Tuesday, January 27, 2015

One Night in Hagatna...

On January 15, 2015, the capital of Guam, Hagatna was shut down due to Marine Corp training that was happening in the area. Roads were blocked off by Guam Police Department. Helicopters were flown over the area and explosions were heard. This created an uproar amongst some on Guam who saw this as another militaristic intrusion into life on Guam, a place already heavily militarized.

People often misinterpret the militarized exterior of Guam or extrapolate high levels of patriotism or support for military policies based on the amount of people serving in the US military. This disconnect leads to so many problems. The myth of Guam as being a place where the military is adored is partially true, but the military, because of its intimate and often times invasive and disrespectful nature is also reviled. What is often lost in this is that while Guam is overall very pro-military, that attitude can change quite quickly once people feel like they are being taken advantage of and not being taken seriously.

Below are some responses, primarily from Facebook to the military training.


From the GUAM PDN

A Marine Corps special operations group is conducting live fire training in Hagatna this evening. Authorities have closed off streets in the area.

The training is being conducted by a small group of Marines with the III Marine Expeditionary Force, Special Operations Training Group, according to a press release.

Military members are being transported to the area via helicopter and ground transportation, the release states. The group is conducting training in an "urban environment."
Residents are likely to hear noises from aircraft, military vehicles and small weapons.



Is it truly right to shut down your home streets to only let military "safely" practice how to protect their own land? Why?

 Why were the Marines having a live fire training in Hagatña? What point is there to this? Would they shut down downtown Spokane to shoot and blow things up? Why does this happen then on my island?



live fire helicopter exercises were banned by Okinawa for a reason. The Japanese were smart to stop playing such gracious hosts... which is one of the main reasons for the Guam buildup and Asia realignment/pivot. Now Uncle Sam wants to play with his helicopters over Hagatna without notice?
Not cool, bro....



Yo I was just down there with Charlie...the shit was crazy they had 3 helicopters flying around, one who didn't have any lights on, like some stealth mode shit. Then cops fuckin everywhere blocking the street. We went up to one to the cops and ask what was going on and they said "oh we're just doing an exercise...u should probably get under a bldg" They even blew up something...I didn't see it, only heard it.



This is so upsetting. With little (and last-minute) warning, something like this leaves the base and gets to occur on "civilian" grounds. If this is expected to be "normal" for our community, then there are problems, the main one being we are normalizing war for our children. It's disgusting that our children are being raised on an Island that says it's okay for this type of violence to come so close to our doorsteps. ‪#‎wheresourhumanity‬ 



I don't know about doing these things in populated areas at all, and just because they do it in other populated areas doesn't justify it as far as I'm concerned.

Having freedom doesn't mean "you shouldn't have opinions on anything we do."


From National Security Blog: What the Guam and NMI media won't tell you.

@ marianasguamblog.tumblr.com Hafa Adai.
The Jarhead Jigger; Landscapes of Violence, Public Nuisance And Manufactured Surprise in Hagatna; Thoughts from a Oka, Tamuning boy.
The marines are doing their thing and this time it’s in Hagatna.
Penchants for training and combat exercises have always been the bread and butter of the marines, who under sequestration are seeking respite and ways to further validate their existence.
For years the marines have been conducting urban exercises to the irritant of many villagers.
Yet that is what they are supposed to do, conduct tactical training iterations to remain ready for combat.
Sounds violent uh. It is.
Last time I had the misfortune of being close by these training irritants, I got a call from my auntie Chai, complaining about the noise. I parked the truck near the perimeter as GPD officers watched.
It was then that I knew who was fully in charge and it wasn’t the GPD.
Yet, the marines knew they could get away with making noise, disrupting an otherwise tranquil environment, without even having the courtesy to let the village mayor know beforehand.
As Rodney Dangerfield once said “no respect” and that is what we have here once again - no respect.
The intelligence community spooks living on Guam and Saipan and the marine training planners are having a field day by delivering surprise to villagers.
What better way to deliver the message that Guam remains the epicenter of American military governance and control that to take the training op to the heart of the island?
Madison Avenue nor Hollywood could not have done this one up better. ”Live firing, overhead aircraft, marines rappelling, etc. etc.”
What better way to irritate, upset, frighten and demonstrate who is in charge than to have the marines, under the shadow of a moonlight night, embark on a urban exercise training op in an otherwise relatively peaceful little village located in the remote western Pacific.
Make no mistake folks, the marines are here to stay, for good or for bad.
My question is who is collecting the section 30 monies if at all?
Where’s Madeleine or Mo’ Money Eddie and what do they have to say?
The MARSOC community views Guam with special importance for where else in the country can you so fully disrupt and become a public nuisance while enjoy the backing of the local media, who condone and produce non-evaluative reporting?
I suspect the answer is “no where else in the country.”
Perhaps, the marines could do a training op at Mo’ Money Eddie’s compound in Maite. I’m sure Paul senior would be much appreciative of the gesture.
My question is where is Admiral Bordallo?
Having her accompany the marine office in charge of this urban training exercise would make for a great photo op and demonstrate to villagers why she represents MARFORPAC so well.
The CIA employee who coined the term Only On Guam was right on this one.
Because “OOG” can Ronald Reagan’s 9/11 force be so irritating and so overwhelming, but hey, that’s the whole point isn’t it?
Masters of chaos in Tano Y Chamorro.
Hafa Adai.


Military, leaders failed us in live-fire exercise

Letter to the PDN

The live-fire training conducted by the Marines in Hagåtña was done in violation of their own policies. Just as concerning was the failure of our leaders to properly inform the public at large and to safely prepare for the invasion of Hagåtña.

U.S. military policy MCO3570.1C, DOD policy 3150.03D and 1322.28, requires that the use of non-DOD property meet applicable environmental and local regulations. A legal review and formal agreement with the owners is required. The U.S. must identify ammunition intended for use, procedures and accountability, scope of liability (property damage and injury), control measures, procedures for decontaminating the training area, coordination with local authorities, written notification of activities, anticipated population nuisance, precautions given to the residents, etc. Mission failed. This exercise in the capital of Guam could have proven fatal with the substantive homeless population in the area.

Undoubtedly military training is an urgent national priority in a time of war, but they have already taken more than one-fourth of the island and continue to practice eminent domain or land-grabbing. The U.S. government did the same thing in the state of Colorado, using eminent domain to steal ranchers' property. So in Guam, an unincorporated, unorganized territory of the U.S., they don't even have to ask. Why should they ask to use their own property?

We love America, we don't need self-determination, we want status quo -- and the Spanish called us the island of thieves. This is how the military exercises eminent domain -- they use non-DOD property as a testing ground and then they seize it under federal control.

The failure of our elected leaders to ensure citizen notification and safety is derelict and criminal, especially if they were aware of the live-fire training and still gave no notice. Where were our elected leaders with the inflated salaries -- mayors making $75,000 (because they are on call 24 hours), senators with salaries of $85,000 (who are just as deserving), our lieutenant governor at $95,000 (painting bus stops) or our governor at $130,000 who is the most deserving (for his landslide victory)? Were they all sleeping at the wheel?

One day we are living in peace and then overnight we become a war zone. Guam has been more than welcoming to U.S. military, but we are not welcoming them to become a war zone -- conducting training outside the DOD fence leaves the entire island vulnerable to being a war zone like it was in World War II.

We sought U.S. protection as they were on island prior to the invasion of Japan and then the U.S. leave the Chamorros to fend for themselves.
Biba colonization!


