Saturday, February 28, 2015

Surviving Ha'anen Fino' Chamoru Ha'

Ha’anen Fino’ Chamoru Ha’ is just a few days away. I wrote about this in my column last week, but thought I would revisit it again for those who would like to learn more and hopefully participate. 

Ha’anen Fino’ Chamoru Ha’ boils down to this: On March 1st, those who accept this challenge are to spend the entire day only speaking Chamorro or if they are unable to, at least try to use as much Chamorro as possible, as much as they know or can. This challenge means that no matter who you are talking to or where you go on that day, Chamorro is the language that you will be using. If you are ordering food at Kings, do your best to order in Chamorro. If you are using your Whatsapp on that day, Whatsapp your circle of friends in Chamorro. 

After we first announced this challenge, one excited participant, Charmaine West, who currently lives in Idaho created a Facebook page, on which 74 people have already signed up to try their best on Sunday. Charmaine recently became a mother and so that experience has made her realize the importance of passing on Chamorro to her daughter, and so she has become an energetic presence on Facebook for learning and promoting the language. If you are Facebook savvy, please feel free to join the Ha’anen Fino’ Chamoru Ha’ group, people have been posting videos and articles and words of encouragement there. 

This past Sunday, Kenneth Gofigan Kuper and I held a small meeting with potential participants and talked about ways to strategize your interactions on Ha’anen Fino’ Chamoru Ha’, to make sure you get as much out of the experience as possible. For many people, trying to speak Chamorro for an entire day, no matter who you are talking to is a real challenge, but we are hoping people will tackle this challenge and therefore help enhance their own learning. One of the problems that people who try to learn Chamorro have is that English is so pervasive and so seductive, that people don’t push themselves to stay in the Chamorro language, but always switch to English when they have difficulty. This works both ways. Those who want to learn, when they hit a speed bump there is always the temptation to just switch to English to communicate. For those who know and can teach the language, there is always a feeling that you should just speak English anyways, since then you can be better understood. The problem with this is that no learning in Chamorro takes place. The chance for learning appears, but the ease of English prevents it. 

One reason that we choose to set this challenge for March 1st is because it is a Sunday and many people may be able to more freely organize their schedule on that day. When I am confronted with people who want to learn Chamorro I always tell them to look at their lives, their social network and think of who they know that can speak Chamorro. Begin to spend more time with those people and encourage them to teach you when you interact. For Ha’anen Fino’ Chamoru Ha’, you can easily make a Chamorro language tour of the island. Go and visit a grandparent, an uncle, an aunt, a nino or nina, a co-worker, a cashier at K-Mart, anyone. Design your day to include as many of these people as possible and tell them ahead of time the importance of supporting you and speaking Chamorro to you even if it is difficult. 

For those of you who have an older relative who grew up in the Chamorro language and for whom Chamorro is their first language, consider spending the day interviewing them in the Chamorro language. Have them tell their story, talk about their lives in Chamorro and even if you don’t understand know, make it a personal life goal to learn enough Chamorro to be able to understand what they said. For those elders their stories are often different if spoken in Chamorro, other details are included or excluded, other feelings are emphasized. What better testament to them and goal for yourself than to have them create that record of their lives in the Chamorro language and have yourself work towards unlocking their story?

Finally, on Sunday we shared a list of basic phrases that can help you on Sunday should you accept this challenge. I’ve listed them below. Good luck to all of those who decide to participate in Ha’anen Fino’ Chamoru Ha’. Remember, anggen un lå’la’ gi Fino’ Chamoru, un na’lå’la’ i Fino’ Chamoru.
  1. Hello! – Håfa Adai
  2. What is this? – Håfa este?
  3. What is that (near you)? – Håfa enao?
  4. What is that (away from you and person you’re talking to)? – Håfa ayu?
  5. How do you say________ in Chamorro? – Taimanu un sångan______ gi Fino’ Chamoru?
    Ex: How do you say “deer” in Chamorro? – Taimanu un sångan “deer” gi Fino’ Chamoru?
  6. What does______ mean? – Hafa kumekeilek-ña ______?
    Ex: What does “matatnga?” mean? – Hafa kumekeilek-ña “matatnga?”
  7. Speak to me in Chamorro please- Fino’ Chamoruyi yu’ pot fabot.
  8. Please say that again- Sångan enao ta’lo pot fabot
  9. Slower please – Ladispasiao put fabot.
  10. What are you doing? – Hafa bidadå-mu?
  11. 10. What am I doing? – Hafa bidadå-hu?
  12. Excuse me. - Dispensa’ yu’.
  13. How are you? - Hafa tatatmanu hao?
  14. Can you help me? – Kao siña un ayuda yu’?
  15. I want to know how to speak Chamorro – Malago’ yu’ tumungo’ taimanu fumino’ Chamoru.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Japanese Revisionist History News

At first I was going to put "revisionist history news" as the title for this post, but the more I thought about it, Japan and Germany, those villains of World War II, are cited the most frequently as being the most forgetful and the nations most likely to erase or whitewash their histories. This is a very seductive discursive proposition, because by focusing on the way other nations wish to hide their shameful violent and inhuman past, it can easily make you righteously oblivious to your own nation's terrifying past. The United States certainly shouldn't treat Japan as some terrible white-washer of history, especially when the United States itself is built on genocide and has several national holidays that perpetuate pathetic myths about the origin of the US, rather than acknowledging that genocidal genesis.

Japanese crown prince says country must not rewrite history of WW2
Naruhito makes rare statement on importance of ‘correctly’ remembering Japan’s role in war as right wing attempts to downplay issue of sex slaves.
Agence-France Presse

Japan’s crown prince has warned of the need to remember the second world war “correctly”, in a rare foray into an ideological debate as nationalist politicians seek to downplay the country’s historic crimes.

In an unusual intervention in the discussion, Naruhito’s mild-mannered broadside was being interpreted in some circles as a rebuke to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, a key figure in the right wing drive to minimise the institutionalised system of wartime sex slavery.

“Today when memories of war are set to fade, I reckon it is important to look back (at) our past with modesty and pass down correctly the miserable experience and the historic path Japan took from the generation who know the war to the generation who don’t,” Naruhito said.

The comments, released Monday on the prince’s 55th birthday come as Abe’s controversial views on history roil relations with China and South Korea, and cause unease in Washington.

Abe has openly said he wants a more sympathetic telling of the history of the first half of the 20th century, a period marked by brutal expansionism in Asia and warring with China and the West.

The prime minister last week appointed a 16-member panel to advise him on a statement he is set to make later this year to mark the 70th anniversary of Japan’s surrender.

Abe has said he will largely stand by Tokyo’s previous apologies, but amid growing anger in China and South Korea over the “comfort women” system, speculation is mounting that he will seek to downplay the issue.

Mainstream historians agree that up to 200,000 women, predominantly from Korea, were forced into sexual slavery during the war.

Right wing Japanese insist there is no documentary proof that the Japanese state or its military were involved in the system on the Korean peninsula and reject official guilt.

Both countries will be carefully watching any official pronouncement on the war.

While Japan’s newspapers remained staid in their coverage of Naruhito’s comments, social media users leapt on them.

