Sunday, November 04, 2018

Håle' Para Agupa'

Back in September, I spent an afternoon with Håle’ Para Agupa’, a Chamoru cultural group based in the Washington D.C. area. It was an enriching and energizing afternoon. The fafa’na’gue of the group Teresita Guevara Smith organized a gathering of young and old, and I gave a presentation about Chamoru language and culture, and even a short language lesson. 

Wherever I go, in Guam, the CNMi or even the diaspora, I am always encouraged to see Chamorus wanting to learn more about who they are as a people and want to do more to keep culture and language alive. After all, for a group that numbers perhaps only 200,000 in the world, we always have to ask ourselves, “anggen ti hita, pues håyi?” When it comes to preservation and revitalization of our heritage, if we won’t do it, who else will?

This is an issue that Chamorus have to confront sooner rather than later, especially in light of the fact that more Chamorus now live outside of the Marianas. The realities of cultural maintenance change dramatically whether you are talking about Guam or the CNMI, versus the diaspora, which exists in small pockets in various spots around the US. 

Migration to the US actually began during the Spanish era of Guam’s history, with Chamorus leaving as whalers and eventually more than a thousand of them settling in Hawai’’I and both East and West coasts. Since World War II, most migration began initially through military service, with Chamoru communities appearing around Navy or Army bases. 

In a few places these communities formed associations or Guam clubs. Sometimes the groups were formalized and had charters and boards and regular activities. Other times they were more informal. The majority of the smaller clubs existed to commemorate a particular event, usually Liberation Day or a Catholic saint or feast. The largest club, the Sons and Daughters of Guam Club in San Diego went beyond incorporation in spirit alone and possess its own physical clubhouse. 

For Chamorus living stateside, these clubs or activities would often be the majority of their exposure to Chamoru cultural facets. At the Guam Society of America, considered to be the oldest of the Guam Clubs, they have an annual event called Chamorro Night. I was fortunate enough to attend last year and there was kelaguan månnok, hineksa’ agaga’ and even Matua Sablan singing his father Johnny’s greatest hits. These social gatherings provided a sense of the homeislands in the Marianas, for some who had never been.

As I’ve bounced around the US and spoken to people involved in these clubs, there is a regular worry that Chamoru youth stateside aren’t interested in getting involved in leading the clubs or sustaining them. Some of the Guam clubs that I spent time with a decade ago while attending college in the states have long been inactive. 

After spending time with the members of Håle’ Para Agupa’, I feel like the solution to the sustainability problems in Guam clubs, is to move them beyond just being social clubs, and actually transform them into cultural spaces. Places not only where Chamorus gather to share food and laughs, but where they gather to share knowledge, cultural traditions, the language and songs.  If we want youth to take up their heritage, we have to first teach it to them and help them understand why its important. 

Thursday, November 01, 2018

Peaceful Demonstration over Magua'



Groups Organize Demonstration Against Disturbance of Cultural Site

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE (October 31, 2018 – Hagåtña)Amid a complex election season and Typhoon Yutu relief efforts, our residents have also been challenged with news of the recent disturbance of the ancient village of Magua at the site for the new Marine Base in South Finegayan. Local news sources, both radio and print, have reported that the U.S. Navy may have breached negotiations to mitigate the site. As the buildup progresses, it is clear that cultural preservation is not a priority for the Department of Defense.  

Prutehi Litekyan: Save Ritidian (PLSR) and Independent Guåhan call on the leaders of our island to rise up and take immediate action against this disturbance and to ensure that further harm will not take place. 

PLSR and Independent Guåhan invite our community to gather for a peaceful public demonstration this Saturday, November 3 from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. in front of the gate to the Naval Communications Station (NCTAMS) base, which is the entrance to the South Finegayan site. 

We must make it clear that we will not stand for this injustice. Disturbing ancestral and cultural sites despite repeated claims that cultural preservation is a priority is a deceitful and disrespectful act towards the CHamoru people and our ancestors. 

