Saturday, September 29, 2018

The Colonial Whisperer

When I was writing my dissertation more than 10 years ago, one question that I constantly had, was what is the "Department of Interior" in the United States, especially in relation to the territories. The easy answer is that it is the office to oversees them. It is the office that oversees the natural resource, the parks, the relations with Native Americans, but also the way the US connects to its insular areas and colonies. We can refer to the Department of the Interior as the make-shift colonial office, a colonial office in denial that it is a colonial office.

The office manages resources and helps to remind those of us who live in the territories that we are a resource, that our lands, our lives are more explicitly than any other place within the US and its empire, thought of as a commodity. The fact that our strongest link to the federal bureaucracy is the DOI is key in understanding our relationship to the US. We may have a variety of fantasies about what we are to the US, those fantasies may be to help deal with the existential colonial dread, but many of them are built on wishing into existence a relationship that doesn't really exist.

What I've often written about previously is that the DOI could be considered the office of American exceptions, because it is the link to not just colonies, but also Native American tribes. The excesses within the nation that point to it being more than a benevolent Republic, but rather an empire or ravenous nation-state that destroyed others to claim its existence and continues to exploit others in contrast to its stated ideals. In recent years this sort of naming seems to fit even more because the Office of Insular Affairs within the DOI doesn't only deal with tribes and territories, it also deals with semi-sovereign or sovereign government, such as those around Guam in Micronesia. When I visited this office last year, it was remarkable to see their conference room, which featured flags from territories and freely associated countries.

The office exists therefore to deal with the parts of the nation that it can't easily account for. The parts that don't fit into left or right, Republican or Democratic antagonisms. These are things which exist on the edge off the nation or outside of it, and do so in such a way that they create the borders of the nation, while the nation still claims to control it. This type of differential exclusion is something that I based my dissertation on describing and trying to articulate in the case of Guam, and what its liminal and banal status produces for the United States.

During my recent research trips to Washington D.C., another portrait of the agency emerged, albeit a faded and not particularly powerful one. That was for DOI as being an advocate for the territories, a translator or a whisperer to the federal government. What makes the colonies or the territories different is that they each have unique stories of how they became connected to the US and where they sit in relation to the US.

CNMI and Guam are right next to each other, but are politically different, despite both being territories of the US at present. One bears the name Commonwealth and has a covenant to mitigate relations between the CNMI and the US, the other is a territory with no such protection. Despite that difference however, they exist in very similar relationships to the US.  The same goes for American Samoa and the Virgin Islands. Each place has a contemporary existence that strains the imagination of your average American and American politician or bureaucrat. It doesn't quite fit. It requires more to understand, to make sense. And your average American, long suckled with a sense of their own greatness, struggles to imagine how such imperfections and exceptions could exist.

DOI, in particular its Insular Affairs portion is supposed to help fill in those gaps and help the rest of the federal bureaucracy understand what is unique about the territories and that you can't simply impose things on them and assume that since it is good for the 50 it must be good for the colonies. DOI is supposed to help translate the unique exceptions, often times the injustices and the trauma of the colonies in ways that can be appreciated by the Congress and the Executive Branch. It may not be very good at it and it may have limited influence. From those that I interviewed recently for example, all, some of whom had experience working in DOI, agreed that real change within the federal system could never come from DOI since it is too powerless in relation to other parts of the government. It doesn't have enough influence or power.

While preparing for my research trip I came across this article from the Honolulu Star-Bulletin from 1999 about Danny Aranza, a Filipino born on Guam, who spent time working for the Department of Interior during the Clinton years. This is an example of the role of DOI acting as that translator, the reminder, albeit this case in the context of Native Hawaiians, that the US holds the lands and destinies of a diverse number of native peoples, and that it can continue the legacies of injustice, exploitation and dispossession or it can stop them. Part of that will require them to reckon with the sins of the past and then not dismiss what remedies would be necessary today, but take into account the particularities of those who have been wronged and that acting outside of the perceived boundaries of the US or its constitution and other laws may be necessary.


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Most Americans unaware of isle history, overthrow

The point man in Washington for native Hawaiian issues says  mainlanders don't know why reconciliation is necessary

By Susan Kreifels
Honolulu Star-Bulletin
October 23, 1999

Although the Rice vs. Cayetano case heard by the U.S. Supreme Court this month raised native Hawaiian issues in the national consciousness, it didn't leave mainland Americans knowing much more about the state's complex history.