“This definitely contains a warning against Shinzo Abe, doesn’t it?” tweeted @Kirokuro.
“It is a regular recognition (of history), but these comments by the crown prince stand out because Prime Minister Abe’s views on the constitution and history are outrageous,” said @kazu—w50
Asked about his views on war and peace, Naruhito told reporters: “It was very painful that many precious lives were lost, many people suffered and felt deep sorrow in the world including in Japan.
“It is important that we never forget people who died in the war... (and we must) deepen our appreciation for our past so as not to repeat the horrors of war and to foster a love of peace,” he said.



Historians agree that up to 200,000 women were forced into sexual slavery by the Japanese during World War II. 

The women are thought to be predominantly from Korea.
In many cases, they were lured with promises of work in factories or restaurants. 
But once they were recruited, the women were forced to stay in 'comfort stations' and work as organised prostitutes. 
Research suggests that 75 per cent of 'comfort women' died and others were left infertile or suffering from sexually transmitted diseases.
Some were beaten and killed by officers.
Prime Minister Abe once said: 'There is no evidence to prove there was coercion, nothing to support it.'


China-Japan relations have been strained since the 1937 Nanking Massacre and what China sees as Japan's refusal to acknowledge the extent of what happened there.
Japanese soldiers murdered tens of thousands, or hundreds of thousands, of Chinese soldiers and civilians during the Second Sino-Japanese War.
They were accused of raping local women and widespread looting.
Estimates of the death-toll range from 40,000 to 300,000, but revisionists in Japan have contended it is much lower and even suggested that the event was entirely fabricated.
China sees the denial to acknowledge the extent of the massacre and Japan's reluctance to apologise as insensitive.


Japanese revisionists are demanding comfort women newspaper apology
More than 2,000 people are suing the liberal Asahi newspaper to demand that it place international advertisements apologising for its coverage of wartime sex slavery, saying it has stained Japan's reputation, local media said Thursday. The move is the latest salvo in the battle over Japan's history, which pits an increasingly aggressive revisionist right wing against an ever-more cowed mainstream that accepts the country's guilt over its World War II atrocities.

The group of plaintiffs, including Japanese nationals living in the United States, filed the class action in the Tokyo District Court on Wednesday, according to Japanese newspapers, including the Asahi.
They argued that the Asahi's historical reports on the so-called "comfort women" system were instrumental in forging global opinion that the Japanese state and its military were involved in organising a formalised system of sex slavery.

They also claim that the paper's reports contributed to the drive to build statues of former "comfort women" in California and other US locations, which they say led to their mental distress.

The suit demands the Asahi pay 3 million yen ($253,000) in compensation and place advertisements in major US and European newspapers apologising for the coverage.

Last month, some 8,700 people, including conservative lawmakers and professors, filed a similar lawsuit with the district court against the Asahi.

Despite a dearth of official records, mainstream historians say up to 200,000 women, many from Korea but also from China, Indonesia, the Philippines and Taiwan, served Japanese soldiers in military brothels called "comfort stations".

Most agree that these women were not willing participants and that the Imperial Japanese Army and wartime government were involved in their enslavement, tacitly or explicitly.

Right-wingers, however, say the women were common prostitutes engaged in a commercial exchange, and are fighting a vigorous rear-guard battle to alter the narrative.

The Asahi has become the focus of their ire because it published a series of articles in the 1980s based on the now-discredited testimony of a Japanese man who said he had rounded up Korean women to work in military brothels.

After years of pressure, the paper retracted the articles, and apologised. The company's president also resigned.

Conservatives leapt on the Asahi's climbdown, and nationalist Prime Minister Shinzo Abe -- who wants a more sympathetic telling of Japan's history -- took the move as proof of a smear.

Mainstream Japanese opinion holds that the state was culpable for the system, and rejects the revisionist drive. Supporters of the position say the Asahi articles were not the only basis for their belief.

Last month, South Korean President Park Geun-Hye urged Tokyo to apologise properly to the "comfort women," saying: "If Japan fails to resolve the issue on will not only strain bilateral relations but also put a heavy historical burden on Japan."

The Asahi said it would respond "in a proper manner" when it receives court documents.


 Japanese global PR could misfire with focus on wartime past
By Linda Sieg

TOKYO (Reuters) - A push by Japan to correct perceived bias in accounts of the country's wartime past is creating a row that risks muddling the positive message in a mammoth public relations campaign to win friends abroad.

The PR campaign, which has a budget of over half a billion dollars, comes as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe aims to adopt a less apologetic stance on Japan's actions before and during World War Two and ease the fetters imposed on defense policy by Japan's post-war, pacifist constitution. 

History is hardly the sole focus of the PR program. Many of the funds will be used for soft-power initiatives to cultivate "pro-Japan" foreigners, such as supporting Japan studies at universities and setting up "Japan House" centers to promote the "Japan Brand".

But the government is also targeting wartime accounts by overseas textbook publishers and others that it sees as incorrect and damaging to Japan's image. 

One such effort has already sparked a backlash.

Nineteen historians from U.S. universities have written a letter of protest against a recent request by the Japanese government to publisher McGraw Hill Education to revise its account of "comfort women", the term used in Japan for those forced to work in Japanese military brothels.

The request was rejected. 

"We stand with the many historians in Japan and elsewhere who have worked to bring to light the facts about this and other atrocities of World War II. We practice and produce history to learn from the past," says the letter, a copy of which was seen by Reuters and which will be carried in the March edition of the American Historical Association's newsletter.

"We therefore oppose the efforts of states or special interests to pressure publishers or historians to alter the results of their research for political purposes," it added.

Abe himself has signaled support for the more aggressive PR push. "Being modest does not receive recognition in the international community, and we must argue points when necessary," he recently told a parliamentary panel.

The effort comes at a touchy time as Asia marks the 70th anniversary of World War Two's end with bitter memories not yet laid to rest, especially in China and North and South Korea.

After a decade of shrinking spending on public diplomacy, Japan's foreign ministry won a total 70 billion yen ($590 million) for strategic communications in an extra budget for 2014/15 and the initial budget for the next year from April - up from just 20 billion yen in the initial 2014/15 budget.


Many politicians and officials worry Japan has been outmaneuvered by the aggressive public diplomacy of regional rivals China and South Korea.

"Many countries are investing hugely in this field and we feel we were not investing enough," said a Japanese foreign ministry official.

Conservatives have welcomed the bigger budget but want priority placed on correcting perceived errors about history.

"When we see lots of misunderstanding or prejudice against Japan's history, we'd like to at least set the record straight," said Yoshiko Sakurai, a journalist and head of the Japan Institute for National Fundamentals, a conservative think tank.

"We have already lost (the information war). Now we have to recover," she told Reuters in an interview.

Aware of the danger of a backlash, diplomats seem to have mitigated pressure to make the "Japan House" centers - to be set up first in London, Los Angeles and Sao Paulo in late 2016 - beachheads to market an official view of history. Instead, the facilities could provide what one bureaucrat called a "platform for balanced discussion" on controversial topics, for example, by sponsoring seminars.
Conservative politicians however want bolder steps.