Sunday, January 25, 2015

American Sniper and the Role of Film in Warmaking

I'm already quite tired from a long day, but before I go to bed I wanted to post some articles about American Sniper. I tried to watch the film last weekend on a Sunday night when usually theaters are empty on Guam, but to my surprise it was sold out. In just a week it is now a huge blockbuster and seems to be a commercial and critical success. Amidst all the buzz, people have been criticizing the film because of the incredible amount of fabrication that went into creating the movie figure of America's most lethal sniper. The Chris Kyle in the film is very different than the Chris Kyle of history and who published a memoir and loved to exaggerate his history of violence, even to the point of boasting and lying about fights he was never in and murders he never committed, all in the US, not the Middle East.

I have written so many times over the years about the way in which national policies become conflated with the soldiers who enact, in some cases illegally or violently those policies. If you oppose a war, you oppose the troops who fight the war. It is a frustration sort of discursive strategy because it doesn't leave any room for national error. It basically assumes that if the US is bombing or attacking someone and troops are involved, shut up and support the troops. Don't question what the troops are doing, don't question whether it is right or not, just shut up and support them. 

In my history classes we often times discuss the interactions between history and film. How people create a movie using elements of history and make changes to it. All films will take "liberties" but the question of analysis is why they take these particular liberties? In my history classes, students all usually agree that history isn't boring, as I try my best to make it exciting and interesting. But the usual response that people have is that movies change history because it is too boring and has to be spiced up. History is shaped in movies to meet different artistic or narrative needs. It is changed to meet audience expectations. It is changed for convenience. The creators make choices and we are at the mercy of their choices. All this is important though because films are a way in which people absorb information about history and also absorb values or at least fragments of values. For movies that take recent wars as their backdrop there is always the problem of patriotism. Do you create something that is challenging and that shows the horror of war and how the world needs less of it and not more of it? Or do you show war as being exciting and heroic and epic? A narrative form that tends to give the impression that more war is needed in the world, so we can have more awesomeness both of the national form, but also the individual servings in veterans. 

One problem with American Sniper is that since it is from the perspective of Chris Kyle himself, the movie offers up what is largely his world view as historical fact. The connections that he saw between races and countries become the scenery in front of which he kills, the color palette that gives meaning to his actions. It is no wonder that there was a sizeable amount of tweets in the first week of release all expressing a desire amongst viewers to go and kill Arabs, because according to the film's universe the Arab world attacked the US on 911, evil Arabs and Muslims were killing the US in Iraq and making widows of poor ladies back home and giving PTSD to other good American heartland boys. 

This is such a distorted view of history, and perhaps the main reason why the film is being criticized as propaganda. Iraq had nothing to do with 911 and the US was the occupier in Iraq. The fact that we are to see American troops in Iraq as victims and not invaders is part of the whole imperial consciousness that most war movies tend to perpetuate. America is a nation of liberators who go from place to place liberating and handing out freedom. Anyone who doesn't like that must be evil right? As we focus on the anguish of Chris Kyle and other American soldiers in Iraq and feel the potential patriotism well up within us, we so easily and too quickly forget that the entire Iraq war was based on lies. Lies that cost billions of dollars and thousands of lives. Clint Eastwood has stated that this is an antiwar film because it shows the incredible cost that war can cause on the families of soldiers, the wounds both visible and invisible that persist when soldiers return home. If he wanted to make an antiwar film, he went about it all wrong. A film like 'American Sniper' will most likely increase the chances of future, purposeless and pointless wars. So long as the focus of a movie about the War on Terror is on the heroes who come out of it, people who watch it will still have trouble distinguishing between the policies and the troops. They will support whatever next fight is on the horizon, because American heroes will fight it. War is the domain of national, masculine hero-making. It is the place of last-stands and valiant sacrifices, and so long as those things are highlighted and promoted, people will have trouble remembering the lies, the manipulations which often led to the wars taking place. It is unfortunate, because all of this blindness prevents people from actually supporting the troops, meaning only deploying them if they are actually needed and not sending them into quagmires like Iraq. 

Four articles are included below to give you a better sense of some of the critiques of the film.

"My 12 Years of Support for the Troops "
by Michael Moore
Before I post my more general thoughts later today or tomorrow about the ruckus of the past week regarding the response to my heartfelt comment on twitter about my uncle who was killed in World War II by a sniper - and how I was taught to despise snipers of any stripe - I would like to address this one insane mantra that the right-wing has twisted my tweet into: "Michael Moore hates the troops."
Well, who would know better about hating our troops than those who supported sending them into a senseless war Iraq in the first place?
And, for 4,482 of them, a senseless, unnecessary and regrettable death. 
If you supported that invasion, if you voted for George W. Bush and the Republicans and Democrats who backed this war, then you are the ones who have some 'splainin' to do. Not me. You. 
Because only "haters" of our brave young men and women would recklessly send them into harm's way for something that had absolutely nothing to do with defending the United States of America. Nothing. Nothing to do with 9/11. Nothing. In fact, WE, the USA, were the ones who provided Saddam with his weapons in the 1980s that he used against the Kurds. We wanted him to use them against the Iranians, but you hand a crazy guy crazy weapons, something crazy is probably going to happen. Ask Osama bin Laden about that -- what he did with the crazy training, crazy money and crazy weapons that WE gave him. Oh wait. You can't ask him. Because the new president took him out. No 150,000 troop invasion necessary. Just 12 or so Navy SEALS and two and a half choppers.
Here's the truth they can't or won't report: I'M the one who has supported these troops - much more than the bloviators on Fox News. To prove it (and I know this is going to crush some of you out there), here's just a partial list of all the things I do and have done for those men and women who serve -- and I guarantee you, you've never heard any of this reported about what the real me does because, frankly, it messes up their little story of the fictional "Michael Moore" they've created for your hate and enjoyment (please feel free to cut, paste and send this to your conservative brother-in-law):
** I have an aggressive affirmative action policy specifically to hire Iraq and Afghanistan veterans at my film production company, my movie theaters in Michigan and my film festival. I have asked other businesses in my town (and nationwide) to join with me on this. http://www.traverseticker.com/…/michael-moore-asks-business… . A vet was an editor on my films "Fahrenheit 9/11" and "Sicko" and a vet (who served in both Iraq AND Afghanistan) is the projectionist at my flagship theater in Michigan (to name a few). 
** I also ask people to post a sign I designed and have made available: "I Shop Where Vets Work". Here's my policy and the poster: http://www.statetheatretc.org/veterans#opening (Can someone at Fox News send me your posted affirmative action program to hire Iraq and Afghanistan vets?)
** Since I opened my movie theaters in northern Michigan, this has been my admission policy: "Admission to all movies at my theaters is FREE, 365 days of the year, for ALL active duty military and their families." 
** I allow local veterans support groups to use my theater to meet for PTSD issues, I host quarterly PTSD summits, and I've hosted a conference to start a jobs movement for vets in our town.
** I have raised tens of thousands of dollars through my website for groups that help veterans and wounded warriors: http://web.archive.org/…/20140829053240/http://fa…/soldiers/
** In the early years of the war I made all my books and DVDs available free of charge to all service members through BooksForSoldiers.com
** I produced and hosted a benefit for military families at the House of Blues that received national attention to their plight (raw clips here from the AP: https://vimeo.com/117687290 )
** I will NOT do business with vendors who don't have a policy to hire vets.
** I gave voice to the troops who weren't being heard by publishing a book of their letters from the front lines in "Will They Every Trust Us Again?" (NY Times bestseller for 4 weeks)
** I regularly post blogs from troops http://www.ivaw.org/blog/ivaw-featured-michael-moore and I show and support many movies about what they've gone through in the past 12 years at my theaters.
** I took vets, soldiers and their families on a 60-city tour of the country so their concerns could be heard: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wm3IsgoBNc0
** I helped Iraq Vets against the War with "Operation Recovery" http://www.ivaw.org/operation-recovery and http://www.huffingtonpost.com/…/how-bout-dinner-just-you_b_…
** My movie, "Fahrenheit 9/11" - #1 selling/#1 rental on all military base PXs
** My books were the #1 requested books by troops from the nonprofit BooksForSoldiers.com
** I sit on the Advisory Board of the Pvt. Bradley (Chelsea) Manning Support Network
** From the Dept. of Irony: I only hire Navy SEALS and ex-special forces for when I need security - such as this week, when so-called supporters of those SEALs want me harmed.
** When my father passed away this year, in lieu of flowers I asked that donations by made in my dad's name to the veterans group, Veterans for Peace. Enough money was raised so that the Vietnam Vets chapter could build a home in Vietnam for a family still suffering from the effects of Agent Orange. It's being dedicated in my dad's name. 
** I am currently showing "American Sniper" at my theater that I helped restore and that I program and help run in Manistee, MI. Not because I like it, but because, unlike the other side, I'm not a censor. I trust smart people and people of good heart will know what to do. You can't have a conversation about what Clint Eastwood is up to if you haven't seen what it is he's up to. And regardless where u are on the political spectrum, you'll see that every character in Clint's film comes out dead or permanently damaged. This ain't no John Wayne rah-rah pablum. Eastwood made maybe the greatest western ever - "Unforgiven" - but now it's sad seeing him talking to an empty chair on a stage or making an Iraq movie that Rolling Stone this week called, "too dumb to bother criticizing."
In the end, the thing I'm most proud of for what I've done for the troops was sticking my neck out 12 years ago to become a leading opponent to Bush and the war. I tried to save more lives than a sniper ever could hope to -- by preventing us from going to war in the first place. Well, I failed at that. But I've done everything else humanly possible to try and make it up to those troops when they return home -- that is, the ones lucky enough to return home. 
So, Fox News and the other lazy media -- quit making shit up about me! You look ridiculous. If you want to have a debate with me about the ISSUES and the POLICIES, then let's have it. If you want to debate a movie that's trying to rewrite history, then let's have that. But when you hide behind falsehoods and then use them to try and manipulate the public, then all you are is afraid. Afraid of me, an unarmed American, and the truth I bring along as my sidekick. Only cowards have to lie. Be brave. Report the truth. It will feel good.