That's according to the new point man in Washington for native Hawaiian issues.

Ferdinand Danny Aranza, a former Honolulu attorney and the newly appointed director of the Office of Insular Affairs under the Department of Interior, said Americans generally don't understand how the history here makes native Hawaiians unique among the country's indigenous people.

"The person on the street has no clue about the U.S. role in the overthrow," Aranza said. "They've never had an appreciation of native Hawaiians and their history."

Supreme Court justices will decide whether it is unconstitutional to restrict voters in Office of Hawaiian Affairs trustee elections to people of Hawaiian ancestry.

Aranza said Americans also know very little about what federal reconciliation with native Hawaiians means -- or why it's necessary.

In 1993, Congress passed what's commonly called the apology resolution, which acknowledged and apologized to Hawaiians on behalf of the people of the United States for the participation of American citizens in the overthrow of the kingdom of Hawaii in 1893. The overthrow deprived Hawaiians of the right of self-determination, the resolution said. It urged the president to start reconciliation moves between the United Sates and native Hawaiians.

Aranza said Hawaii's higher profile brought by the Rice vs. Cayetano case makes December a good time for a visit by two federal officials who will gather ideas on the reconciliation, which is still uncharted territory.

Important visitors

The officials, from the Interior Department and Justice Department, will meet with native Hawaiians on all the islands, including Niihau, from Dec. 4-13, Aranza said.

They will try to get some sense of how the reconciliation process should work and what native Hawaiians expect.

Aranza, who stopped in Honolulu this week on his way to Saipan, said his office for the time being is a catch-all for native Hawaiian issues. It could one day be an equivalent of the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

In the meantime, Aranza said he will get a special assistant on native Hawaiian issues: Ed Thompson, a part-Hawaiian who currently works for U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka.

OHA trustee skeptical

Some native Hawaiians are skeptical about the outcome of the December visit. Clayton Hee, OHA trustee, said the meetings will provide native Hawaiians an opportunity to express concerns, but there already are volumes of studies dating back 10 years "that are still collecting dust on a shelf."

Hee's No. 1 concern is identifying native Hawaiians as native Americans, opening up federal programs for American Indians and native Alaskans to Hawaiians. Specific programs carved out for Hawaiians, Hee said, are small in comparison.

Defining native Hawaiians as native Americans should be stating the obvious, Hee said, but Congress has not moved on past bills to do so.

"Why others in Washington don't understand or choose not to is beyond me," Hee said. "There's an inability to understand that Americans illegally, through an act of war, stole the kingdom, and that the United States has a trust obligation."

'Shortchanged'

Bumpy Kanahele, an activist for Hawaiian sovereignty, said not sending a State Department representative was denying an ear for those who want an independent native Hawaiian nation, an option Hawaiians were denied in the 1959 Admissions Act as well.

"We're being shortchanged going into the dialogue," Kanahele said. "If the U.S. is really going to reconcile, they have to bring in a representative for foreign affairs. By not having one here, they'll just give us something like the Indians got -- reconciliation with a reservation."

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Insular Affairs director is no stranger
By Susan Kreifels
Star-Bulletin

It takes an islander to know islanders.

That gives Ferdinand Danny Aranza an edge on his new job.

Aranza has been named the new director of the Office of Insular Affairs under the Department of Interior. He's responsible for native Hawaiian and other state issues.

Guam and the U.S. territories, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands and the Micronesian nations also fall under his jurisdiction.

Aranza was born and grew up on Guam and later practiced law in Hawaii for six years.
"It's extremely helpful to come to this job with really an islander's perspective," Aranza said. "It's too easy when you're in Washington to do something and not think about the impact. Being an islander makes me very sensitive to that."

He also believes it improves relationships with island leaders when they negotiate "with someone who looks like them. I would like to bring more folks from the islands into the office."

Aranza and his wife, Hawaii-born Sonia Lugmao Aranza, moved to Washington so she could work for U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie. He became legal counsel for Guam's congressional delegate.

Before taking his current post, Aranza -- who helped shape the Hawaiian homelands program -- worked as a deputy in Insular Affairs, then became acting director June 7.
Other issues before him: reimbursement to Hawaii, Guam and Saipan for the cost of Micronesian immigrants; developing the initial steps for federal reconciliation with native Hawaiians; the brown tree snake problem and coral reef protection; and helping the islands prepare for Y2K computer glitches.