We also call on our leaders to look into the role of the contractor in this disturbance and make their findings public. We must hold all involved accountable. 

Our organizations sincerely thank Dave Lotz for coming forward and informing our community. 

Prutehi Litekyan: Save Ritidian (PLSR) is a direct action group dedicated to the protection of natural and cultural resources in the areas identified for DOD live-fire training on Guam. For more information, please email Litekyan.opa@gmail.com

Independent Guåhan empowers the Chamoru people to reclaim our sovereignty as a nation. Inspired by the strength of our ancestors and with love for future generations, we educate and unify all who call our island home to build a sustainable and prosperous independent future. 


Monday, October 22, 2018

I Mismo Na'ån-mu

One passage that has long stayed with me in terms of understanding ethics is from one of Slavoj Zizek's books, where he mentions the Egyptians being swallowed up by the Red Sea as they trail the escaping Israelites. According to Jewish tradition he writes, when the Israelites celebrate the death of their long-time enemies, God chastises them. He tells them, how dare they celebrate that which he created. Who are they to celebrate the destruction of something that comes from God. Even if they were opposed in the drama of life on earth, they come from the same source and they have right to celebrate something which is equal to them in its origin. This type of repositioning is the basis for many types of ethical engagement. The idea that there is always some deeper level, some deeper intersection of humanity that we can and should appeal to in order to create something that is more just and more moral. But we can become so comfortable in our identities, so stuck in them, that it can be very difficult to cast them aside or even check to see how they fit on us. Some philosophers have said that it is the first gesture of human self-consciousness to define oneself against another, and the process of establishing a relationship with the other, there is always a tension, a pressure to not simply define against, across from another, but to define yourself against, above of the other. This leads to violence and the arguments in favor of violence, that naturalize and justify it, but it also can lead us back to the idea of the self and the other sharing something, that will radically redefine the hierarchy and the oppositional identities that they currently wear.  


At the conference that I'm attending in South Korea this weekend, one of the organizers read the poem below by Thich Nhat Hanh, a famous monk and peace activist from Vietnam. He writes about stories he had heard about pirates raping young women who were feeling Vietnam as refugees, and how instinctively we may be drawn to hate the pirate, but asks us to reflect deeper. He wrote a poem meant to illustrate his thoughts, I've posted them below. 

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Please call me by my true names
Thich Nhat Hanh

After the Vietnam War, many people wrote to us in Plum Village. We received hundreds of letters each week from the refugee camps in Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, and the Philippines, hundreds each week. It was very painful to read them, but we had to be in contact. We tried our best to help, but the suffering was enormous, and sometimes we were discouraged. It is said that half the boat people fleeing Vietnam died in the ocean; only half arrived at the shores of Southeast Asia.

There are many young girls, boat people, who were raped by sea pirates. Even though the United Nations and many countries tried to help the government of Thailand prevent that kind of piracy, sea pirates continued to inflict much suffering on the refugees. One day, we received a letter telling us about a young girl on a small boat who was raped by a Thai pirate.

She was only twelve, and she jumped into the ocean and drowned herself.

When you first learn of something like that, you get angry at the pirate. You naturally take the side of the girl. As you look more deeply you will see it differently. If you take the side of the little girl, then it is easy. You only have to take a gun and shoot the pirate. But we can't do that. In my meditation, I saw that if I had been born in the village of the pirate and raised in the same conditions as he was, I would now be the pirate. There is a great likelihood that I would become a pirate. I can't condemn myself so easily. In my meditation, I saw that many babies are born along the Gulf of Siam, hundreds every day, and if we educators, social workers, politicians, and others do not do something about the situation, in twenty-five years a number of them will become sea pirates. That is certain. If you or I were born today in those fishing villages, we might become sea pirates in twenty-five years. If you take a gun and shoot the pirate, you shoot all of us, because all of us are to some extent responsible for this state of affairs.