Why we're allowed to hate a movie about the military
On 'American Sniper' and more: judging art, and propaganda
By Drew McWeeny  @DrewatHitFix | Monday, Jan 19, 2015 7:30 PM

Over the weekend, I saw a headline go by about the truly remarkable box-office earned by "American Sniper," and I made a quick joke about it on Twitter. It was a passing thought, and then I was done.

"I'm not surprised 'American Sniper' opened so well. Fantasy films are huge at the box-office these days. #yeahIsaidit"

Yes, the hashtag at the end is snide. But it's still a joke. I put it up and I moved on. Or at least, that was the plan. A few hours later, I had to shut off the notifications on my phone because they just kept coming. For the most part, lots of retweets and a few jokes back at me, but there was a percentage of those replies that were overtly hostile and angry, and several threats of/calls for violence as a result. “Said the liberal insane POS. Sad our military die for ass wipes like you. Go away, little boy” was a charming one. I was intrigued by the one who called me a racist and then said, “You think there aren’t black people in our armed forces? You think that’s a ‘fantasy’?” I like it when people get upset about things that were never remotely part of my thought process.

One guy even attempted to loop Marcus Luttrell into the conversation, which made me laugh. The idea that the author of "Lone Survivor," the real-life retired SEAL whose story was the basis of the film and book would take time out of his day to join some anonymous goofball off of Twitter on a trip to LA to physically assault me is laughable. "Hmmm… maybe I should listen to this guy with 175 Twitter followers and go punch someone over a 140 character long wisecrack."

Right now, Seth Rogen's taking his turn in the barrel because of (this sounds familiar) a comment on Twitter about "American Sniper." His comment has been RT'd over 5000 times now, and favorited almost twice as many times. And you can now Google "Seth Rogen" and "American Sniper" together and you'll get an entire page full of results. People are getting hot about Seth's comment because it gives them a chance to say the word "Nazi" and draw huge ridiculous false connections between what Seth said and a very particular insult.

Here's the thing… he's not wrong. Sure, the film at the end of "Basterds" is direct state-sponsored Nazi propaganda, while "American Sniper" is a commercial movie, released by a major studio. In both films (one of which, I should point out, doesn't technically exist), though, we see a sniper being canonized on film for the killing of the enemy, the sniper-as-hero archetype. Rogen's comparison, offered up without any further slam or attempted insult, is an accurate one.

Personally, I have always been troubled by what our pop culture depictions of war say about us, and by the attributes war gains any time you point a camera at it, fact or fiction. Truffaut said, "There's no such thing as an anti-war film," and I understand that he was deeply troubled by the thrills that are delivered when we watch combat, the visceral reaction that he had to footage that upset him on a moral level.

I feel the opposite is true; any movie about war is automatically, no matter what the filmmaker's intentions, an anti-war film. I look at films about war, and I cannot imagine how we continue to send remarkable men and women into that situation. Any of us. One of the most disturbing things about the evolution of war films as a genre is the way technology has been used to create more and more graphic and realistic on-screen depictions of horrifying loss of life and limb. David Ayer's "Fury" was problematic, but I said in the review that one of the reasons I would tell people to see it was because of how great the tank combat is. Beautifully staged, harrowing, and photographed with a great sense of kinetic energy, it's impressive stuff. But tank combat is one of those things I'm not sure I should have a visceral action-movie reaction to, because of context, not because of form. That's the damnable thing about war movies.

Talking to a friend last night, she discussed how her reaction to the movie was to the movie itself. Not to Chris Kyle. Not to the true story. Not to the book. Not to any of the various controversies around Kyle. She liked Bradley Cooper's work, and she liked the way it played as a movie. When I wrote my review, I wrote about the movie, nothing else. I didn't really get into my feelings about Chris Kyle or his book or the industry that exists around portraying him a certain way, because that's really not part of a discussion of the film itself. I'll also confess… part of me gets nervous when those subjects do finally come up because of how the conversations inevitably break down. I may have laughed at that guy on Twitter who "threatened" me, but it does raise a question about that guy's reaction and the reactions of the people who are slinging fury and hate at Rogen right now over what he said. Why do people get so much more angry and defensive about any based-on-a-true-story that involves the military, and why do they feel some special need to attack anyone who dislikes these movies for any reason?

It's not like military-themed films are the only ones that get attacked for accuracy. It's Oscar season right now, so "Selma" and "The Imitation Game" and "The Theory Of Everything" and "Foxcatcher" and "Unbroken" have all had attacks launched at them over accuracy, and to some degree, every one of those films fails the test of "truth." "American Sniper" certainly isn't the only film out right now that can be challenged on matters of accuracy, nor would I consider it the biggest offender. In fact, I think what Eastwood tried to do, working with screenwriter Jason Hall, was shave away all the stuff from Kyle's book that was either difficult to prove or proven false, sticking instead to Kyle's service tours and his home life. The movie version of Chris Kyle is a movie star at the height of his creative energy right now, throwing himself into a physical transformation and pushing himself to a really grim emotional place. It's burnished mythmaking by Eastwood. The film makes a conscious decision about what character it wants to present, and there's nothing wrong with that, per se.