He'll help set up a Y2K command center on Guam, "where America's day begins."
"It will be plugged into the whole White House," he said. "The first report of any problems will probably come from Guam."

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Hawaiian issues on agenda
during fed officials' visit

Two federal officials will speak with native Hawaiians on all islands Dec. 4-13 to gather ideas on how the federal government should proceed with reconciliation.

The officials are John Berry, assistant secretary for Policy, Management and Budget in the Interior Department, and Mark Van Norman, director of the Justice Department's Office of Tribal Justice.

Brown-bag lunches on neighbor islands will be open to the public, but schedules are still being confirmed.

Discussions also will be held at the East-West Center on Dec. 10-11 from 8 a.m.-6 p.m. The first day will focus on native Hawaiian health, education, housing, Hawaiian culture, economic development, and land and natural resources.

Each topic will be discussed by panelists for 45 minutes, followed by an hour of public comment during which speakers will be limited to three minutes.

On the second day, topics will include the reconciliation process, the political relationship with the federal government, self-determination and ceded lands.

Written testimony should be submitted by Nov. 22 to Assistant Secretary John Berry, c/o Document Management Unit, Department of Interior, 1849 C St., NW Mailstop-7229, Washington, D.C. 20240. Fax: (202) 219-1790.

Monday, September 24, 2018

September GA 2018 - Carlos Taitano

Citizenship Questions and Honoring the Late Speaker Carlos Taitano are the focus for Independent Guåhan’s September General Assembly

For Immediate Release, September 17, 2018 
Independent Guåhan (IG) invites the public to attend our September General Assembly (GA) on Thursday, September 27th, from 6:00 to 7:30 p.m. at the Main Pavilion of the Chamorro Village in Hagåtña. These assemblies are part of IG’s efforts to educate the community on the need for Guåhan’s decolonization and the potentials for our independence. This month’s GA will focus on what form citizenship might take in an independent Guåhan. 

At eachGA, Independent Guåhan honors a maga’taotao: a notable figure that has helped guide the island and the Chamoru people on their quest for self-determination. For September, IG will be honoring the late Carlos Pangelinan Taitano, who was a World War II veteran, Speaker forI Liheslaturan Guåhanand an instrumental figure in helping get the Organic Act passed for Guåhan.  

Taitano was born into a time when Chamorus had no political rights and onto an island where the US Navy ruled without the consent or input of the people. Along with other leaders from his generation, he was determined to get political rights and protections for Chamorus and lobbied for the passage of an Organic Act which created the Government of Guam and also limited US citizenship. Despite these political gains, Taitano always argued that The Organic Act alone was not enough and that real self-determination and sovereignty for the Chamoru people should be the goal. Independent Guåhan is proud to honor the legacy of the late Speaker Taitano in our September GA. 

In discussions of decolonization in Guåhan, citizenship is always a central point of concern. Is the US citizenship that people have on Guåhan now real or are their limitations or conditions on it? Would people lose US citizenship if Guåhan became independent? What are other possibilities or types of citizenship that Guåhan would offer its citizens if it became independent? Those hoping to learn more about these questions and more importantly their answers, are encouraged to attend this month’s GA and join the discussion. 


Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Mahalang Yu' Ta'lo

Hu dingu i islå-ku gi ma'pos na simåna ya måtto yu' para Washington D.C.

Achokka' ti gof åpmam i tinaigue-ku, esta gof mahalang yu' nu i tano'-hu.

Ya este na minahalang, ti put i minanengheng guini gi sanlagu.


Wednesday, September 05, 2018

Guam is Not a Game

For decades Guam has been used to being a joke. Generations of comedians have used it, such as Johnny Carson, David Lettermen and even Conan O'Brien. Robert Underwood has invoked the comedy specter of Rodney Dangerfield in order to explain Guam's situation, saying it is an island that gets no respect!

The mere mention of Guam in this way stems from the fact that it is a signifier that floats around, it is always out there, especially for those in the US, but there often isn't any actual knowledge attached to it. That means that you can deploy it in ridiculous ways, a familiar, but empty signifier that can create laughter as the listener confronts that awkward gap between their knowledge and whatever might lie beyond the horizon of their understanding. That's why when you would say something random like "I'm headed to Guam!" it would elicit laughter, because of the way the audience would slip on the banana peel shaped gap between their knowledge and reality, and end up in the middle, awkwardly looking around lost.