"We are half-satisfied. By mobilizing all means, we must strengthen Japan’s information strategy ... so that in a real sense, we can have (others) properly understand what is good about Japan," said ruling Liberal Democratic Party lawmaker Yoshiaki Harada, who heads a party committee on improving Japan's communication strategy.

Experts said government efforts to seek changes in historical accounts would be counter-productive, since it would keep the issue of Japan's wartime past in public focus.

"Dragging people into a long discussion about history ... seems like they are going to brand Japan with that atrocity in terms of its image," said Dartmouth College professor Jennifer Lind. "It’s a losing battle."

($1 = 118.4800 yen)
(Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan

Monday, February 23, 2015

A Year in Atate

For the past year I have been assisting one of the men who fought the Japanese at Atate, Jose Mata Torres with the publication of his memoirs, “The Massacre at Atate.” Torres was a young man at the time who and wasn’t a main organizer for the attack but he said that he had never felt more inspired or exciting in his life, than to see the men from his village rise up and in order to defend their families and their lives, face off against their violent occupiers. On February 24th at 6:30 in the CLASS Lecture Hall at UOG, the book “Massacre at Atate” is being released. There will be a reading by Jose Torres and then a panel discussion afterwards. Please come and join us for this important step for Chamorro Studies, but also just the remembering of Chamorro history and in turn Chamorro possibility.

As I come near to the end of this project it reminds me of something I posted earlier, last year titled "Three Massacres." It was originally posted on this blog, but I posted it recently on my new group blog Mumun Linahyan as well.


Chamorro Studies has only existed as a program for a short while, but its existence is questioned all the time. During the Chamorro Experience gi Fino’ Chamorro lecture series one elderly Chamorro man asked me flat out, why people should learn to speak Chamorro when the language is clearly on its way out? During the Chamorro Studies launch event, a middle aged Chamorro women asked why a degree in Chamorro Studies should exist when it cannot help you in life. this despite the fact that she had just sat through a panel presentation explaining how it can help you through life. It is interesting because very few students have made these sorts of comments, in fact despite the short existence of the Chamorro Studies program it already has more than 20 majors and minors. On the launch event we held in October of 2013, we signed up 7 majors and 7 minors in a single day. Over the Christmas break in 2014 we signed up more than 10 more. Although it is easy to lose track sometimes, we probably have around 30 majors now.
But for the older generation it is difficult for them to get by the barriers of the past. Those barriers were created by colonization and later on Chamorros themselves came to decorate those barriers and be sentries to defend them. When Chamorros wanted to start creating dances a generation ago in “native” styles and forms, Chamorros gathered to defend that barrier and continue to deprive Chamorros a feeling of sovereignty over their culture and existence. When Chamorros attempt to revive certain customs or bring to life ideas of long ago, they camp out in front of those colonial barriers like scarecrows preventing attempts at decolonization and mocking those who even try.
Colonization creates a place for the colonized and decolonization is challenging that place.
The Chamorro Studies program is the result of so many movements within the University of Guam, within academia in general, within the Government of Guam, within the wider Chamorro community to collect and build upon those shreds of sovereignty. To try to piece them together to create a Chamorro who is not the pathetic caricature of the past. It is a project that can take place on so many levels, but it is a worthwhile one.
The last person who asked me about why Chamorro Studies is important I gave the following answer.
I asked if he knew about the massacres in Malesso that took place during I Tiempon Chapones.
He said of course, almost insulted that I would ask him such a simple and easy question.
So, as we look back in history, what can we learn from those massacres.
He responded, that the Chamorro people suffered greatly during World War II and that the Japanese victimized them and really punished them. In his answer, he interpreted things the way most do, with Chamorros as victims.
I built upon his answer. This is why, in a sense, Guam has developed the way it has. When we look at our history, the history we accept as ours, we see this victimization and we can see why Liberation Day became a celebration of the United States and how it had saved Chamorros.
This led to some back and forth about how Liberation Day doesn’t have to be about the Americans, Chamorros also celebrate themselves on that day. I agreed that more recently the day has had less and less to do with its historical roots and more about community celebration, representation and marketing.
The problem however is that this history we accept as ours is barely ours. It is a poor testament to the experiences of Chamorros then and poor history to chain ourselves to today.
This led to more back and forth about how I was being disrespectful about those who survived the war and how they would never criticize the United States. I deflected this however by asking the man if he knew what the first Liberation Day celebration was like. He wasn’t alive at the time and guessed there was a parade and some troops marching.
I told him no, the first parade accurately expressed the feelings of Chamorros at that time. It was incredibly Catholic and religious. Santa Maria Kamalen was carried at the front of a procession. All the patriotic stuff came later and came about primarily because of certain groups of elite Chamorros who wished to perform a certain relationship to the United States.
The man was flustered, as most people become when they attempt to take stands on things that they don’t actually know much about and their amount of knowledge has just been proven wanting. He wanted to know what all of this had to do with Chamorro Studies.
I returned to the start of the discussion. I asked him again, how many massacres were there in Malesso during the war. He repeated in an irritating way, “two, Tinta and Faha.”
I said, “Wrong. There were three.”
Generally in conversations depending on your level of ideological commitment, you can only have the discursive floor beneath you pulled away so many times because you just have to admit you can’t stand on the basis of your own knowledge anymore. The more ideologically encased build up their own elaborate defenses to keep that from ever happening, but your average person generally isn’t that invested and can be toppled pretty easily.
“Tinta and Faha are the ones that people remember and commemorate because it fits within the idea that the United States saved the Chamorro people, that is why it historically has been given so much attention beyond just the people of Malesso commemorating the loss of their relatives and neighbors. But third massacre is the one that changes everything and should change the way that we think about our past and ourselves.”
The third massacre took place at Atate, except it wasn’t Chamorros who were killed, it was Japanese. Some men of Malesso, under the leadership of Jose Soriano Reyes, known as Tongko, rose up and killed the Japanese guarding them and then took canoes out into the ocean to try to signal the American ships and let them know what was happening on the island.
This story changes everything because this means that Liberation Day actually starts with Chamorros, the people of Malesso who liberated themselves prior to the Ameicans reoccupying the island.”

Sunday, February 22, 2015

No Longer America's Mayor

Ilek-na na Si Rudy Giuliani na ti ha guaiya Si Obama Amerika. Ai adai. Mas put patida este na sinangan kinu minagahet. Parerehu Si Obama yan todu i otro siha na presidenten Amerikanu. Manhongge gi put Amerika na uniku gui', na mas takhilo' gui' kinu todu i otro nasion siha. Lao Presidente Obama mas ti sesso ha puni i isaon Amerika pat i West, lao manhohongge ha' put i uniku-na i US. Gi fino' Ingles ma fa'na'an este "exceptionalism." Gi este na isao i bida-na i US sasahnge yan i bidan-niha todu i otro na nasion siha. Anggen manhatme i US otro tano', sahnge este yan otro na hinatme ginen otro na nasion. Si Rudy Giuliani ha sen hongge este. Anggen i US chumo'gue maolek ha', lao i otro ahe', cha'-niha. Si Obama ha hongge este lokkue', lao i sinangan-na mas mesklao, mas lebok. Ha admite na ti perfekto i US, ti taiisao, lao ha sapopote ha' sinembatgo ayu na hinasso na sina ha cho'gue maseha hafa malago'-na.