I understand if someone wants to go to the theater and have that experience, especially if they're military or if they have military in their family. I think a big part of the appeal (and I hate using that word in this context) of Chris Kyle's story is the horrifying irony of the ending. It seems to me that is the key with almost all of these films is that they're built on one particular idea about this famous person or this famous moment in time. I thought "Foxcatcher" was a frustration because there's so much good work in the film, hobbled by some really strange choices about the actual storytelling. The only way to look at these films is as fiction, based on things that actually happened. They are not true. In every single one of them, you have people who heard a story, who responded to that story, and who saw a reason to tell other people that story. In doing so, they edit. They massage. They shape. They edit. They emphasize.

Does it matter how Lyndon B. Johnson is portrayed in the movie "Selma"? Yes. Absolutely. And what I see in that film is a portrait of a man who understands what he should do and who equally understands what he cannot do at that point, a man whose position evolves over the course of the film, and who eventually realizes that there is something that has to be done. "Selma" is not a biopic in the strict sense. It is a film about the way it takes community to create successful protest, and how that community works. It absolutely telescopes events and situations in order to make its dramatic points. In the end, I believe "Selma" has a fundamentally honest perspective on the events, and that's all I can ask of any of these movies, just as I find that "Foxcatcher" has a fundamentally dishonest perspective. The fact that I think "Selma" is the better made movie of the two is unrelated to that belief, though. It's just coincidence that it lines up the way it does.

Obviously, there was an audience that was ready and waiting for "American Sniper," and I am glad they had the opportunity to see a film that means so much to them. But I wish it was possible in our culture to have a conversation about these movies and how they work as films without it automatically spilling over into accusations and anger. If you feel protective of the way the military is portrayed on film, that's fine. But the anger is part of something larger, some fundamental break that has occurred in the way we talk to each other in this country, a "your team or mine" thing that I constantly struggle to stay out of. What worries me is that at a certain point, if you say that what a film is about is more important than the actual artistry of the filmmaking, then you're talking about propaganda... aren't you?

I am not a binary person with a fixed binary opinion on things, and I suspect most people are the same way. I'd love to have a conversation about the way Eastwood's own attitudes about the military have evolved over the course of his performing and directing career. I'd love to have a back-to-back look at "Heartbreak Ridge" and "American Sniper" and discuss the way they each reflect the culture's attitude towards the military at the moments they were made. I'd be happy to talk about the way "Unforgiven" has defined so much of the career that Eastwood has had since it came out, and how "Sniper" seems to cover the same basic thematic ground of what violence does to someone over the long term and how hard it can be to live with a legend that constantly pushes people to challenge you as a way of proving themselves. There are conversations I'd like to have about "Sniper," and none of them are invalidated by my feelings about Chris Kyle, or by a short joke.

Wouldn't it be better to engage these conversations rather than just sniping every single fact-based film from a distance? Wouldn't that be the best way to make sure we keep truth and art and the relationship between the two in perspective?

"American Sniper," like "Selma," is in theaters now.

Read more at http://www.hitfix.com/motion-captured/why-were-allowed-to-hate-a-movie-about-the-military#SCU2s5UTgLfU1C0D.99

American Sniper Triggers Flood of Anti-Muslim Venom, Civil Rights Group Warns
By Dominique Mosbergen
Huffington Post
The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee said this week that threats against Muslims and Arabs have soared following the release of "American Sniper," a hugely popular and hugely controversial film.
Threats reported to the civil rights group have tripled since the film’s wide opening over the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend, the committee told The Guardian. "The last time we saw such a sharp increase was in 2010, around the Ground Zero mosque," said the group’s national legal and policy director, Abed Ayoub, referring to an Islamic center that was going to be located a few blocks from the World Trade Center site.
The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee has even sent letters to "American Sniper" star Bradley Cooper and director Clint Eastwood, imploring them "to help reduce the hateful rhetoric," according to USA Today. The group wrote that it has seen "hundreds of violent messages targeting Arabs and Muslims from moviegoers of the film."
"With all these threats coming in, we wanted to be proactive," Samer Khalaf, the committee's president, told The Huffington Post in discussing his group's decision to contact Cooper and Eastwood. "When we are not proactive, people end up getting hurt. ... We don't know if somebody's serious or if somebody's joking around, so we take all these threats seriously, especially when they're talking about shooting bullets into someone's head."
Khalaf said the group has not heard back from either Cooper or Eastwood.
Eastwood’s production company, Malpaso Productions, and Cooper's rep have not responded to The Huffington Post’s requests for comment.
"American Sniper" tells the story of the late Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, who served four tours in the Iraq War and is credited as the most lethal sniper in U.S. history. It's based on Kyle's 2012 autobiography.
"Savage, despicable evil. That's what we were fighting in Iraq," Kyle wrote. "I only wish I had killed more. Not for bragging rights, but because I believe the world is a better place without savages out there taking American lives."
"American Sniper" has been a massive box office success, raking in $90 million in the first three days of its wide release -- reportedly an all-time record for the month of January. The movie has been nominated for six Academy Awards, including best picture and best actor.
But the film has also proved to be politically polarizing, with celebrities, politicians and critics adding their voices to the debate. The National Review's David French said the "phenomenal" movie had "created a cultural moment," while New York magazine’s David Edelstein slammed it as a "propaganda film" and a "Republican platform movie" that was "scandalously blinkered."
In a post for Electronic Intifada this week, journalist Rania Khalek noted that social media has been deluged in recent days with "American Sniper" fans posting hateful, discriminatory and sometimes violent messages directed at Arabs and Muslims.
The film "makes me wanna go shoot some f**kin Arabs," wrote one Twitter user earlier this month, punctuating his tweet with emoticons of guns. "'American Sniper' made me appreciate soldiers 100x more and hate Muslims 1000000x more," wrote another.
In its letter to Cooper, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee warned, "The threats advocate for the murder of Arabs, one going as far as to say, 'Great f**king movie and now I really want to kill some f**king ragheads.'"
The civil rights group said in its letter that it's working with the FBI and local law enforcement officials to address the threats.
"It is imperative for us, as Americans, to act now to prevent these verbal threats from turning into violent and physical hate crimes," the group wrote.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Decolonization and God

When the Solorzano skull was brought to Guam there were several events held to discuss the meaning of the skull and also the legacy of the violent time during which the priest Solorzano was killed in fighting between the Spanish and Chamorros. The event that I helped organize at UOG was pretty well attended, with more than 150 people there on a Saturday morning. The discussion never got too heated, with the biggest conflict being over the statement made by Father Fran Hezel that the Chamorro-Spanish Wars was a result of cultural misunderstandings. Religion wasn't touched on much, despite the fact that religion was at the core of the history involved. The Spanish priests were assaulting the religion of Ancient Chamorros. They were forcing them to give up their religion and take a new one. Solorzano himself, as a priest was driven to go into places where he would put himself at risk in the name of his religion and in hopes of dying in the name of his God. But very few people made their statements in an explicitly religious context. They didn't appeal to the status of a God or a spirit or anything else as they were challenging or legitimizing the historical legacy of colonization in the Marianas.

The night before this event however, there was another forum, this time at the Cathedral in Hagatna. This conversation was much more interesting, as more of the politics and discourse around the issue of the Spanish colonization of the Marianas emerged, and it did so in random ways. Often times I end up in rooms or in email chains or just in some everyday conversation with people for whom decolonization and self-determination are serious topics, things they know about and take seriously, even if they may not agree on many points. But what this forum featured was people who knew close to nothing about decolonization, either in its theoretical possibilities or in its political particularities, nonetheless making very aggressive statements, sometimes mixing in a heavy amount of religious discourse. As people attempted to tackle the topic of self-determination in a Catholic context, a local religious context, the results were both inspiring, but in generally frightening.

