “We are mindful that law enforcement officials have not yet identified the tragic shooting in Wisconsin today as a hate crime,” said Sikh Coalition's Executive Director, Sapreet Kaur. “However, as the focus of the investigation shifts attention to this possible motive, we want to thank Americans of all faiths and backgrounds for standing with the Sikh community in deploring this act of violence. We encourage your continued support of the Sikh Americans, who are both grieving this great loss and fearful of similar hate aimed at their family members and places of worship.”

    Both President Obama and presidential candidate Mitt Romney have stated in recent hours that they “join Americans everywhere in mourning those who lost their lives” and “that the American people have (the victims) in our thoughts and prayers.”

    The outpouring of support and solidarity is also coming from local Milwaukee faith based organizations, including Milwaukee’s Archbishop Jerome Listecki, the Jewish Community Relations Council and the Milwaukee Jewish Federation, which have all declared their solidarity in the wake of this act of violence.

    “Tonight we are praying for all of the victims, including the courageous officer involved in the shooting, and mourning this senseless loss of innocent lives. We cannot answer all the questions today about why this shooting happened, but we know that with great tragedy comes great responsibility to have a national conversation about the importance of religious diversity. No community should ever be terrorized because of its faith.” said Kaur.

    The Sikh Coaliton continues to be in contact with both the FBI’s Civil Rights Division and the White House. Both have promised to continue to be in touch with our staff as they monitor the situation closely. Additionally, the Sikh Coalition will be flying to Wisconsin on Monday and will be available for media inquiries in New York, Washington D.C., and Milwaukee.

    The Sikh Coalition has experts available for commentary on Sikhism, Sikh civic engagement, and past incidents of violence directed against Sikhs.

    For all media inquires please contact Satjeet Kaur: satjeet@sikhcoalition.org, (646)-845-0630 or Amardeep Singh; amar@sikhcoalition.org, (917) 628-0091 and somebody will get back to you within 30 minutes.

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

     Sikh Community Responds To Evolving Revelations Behind Wisconsin Shooting

    For Immediate Release

    Primary contact: Satjeet Kaur; satjeet@sikhcoalition.org, 646-845-0630.

    Secondary contact: Amardeep Singh; amar@sikhcoalition.org, 917-628-0091

    (New York, New York) August 6, 2012 – As new information about the confirmed shooter emerges, the focus around the tragic shooting has quickly evolved into examining the motivations behind the shooting. New details reported this morning identify the shooter as Wade Michael Page. Page, a 40-year old discharged veteran had reported links to a racist band and at least one Neo-Nazi organization.

    “While we continue to be cautious about rushing to judgment, it is important to note that this is only one of a growing number of incidents of violence that Sikhs have experienced in recent years. Freedom of religion is a fundamental tenet of democracy and it’s incredibly sad that victims were shot down while exercising that right in the peace of their Gurdwara,” said Executive Director, Sapreet Kaur.

    “As we continue to struggle with what happened and support victims and their families, we hope America will be as outraged as we are and urge leaders to take steps to do more to prevent these crimes, promote tolerance and protect the rights of all people,” said Ms. Kaur.

    The Sikh Coalition, partnering with other leading organizations on the ground in Milwaukee, have set up a fund to support the victims and their families and urge Americans of all faiths to stand with the Sikh community in solidarity. To make a tax-deductible contribution visit the website here.

    “Our continued thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families and we continue to be grateful for the bravery and quick action of police officers that responded and the agencies currently involved in getting to the bottom of this case,” said Kaur.

    The Sikh Coalition has experts available for commentary on Sikhism, Sikh civic engagement, and past incidents of violence directed against Sikhs and those experts are available in New York, Washington D.C., and Milwaukee today. For all media inquires please contact Satjeet Kaur: satjeet@sikhcoalition.org, (646) 845-0630 or Amardeep Singh; amar@sikhcoalition.org, (917) 628-0091 and somebody will get back to you within 30 minutes.
     