After a long meditation, I wrote this poem. In it, there are three people: the twelve-year-old girl, the pirate, and me. Can we look at each other and recognize ourselves in each other? The title of the poem is "Please Call Me by My True Names," because I have so many names. When I hear one of the of these names, I have to say, "Yes."

"Please call me by my true names"
By Thich Nhat Hanh

Don’t say that I will depart tomorrow— even today I am still arriving.

Look deeply: every second I am arriving to be a bud on a Spring branch, to be a tiny bird, with still-fragile wings, learning to sing in my new nest, to be a caterpillar in the heart of a flower, to be a jewel hiding itself in a stone.

I still arrive, in order to laugh and to cry, to fear and to hope. The rhythm of my heart is the birth and death of all that is alive.

I am a mayfly metamorphosing on the surface of the river. And I am the bird that swoops down to swallow the mayfly.

I am a frog swimming happily in the clear water of a pond. And I am the grass-snake that silently feeds itself on the frog.

I am the child in Uganda, all skin and bones, my legs as thin as bamboo sticks. And I am the arms merchant, selling deadly weapons to Uganda.

I am the twelve-year-old girl, refugee on a small boat, who throws herself into the ocean after being raped by a sea pirate.

And I am also the pirate, my heart not yet capable of seeing and loving.

I am a member of the politburo, with plenty of power in my hands. And I am the man who has to pay his “debt of blood” to my people dying slowly in a forced-labor camp.

My joy is like Spring, so warm it makes flowers bloom all over the Earth. My pain is like a river of tears, so vast it fills the four oceans.

Please call me by my true names, so I can hear all my cries and laughter at once, so I can see that my joy and pain are one.

Please call me by my true names, so I can wake up and the door of my heart could be left open,the door of compassion.


Sunday, October 21, 2018

In the Land of Lobbyists

Guam will elect a new non-voting delegate this year and there will also be a change in Adelup, where a new Governor will take over. This means there could be a significant shift in terms of federal-territorial relations for Guam. I don't mean much will change from the federal side, but from Guam, this moment could mean the development of a new approach or utilizing new tools for engaging the federal government on Guam issues. Depending on how you look at the past decade or so there has been some accommodation and some antagonism. From Congresswoman Bordallo, there was quite a meeting of minds over military buildup issues and the US Department of Defense, but that came at the cost of her representing the interests of the people of Guam. Bordallo was well-liked by many of her colleagues and well liked by the US military, but in my opinion, had long become detached from changing attitudes on Guam. When the protests and organizing around Prutehi Litekyan emerged last year, Bordallo was nowhere to be found. She had instead undertaken steps to make the buildup easier, rather than seek to get ahead of the growing criticism.

From the perceptive of Governor Calvo, he has distinguished himself through several lawsuits against the federal government and also a willingness to speak out against US colonialism, including at the United Nations. We should divide these acts into two basic types, while some are more direct, as in they deal with legal challenges, the others are largely symbolic. They don't engage directly with the US, but appeal to the world of meanings around the US and in many ways don't ever reach the US. For instance, Calvo's claim that in response to the feds choking off the supply of foreign workers for local businesses, he was now AGAINST the buildup, was intriguing. In a small sense it was radical, as the governor of Guam, Calvo doesn't have a great deal of power, but he does have the ability to slow the buildup to interfere with it in order to make clear his new position of being AGAINST it.

But to his discredit, Calvo didn't take any concrete actions to manifest in policy or governmental position, his being against the buildup. It was a rhetorical point meant to make clear his displeasure and unlike Bordallo, try to tame some anti-buildup or anti-use of Litekyan sentiment. But it wasn't likely meant to be more than that.

But in the legal realm, Calvo truly shined in terms of attempting to take the federal government to task, within its own courts. But while we can cheer defenses of the Chamorro Land Trust, defense of the plebiscite and the lawsuit over the Ordot Dump, they were not part of any larger plan for moving ahead with federal-territorial relations. In a similar sense, while we can commend Calvo for putting money behind the educational campaign of the Commission on Decolonization, there was no larger governmental push within Guam or in concert with the delegate's office, and so the impact was quite limited. Calvo, could have been remembered in the ways in which Ada or Bordallo are, as someone who moved the island forward in fundamental ways, through their acts or dreams, but he missed that chance by lacking a larger plan or goal.