Some people came out strongly, connecting the Church's history of colonization as necessitating that they now help in Guam's decolonization. They invoked liberation theology, whereby the church may have been a force for violence, colonization and cultural destruction in the past, it could today do the opposite and be something to save and help the unfortunate, the oppressed. One priest for example came out in full force saying, this is something the church needs to take up, especially in order to help get past the colonial history. Others however took a very anti-political and anti-historical perspective in the name of their faith, saying, it doesn't matter what happened then, God must have wanted it to happen, and so we should forget about it and look to what he plans for us next. It was fascinating to see the way people ended up creating a double apex for their discursive points, whereby God and the United States or Spain sat atop of the universe, and as long as one was loyal to both of them, and the way they bless and sustain each other, all would be well.

It was interesting to see this side of the potential ideological spectrum, as it almost never rears its head in my day to day discussions. But given how religious Guam is in someways I should have anticipated it. Below are letters to the editor of the Pacific Daily News which take seriously religious issues but nonetheless support the idea of decolonization. One of them comes from Pastor Steve McManus, who will be working with the Commission on Decolonization this coming year in terms of helping to promote information on self-determination amongst Guam's high schools.


"Guam is in need of a great awakening"
Letter to the Editor
September 21, 2014

In my U.S. history class, we just learned about the Great Awakening. Beforehand, the American colonists lost their faith in God and continued to be oppressed by England. To my understanding, the Great Awakening, quite literally, awakened the American colonies.

I'm a firm believer in God and how truthful his word is. I believe that when the 13 colonies restored their faith, it re-established their understanding of truth and justice and helped them realize the injustices of England, their colonizer.

Now, I believe that for Guam to hold a plebiscite, the people need an awakening, just like the American colonists did years ago. Indeed, there is some doubt expressed by many of Guam's citizens, but I believe that we need to unite as one -- no matter what political status Guam ends up pursuing, to address our future.

It is true that changing our political status is intimidating and not knowing what our future as a nation holds is scary, but the plebiscite simply needs to happen.

The people of Guam must be educated on the three political statuses they are being offered, not only to create awareness, but to help move the plebiscite along, so we can take action.

Gina Santos is a student at Southern Christian Academy and lives in Santa Rita.

"Plebiscite is important to make voices heard"
Letter to the editor
September 14, 2014

What will it take to have a plebiscite? I personally think we have the ability to make it happen. Why? With the help of all the people on Guam, both indigenous and non-indigenous, spreading the word.
How? We can advertise around the island, making signs concerning our political status. Also, we can go canvassing door-to-door, passing out fliers pertaining to the important issues about the plebiscite, in order for the U.S. to be notified and aware of our plebiscite being noticed.

Our voice needs to be heard and it will be. We don't want to be considered property of the United States and want to change our political status through the help of this plebiscite. Thomas Paine said: "Whatever is my right as a man is also the right of another; and it becomes my duty to guarantee as well as to possess."

It is our duty to let everyone know what we want, and that we want it now.

We can't just sit and act like we don't have issues we need to fix. It's very important because Guam needs to get out of being a colony and the amount of problems we face is increasing as we speak. Let's go, Guam! We got this!
Lorenzo Blas is a student at Southern Christian Academy.

"Let youths lead political status discussion"
Steven McManus
September 15, 2014

Let me rephrase a few words from Thomas Paine's Common Sense: "The sentiments contained in 'Decolonization' are not yet sufficiently fashionable to procure them general favor; a long habit of not thinking a thing wrong, gives it a superficial appearance of being right, and raises at first a formidable outcry in defense of custom. But the tumult soon subsides. Time makes more converts than reason."
Time will help, but we need to make the most of it now by demonstrating that the current "custom" of things -- status quo -- is, at best, indefensible.

Two years ago, my government students from Southern Christian Academy conducted surveys on the issue of decolonization. The initial response was to stay status quo. But when the respondents were given information on the benefits of a better political status, the majority wanted change. This dramatic change of heart and mind came at little cost. All that my students did was share some facts on political status options in under 10 minutes.

Education really is key. This was also around the time that the same students were building a traditional outrigger canoe as part of a school project. The students appreciated the historic similarities of both assignments.

The following year, my class submitted a proposal to Gov. Eddie Calvo to have all high schools on Guam send student delegates to three islandwide debates, where they would argue the merits of decolonization. The plan was to have the brightest of our island schools compete in five rounds, leading up to a final debate held at the Southern High School fine arts theatre. The media would broadcast these debates over a period of six weeks.

The governor endorsed it wholeheartedly and we now hope to get the debates going in the second semester of this school year.

This plan echoes an article written by Tiara Naputi of Pepperdine University in the Journal of Public Deliberation, where she wrote: "What is needed to improve both voter turnout and deliberation is a broad-based forum, ... where high school students ... participate as debaters in a series of deliberations. Using a debate format, which gathers together both students and adult experts, these deliberations will investigate the three options on a public stage."

The debates will give us what a jam-packed brochure on decolonization can't: clear information, passion and, yes, lots of rhetoric.

The debates will expose the long habit of not thinking that 116 years of colonization is wrong and enlighten people to see that anything is better than status quo.

As the students investigate the merits of these issues, they will discover what is best for Guam, no matter what their initial inclinations.

Let the youths lead this conversation, and us, toward our political destiny. For when it is finally decided, they will be the ones to navigate Guam's outrigger through these tumultuous seas and into the right harbor.

Steven McManus is a resident of Yona.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Dead v. White

It is frustrating dealing with the ways that so many people, on Guam, on the internet and in so many places talk about race, or rather talk about it in ways to try to neutralize it as a potential issue to be taken seriously in life today. While we can self-identify as a race, while we can say we are this color or that color, and can take pride in what is culturally or historically or linguistically associated with that race, this doesn't take us very far in terms of understanding how race operates in our lives and therefore how racism persists in life, even when race is not "mentioned." Racism is not so much about difference, or the differences between racism, but at its core it is a dynamic between those who are "raced" or "racialized" and those who are not. Those who carry the stigma of race as they move, entangled in various systems and those who do not. Race is a stain, a mark, something that allows for certain bodies to be treated differently, to be dealt with more harshly, to matter less. Racism exists in systems whether or not anyone uses racial slurs, whether or not anyone is part of the KKK or a Neo-Nazi party. It is there as part of the gaze for how people perceive those around them. How a system treats the people that are interpolated within it. Why does the criminal justice system in the US treat white differently than blacks? Or Latinos differently than whites? Why in Guam are Chamorros treated differently than Chuukese? Why is it that for certain bodies the use of deadly force is more acceptable? Because of the way race, in various contexts identifies the bodies upon which such force is necessary, upon which bodies such force is acceptable. The issue of police violence against young black men is tied to this. It is not whether or not cops hate blacks and are evil racists, but rather that they exist as part of a system, inundated with racial ideologies that make it more acceptable and more necessary to damage and destroy certain bodies other than others.

A case in point is the article below. 


Michael Brown is dead. Sarah Culhane is white. 
by Tom Boggioni

On August 9, 2014, in Ferguson, Missouri, 18-year-old unarmed African-American Michael Brown was shot and killed by officer Darren Wilson after an altercation with Wilson as he sat in his police cruiser. Witness accounts vary, but what is known is that  before encountering Wilson, Brown reportedly stole some cigarillos from a local store, As Brown and a friend walked down the middle of the street towards home, they were told to get on the sidewalk by Wilson which eventually led to a scuffle in which Brown was shot once by Wilson, Brown then began quickly walking away. Wilson left his cruiser and fired his service revolver eleven more times, hitting Brown who had turned towards the officer, five more times and killing him.