One of the most interesting examples of this comes from The Late Show With David Letterman, when they had their segment "Getting to Know Guam."

David Letterman: Have you never been to Guam?
Paul Shafer: No.
David Letterman: I know nothing about Guam. I know that the residents of the island are referred to as Guamanians, that's all I know.
Paul Shafer: I see. They're not Guamaniacs?
David Letterman: Perhaps. So tonight, here is a segment called "Getting to Know Guam."
[Segment begins showing random images of Guam scenery]
Narrator: Guam is locatied in, uh, in; it's considered part of the United States, because uh, uh, this has been getting to know Guam."

We can argue that these jokes means nothing. They are just willful or unintentional misrepresentations of reality. The jokes may not have any malice behind them and they certainly aren't part of some larger structure of power. But that isn't ever really true. We can argue over how much speech matters, how much a joke, a racial slur, a problematic representation impacts the world, but the reason why people fight over it, is because there is undeniably some connection there. The relationship between social scorn and repressive violence can often be very close. The more acceptable it is for someone to be an object of collective derision, the more acceptable it probably is that they be oppressed or held down in a society. We can see this in many ways with the rise of Donald Trump. The formal ways in which white society is propped up are slowly disappearing and what follows is the once hate-drenched but still naturalized speech of the privileged to talk about other groups. Trump's appeal is the way he manifests a champion against the "political correctness" which is about problematizing speech and expression and drawing a connection between privilege and ability to say things or do things.

I have written about this issue from a variety of ways, including in my dissertation in Ethnic Studies, where I tried to argue there was a deeper structure involved in silly jokes than just the crafting of the writer, and that there is something to be noted about the laughter it creates as well.

The article below provides another way of looking at this issue. Written by Puerto Rican scholar and filmmaker Frances Negron-Muntaner, it is a reminder that the war of words, especially over places that may feel don't matter or don't care about, can be dangerous, and it shouldn't be treated as mirthful, shouldn't be seen as a game.


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Guam is Not a Game
Frances Negron-Muntaner
August 15, 2017
Pacific Standard

North Korea sees it, just as Japan saw it in 1941: Guam is part of the United States, which means attacking Guam is attacking America.

The irony is that while so much of the world sees Guam as part of the U.S., many within the contiguous U.S. do not. The tensions around this reality have come to a boil over the last year as the government of Guam pushed for a plebiscite to change the island's current relationship to the U.S. As Governor Eddie Baza Calvo said in 2016, "anything is better than being an unincorporated territory."

Calvo is likely referring to the fact that, under the unincorporated status established by the Supreme Court in the early 20th century, Guam "belongs to but is not part of the U.S." and is regarded as "foreign in a domestic sense." Whereas its residents are American citizens and have among the highest rates of participation in the U.S. military—one in eight people have served—they cannot vote for the president and commander in chief, nor do they have a proportional voting delegation in Congress. Due to Guam's territorial status, veterans from Guam also have access to fewer services and receive less Department of Veterans Affairs financial support than those who live in the states.

To make matters more complicated, while Guam is no longer ruled by a Naval officer and has an elected governor and legislature, American military needs still dictate the use of much of its land and resources. Though families have been fighting since the 1950s for the U.S. government to return property that was expropriated at the height of World War II, one-third of Guam's territory is still occupied by the U.S. armed forces. The island houses not only major air force and naval bases, but also a parallel universe of beaches, segregated schools, and McDonald's, all exclusive to military personnel.

At another level, how much can the people of Guam trust the U.S. to protect not the "Rock," as the island has been called by the military, but them? The past is no comfort. On December 8th, 1941, a few hours after bombing Pearl Harbor, Japan struck Guam and eventually invaded. The U.S. had advance knowledge that this might happen: Several months before the attack, the U.S. military evacuated the (white) wives and children of the military personnel. The native people of Guam, the Chamorros, were abandoned to their fate for nearly three long years.

This time events are unlikely to play out in the same way. Different from 1941, the U.S. has invested billions of dollars in military infrastructure on the island and currently seeks to expand its presence. It also theoretically has more effective defense mechanisms, and the likelihood that North Korea invades or actually goes through with its threats is low. But a deep concern is that, to the extent that Americans still do not view or treat the people of Guam as citizens, the U.S. will most likely seek to protect what they consider important and valuable to the U.S., not Guam. Here, World War II is again instructive: To avoid "American" casualties, the military ordered its forces to level the capital city of Hagåtña, even if Chamorros were trapped there. Many lost everything.