Giuliani manages to sink to new depths
Steve Benen

It’s been 18 years since Rudy Giuliani actually won an election, but the former Republican mayor still fancies himself an important political player. Indeed, his self-proclaimed relevance leads him to make all kinds of public appearances, where Giuliani has an unfortunate habit of saying dumb things.
Take last night, for example.
Rudy Giuliani went straight for the jugular Wednesday night during a private group dinner here featuring Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker by openly questioning whether President Barack Obama “loves America.”
The former New York mayor, speaking in front of the 2016 Republican presidential contender and about 60 right-leaning business executives and conservative media types, directly challenged Obama’s patriotism.
According to the Politico report, Giuliani told the audience, “I do not believe, and I know this is a horrible thing to say, but I do not believe that the president loves America. He doesn’t love you. And he doesn’t love me. He wasn’t brought up the way you were brought up and I was brought up through love of this country.”
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, a likely Republican presidential candidate, was ostensibly the featured guest at the event. He was seated near Giuliani during his condemnations of the president, but said nothing.
On Fox News this morning, Giuliani added, “I’m not questioning his patriotism.”
No, of course not. All Giuliani is saying is that the war-time president who rescued the country from the Great Recession doesn’t love America or Americans. Why would anyone see that as an attack on Obama’s patriotism?
Look, I realize Giuliani has effectively become a caricature of himself, and there’s no point in getting worked up every time the mayor makes a stupid comment, because it happens far too often. The poor guy doesn’t even seem to understand what the word “patriotism” means anymore.
But there’s a broader context to this that shouldn’t be dismissed out of hand.
For one thing, it’s striking that after six years, lazy partisans are stuck repeating the same old garbage. For much of 2008, assorted far-right hacks based much of their campaign rhetoric on the notion that Barack Obama was The Other and they deemed his love of country short of their standards. It was based on nothing but bigotry and ignorance, and the American mainstream rejected it.
And yet, in 2015, the cheap, toxic rhetoric lingers. Unwilling or unable to engage the president on matters of policy, too many Republicans find it easier to attack the president personally, based on imaginary slights against the country.
Dear Rudy, at the height of U.S./Russian tensions, you went on national television to declare Vladimir Putin a great leader. Maybe the president isn’t the one whose patriotism needs questioning.
As for Walker, it’s obviously not fair to blame the governor for Giuliani’s buffoonery, and I seriously doubt Walker knew what Giuliani was going to say in advance. But Walker now has an opportunity to make clear to the public that he finds such ugliness unacceptable.
It’s a test of leadership – is the Wisconsin Republican willing to distance himself from ugly and stupid attacks on the president’s patriotism? Walker was on CNBC this morning and could have denounced Giuliani’s nonsense, but he didn’t. Will that soon change?
I think it’s safe to say that if President Obama was on the campaign trail, and an ally declared that Mitt Romney doesn’t love America or Americans, there would be an expectation that Obama condemn the comments. Indeed, many would expect Obama to agree not to campaign alongside that person again.
So what’s it going to be, Gov. Walker? Are you comfortable with Giuliani’s drivel or not?

Giuliani falls in ditch, just keeps digging
by Steve Benen
Rudy Giuliani is apparently under an odd impression: the problems he creates by saying dumb things will go away if he just keeps talking. Someone probably ought to tell him he has this backwards.
The New York Republican declared Tuesday night that President Obama doesn’t love America or Americans. By Wednesday morning, Giuliani insisted this was not necessarily an attack on the president’s patriotism. By mid-day, the clownish former mayor seemed eager to embarrass himself further, insisting, “President Obama didn’t live through September 11, I did”
And by last night, Giuliani’s descent into farce was complete.
Former Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani of New York on Thursday defended his assertion that President Obama did not love America, and said that his criticism of Mr. Obama’s upbringing should not be considered racist because the president was raised by “a white mother.”
He added, “This isn’t racism. This is socialism or possibly anti-colonialism.”
I see. So, by this reasoning, it seems as if Rudy Giuliani as positioned himself as pro-colonialism.
In the same interview with the New York Times, the failed GOP presidential candidate “challenged a reporter to find examples of Mr. Obama expressing love for his country.” In other words, by Wednesday night, Giuliani, who tried and failed to hedge on his own ridiculous condemnations, was right back to where he was on Tuesday night.
I suppose it’s possible that some of the president’s more unhinged detractors might still find Giuliani’s garbage persuasive. Fox News’ Sean Hannity is on board, as is Gov. Bobby Jindal (R). Giuliani himself, with his challenge to a reporter, genuinely seems to believe there are no examples of the president “expressing love for his country.”
How about last month’s State of the Union address?
“I know how tempting such cynicism may be. But I still think the cynics are wrong. I still believe that we are one people. I still believe that together, we can do great things, even when the odds are long.
“I believe this because over and over in my six years in office, I have seen America at its best. I’ve seen the hopeful faces of young graduates from New York to California, and our newest officers at West Point, Annapolis, Colorado Springs, New London. I’ve mourned with grieving families in Tucson and Newtown, in Boston, in West Texas, and West Virginia. I’ve watched Americans beat back adversity from the Gulf Coast to the Great Plains, from Midwest assembly lines to the Mid-Atlantic seaboard. I’ve seen something like gay marriage go from a wedge issue used to drive us apart to a story of freedom across our country, a civil right now legal in states that seven in 10 Americans call home.
“So I know the good, and optimistic, and big-hearted generosity of the American people who every day live the idea that we are our brother’s keeper and our sister’s keeper.”
When Republicans panicked over the Ebola threat, Obama reminded Americans about the importance of our nation’s leadership role in the world and celebrated the work that only the United States could do. When Republicans couldn’t figure what to say about ISIS, the president celebrated American greatness once more.
“Our technology companies and universities are unmatched. Our manufacturing and auto industries are thriving. Energy independence is closer than it’s been in decades. For all the work that remains, our businesses are in the longest uninterrupted stretch of job creation in our history. Despite all the divisions and discord within our democracy, I see the grit and determination and common goodness of the American people every single day – and that makes me more confident than ever about our country’s future.
“Abroad, American leadership is the one constant in an uncertain world. It is America that has the capacity and the will to mobilize the world against terrorists. It is America that has rallied the world against Russian aggression, and in support of the Ukrainian peoples’ right to determine their own destiny. It is America – our scientists, our doctors, our know-how – that can help contain and cure the outbreak of Ebola. It is America that helped remove and destroy Syria’s declared chemical weapons so that they can’t pose a threat to the Syrian people or the world again. And it is America that is helping Muslim communities around the world not just in the fight against terrorism, but in the fight for opportunity, and tolerance, and a more hopeful future.”
Maybe Giuliani just doesn’t listen to the president much. Or maybe he flunked listening comprehension.
There is a larger question, though, about why the unhinged wing of the Republican Party finds such nonsense appealing. To be sure, the GOP hated Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter every day of their presidencies, but I don’t recall ever hearing prominent Republican figures invest time and energy into arguing that the previous Democratic presidents just didn’t love their country. Clinton and Carter were attacked constantly, but their patriotism was never really part of the equation.
There seems to be something different about President Obama that brings out something uglier and more visceral from some GOP critics. It’s probably not his policy agenda – the president endorsed Mitt Romney’s health care plan, John McCain’s climate plan, and George W. Bush’s immigration plan – so there must be something else

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Massacre at Atate


“The Massacre at Atate”
by Jose M. Torres

This memoir tells the story of the courageous people of the village of Malesso’, who under Japanese occupation, fought and killed their captors, and liberated themselves.