Will the next round of leaders be any different? Will they be able to come up with something substantive to guide their actions, to give it a larger sense of meaning and significance? Hekkua', ti siguro yu'.

As I've been researching the issue of federal-territorial relations, I've bumped into more and more the issue of lobbyists and how essential they can be in making things happen, or preventing things from happening. Lobbyists can be very expensive, but can also be effective. When looking to what the new administration might do differently, the issue of hiring lobbyists to lobby on behalf of Guam keeps popping into my head. For many of the smaller issues that Guam contends with, a lobbyist can make a huge difference since there aren't large corporate forces that have interests in Guam, unlike Puerto Rico or other territories. For the larger goals of political status, a lobbyist will be essential in helping keep Guam relevant even as Congresspeople change and administrations change.

One reason why a lobbyist may be necessary is because unlike voting elected leaders who have constituents, that have a base from which they are to draw their interests or support, Guam has not real constituents. It's interests and needs are not tied to any part of the US that matters and as such, it may need the help of lobbyists or other actors to help the administration pay attention and work in favor of Guam.

While I was in DC recently I learned about one of the most infamous lobbyists in relation to the territories, Jeff Farrow. A charmingly titled article about him from the New York Times can be found below.


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The Lobbyist with a Six-Figure Government Job
by Eric Lipton
New York Times
September 14, 2015

WASHINGTON — In this city with a grand tradition of government officials who pass through the revolving door into a world of big paychecks, Jeffrey Farrow stands apart.
While earning more than $100,000 a year as executive director of a tiny federal agency called the Commission for the Preservation of America’s Heritage Abroad, which has only one full-time federal employee, Mr. Farrow has simultaneously helped collect as much as $750,000 a year in lobbying fees. His clients have included the governments of Puerto Rico and the Republic of Palau, a tiny island nation in the western Pacific.
Mr. Farrow was at once a federal government bureaucrat and lobbyist. The revolving door did not even have to spin.
He managed this feat while running one of dozens of agencies that can get lost in the vast United States government — this one responsible for identifying and helping preserve cemeteries and historic buildings in Eastern and Central Europe that are important to American Jews and others, including Orthodox Christians from Kosovo.

An agency staff member has alleged that Mr. Farrow handled some of his lobbying work while at the offices of the federal agency. And at times, his work for private clients has overlapped directly with his public duties.
“A bizarre tale,” said Senator Ron Johnson, Republican of Wisconsin and chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, in a letter he sent last month to Lesley Weiss, the chairwoman of the 30-year-old commission, asking her to explain Mr. Farrow’s dual roles. “This lobbyist used federal personnel and resources to run a profitable personal business advancing the interest of foreign agents.”
Mr. Farrow declined repeated requests for comment, and Ms. Weiss did not return calls seeking comment. Warren L. Miller, a former federal prosecutor from Virginia who served for over a decade as chairman of the commission, said in an interview that he had been unaware that Mr. Farrow was also working as a registered foreign agent — a type of lobbyist hired by a foreign government, like Palau.
But Mr. Miller, who still serves on the commission board after stepping down as chairman in 2012, said Mr. Farrow had done nothing wrong because he works as a contractor, first hired in 2001, rather than as a full-fledged federal employee, even with his title of executive director.
“I don’t think it was improper or unethical or illegal in any way,” Mr. Miller said. He added that during Mr. Farrow’s tenure, the agency had helped preserve dozens of cemeteries and other important historic and cultural sites.