President Donald Trump's declaration that "North Korea better not make any more threats to the United States," would suggest that the commander in chief thinks Guam is part of America. But that leads to other ironies: one, the only time that the U.S. concerns itself with Guam is at times of war; and two, while some would argue that Guam has received many benefits from being considered a strategic island for the U.S., including not becoming a colony of another ("worse") power, its biggest liability in terms of foreign aggression has precisely been that it is U.S. territory.

If the people of Guam are always in the line of fire for Americans, the least that the U.S. can do is to confer all rights to them as citizens while the island's political status is redefined, include them in decisions that directly affect their lives, and truly consider the effects of U.S. policy on its residents. Chamorros only became American citizens after being brutalized by Japanese forces in World War II because of their loyalty to the U.S. It should not take another horrific assault on the island to realize American policy in relation to North Korea is wrong or to finally understand that Guam is not a game. For the people who live and love there, many of whom consider themselves fully American, it is home.

Monday, September 03, 2018

Inafa'maolek and Civility Discourse

In my Chamorro Studies class last week we were discussing the concept of inafa'maolek, which has become canonized as a central value of Chamoru culture as of late. The term fa'maolek has long been in use, it even occurs in the Garrido Manuscript from 18th century Guam. Inafa'maolek most likely was used as well, but not necessarily as a primal or central concept for defining Chamoru identity or culture. That comes about much more recently, primarily through the work of Robert Underwood when he uses the terms in the 1970s, while trying to define what the Chamoru cosmology of the 19th century was, and what of it had persisted up until the 20th century. 

Inafa'maolek has many meanings, all of them however focus around expressing community through interdependence or through cooperation. It is about working together to sustain a society. It is about humans sustaining nature, sustaining their families and so on. It is a collective concept that is focused on building sustainable, positive and nurturing relationships. It is about helping and preserving. It is an important concept, but it shouldn't be considered the end all of Chamoru possibility. 

There are certain things that inafa'maolek excels at. There are certain things it does very well, but we also should perceive certain limits to it. Inafa'maolek is great at focusing on collective problems that face a community, at maintaining relations within a family. It is something that is best when the power relations are not rigidly or oppressively stratified. It is something beautiful amongst equals, but when power dynamics become skewed, inafa'maolek can lead to problems. It can end up prohibiting agency, precluding change, preventing things from adapting or changing because of a sense of needing to work together or suppress particular voices or ideas in the name of maintaining a sense of harmony. 

Inafa'maolek is something beautiful after a typhoon hits the island. It is something beautiful to see in action at a family function or as families tackle a collective problem. It is something wonderful to teach people in terms of their relationship to the environment. 

But what wisdom do the great tomes of inafa'maolek provide when tackling income inequality? Or concentration of power or wealth in a society? What role does inafa'maolek play or not play in terms of challenging colonial power? Or calling out injustice or righting wrongs in a society? 

As I said, there are many versions of inafa'maolek out there, but most of them would be ill-equipped with tackling things such as this, and those that argue it would, may simply be using inafa'maolek to describe whatever they'd like and not what it usually is. Siña un sångan na ya-hu este, pues este siempre inafa'maolek, lao håfa I setbe-ña enao?

This does not mean that inafa'maolek is bad or wrong, but only that it doesn't and shouldn't encapsulate the entirety of Chamoru culture. That to argue that it does, in many ways inhibits Chamoru agency and possibility. It denies Chamorus basic tools for dealing with basic problems in their families, in their villages and on their island. 

One thing that this reminds me of, is the civility discourse that we find in many struggles or the idea that those seeking to change things in a society, must remain civil in often times ridiculous and unrealistic ways. That those who are protesting violent oppression must remain civil above all else, regardless of the very issues that are affecting them. This article from the New York Times a few months ago definitely struck a chord with me, especially thinking back to Nasion Chamoru and what those activists endured in terms of being stigmatized as taimamahlao. 