Published by the Micronesia Area Research Center

February 26, 2015
5:30 pm – 7:30 pm
UOG CLASS Lecture Hall

The evening will feature a reading by the author, a panel discussion about the events in Malesso’ during World War II and a chance to meet the author and buy copies of the book.

Refreshments will be provided.

For more information contact Professor Michael Lujan Bevacqua
At 735-2800 or

Friday, February 20, 2015

Youtube Ta'lo

I've had a Youtube account for many years now, I think 8 or 9, lao ti siguru yu'. I didn't post many videos for a while, and I'm not sure why, perhaps because I got a better camera a few years ago and with the not that great internet in the various apartments I've lived in, it takes several hours to post videos nowadays. I recently started publishing videos again, after starting a number of video projects and being inspired to engage in this media form. My Youtube videos are frequently shaking and suffer from very bad audio and never edited in anyway. But still they can provide an interesting view into certain events on island and elsewhere. Every once in a while I get a message from someone who couldn't be at an event or who was looking for information on something that has happened in Guam and they thank me for my shaky almost avant garde looking movie.

Here are some recent videos that I've posted.

A video from the 2011 Inachaigen Fino' CHamoru. The next Chamorro Language Competition is coming up in two weeks!

Matua Sablan (lahin Johnny Sablan, i kakantan Chamorro) singing for a fundraiser for the Chamorro focused kids' show "Nihi."

Si Howard Hemsing un senmatungo' na activist Chamorro giya Guahan, tumestitigu gui' gi me'nan i Liheslaturan Guahan put un maproponi na bill put para u diroga i hinatsan suetdo para i manmailihi na pulitikat siha giya Guahan.

Last semester at UOG we offered a course titled Klas Tinifok, which taught students the basics of weaving in the traditional Chamorro way. The class was taught by Art Pangelinan and Tony Mantanona of Pa'a Taotao Tano'.

UOG News report on the play Pagat that I wrote with Victoria Leon Guerrero and was performed at UOG last April. The play was a big success!

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Ha'anen Fino' Chamoru ha'

Ha'anen Fino' Chamoru Ha'
by Michael Lujan Bevacqua
Marianas Variety

A constant question in my life, something that I am always considering and pondering and people around me always bring to me seeking answers is, “How can we save the Chamorro language?” Students ask me in class. Elders ask me in line at the grocery store. Random people come up to me at the mall and ask me. Last week someone started talking to me about it while we were at urinals next to each other. People are always seeking big ideas or fantastic innovations. They want to hear about plans involving Rosetta stone or language apps or TECH talks or fancy new curriculum created by people with shiny degrees or ancient words that reveal the true nature of Chamorro cosmology. These are all cool ideas but saving the language can be so much easier and simpler than all that. All we need to do to save Chamorro is that those who know the language use it with those who don’t and those who don’t know how to speak it, learn from those who do. As UOG President Robert Underwood wrote recently, using the language is the key to saving it.

The problems are that those who can speak Chamorro, the majority of whom are elders, don’t normally use the language with those younger then them. They speak it to their peers and others who already speak the language, but rarely do we find the oldest generation passing on the language to their children or grandchildren anymore. Those who don’t speak it, but might want to have to turn to books, dictionaries and classes to try and learn the language. This divide exasperates the issue of language endangerment, because it means that those who possess the knowledge aren’t taking advantage of those that they are most directly connected to in order to transmit the Chamorro language. And those who want to learn can’t learn the language through normal, natural transmission but have to do it through classroom learning. Learning in a classroom can be effective, but is nowhere near as effective as using the language in the home with those who are young.

Much of my work both in the classroom and the community is connected to trying to get people to overcome this divide. Get those who already know the language to speak to those who don’t and push those who can’t speak but want to, to learn and make the language a part of their daily lives. Unlike many endangered languages, we still have tens of thousands of speakers of Chamorro and so if we were to encourage those who know the language to those who want to learn, we could easily save Chamorro. The key, as I said, is using the language, keeping it a part of everyday life, rather than something just found in dictionaries.

To this end, I have been helping a friend and colleague of mine Ken Gofigan Kuper organize an event titled “Ha’ånen Fino’ Chamoru Ha’” or “A Day of only Chamorro.” This event, set to take place on March 1st, 2015 is a challenge to anyone and anyone willing to take it to spend the day using the Chamorro language in all their interactions. On March 1st, no matter what you are doing or where you are at or who you are talking to, the goal is to use the Chamorro language, even if the people around you might not be able to understand. If you are posting on your Instagram on March 1st, post in Chamorro. If you are ordering food at Taco Bell, order in Chamorro. If you are chatting with friends at the beach, chat in Chamorro.

The motivation behind this day is not only to encourage people to speak and use Chamorro, but also to act as a reminder that the Chamorro language is an official language of the island and that it is an essential part of the island’s heritage. The Chamorro language is being used less and less today. For a small portion of Guam’s population, which is according to studies primarily an elderly demographic, the language is living, audible, something that is always part of their everyday lives. But for most people, including most Chamorros, the Chamorro language is not something they are constantly surrounded by. It is something they hear during Mes Chamoru, or when their grandparents talk to each other, or perhaps in the background of a fandango, but as they go about their days, English is everywhere. Ha’ånen Fino’ Chamoru Ha’ is meant to be a symbolic act, where we can, at least for one day, increase the amount of Chamorro that is spoken, increase the amount of Chamorro that is heard, and hopefully inspire as many as possible who want to learn to learn it, and those who already know it, to teach it and pass it on.

For those wishing to participate in Ha’ånen Fino’ Chamoru Ha’, there is a Facebook page where you can join the event and receive information. Updates will also be made available through the UOG Chamorro Studies Facebook page and also the website Mumun Linahyan ( For those still learning Chamorro, 24 hours of speaking the language can seem daunting. Ken and I are organizing a meeting this weekend, February 22nd at Port of Mocha in Tamuning at 12:30 for those who want to learn more. We’ll be helping people strategize their own personal Ha’ånen Fino’ Chamoru Ha’, and giving them tips for succeeding and surviving a day in Chamorro. We hope that as many people as possible will join this event.

Nihi ta na’lå’la’ i fino’-ta! 

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Famaguo'on i Tano' yan i Tasi

Maila ya nihi ta fandana' gi este na dinana' inakomprende yan inapatte! Gof likidu este na gurupu! Manperfekto Chapones este siha, lao ma silelebra ya ma na'fafamta i fino' Chamoru!!