Experts in government ethics and lobbying law said that the different hats Mr. Farrow has simultaneously worn — as a lobbyist, foreign agent and executive director of a federal agency — are at minimum highly unusual.
“Whether or not there is a legal violation here, you do have a mixing of roles that I have certainly never seen before,” said Caleb P. Burns, a partner at Wiley Rein, a Washington law firm, who specializes in lobbying and ethics laws. “Someone burrowed so deeply in the government and yet at the same time engaging in lobbying and representing a foreign government — it is pretty brazen.”
Mr. Farrow took home about 16 percent of the commission’s annual budget in personal compensation, given his salary of at least $104,000 a year, even though he was expected to work for the agency for only eight to 20 hours a week, according to a report on the agency by the General Services Administration’s inspector general, completed in 2013 but never made public. A copy of the report was provided to The New York Times.
Mr. Farrow, as a result of his different jobs, was often working with the State Department and members of Congress in his official capacity — as the agency urged foreign governments to preserve cemeteries and other historic sites — while he was also making appeals to these same officials on behalf of his lobbying clients. For the government of Palau, he described himself as a “special adviser,” foreign agent lobbying records filed with the Department of Justice show.
As a representative of Palau, Mr. Farrow frequently contacted the State Department, which recently released more than 20 emails between Mr. Farrow and Hillary Rodham Clinton and her top aides while she was secretary of state. Mr. Farrow tried to press Mrs. Clinton and her staff to sign off on a new agreement that would offer the country more assistance than had been planned.
“Palau offended by U.S. positions,” said one email Mr. Farrow wrote to Mrs. Clinton in 2009, as he helped Palau push for the new agreement, before explaining to Mrs. Clinton in detail the government’s objections.
Mrs. Clinton sent that email to Jake Sullivan, one of her top foreign policy advisers, saying: “Pls review, do some recon outreach and advise what, if anything, we should do.”

The outcome clearly pleased Mr. Farrow, who had also served on Mrs. Clinton’s presidential campaign before she joined the Obama administration. A year later, when a new deal was signed setting aside additional federal funds for Palau, Mr. Farrow wrote to Mrs. Clinton: “Thanks for all that you did. It obtained U.S. objectives as well as resulted in substantially greater fairness for a former territory.”
Mr. Farrow’s work on behalf of Puerto Rico intensified — and his lobbying fees increased — as the island’s recent financial crisis worsened. After first working directly for the government of Puerto Rico, in the last two years Mr. Farrow has been part of a lobbying team that as of July had been paid $2 million by three nonprofit groups advocating on behalf of the island, including the Puerto Rico Statehood Council.
At that time, Mr. Farrow’s two worlds came together. Records show that a nonprofit group created to help support the heritage commission’s work donated money to a hospital and a community college in Palau.
The questions about Mr. Farrow’s varied roles came to light after the agency’s only full-time employee, Katarina Ryan, said Mr. Farrow routinely used the agency’s office to conduct his lobbying work, paid himself an unauthorized bonus with federal funds, and used federal funds to buy subscriptions to publications like Congressional Quarterly and the Leadership Directories, to help him with his lobbying practice.
Ms. Ryan, the agency’s project manager, is on leave after raising questions about Mr. Farrow’s conduct.
An investigation by the inspector general from the General Services Administration concluded that while Mr. Farrow may have handled some of his lobbying duties while at the agency’s offices, he had a personal laptop and cellphone, so “there was insufficient evidence to show any violation by Mr. Farrow.”
The Senate Homeland Security committee has asked the agency to address the allegations. The commission, in a statement, said the allegations had “been found to be unsubstantiated, factual misunderstandings and factually incorrect,” noting that it would respond to the Senate request later this month.

Mr. Johnson, the Wisconsin senator, in a statement released by his office Friday, said the commission, despite its worthwhile mission, was an example of what is wrong with government.
“This relatively tiny agency is a classic example of the dysfunction and waste that typify far too much of the federal government,” he said. “Established with the best of intentions to memorialize the horrors of 20th-century genocides, the Commission for the Preservation of America’s Heritage Abroad did little to accomplish that goal but was instead used to enrich a lobbyist.”