Some witnesses report that the unarmed Brown has his hands up in surrender as officer Wilson shot him.

Less than one month later, 19-year-old Sarah Culhane of  Princeton, New Jersey crashed her blue BMW into another car in Bensalem, Pa.  When police attempted to pull her over she took off and police eventually abandoned following her in a high speed chase on the city streets.  Culhane later hit another car with her BMW — injuring a woman — before fleeing once again only to hit a third car. Culhane then abandoned her car and fled on foot, before being arrested by police. As police took her into custody, the Amherst College student and field hockey athlete resisted arrest, kicking one police officer in the head before being subdued.

Culhane was charged with aggravated assault, accidents involving injury, resisting arrest, red light violation, driving at unsafe speed, and reckless driving. A judge felt her charges were serious enough that he set her bail at $750,000.

On Nov. 24, a grand jury in St. Louis County declined to charge officer Darren Wilson with any crimes after shooting the unarmed Michael Brown whom he claimed attacked him.  St Louis prosecutor Bob McCulloch later admitted that he allowed perjured testimony during the grand jury proceedings by people who claimed to be witnesses but were not at the scene of the shooting.
Darren Wilson resigned from the Ferguson police department and today it was announced that the Justice Department is about to clear the white police officer who killed the black unarmed teen.
According to the Bucks County Courier-Times, the prosecutor overseeing  the case of 19-year-old Sara Culhane — who crashed her BMW into three cars, injured a woman in the process, and assaulted a police officer while resisting arrest — is  dropping most charges against the young woman. Culhane will see two felony charges of aggravated assault and attempting to elude police, along with misdemeanor resisting arrest and traffic violations dropped to to a single misdemeanor charge of a crime involving personal injury. 

According to NJ. com, as a first time offender Culhane will be eligible for a first-time offender program in Pennsylvania, allowing her to avoid jail time, with the promise of a clean record after completing a rehabilitation program and public service.

Sarah Culhane is white.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Iep Jeltok

Kathy Jetnil-Kijner made international headlines for her poems "Tell Them" and "A Poem to My Daughter" giving people around the world an insight into Marshallese culture and also the dangers that global warming represents to people across the Pacific. She has a blog titled Iep Jeltok, where she discusses a wide range of interesting topics, such as Pacific Literature, the lives of Micronesians in Hawai'i and a post that I really enjoyed (and have posted below) on the importance of colleges divesting from fossil fuels.

Why College of the Marshall Islands is divesting from fossil fuels - and why your institution should too
November 19, 2015
by Kathy Jetnil-Kijner
Iep Jeltok

A few weeks ago I was called into the office of the President of the College of the Marshall Islands (CMI) Carl Hacker, to discuss his big announcement: that he would be pushing for CMI to divest from fossil fuels. All we need next is approval from the Board of Regents, which could possibly happen within a few weeks. “It only makes sense,” he said simply. “If we don’t – who will?”

This was the same question I asked when I conducted training on divestment for student leaders from the Student Body Association (SBA), Peer to Peer, and the Environmental Club here at CMI, just a week after my conversation with the President. The training was led by me and the Vice President of the College, William Reiher, who gave a presentation on renewable energy and the different ways in which we as an institution have been leading in that field as well

While our islands may seem small, businesses for the banks here is profitable and growing. It’s a moral imperative that as banks continue to grow in the region they must side with the people, not the polluters. About 28 trillion dollars are invested in the fossil fuel industry – and it’s this money that is going towards buying out politicians and funding climate deniers. What so many people don’t realize, is that a lot of that money is our own money.

So during my divestment training, I stood in front of student leaders here at CMI, and I told them what I’ve recently realized. That our college must join this movement. The recent IPCC report says that by 2050 global electricity needs to be low-carbon, and that to get right on track, the world would have to cut fossil fuel investments annually between now and 2029, and use that money for renewable energy.

With all this looming on the horizon, CMI is in the perfect position to take that step to divest. CMI is the only college of the nation – we are teaching and shaping the next leaders of our country. Leaders who will have to deal with either a harsher climate reality than the one that exists now, or a future of transition and change from fossil fuels to greener energy. They are the ones who will inherit the future of these islands – they need to understand the fine print on the warning label.

And we’re hoping it won’t just be our college divesting. This move is triggering and connected to the launch of the Pacific Divestment Campaign, being supported by the Pacific Climate Warriors of the 350 Pacific network (350pacific.org). Universities, colleges, organizations, and financial institutions, such as ANZ management, must align their money with their morals. They need to make socially responsible investments because it’s completely unacceptable for them to make profit off the destruction of our islands.

Students in the Pacific especially need to come together and take an active role in this movement. Historically, college students have always been the leaders of major social movements. And this – the climate struggle – this is in our backyard – this our islands. This is the fight of all students in the Pacific.

After the divestment training, the SBA announced that they will be hosting a “Divestment Spirit Week” this coming week. I am so proud of these students for taking this initiative on their own to raise awareness amongst their fellow students. Among the activities will be classroom presentations on what divestment means, an essay and poster contest, a painting of a mural, and activities for each day of the week. “This is a really important and critical step not just for our college, but our country as well, in trying to protest against some of the major contributing factors to climate change,” they wrote in an email to the student body. They are taking the next step – and hopefully our Board of Regents will listen.

So this is a shoutout from CMI to the rest of the colleges, universities, and organizations around the Pacific to join us in this movement, and to take that next step to divest from fossil fuels. I mean hey – if our students can demand divestment from their institution, yours can too.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Bill Moyers on LBJ and Selma


Previously published on BillMoyers.com. After my online chat Tuesday, I had more to add to the questions I received about the Oscar-nominated film Selma, President Lyndon B. Johnson, the Voting Rights Act and how government has changed over the past 40-plus years. Read my Q&A below.

What did you think of the film Selma?

Bill: There are some beautiful and poignant moments in the film that take us closer to the truth than anything I've seen in other movies to date: the cruelty visited upon black people everyday by whites and armed authorities; the humiliation they faced simply trying to register to vote ("Name all the county judges in Alabama!"); the courage and fear of those black people who put themselves on the line for freedom's sake; the ambivalence in Martin Luther King Jr. as he faced the inescapability of leadership and constant threat of death. I cannot imagine the dread one had to subdue to step on that bridge that day.

And I came out of the theater shaking my head in disbelief at the obscenity of the Republican Party as it has piously but insidiously taken up voter suppression as a priority. The Party of Lincoln? Of Emancipation? Nixon's "Southern Strategy" of 50 years ago has now become their subliminal mantra: "Whites of America, Unite!" Back in the 1970s, in the early days of a resurging conservative movement, the late Paul Weyrich -- godfather of the religious right and co-founder of the American Conservative Union, and of ALEC (the American Legislative Exchange Council, the powerful lobbying group for corporations and conservatives) -- declared:
I don't want everybody to vote. Elections are not won by a majority of people. They never have been from the beginning of the country, and they are not now. As a matter of fact our leverage in the elections quite candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down.
 So look who won the midterm elections as voter turnout fell to its lowest in 70 years: A coalition of suppressionists doing everything they can to make it hard for black and poor people to vote -- and their big donors who give millions to drown out those very same voices. That's "Free Speech" in the Roberts era.

As for how the film portrays Lyndon B. Johnson: There's one egregious and outrageous portrayal that is the worst kind of creative license because it suggests the very opposite of the truth, in this case, that the president was behind J. Edgar Hoover's sending the "sex tape" to Coretta King. Some of our most scrupulous historians have denounced that one. And even if you want to think of Lyndon B. Johnson as vile enough to want to do that, he was way too smart to hand Hoover the means of blackmailing him.