Friday, February 13, 2015

Mumun Linahyan

This week I, along with a few others will be unveiling a new blog that we have been working on. It is titled "Mumun Linahyan" which is one of the Chamorro words for saying "revolution." Although the title of the blog might make it seem that it will be strictly political, it isn't necessarily. There will be posts about literature, movies, comics and other types of media. Sometimes these posts may have some political dimension, sometimes they may just be instances of nerding out. As much as possible things will have Guam connections to them and as an excited side effect, the blog will feature plenty of things that don't appear to have any Chamorro connection, nonetheless written about in the Chamorro language.

I wrote the passage below to talk about the meaning behind the name. 


According to The Chamorro Dictionary by Donald Topping, “mumun linahyan” is a way of saying “revolution.” If we break it down we can see the genesis of this rarely used term. Mumun derives from mumu meaning fight. Linahyan means crowd, group, masses. Mumun linhayan is an idea of revolution as being a large scale uprising, the masses or a large group of people coming together and standing up for change. It is interesting to think of the different moments in Chamorro history where people may have come together on such a scale to effect change?

This also begs another question. This idea of revolution as being the rising of the masses, may perhaps be an outsider’s perception, based on the image of native populations rising up against their colonial masters. This image of mumun linahyan was seen throughout the earlier period of Guam’s history, with Hurao, Agualin and Hula all creating large coalitions of rebels that marched on Hagatna to eliminate the foreign threat. It is interesting to think how this might have come to be the way Chamorros discuss it? Was it a remnant from the Spanish or something of the way Chamorros saw their own past? Many people who discuss these sorts of things, make lots of assumptions on how Chamorro language work with little understanding of Chamorro language, Chamorro history or how languages work in general. There are many possibilities of how this word could have come about. What I wonder though is what are other ways that we can conceive of “revolution” in the Chamorro language? There are words that we can bring in from the Spanish, there are also ways that we can see it in a more ancient Austronesian context. There are also ways we can bring in versions of revolution as articulated from groups around the world, other native peoples, progressive groups, even the Zapatistas. I am hoping that in a small way, this blog can contribute to the discussion of revolution from a Guam, Chamorro perspective and see what ways we might imagine it in the future.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Sinlessness and Comfort Women

I am always intrigued at the way American critiques of Japan often time focus on the way that Japanese conservatives are always seeking to erase of minimize sexual slavery during World War II. The women that were forced into sexual slavery across the empire Japan was seeking to create have a tragically complex ideological function. They are on the one hand discursive means through which the nations formerly colonized by Japan reassert their national power. The bodies of those violated women become the means through which a very masculine national honor can be regained. For the Japanese themselves, they are part of their former colonial past that they struggle to both erase but also deal with. For the conservative part of Japan they are something that is tied to the masculinity of the nation. Part of the way the nation was once allowed to act. Part of the way that, for those conservative sectors, it should not have to apologize for. They do not want to erase the sins of the past, but re-articulate them as part of the former strength of Japan. Not apologizing for them is part of the rediscovering that older nostalgia-inducing national manliness.

It is important to support those in Japan who are willing to deal with this violent and troubling past and not encourage those who wish to mitigate it or pretend it did not happen. The character of a nation is all tied to the way they deal with the sins of their past, not their successes. This is a lesson though that the United States itself must learn. The attempt to make a nation sinless, to give that impression, to erase all its crimes and its mistakes doesn't help the nation, but only helps to enable that those moral failings happen again.


U.S. historians slam Abe effort to change textbook dealing with 'comfort women'
by Eric Johnston
Japan Times

Nineteen U.S.-based historians have protested attempts by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his administration to suppress statements in U.S. and Japanese history textbooks about the “comfort women” who suffered under a brutal system of sexual exploitation during World War II.
In a letter to the editor in the March edition of “Perspectives on History,” a scholarly journal published by the American Historical Association, the group acknowledges that historians continue to debate whether the numbers of women exploited were in the tens of thousands or the hundreds of thousands, and what precise role the military played in their procurement.

“Yet the careful research in Japan, especially by (Chuo University professor) Yoshiaki Yoshimi, of Japanese government archives and the testimonials throughout Asia have rendered beyond dispute the essential features of a system that amounted to state-sponsored slavery,” the letter says.

The group warns that, as part of their efforts to promote patriotic education, Abe and his allies are on a quest to eliminate references to the issue in textbooks.

In November, the Foreign Ministry told the Japanese Consulate in New York to ask publisher McGraw-Hill for changes in “Traditions and Encounters: A Global Perspective on the Past,” its world history school textbook co-authored by historians Herbert Ziegler and Jerry Bentley.

The ministry was upset over what it said were “grave errors and descriptions that conflict with our nation” on the issue of the comfort women, without specifying what errors it was talking about.
However, a passage in the book says the Imperial Japanese Army forcibly recruited up to 200,000 women to serve in military brothels, an assertion that Abe and Japan’s right wing have long rejected.
Japanese mainstream historians say it is impossible to determine the exact number, while Yoshimi has estimated there were at least 50,000 comfort women.

Last month, Abe joined the debate, saying he was shocked at the McGraw-Hill textbook. He pledged to step up international efforts to push his administration’s view of history.

The part about the comfort women was written by Ziegler, who teaches modern European history at the University of Hawaii.

McGraw-Hill rejected the ministry’s request, saying that scholars are aligned behind the historical facts of the issue.

“We support the publisher (McGraw-Hill) and agree with author Herbert Ziegler that no government should have the right to censor history. We stand with the many historians in Japan and elsewhere who have worked to bring to light the facts about this and other atrocities of World War II,” the letter says.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Sniping for Jesus

Chris Hedges stitches together so much troubling truth about both the film American Sniper and the book it is based on. It is a sobering reflection on the film, the mythology of Chris Kyle and how those things relate to the soul of a nation. After reading this is does make you wonder, for all those people who feel patriotic or a swell of national pride after watching the film, what type of nation do you imagine you are a part of? The film is incredibly effective at focusing the viewer on the sentimentality and sacrifice of one character, much to the detriment of rest of the ideological universe of the film ultimately being unquestioned or unexamined. One is too busy tearing up or saluting the heroism of Chris Kyle, that few seem able to question the rest of the film and what it is hiding or proposing. People crave someone like Kyle as being the tip of their national spear, but don't think about what kind of nation would want that type of person there. That type of person representing the nation.


Killing Ragheads for Jesus
by Chris Hedges

“American Sniper” lionizes the most despicable aspects of U.S. society—the gun culture, the blind adoration of the military, the belief that we have an innate right as a “Christian” nation to exterminate the “lesser breeds” of the earth, a grotesque hypermasculinity that banishes compassion and pity, a denial of inconvenient facts and historical truth, and a belittling of critical thinking and artistic expression. Many Americans, especially white Americans trapped in a stagnant economy and a dysfunctional political system, yearn for the supposed moral renewal and rigid, militarized control the movie venerates. These passions, if realized, will extinguish what is left of our now-anemic open society.

The movie opens with a father and his young son hunting a deer. The boy shoots the animal, drops his rifle and runs to see his kill.

“Get back here,” his father yells. “You don’t ever leave your rifle in the dirt.”

“Yes, sir,” the boy answers.