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

IG GA October 2018

Independent Guåhan will honor the late Ron Teehan and Discuss Managing Natural Resources in their October General Assembly

For Immediate Release, October 15, 2018 
Independent Guåhan (IG) invites the public to attend its October General Assembly (GA) on Thursday, October 25th 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 potential benefits through achieving independence. This month’s GA will focus on how Guam might better manage its natural resources as an independent country.   

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 October, IG will be honoring the late Ron Franquez Teehan, a long-time advocate for the rights of the Chamoru people who passed away earlier this year.   

1982 Ron joined Robert Underwood and the late Ron Rivera to become the first Chamorus to formally testify before the Fourth Committee of the United Nations on the political status of Guam. As a member of the group OPR-R (Organization of the Rights for Indigenous People) he worked to give Chamorus greater ability to define themselves locally and internationally and helped developed solidarity with other countries and decolonization movements. Ron also spent decades working on the issues of land rights and war reparations for the Chamoru people, working closely with the Guam Landowners Association and the Chamorro Land Trust. Independent Guåhan is proud to honor the legacy of Ron Teehan for its October GA. 

As an island, sustainability and the protection of Guam’s resources must always be of paramount importance. As a gateway to the United States and the tip of America’s military spear, in what ways does being a colony of the United States prevent the island from being able to effectively maintain its resource base? How could Guam learn from other countries, in particular in the Pacific, that are working to sustain and develop their own natural resources and environment? 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. 


Monday, October 08, 2018

Veterans for Decolonization

I have been traveling for the past few weeks and struggling while conducting research and giving a variety of presentations, to also finish up a couple of articles. One of them is based on the research I did for the Guam Humanities Council a few years ago for their exhibit Sindålu: Chamorro Journey Stories in the US Military. It was an exciting and interesting project on a variety of levels. I got to share some interesting stories that I've come across in my archival and oral history research, some of which haven't really ever been publicized before. I also got to tackle some issues in terms of understanding or unpacking contemporary Chamoru identity. The veteran subjectivity is so pervasive and somewhat hegemonic in Chamoru culture today, that it ends up taking a great deal of space, even for those who aren't veterans themselves. How many people when talking about issues of decolonization and demilitarization feel a inner need to curb their potential voice, their potential statements, because of a feeling of not wanting to upset or challenge not just the US military itself, but also those related or connect to them who serve in it?

This is part of Guam's reality as a heavily militarized space. Where the web of militarized connections extend out to even those who aren't directly connected to the US military presence, but nonetheless make them feel like the bases or the military is necessary for their existence, necessary for their to be order or property on the island. In colonial situations, there is often a generalized sort of discourse of this nature, that focuses on the civility of the colonizer in terms of providing that foundation for stability and eventual progress. In Guam however much of that discourse is dominated by the explicit military presence. Rather than people arguing that we need the US because we wouldn't be modern or we wouldn't be civilized if they weren't here, they argue that if the military wasn't here, we wouldn't be here. We would be speaking Japanese or we would have been wiped out by Japanese brutality in World War II. It is an interesting phenomena to say the least.

But the pervasiveness of any discourse ultimately means that its own dissolution nonetheless lurks around the edges. As with any powerful discourse, it's potency also bears potential seeds of its disintegration. The ways in which the military presence empowers and takes form, can also end up creating resistance and creating opposition. We have seen this most prominently in terms of tåno' and the way land has come to radicalize or give Chamorus a position from which to assert an oppositional identity to their most recent colonizer. But there are most possibilities than that, and that was more than anything, what I enjoyed about the Sindålu exhibit, was exploring the ways in which Chamoru experiences in the US military did not only lead to increased feelings of Americanization, but also deep critiques that in turn helped shape modes of resistance to Americanization and the American military presence from the 1990s up until today.

Below is a short excerpt from one of the articles I'm working on, a section titled "Veterans for Decolonization."