     **********************

    Sikh Community Invites Americans Nationwide to Join in Interfaith Vigil

    For Immediate Release

    Primary contact: Satjeet Kaur; satjeet@sikhcoalition.org, 646-845-0630.
    Secondary contact: Amardeep Singh; amar@sikhcoalition.org, 917-628-0091

     
    (New York, New York) August 7, 2012 – The Sikh Coalition, in collaboration with local Sikh leaders and partner Sikh organizations, will be holding interfaith vigils across the country on the evening of Wednesday, August 8 in an effort to coordinate a nationwide invitation to a remembrance for the victims and their families of the Oak Creek, Wisconsin Gurdwara massacre.
     
    “A crime like this should be condemned, regardless of what ethnic or religious group is targeted. The shooting is no less or more reprehensible if it was directed against Americans attending a mosque, synagogue, or church. This type of attack is not an attack on one community; it’s an attack on us all,” said Executive Director, Sapreet Kaur.
     
    “As our nation still struggles to comprehend what happened and we continue to support the victims and their families it’s important to send a clear and unified message to those who attempt to divide us with these senseless acts of violence. We will not be divided, we will find hope in a moment of great tragedy, and we will move forward in the belief that freedom of religion remains a fundamental tenet of our great democracy,” said Ms. Kaur.
     
    The Sikh Coalition continues to partner with other leading organizations on the ground in Milwaukee to raise money for the families of the victims and for those who were seriously injured in the shooting. The fundraising effort raised thousands in the first 24-hours on Monday. “The outpouring of support from within the community and from around the nation has been tremendous. The local community will be leading the distribution of funds directly to those families impacted most by the deadly shootings with the goal of providing well needed relief in this time of crisis,” said Coalition’s co-founder Amardeep Singh, who is on the ground in Wisconsin this week.
     
    For more media information about the vigils being planned around the country this week or to speak with one of the Sikh Coalition’s experts that remain available to members of the media please contact Satjeet Kaur; satjeet@sikhcoalition.org (646) 845-0630 or Amardeep Singh; amar@sikhcoalition.org (917) 628-0091.
     
    ***************************

    [CURRENT PRESS RELEASE] Shooter’s White Supremacist Activity Leads Sikhs to Believe Attack was a Hate Crime

    Primary contact: Satjeet Kaur; satjeet@sikhcoalition.org, 646-845-0630.
    Secondary contact: Amardeep Singh; amar@sikhcoalition.org, (917) 628-0091

    (New York, New York) August 7, 2012 – As more information emerges about the white supremacist beliefs of Wade Michael Page, the shooter in Sunday's rampage in Wisconsin, many Sikhs and other engaged communities have come to the conclusion that his attack should be defined as a hate crime.

    “While we understand that all the facts are yet to be determined, there is a growing consensus that hate was a significant motivator in what happened this past Sunday,“ said Executive Director, Sapreet Kaur. "It is tragic, but unfortunately not surprising, that the shooter specifically chose a place of worship to commit this massacre.  If, as it now seems, hate is confirmed as the motivation for what happened here, it is important that we redouble our collective efforts to build a nation where this type of racial and ethnic hate has no sanction,” said Ms. Kaur. 
    The Sikh Coalition, in collaboration with local Sikh leaders and partner Sikh organizations, will hold interfaith vigils across the country on the evening of Wednesday, August 8 in an effort to coordinate a multi-faith nationwide remembrance for the victims and their families of the Oak Creek, Wisconsin Gurdwara massacre.

    “As our nation still struggles to comprehend what happened and we continue to support the victims and their families it’s important to send a clear and unified message to those who attempt to divide us with these senseless acts of violence. We will not be divided, we will find hope in a moment of great tragedy, and we will move forward in the belief that freedom of religion remains a fundamental tenet of our great democracy,” said Ms. Kaur. 

    For more media information about the vigils being planned around the country this week or to speak with one of the Sikh Coalition’s experts that remain available to members of the media please contact Satjeet Kaur; satjeet@sikhcoalition.org (646) 845-0630 or Amardeep Singh; amar@sikhcoalition.org (917) 628-0091.

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