Sunday, September 10, 2017

Anti-America, Anti-Colonial

It is a strange paradox in a colony to consider the issue of patriotism and or lack thereof.

On the one hand, as a colony you are being discriminated or marginalized in some way that is fundamental to your political relationship. Whether it be massacres and mass exploitation of resources or the creation of rules and laws that disenfranchise you and leave sovereign power over your lives and lands with those thousands of miles away. In this context, patriotism or devotion to the colonizer seems very unlikely in a colony. But this isn't really the case.

Although the basis for patriotism is a reciprocal inclusion. It is not simply a unilateral love, but rather the relationship whereby your political love will be rewarded with a set of basic rights or forms of recognition. Despite the inequality or lack of a well-defined circle of recognized belonging, patriotism is still routinely found in the colonies, and even takes on superlative forms.

Colonies are structured so that, there is always a path of assimilation or subordination, which can offer a variety of means of improvement or prosperity within the world defined by the colonizer and their greatness. This means that being an angry and recalcitrant native doesn't get you much in the colonial world, as the colonizer is looking for loyal and subservient subjects that are willing to show their acceptance of the colonizer's superiority in their identity and cultural expressions.

This means that there is always that patriotic mirage along the horizon. That if one simply embodies the greatness of the colonizer in a host of ways, that you will be able to enjoy that political oasis long denied to people just like you and all around you. This commonly leads to forms of over-compensation, where minority or colonial groups feel compelled to criticize less and assert less for themselves, in the hopes that their exuberance will cover and erase the gap that surrounds them and makes them an object of racism and discrimination.

And so even in colonies people are condemned for lack of patriotism and in an even more ridiculous way, bring out rhetoric about the evils of being "anti-colonizer" or in the case of Guam, "anti-American." As colonization is now almost universally recognized as being immoral and wrong, should this by extension mean that within a colonial community, being patriotically in favor of that condition might be also universally recognized as wrong or short-sighted?

This is part of the problem with patriotism in colonies and to an extent any society. Is that it substitutes warm and fuzzy feelings for truth and practical reality. It imagines that powerful images of the nation at its finest illustrate some crucial dimension of the government of the actions of the country in question. And as a result it perpetuates the idea that if one believes in the nation, the nation will do better, will support the individual. While this makes sense within a country and depending on where you fit within the social hierarchy, it makes very little sense coming from a colony.

Feeling that patriotic love or devotion can overcome the colonial difference simply isn't true, simply isn't how things work.

This is on my mind this week after some articles appeared in the Guam Daily Post recently about a Chamorro teacher at Southern High school making "anti-American" statements during his class. After reading the articles, the statements were barely anti-American and in truth just critical. The kind of critique people in the colonies need more of, not less.

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Southern High teacher unapologetic
by Andrew Roberto
Guam Daily Post
September 3, 2017

A teacher recently found himself in hot water at Southern High School for making a student uncomfortable with a political lecture. However, Gregorio Ecle, a CHamoru language and culture teacher, says his lecture was taken out of context.

Ecle is the Southern High teacher who was recorded making an impassioned, frustrated critique of American foreign policy during a CHamoru class. Among many different things, a recording was sent to The Guam Daily Post in which Ecle said, “America flexes its muscles all the time,” and “because it doesn’t adhere to the way you and your people think you think it’s wrong. That’s why everyone hates America — because we always think we know what’s best and can change everyone, but people from America just need to shut the (expletive) up!”

According to Ecle, the recorded segment represents only a portion of what was discussed in class that day. In addition to discussing the means of American colonization, he discussed Spanish and Japanese colonization of Guam.

The topic turned to the Middle East to contemporize the issue, Ecle said.

“My lesson is on decolonization,” Ecle told the Post, “but in order for my students to understand decolonization, I have to make sure I teach them about colonization.”

Ecle, who has been teaching for seven years, says he apologizes if he offended a student or parent with his lecture delivery, however, he does not apologize for being critical of colonization.

“I have always been the type of teacher that will give the students the truth," Ecle said. "I’m going to give it like it is, it might sound uncomfortable, it might make you feel uncomfortable, but at that point, there’s no nice way to talk about being colonized."

Ecle added that he never wants his students to accept his opinions as the “gospel truth,” and that he encourages all of them to question him. “I welcome (students) to go and do the research and find these things on your own. Find your own truth.” He said he also reminds students that they won’t be tested on the opinions that he shares in class.