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But this patriotism was heavily tainted with colonial narratives that preached Chamorro inferiority and American supremacy. Because of this Chamorros, even if they now had adopted a patriotic framework for their relationship to the US, did not see themselves as proper American subjects, but minor, limited American subjects. The feelings of gratitude for the US return in World War II that forged this patriotic connection also established a relationship in which Chamorros did not become an equal part of the US, but had now been included in the American circle of belonging, but remained beneath their white counterparts, and still feeling the need to prove themselves to be worthy of their new status. Military service was one of the key ways Chamorros attempted to prove their worth, but silence was another strategy as well. Although the passage of the Organic Act improved Guam life in a number of ways, it did not settle the basic questions Dr. Ramon Sablan had posed decades earlier. What was Guam in relation to the US and what as a result were Chamorros? The Organic Act provided the basis for a far more benevolent and cooperative relationship, but Guam remained a colony and the new system of self-governance was a mirage provided by an act of Congress. But during the 1950s and 1960s Chamorros in general, but primarily those who served in the US military grappled with these issues, but did not feel they could speak out against them and assert that their treatment or the treatment of their island was unfair or unjust. Regardless of any outward expressions of patriotism and loyalty, there remained a glaring contradiction in that the US would send men and women into war without the right to vote or the right to real democratic representation in the US government.

By the 1980s and 1990s, the time of the emergence of Nasion Chamoru and other Chamorro rights movements, this limited subjectivity had been challenged in a variety of ways. Chamorro veterans had found their voice, but it wasn’t simple or unified. It was not as simple as being pro-military or anti-military. It bore the complications of the previous century and of the present colonial moment and as such, the voices featured aspects of patriotic devotion, frustration with their treatment by the US government and also desires for decolonization.

In the early 1990s we can see these variations in not just the way veterans such as Angel Santos used their traumatic experiences in the US military as rationale for seeking to decolonize the island and becoming independent from the US. We can also see it in how at the same time other Chamorro veterans were vocally supporting a Commonwealth change for Guam’s political status. The Commonwealth movement for Guam lasted for 25 years and was built around enhancing Guam’s relationship to the US, where it was more defined and Guam would receive a greater degree of autonomy and control over local affairs, such as immigration (San Agustin 123). Commonwealth would ultimately fail in the halls of Congress in 1997. 

While Angel Santos and his cohort was protesting in the streets for decolonization, other veterans were also making their own arguments for decolonization and supporting Commonwealth status as an important step towards righting historical wrongs. Whereas Nasion Chamoru couched their activism in suffering as indigenous people, deserving of their rights to self-determination, whereby their military service tended to be another form of injustice that they were fighting against, these other Chamorro veterans couched their service as the reason, as Americans, they deserved a different and improved political status for Guam. 

Several dozen veterans in the early 1990s penned letters written to the US Congress and the United States in general making their position clear. Their experiences of sacrificing for the US military and also facing discrimination and hardship did not convince them to seek to leave the US, but in contrast to the silence of earlier generations, it did compel them to speak up and insist that the US reciprocate by living up to its supposed ideals of supporting liberty, democracy and freedom. This letter from Miguel Cruz, a Chamorro who served in the US Marine Corps makes this point. 

I belong to a select group of Americans who served our great country during the time of need . . . However, as a Chamorro, I feel that my country has not yet fulfilled its commitment to me and my fellow islanders – the opportunity to enjoy the right of full self-government. A people willing to defend their freedom must be allowed to govern their own future for justice to truly prevail (1994).

Sunday, October 07, 2018

Living Peace

The image is from Suicide Cliff in Tinian, where a collection of memorials for those who died in World War II can be found. 

The text below is the English translation of a poem written by Rinko Sagara, a 14 year old student from Urasoe in Okinawa. She recited it earlier this year at an event meant to remember the victims of the Battle of Okinawa in World War II. It's title is "Ikiru." 