“That was a helluva shot, son,” the father says. “You got a gift. You gonna make a fine hunter some day.”

The camera cuts to a church interior where a congregation of white Christians—blacks appear in this film as often as in a Woody Allen movie—are listening to a sermon about God’s plan for American Christians. The film’s title character, based on Chris Kyle, who would become the most lethal sniper in U.S. military history, will, it appears from the sermon, be called upon by God to use his “gift” to kill evildoers. The scene shifts to the Kyle family dining room table as the father intones in a Texas twang: “There are three types of people in this world: sheep, wolves and sheepdogs. Some people prefer to believe evil doesn’t exist in the world. And if it ever darkened their doorstep they wouldn’t know how to protect themselves. Those are the sheep. And then you got predators.”
The camera cuts to a schoolyard bully beating a smaller boy.

“They use violence to prey on people,” the father goes on. “They’re the wolves. Then there are those blessed with the gift of aggression and an overpowering need to protect the flock. They are a rare breed who live to confront the wolf. They are the sheepdog. We’re not raising any sheep in this family.”

The father lashes his belt against the dining room table.

“I will whup your ass if you turn into a wolf,” he says to his two sons. “We protect our own. If someone tries to fight you, tries to bully your little brother, you have my permission to finish it.”
There is no shortage of simpletons whose minds are warped by this belief system. We elected one of them, George W. Bush, as president. They populate the armed forces and the Christian right. They watch Fox News and believe it. They have little understanding or curiosity about the world outside their insular communities. They are proud of their ignorance and anti-intellectualism. They prefer drinking beer and watching football to reading a book. And when they get into power—they already control the Congress, the corporate world, most of the media and the war machine—their binary vision of good and evil and their myopic self-adulation cause severe trouble for their country. “American Sniper,” like the big-budget feature films pumped out in Germany during the Nazi era to exalt deformed values of militarism, racial self-glorification and state violence, is a piece of propaganda, a tawdry commercial for the crimes of empire. That it made a record-breaking $105.3 million over the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday long weekend is a symptom of the United States’ dark malaise.

“The movie never asks the seminal question as to why the people of Iraq are fighting back against us in the very first place,” said Mikey Weinstein, whom I reached by phone in New Mexico. Weinstein, who worked in the Reagan White House and is a former Air Force officer, is the head of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, which challenges the growing Christian fundamentalism within the U.S. military. “It made me physically ill with its twisted, totally one-sided distortions of wartime combat ethics and justice woven into the fabric of Chris Kyle’s personal and primal justification mantra of ‘God-Country-Family.’ It is nothing less than an odious homage, indeed a literal horrific hagiography to wholesale slaughter.”

Weinstein noted that the embrace of extreme right-wing Christian chauvinism, or Dominionism, which calls for the creation of a theocratic “Christian” America, is especially acute among elite units such as the SEALs and the Army Special Forces.

The evildoers don’t take long to make an appearance in the film. This happens when television—the only way the movie’s characters get news—announces the 1998 truck bombings of the American embassies in Dar es Salaam and Nairobi in which hundreds of people were killed. Chris, now grown, and his brother, aspiring rodeo riders, watch the news reports with outrage. Ted Koppel talks on the screen about a “war” against the United States.

“Look what they did to us,” Chris whispers.

He heads down to the recruiter to sign up to be a Navy SEAL. We get the usual boot camp scenes of green recruits subjected to punishing ordeals to make them become real men. In a bar scene, an aspiring SEAL has painted a target on his back and comrades throw darts into his skin. What little individuality these recruits have—and they don’t appear to have much—is sucked out of them until they are part of the military mass. They are unquestioningly obedient to authority, which means, of course, they are sheep.

We get a love story too. Chris meets Taya in a bar. They do shots. The movie slips, as it often does, into clichéd dialogue.

She tells him Navy SEALs are “arrogant, self-centered pricks who think you can lie and cheat and do whatever the fuck you want. I’d never date a SEAL.”

“Why would you say I’m self-centered?” Kyle asks. “I’d lay down my life for my country.”


“Because it’s the greatest country on earth and I’d do everything I can to protect it,” he says.
She drinks too much. She vomits. He is gallant. He helps her home. They fall in love. Taya is later shown watching television. She yells to Chris in the next room.

“Oh, my God, Chris,” she says.
“What’s wrong?” he asks.
“No!” she yells.
Then we hear the television announcer: “You see the first plane coming in at what looks like the east side. …”

Chris and Taya watch in horror. Ominous music fills the movie’s soundtrack. The evildoers have asked for it. Kyle will go to Iraq to extract vengeance. He will go to fight in a country that had nothing to do with 9/11, a country that columnist Thomas Friedman once said we attacked “because we could.” The historical record and the reality of the Middle East don’t matter. Muslims are Muslims. And Muslims are evildoers or, as Kyle calls them, “savages.” Evildoers have to be eradicated.

Chris and Taya marry. He wears his gold Navy SEAL trident on the white shirt under his tuxedo at the wedding. His SEAL comrades are at the ceremony. 

“Just got the call, boys—it’s on,” an officer says at the wedding reception.

The Navy SEALs cheer. They drink. And then we switch to Fallujah. It is Tour One. Kyle, now a sniper, is told Fallujah is “the new Wild West.” This may be the only accurate analogy in the film, given the genocide we carried out against Native Americans. He hears about an enemy sniper who can do “head shots from 500 yards out. They call him Mustafa. He was in the Olympics.”

Kyle’s first kill is a boy who is handed an anti-tank grenade by a young woman in a black chador. The woman, who expresses no emotion over the boy’s death, picks up the grenade after the boy is shot and moves toward U.S. Marines on patrol. Kyle kills her too. And here we have the template for the film and Kyle’s best-selling autobiography, “American Sniper.” Mothers and sisters in Iraq don’t love their sons or their brothers. Iraqi women breed to make little suicide bombers. Children are miniature Osama bin Ladens. Not one of the Muslim evildoers can be trusted—man, woman or child. They are beasts. They are shown in the film identifying U.S. positions to insurgents on their cellphones, hiding weapons under trapdoors in their floors, planting improvised explosive devices in roads or strapping explosives onto themselves in order to be suicide bombers. They are devoid of human qualities.
“There was a kid who barely had any hair on his balls,” Kyle says nonchalantly after shooting the child and the woman. He is resting on his cot with a big Texas flag behind him on the wall. “Mother gives him a grenade, sends him out there to kill Marines.”

Enter The Butcher—a fictional Iraqi character created for the film. Here we get the most evil of the evildoers. He is dressed in a long black leather jacket and dispatches his victims with an electric drill. He mutilates children—we see a child’s arm he amputated. A local sheik offers to betray The Butcher for $100,000. The Butcher kills the sheik. He murders the sheik’s small son in front of his mother with his electric drill. The Butcher shouts: “You talk to them, you die with them.”

Kyle moves on to Tour Two after time at home with Taya, whose chief role in the film is to complain through tears and expletives about her husband being away. Kyle says before he leaves: “They’re savages. Babe, they’re fuckin’ savages.”