But as for dropping an expletive in class, Ecle brushed off most accountability for it.

He said, “Should profanities be utilized in a classroom period? Probably not. Is it? Absolutely. As a student myself, I heard it a lot. I’m not saying that that validates it and makes it OK, not at all. But as everybody knows when you get impassioned about something, sometimes you let loose and you say things that in the moment you didn’t mean to say.”

Ecle teaches two CHamoru language and culture classes at Southern High School, one with more than 30 students and another with over 50 students.

One student, Caitlin Tutuw, spoke to the Guam Daily Post in support of her teacher.

During a phone interview, Tutuw said she enjoys the lessons in Ecle’s class. Tutuw said that she felt Ecle welcomed her Yapese identity, even if Ecle was proud of his own cultural identity.

She reiterated that the article “made it seem that he’s a bad teacher when he really isn’t.”

In Tutuw’s opinion, Ecle has “blown her mind” with what she’s learned, specifically in regards to hardships faced throughout CHamoru history. She also responded favorably about his lecture style, saying she appreciated his honesty and that she never felt put down.

Tutuw, however, also said she is not a classmate of the student who was offended.

The media attention had his classes talking, as they were able to identify for themselves who the student in question was after reading her mom’s name in the Post, according to Ecle.

But he says for the most part, the day at Southern High School continued on mostly normal.

In class, Ecle says that he treats his students like young adults, and to him that entails speaking to them on a level that challenges them to broaden their minds when it might be difficult to overcome biases.

He said he's hoping to find the silver lining from the media attention.

“We find comfort with those that agree with us and we find growth with those that don’t,” he said “and that’s exactly what this moment is.”

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Teacher's rant sparks parent's complaint
by Mindy Aguon
Guam Daily Post
August 31, 2017

Denise Pangelinan sends her two daughters off to school at Southern High School every morning with the hope they are gaining knowledge and an education that will equip them for their future.
But several text messages and a voice recording sent by her daughter who was attending CHamoru language class yesterday morning were cause for concern and now the subject of an investigation by the school's administration.

"She texted me saying her teacher was saying things like 'America is stupid,' and it made my daughter very uncomfortable," Pangelinan said.

Student recorded teacher’s rant

She was appalled at what she heard next – a one-minute recording of the teacher talking to students about America.

The male teacher was recorded saying, "America likes to flex their muscles all the time," and then questioned why the U.S. is still in Afghanistan, Iraq and Saudi Arabia.

"What are we doing? That is why ISIS is alive and well, and that organization is killing everyone because everyone needs to get the hell out of their countries and leave them alone," the recording stated.

The teacher went on to tell students that he didn't believe it was right that the U.S. has gone in to help foreign countries that don't have the same beliefs.

"Just because their religion says women can't do this and women have to be subservient to men – that's their way of life. Who the hell are you to tell them it's wrong? That's how their people have been for thousands of years," the teacher said.

The lecture went on as the teacher said, "Because it doesn't adhere to the way you and your people think, you think it's wrong. That's why everyone hates America – because we always think we know what's best and can change everyone, but people from America just need to shut the (expletive) up!"
Pangelinan said she was disturbed by the comments made by the teacher and the use of inappropriate language with the students.

"How dare you imply your own political agenda on these young brains," Pangelinan told The Guam Daily Post about her reaction to the teacher. "It makes me feel very concerned. He's not even a history teacher. He's supposed to be teaching my child the CHamoru language, not his personal views."

She said she filed a complaint with Southern High Principal Jim Reyes and intends to write letters to the Guam Education Board and the superintendent.

While Pangelinan's daughter doesn't feel comfortable returning to her CHamoru class and fears retribution for her mom speaking out, the Southern High parent said the class is a requirement for her daughter to graduate.

Superintendent ‘alarmed’

Education Superintendent Jon Fernandez was surprised to hear the comments in a CHamoru class and was "alarmed" that students were made to feel offended and uncomfortable.

Fernandez said the matter will be investigated and the teacher will have an opportunity to explain himself.

He was informed that Reyes spoke to the parent and the student about the incident.

"Mr. Reyes assured me that, upon completion of his investigation, he will take appropriate action to ensure that we avoid any similar occurrences in the future," Fernandez said.

"It's unprofessional. Stick to teaching CHamoru and don't push your political beliefs on young minds," Pangelinan said. "If you hate America, don't tell my kid."

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