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I am living.
Standing on the earth transmitting the mantle's heat,
My body embraced by a pleasant, humid wind,
With the scent of grass in my nostrils,
My ears tuned to the distant sound of the surf.
I am now living
How beautiful this island where I now live is.
The sparking blue sea,
The shining waves releasing spray as they hit the rocks,
The bleating of goats,
The babbling of brooks,
Small paths leading through the fields,
Mountains bursting with green colors,
The gentle tunes of the sanshin (three-stringed traditional instrument),
The light of the sun shining down.
What a beautiful island,
Where I was brought up.
With all my senses and sensitivity,
I feel this island. And my passion grows slowly and steadily.
I am living out this moment.
The magnificence of this moment
And the preciousness of this moment
Is my peace at present
And it expands inside me.
How should I describe this irresistible feeling that wells up?
This precious moment
This irreplaceable moment
This moment in which I now live.
Seventy-three years ago,
That day turned this island that I love into an island of death.
The chirping of small birds turned into screams of fear.
The gentle tunes of the sanshin vanished into the roaring sounds of bombs.
The blue skies were obscured by iron rain.
The scent of the grass was mixed with the stench of death,
And the shining surface of the sea was filled with battleships.
Flames spewing from flamethrowers, the wailing of young children,
Houses burned to the ground, the smell of gunpowder.
The ground shaking from the impact of bombing, the sea tainted red with blood.
People who had changed, like the evil spirits of the mountains and rivers.
Memories of a frenzied battle in a burning hell.
Everyone was living
No different at all from me,
People living for all their worth.
Without any doubts, they had painted a picture.
Of their lives, and their futures.
They had families, they had friends and they had lovers.
They had jobs. They had a reason for living.
They had small moments of happiness in their lives. Hand in hand they lived, and they were humans, like me.
But then
Those things were destroyed, taken from them.
The age we live in is different, but that is all.
Innocent lives. Those days when they lived ordinary lives.
Below Mabuni Hill the gentle sea expands before my eyes.
I am saddened, and cannot forget all the things that happened to this island.
I clench my hands together and vow.
Remembering the fallen, I make a vow from my heart.
As long as I live,
To never ever accept this war that claimed so many lives.
To never repeat this past in the future.
To strive for a world in which all humans live in peace, transcending national borders, transcending race, transcending religion, and overcoming all interests.
To create a world in which the ability to live and value lives is not violated by anyone.
To be willing to make an effort to create peace.
You surely feel it.
The beauty of this island.
You surely know.
The sadness of this island.
And you are living in this moment, just like me.
We are living together.
So we should understand
The senselessness of war and what true peace is.
Not in our minds, but in our hearts.
That there is no real peace
From possessing the foolish force of war potential.
And that peace is living ordinary lives.
That it is living, while making those lives shine with all our might.
I am living.
Together with everyone.
And I will continue to live.
Cherishing each and every day.
With thoughts of peace, with prayers for peace.
Because our futures
Are extensions of this moment.
In other words, now is our future.
My island, which I love,
Our island, which we are proud of,
And all life that lives on this island.
My friends, my family, who live with me now.
Let us keep living together.
Let us send out true peace from our beautiful homeland, surrounded by blue.
Let each one of us stand up and walk together toward the future.
Embraced by the wind on Mabuni Hill,
My life cries out.
Resonating with the past, present and future.
Let this requiem reach the sorrowful past.
Let the sounds of the living reverberate to the future.
I will live out this moment.

Monday, October 01, 2018

The Speakers

My latest film collaboration "The Speakers" with Kenneth Gofigan Kuper and Edgar Flores will be screened twice at #GIFF this year. Biba GIFF 2018!

 It is the perfect film for those looking for a never-ending parade of silly and stupid jokes in the Chamoru language, with a profound message about language revitalization somehow mixed in. 

Like our previous films, it was created by Ken and I, with ourselves as the actors, but the true star of the short film is meant to be I Fino' Chamoru! 

It will be featured as part of the Made in Marianas Showcase A and can be watched on October 6th at 2:45 pm and October 21st at 1 pm at the Guam Museum.

Si Yu'os Ma'åse to the team at #GIFF for once again giving our Chamoru language revitalization efforts a platform!

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