He and his fellow platoon members spray-paint the white skull of the Punisher from Marvel Comics on their vehicles, body armor, weapons and helmets. The motto they paint in a circle around the skull reads: “Despite what your momma told you … violence does solve problems.”
“And we spray-painted it on every building and walls we could,” Kyle wrote in his memoir, “American Sniper.” “We wanted people to know, we’re here and we want to fuck with you. …You see us? We’re the people kicking your ass. Fear us because we will kill you, motherfucker.

The book is even more disturbing than the film. In the film Kyle is a reluctant warrior, one forced to do his duty. In the book he relishes killing and war. He is consumed by hatred of all Iraqis. He is intoxicated by violence. He is credited with 160 confirmed kills, but he notes that to be confirmed a kill had to be witnessed, “so if I shot someone in the stomach and he managed to crawl around where we couldn’t see him before he bled out he didn’t count.”

Kyle insisted that every person he shot deserved to die. His inability to be self-reflective allowed him to deny the fact that during the U.S. occupation many, many innocent Iraqis were killed, including some shot by snipers. Snipers are used primarily to sow terror and fear among enemy combatants. And in his denial of reality, something former slaveholders and former Nazis perfected to an art after overseeing their own atrocities, Kyle was able to cling to childish myth rather than examine the darkness of his own soul and his contribution to the war crimes we carried out in Iraq. He justified his killing with a cloying sentimentality about his family, his Christian faith, his fellow SEALs and his nation. But sentimentality is not love. It is not empathy. It is, at its core, about self-pity and self-adulation. That the film, like the book, swings between cruelty and sentimentality is not accidental. 

“Sentimentality, the ostentatious parading of excessive and spurious emotion, is the mark of dishonesty, the inability to feel,” James Baldwin reminded us. “The wet eyes of the sentimentalist betray his aversion to experience, his fear of life, his arid heart; and it is always, therefore, the signal of secret and violent inhumanity, the mask of cruelty.”

“Savage, despicable evil,” Kyle wrote of those he was killing from rooftops and windows. “That’s what we were fighting in Iraq. That’s why a lot of people, myself included, called the enemy ‘savages.’… I only wish I had killed more.” At another point he writes: “I loved killing bad guys. … I loved what I did. I still do … it was fun. I had the time of my life being a SEAL.” He labels Iraqis “fanatics” and writes “they hated us because we weren’t Muslims.” He claims “the fanatics we fought valued nothing but their twisted interpretation of religion.”

“I never once fought for the Iraqis,” he wrote of our Iraqi allies. “I could give a flying fuck about them.”

He killed an Iraqi teenager he claimed was an insurgent. He watched as the boy’s mother found his body, tore her clothes and wept. He was unmoved.

He wrote: “If you loved them [the sons], you should have kept them away from the war. You should have kept them from joining the insurgency. You let them try and kill us—what did you think would happen to them?

“People back home [in the U.S.], people who haven’t been in war, at least not that war, sometimes don’t seem to understand how the troops in Iraq acted,” he went on. “They’re surprised—shocked—to discover we often joked about death, about things we saw.”

He was investigated by the Army for killing an unarmed civilian. According to his memoir, Kyle, who viewed all Iraqis as the enemy, told an Army colonel: “I don’t shoot people with Korans. I’d like to, but I don’t.” The investigation went nowhere.

Kyle was given the nickname “Legend.” He got a tattoo of a Crusader cross on his arm. “I wanted everyone to know I was a Christian. I had it put in red, for blood. I hated the damn savages I’d been fighting,” he wrote. “I always will.” Following a day of sniping, after killing perhaps as many as six people, he would go back to his barracks to spent his time smoking Cuban Romeo y Julieta No. 3 cigars and “playing video games, watching porn and working out.” On leave, something omitted in the movie, he was frequently arrested for drunken bar fights. He dismissed politicians, hated the press and disdained superior officers, exalting only the comradeship of warriors. His memoir glorifies white, “Christian” supremacy and war. It is an angry tirade directed against anyone who questions the military’s elite, professional killers.

“For some reason, a lot of people back home—not all people—didn’t accept that we were at war,” he wrote. “They didn’t accept that war means death, violent death, most times. A lot of people, not just politicians, wanted to impose ridiculous fantasies on us, hold us to some standard of behavior that no human being could maintain.”

The enemy sniper Mustafa, portrayed in the film as if he was a serial killer, fatally wounds Kyle’s comrade Ryan “Biggles” Job.  In the movie Kyle returns to Iraq—his fourth tour—to extract revenge for Biggles’ death. This final tour, at least in the film, centered on the killing of The Butcher and the enemy sniper, also a fictional character. As it focuses on the dramatic duel between hero Kyle and villain Mustafa the movie becomes ridiculously cartoonish.

Kyle gets Mustafa in his sights and pulls the trigger. The bullet is shown leaving the rifle in slow motion. “Do it for Biggles,” someone says. The enemy sniper’s head turns into a puff of blood.
“Biggles would be proud of you,” a soldier says. “You did it, man.”

His final tour over, Kyle leaves the Navy. As a civilian he struggles with the demons of war and becomes, at least in the film, a model father and husband and works with veterans who were maimed in Iraq and Afghanistan. He trades his combat boots for cowboy boots.
The real-life Kyle, as the film was in production, was shot dead at a shooting range near Dallas on Feb. 2, 2013, along with a friend, Chad Littlefield. A former Marine, Eddie Ray Routh, who had been suffering from PTSD and severe psychological episodes, allegedly killed the two men and then stole Kyle’s pickup truck. Routh will go on trial next month. The film ends with scenes of Kyle’s funeral procession—thousands lined the roads waving flags—and the memorial service at the Dallas Cowboys’ home stadium. It shows fellow SEALs pounding their tridents into the top of his coffin, a custom for fallen comrades. Kyle was shot in the back and the back of his head.  Like so many people he dispatched, he never saw his killer when the fatal shots were fired.

The culture of war banishes the capacity for pity. It glorifies self-sacrifice and death. It sees pain, ritual humiliation and violence as part of an initiation into manhood. Brutal hazing, as Kyle noted in his book, was an integral part of becoming a Navy SEAL. New SEALs would be held down and choked by senior members of the platoon until they passed out. The culture of war idealizes only the warrior. It belittles those who do not exhibit the warrior’s “manly” virtues. It places a premium on obedience and loyalty. It punishes those who engage in independent thought and demands total conformity. It elevates cruelty and killing to a virtue. This culture, once it infects wider society, destroys all that makes the heights of human civilization and democracy possible. The capacity for empathy, the cultivation of wisdom and understanding, the tolerance and respect for difference and even love are ruthlessly crushed. The innate barbarity that war and violence breed is justified by a saccharine sentimentality about the nation, the flag and a perverted Christianity that blesses its armed crusaders. This sentimentality, as Baldwin wrote, masks a terrifying numbness. It fosters an unchecked narcissism. Facts and historical truths, when they do not fit into the mythic vision of the nation and the tribe, are discarded. Dissent becomes treason. All opponents are godless and subhuman. “American Sniper” caters to a deep sickness rippling through our society. It holds up the dangerous belief that we can recover our equilibrium and our lost glory by embracing an American fascism.


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