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White America's Age-Old, Misguided Obsession With Civility
by Thomas J. Sugrue
Mr. Sugrue is a professor of history and social and cultural analysis and author
New York Times

Recent disruptive protests — from diners at Mexican restaurants in the capital calling the White House adviser Stephen Miller a fascist to protesters in Pittsburgh blocking rush-hour traffic after a police shooting of an unarmed teen — have provoked bipartisan alarm. CNN commentator David Gergen, adviser to every president from Nixon through Clinton, compared the anti-Trump resistance unfavorably to 1960s protests, saying, “The antiwar movement in Vietnam, the civil rights movement in the ’60s and early ’70s, both of those were more civil in tone — even the antiwar movement was more civil in tone, but certainly the civil rights movement, among the people who were protesting.”
But those who say that the civil rights movement prevailed because of civil dialogue misunderstand protest and political change.

This misunderstanding is widespread. Democratic leaders have lashed out at an epidemic of uncivil behavior in their own ranks. In a tweet, the House minority leader, Nancy Pelosi, denounced both “Trump’s daily lack of civility” and angry liberal responses “that are predictable but unacceptable.” Senator Charles Schumer described the “harassment of political opponents” as “not American.” His alternative: polite debate. “If you disagree with someone or something, stand up, make your voice heard, explain why you think they’re wrong, and why you’re right.” Democrat Cory A. Booker joined the chorus. “We’ve got to get to a point in our country where we can talk to each other, where we are all seeking a more beloved community. And some of those tactics that people are advocating for, to me, don’t reflect that spirit.”

The theme: We need a little more love, a little more King, a dollop of Gandhi. Be polite, be civil, present arguments thoughtfully and reasonably. Appeal to people’s better angels. Take the moral high ground above Trump and his supporters’ low road. Above all, don’t disrupt.

This sugarcoating of protest has a long history. During the last major skirmish in the civility wars two decades ago, when President Bill Clinton held a national conversation about race to dampen tempers about welfare reform, affirmative action, and a controversial crime bill, the Yale law professor Stephen Carter argued that civil rights protesters were “loving” and “civil in their dissent against a system willing and ready to destroy them.” King, argued Carter, “understood that uncivil dialogue serves no democratic function.”

But in fact, civil rights leaders, while they did believe in the power of nonviolence, knew that their success depended on disruption and coercion as much — sometimes more — than on dialogue and persuasion. They knew that the vast majority of whites who were indifferent or openly hostile to the demands of civil rights would not be moved by appeals to the American creed or to bromides about liberty and justice for all. Polite words would not change their behavior.

For King and his allies, the key moment was spring 1963, a contentious season when polite discourse gave way to what many called the “Negro Revolt.” That year, the threat of disruption loomed large. King led a mass demonstration in Birmingham, Ala., deliberately planned to provoke police violence. After the infamous police commissioner Bull Connor sicced police dogs on schoolchildren and arrested hundreds, including King, angry black protesters looted Birmingham’s downtown shopping district. Protesters against workplace discrimination in Philadelphia and New York deployed increasingly disruptive tactics, including blockading construction sites, chaining themselves to cranes, and clashing with law enforcement officials. Police forces around the United States began girding for what they feared was an impending race war.

Whites both North and South, moderate and conservative, continued to denounce advocates of civil rights as “un-American” and destructive throughout the 1960s. Agonized moderates argued that mass protest was counterproductive. It would alienate potential white allies and set the goal of racial equality back years, if not decades. Conservatives more harshly criticized the movement. National Review charged “King and his associates” with “deliberately undermining the foundations of internal order in this country. With their rabble-rousing demagogy, they have been cracking the ‘cake of custom’ that holds us together.” By 1966, more than two-thirds of Americans disapproved of King.

King aimed some of his harshest words toward advocates of civility, whose concerns aligned with the hand-wringing of many of today’s politicians and pundits. From his Birmingham jail cell, King wrote: “I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to ‘order’ than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: ‘I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action’.” King knew that whites’ insistence on civility usually stymied civil rights.

Those methods of direct action — disruptive and threatening — spurred the Kennedy administration to move decisively. On June 11, the president addressed the nation on the “fires of frustration and discord that are burning in every city, North and South, where legal remedies are not at hand.” Kennedy, like today’s advocates of civility, was skeptical of “passionate movements.” He criticized “demonstrations, parades and protests which create tensions and threaten violence and threaten lives,” and argued, “it is better to settle these matters in the courts than on the streets.” But he also had to put out those fires. He tasked his staff with drafting what could eventually become the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964. Dialogue was necessary but far from sufficient for passage of civil rights laws. Disruption catalyzed change.