Then, casting the president as opposed to the Selma march, which the film does, is an exaggeration and misleading. He was concerned that coming less than a year after the Civil Rights Act of 1964, there was little political will in Congress to deal with voting rights. As he said to Martin Luther King Jr., "You're an activist; I'm a politician," and politicians read the tide of events better than most of us read the hands on our watch. The president knew he needed public sentiment to gather momentum before he could introduce and quickly pass a voting rights bill. So he asked King to give him more time to bring Southern "moderates" and the rest of the country over to the cause, but once King made the case that blacks had waited too long for too little, Johnson told him: "Then go out there and make it possible for me to do the right thing."

To my knowledge he never suggested Selma as the venue for a march but he's on record as urging King to do something to arouse the sleeping white conscience, and when violence met the marchers on that bridge, he knew the moment had come: He told me to alert the speechwriters to get ready and within days he made his own famous "We Shall Overcome" address that transformed the political environment. Here the film is very disappointing. The director has a limpid president speaking in the Senate chamber to a normal number of senators as if it were a "ho hum" event. In fact, he made that speech where State of the Union addresses are delivered -- in a packed House of Representatives. I was standing very near him, off to his right, and he was more emotionally and bodily into that speech than I had seen him in months. The nation was electrified. Watching on television, Martin Luther King Jr. wept. This is the moment when the film blows the possibility for true drama -- of history happening right before our eyes.

So it's a powerful but flawed film. Go see it, though -- it's good to be reminded of a time when courage on the street is met by a moral response from power.

You were involved in passing the Voting Rights Act? How do you assess its impact all these years later?

Bill: Just as Lyndon B. Johnson said at the time, the right to vote is "the most powerful instrument ever devised by man for breaking down injustice and destroying the terrible walls which imprison men because they are different from other men." We're a different country today because of what happened then, obviously -- with black Americans holding office all the way up to the president of the United States. After he signed the  Voting Rights Act I asked LBJ if he thought this meant we'd have a black president in our time. He said no, we would have a woman first. Well, one down, another to go.

On the other hand, the reactionaries never give up. And the George Wallace of then would be pleased with the John Roberts of now. You may know the chief justice was a young lawyer in Ronald Reagan's Department of Justice during the 1980s and doing everything he could to undermine the effectiveness of the Voting Rights Act. Roberts' great conceit -- shared by other conservative members of the court, including Clarence Thomas who keeps trying to kick over the ladder by which he himself was hoisted to prominence -- is that racism is no longer the problem it once was. More or less what you can imagine a privileged elite of corporate lawyers would think, no? Read some of the memos and op-eds the younger Roberts wrote arguing for watering down the Voting Rights Act and you will understand why the conservative movement saw him as their new white hope on the bench. He seems to believe discrimination has to be intentional to be unconstitutional -- that there's no such thing as systemic racism, racism layered over decades or centuries. So we have now a one-time foot soldier in the conservative movement of legal resistance to equal rights occupying its commanding heights.

How do you remember LBJ? 

Bill: Lyndon B. Johnson owned and operated a ferocious ego. But he was curiously ill at ease with himself. He had an animal sense of weakness in other men -- he wanted to know what you loved and what you feared and once he knew, he came after you. He was at times proud, sensitive, impulsive, flamboyant, sentimental, bold, magnanimous and graceful (the best dancer in the White House since George Washington); at times temperamental, paranoid, ill of spirit, vulgar. He had a passion for power but suffered violent dissent in the ranks of his own personality.

He could absolutely do the right thing at the right time -- the reassuring grace, if you will, when he was thrust into the White House after Kennedy's assassination; the Civil Rights Act of 1964; the Voting Rights Act of 1965. But when he did the wrong thing -- escalating the Vietnam war -- the damage was irreparable.

How would you describe the most striking and significant differences in our government that you have observed between the Vietnam era and today?

Bill: First, the sheer size and complexity of government -- check out a recent post on billmoyers.com by John J. Dilulio Jr. reviewing Francis Fukuyama's new book on the state of democracy; the two of them -- Dilulio and Fukuyama -- make this point brilliantly. I also just read a thoughtful piece by Charles Lane in the Washington Post arguing that the Great Society programs minted 50 years ago have mutated into sources of new and intractable problems, including their enormous cost; you can't ignore the argument even as you also acknowledge how the giant tax cuts to the rich have cut government revenues that would help pay that cost. Everybody's clamoring for more spending on infrastructure but hardly anyone is saying "Let's raise the gasoline tax to pay for what all of us need and use!"

Second, the growth of the deep state -- private instruments or agencies of power acting for and funded by the government (intelligence, the military, etc.). There's a vast government we don't see. A long-time senior Republican staff member of Congress, Mike Lofgren, wrote an extraordinary essay for billmoyers.com under the title The Deep State. Read it before you go to bed tonight. Rather, first thing in the morning. If you tackle it before bedtime, you won't sleep.

And finally -- although I should have started with this one: The triumph of money over every aspect of government. Money's always been a force, but never to the extent it is today. We are just this close (I'm squeezing my index finger and thumb tightly) from oligarchy -- the rule of the wealthy few for the purpose of increasing their wealth.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Kolehon Kumunidat

As someone who also went to community college (3 semesters prior to transferring to UOG), I support President Obama's plan to make community college free, and also concur with the message of Tom Hanks in this column from the New York Times. 


I owe it all to community college
by Tom Hanks
New York Times

IN 1974, I graduated from Skyline High School in Oakland, Calif., an underachieving student with lousy SAT scores. Allowed to send my results to three colleges, I chose M.I.T. and Villanova, knowing such fine schools would never accept a student like me but hoping they’d toss some car stickers my way for taking a shot. I couldn’t afford tuition for college anyway. I sent my final set of stats to Chabot, a community college in nearby Hayward, Calif., which, because it accepted everyone and was free, would be my alma mater.

For thousands of commuting students, Chabot was our Columbia, Annapolis, even our Sorbonne, offering courses in physics, stenography, auto mechanics, certified public accounting, foreign languages, journalism — name the art or science, the subject or trade, and it was probably in the catalog. The college had a nursing program that churned out graduates, sports teams that funneled athletes to big-time programs, and parking for a few thousand cars — all free but for the effort and the cost of used textbooks.

Classmates included veterans back from Vietnam, women of every marital and maternal status returning to school, middle-aged men wanting to improve their employment prospects and paychecks. We could get our general education requirements out of the way at Chabot — credits we could transfer to a university — which made those two years an invaluable head start. I was able to go on to the State University in Sacramento (at $95 a semester, just barely affordable) and study no other subject but my major, theater arts. (After a year there I moved on, enrolling in a little thing called the School of Hard Knocks, a.k.a. Life.)

By some fluke of the punch-card computer era, I made Chabot’s dean’s list taking classes I loved (oral interpretation), classes I loathed (health, a requirement), classes I aced (film as art — like Jean Renoir’s “Golden Coach” and Luis Buñuel’s “Simon of the Desert”), and classes I dropped after the first hour (astronomy, because it was all math). I nearly failed zoology, killing my fruit flies by neglect, but got lucky in an English course, “The College Reading Experience.” The books of Carlos Castaneda were incomprehensible to me (and still are), but my assigned presentation on the analytic process called structural dynamics was hailed as clear and concise, though I did nothing more than embellish the definition I had looked up in the dictionary.

A public speaking class was unforgettable for a couple of reasons. First, the assignments forced us to get over our self-consciousness. Second, another student was a stewardess, as flight attendants called themselves in the ’70s. She was studying communications and was gorgeous. She lived not far from me, and when my VW threw a rod and was in the shop for a week, she offered me a lift to class. I rode shotgun that Monday-Wednesday-Friday totally tongue-tied. Communicating with her one on one was the antithesis of public speaking.

Classes I took at Chabot have rippled through my professional pond. I produced the HBO mini-series “John Adams” with an outline format I learned from a pipe-smoking historian, James Coovelis, whose lectures were riveting. Mary Lou Fitzgerald’s Studies in Shakespeare taught me how the five-act structures of “Richard III,” “The Tempest” and “Othello” focused their themes.

Of course, I goofed off between classes eating French fries and looking at girls; such are the pleasures, too, of schools that cost thousands of bucks a semester. Some hours I idled away in the huge library that anchored Chabot’s oval quad. It’s where I first read The New York Times, frustrated by its lack of comics.

If Chabot’s library still has its collection of vinyl records, you will find my name repeatedly on the takeout slip of Jason Robards’s performance of the monologues of Eugene O’Neill. On Side B he was Hickey, from “The Iceman Cometh,” a recording I listened to 20 times at least. When I worked with Mr. Robards on the 1993 film “Philadelphia,” he confessed to recording those monologues at 10 in the morning after lots and lots of coffee.

President Obama hopes to make two years of free community college accessible for up to nine million Americans. I’m guessing the new Congress will squawk at the $60 billion price tag, but I hope the idea sticks, because more veterans, from Iraq and Afghanistan this time, as well as another generation of mothers, single parents and workers who have been out of the job market, need lower obstacles between now and the next chapter of their lives. High school graduates without the finances for a higher education can postpone taking on big loans and maybe luck into the class that will redefine their life’s work. Many lives will be changed.

Chabot College is still in Hayward, though Mr. Coovelis, Ms. Fitzgerald and Mr. Kennedy are no longer there. I drove past the campus a few years ago with one of my kids and summed up my two years there this way: “That place made me what I am today.”

Tom Hanks is an actor, producer and director. His 2011 film “Larry Crowne” was inspired by his years at Chabot College.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Un Popblen na Familia

Storytelling has long been such a big part of Chamorro culture. When Chamorros were largely shut out of the governing of their islands and their lives during the last few centuries of colonization, often times their stories were their means of fighting back, whether through teasing, through imagining, through remembering. Even when they largely appear to have accepted their colonial realities, the stories persisted, sometimes changing to accommodate new beliefs and new senses of normality, but still the love of storytelling and of using words to create meaning, to incite responses, to give an extra dimension to life did not fade. You can find it in the stories of Juan Mala, where Chamorros expressed their dislike for the Spanish government of the 19th century through a folk hero, who shared their love of joking, laughing and eating. You can find it in the stories of the giant fish who saved Guam, some versions focus on female power, others on explaining the shape of the island and some even point to Santa Maria Kamalen and the Catholic church as being the savior. Even in the way that some stories that were most likely brought in from elsewhere achieve their own intriguing or unique local meaning is part of that power. When I watched Pirates of the Carribbean: On Stranger Tides with my kids, they were so confused. The stories of mermaids, most notably Sirena on Guam are either tales to chastise naughty kids or lessons for abusive parents. There are also aspects about Sirena being a Goddess or a  Queen of the sea and controlling fish and living happily engulfed by the ocean, where she perhaps always truly belonged. But there is none of the frightening or dangerous parts that we find in other culture's interpretations of mermaids. When Sumahi saw the mermaids attacking and killing sailors and pirates, she was so appalled. How could Sirena and her fellow mermaids act like this? What was I not telling her or hiding from her if this is the way mermaids are? I explained to her that ti parehu ayu na klasin Sirena yan iyo-ta na klasin Sirena. I Sirena siha giya Guahan, manmangge, ya-niha manayuda taotao. Lao gi otro tano', sina manmalamana. She gave me her patent "do I believe you or not believe you" stare, before turning back to the movie.

It is imperative that we continue to create new stories, mixing them with the old, not being afraid to challenge the new. If our stories are only about times past, whether ancient or World War II, we will always look to the future with a poor, impoverished imagination. We will imagine our future as being carved out by others. We will feel the need to have others tell us what to do, to command us forward, to show us the map of where we should go, since our own culture, our own consciousness is always too rooted in the past. Often times, native peoples, especially those who have experienced heavy levels of colonization and cultural change, will focus too heavily on that past, excavating and digging up whatever they can. But our attention always has to be focused on the future, where are we going, the stories that will inspire us as we head there. That will assure ourselves of our ability to face the future's challenges.

Below is a story from Katherine Aguon, which is featured in the Hale'-ta books and also her own Chamorro language curriculum. I have been spending the past few years collecting as many stories like this that I can. Apologies kontiempo at the fact that the diacritic or spelling marks aren't in this version of it. I'm typing on my computer where making those marks are difficult.


Un Popblen na Familia

Guaha un familia mansaga’ apmam na tiempo gi chago’ na lugat. Yan-niha guihi sa’ mamamomoksai mannok yan babui. Manmanananom lokkue’ chotda, suni yan dagu. I dos asagua, gaifamagu’on, tres lalahi yan dos palao’an. Si Agapito na’an-na I tata yan Si Isabet i na’an-na i nana.

Unu gi lahin-niha gof metgot. I na’an-na Si Tano’. Hunggan magahet na gof metgot Si Tano’. Sina ha hatsa i mas yommok na babui.

Dos gi lahen-niha kalan malalangu. Taya’ I dos na pumeska gi halomtano’ pat i tasi. I saddok ha’ na pumepeksa I dos che’lu, lao un ratu ha’. I na’an-niha si Tunu yan Si Fumu. I dos palao’an na’an-niha Si Flora yan Si Konchita. Si Flora kakanta yan bunita. Si Konchita ti kakanta, lao malate’.

Gi ma’pos na simana, ilek-na I tata na malago’ ha bende I ga-na siha mannok yan babui gi metkao sa’ malago Si Tan Isabet mamahan magagun eskuela para I famagu’on. Guaha ha’ didide’ salape’ lao ti malago’ Si Tun Agapito na u ma gasta todu, sa’ ha nisisita I atof guma’ mafa’maolek. Ha nisista lokkue’ I kareta mafa’maolek.

Ti manmagof i famagu’on na para u ma bende I pineksai siha. Ma disidi, pues ma cho’gue otro planu para u fanmama’salape’.

Humanao Si Tunu yan Si Fumu manhokka’ un pickup na niyok ya ma bende gi tenda siha. Humanao Si Tano’ ya pumeska babuen halomtano’. Ha konne’ kasi dosse na babuen machalek. Ma puno’ todu ya ma na’gasgas. Pues ma chule’ guatu gi metkao ya ma bende. Meggai fina’tinas-niha salape’.

Humanao Si Flora yan Si Konchita ya mamfe’ meggai flores gi uriya. Ma fa’korona pues humanao I dos ya ma bende gi kanton chalan. Mientras mannanangga I dos kumakanta Si Flora ni’ mambunitu na kanta Chamorrita. Meggai kareta mamara sa’ ma hungok I kantan Flora. Mientras kumakanta Si Flora, Si Konchita ha sangangani I pasaheru siha hafa pinadesin familian-niha. Gof malate’ Si Konchita, magahet, sa’ ha na’fanatanges I pasaheru siha ni bunitun estoria-na. Un ratu ha’ mafahan todu I korona. Munahong i salape’.

Manhanao i famagu’on guatu gi gima’ anai munhayan i benden-niha. Ma na’I I sainan-niha ni’ salape’. Tumanges I dos amko’ pues mandimu todu ya ma na’I Si Yu’us grasia.


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