That history is a reminder that civility is in the eye of the beholder. And when the beholder wants to maintain an unequal status quo, it’s easy to accuse picketers, protesters, and preachers alike of incivility, as much because of their message as their methods. For those upset by disruptive protests, the history of civil rights offers an unsettling reminder that the path to change is seldom polite.

Correction: 
A previous version of this piece misstated Bull Connor’s title. He was a police commissioner, not the police chief.

Thomas J. Sugrue is professor of history and social and cultural analysis at New York University.


Sunday, September 02, 2018

Delegated Authority

The recent primary election on Guam had very few surprises. Lou and Josh were the favorites to win the Democratic primary. They did win, although it has been a surprise thus far how slim the margin was. Despite the huge gap in spending between the Lou and Josh and Frank and Alicia camps, Lou and Josh won by less than 300 votes.

The closeness of the race was not the biggest upset however, that prize goes to Senator Mike San Nicolas' win over incumbent Madeleine Bordallo in the primary for Democratic candidate for the non-voting position in the US Congress. Bordallo has served in the position for 16 years and has long been a fixture in Democratic politics on island. While San Nicolas has his own loyal base of followers and voters, many felt that the tension he has sometimes created within the party, in particular with his fellow senators and party leaders, would hurt his chances at unseating Bordallo. The race was close, but ultimately San Nicolas prevailed.

San Nicolas will face off against former Public Auditor Doris Flores Brooks in November. It'll be interesting to see who will win. Håyi pau fanggåna gi este na karera? 

Dr. Vivian Dames' dissertation has a chapter on the non-voting delegate position, focusing on the first three Chamoru men to hold it, Tony Won Pat, Ben Blaz and Robert Underwood. It is a fascinating read, because part of the way she makes her argument is to give each of these men a label or a nickname to help us understand their role or their place. What they accomplished or how they were perceived. For example Won Pat was in many ways a deal maker. Through his relationships with powerful congressional leaders he was able to get Guam included in many pieces of legislation. He was small in stature and minute in terms of apparent political power, but through his relationships with other congresspeople, he was able to accomplish a great deal for Guam.

Blaz was the general, since his military service defined him in so many ways, including with his attitude and approach to others. Getting an accurate portrait of Congressman Blaz has always been difficult as I've gone about my research since for many people who worked with him or around him, his personality was difficult to negotiate. When I interviewed people who worked in his office while in DC, they all praised him in certain ways, but were also guarded in assessing him as well, perhaps because of ways they may have clashed with him or felt his ego made him less effective.

Despite any of this, Blaz did use his background as a military officer in order to further build relationships, especially with other congressmen who had served in the military. Despite his minute political status, Blaz brought an air of dignity to the office.

Dames refers to Underwood as the storyteller or the teacher. Underwood entered Congress at a time when things were changing, when the current era of hyper partisanship was being born. The days of Newt Gingrich and the impeachment of Clinton. Underwood distinguished himself in those days by being articulate, witty and telling effective stories. As someone known in Congress for being able to turn a phrase or two, he was valued within his party because of his ability to speak effectively in debate and on various issues, not just those pertaining to Guam.

What nickname would Bordallo receive from her term in office? When I have asked people, one answer that I have gotten is that she is the hostess, because of her office being well known for holding Liberation Day parties as a means of building relationships with other officers in Congress. Over the past ten years when I've interviewed people in and out of Congress, this is always something that they bring up as defining her time there, her use of cultural dancing and Chamoru food to building friendships with elected leaders and their staffers. Elements of this existed under the previous delegates, but everyone I've spoken to seems to feel that Bordallo did it better than the rest.

The question for someone like Mike San Nicolas or Doris Flores Brooks will be, how will they define their time in Washington? What will they do in order to stand out or to make connections? As each of the previous delegates can tell you, it goes beyond your rhetoric or your own expectations. You are thrust into a space where the chief currency is votes and your pockets are empty. I will never forget what Robert Underwood told me on the eve of his own retirement from the office after he lost to Felix Camacho in 2002 in a race for government. As a non-voting delegate to Congress, you aren't actually there to represent anything, your position doesn't really give you that power, you are more than anything there to act as a reminder to the federal government that it controls Guam's fate and that it can make things in the colonial corners of the US better or worse. You are the reminders, the temporary remedy for the political amnesia of the supposed greatest democracy in the world.

I wonder how either of these candidates would fare.


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