The Insular Empire recently received the huge honor of being included in the Zinn Education Project‘s list of Teaching Materials. The ZEP project promotes and supports the use of Howard Zinn’s best-selling book A People’s History of the United States and other materials for teaching a people’s history in middle and high school classrooms across the country. The website offers more than 100 free, downloadable lessons and articles organized by theme, time period, and reading level, and information about films – like mine – that address lesser-known chapters in American history.
For those of you who haven’t yet had the pleasure of reading the late Howard Zinn’s works, you are in for a treat. Whereas standard history books focus on the winners – the capitalists, the generals, the men, the Europeans – Zinn’s work focuses on everyone else. Women, slaves, laborers, Indians – and those struggling to make life better for all of us (40 hour work week, anyone?) are finally given their place in the academic sun. Plus Zinn was just a great writer – and a great speaker.
The Zinn Education Project is coordinated by two non-profit organizations, Rethinking Schools and Teaching for Change. The people who are carrying on Zinn’s tradition with this new project are as committed, smart, and karmically positive as he was. I am truly honored to have my work included in their project. Be sure to check it out!
Hope Cristobal just forwarded me a most excellent article from the website antiwar.com, about Guam’s long-standing struggle to hold a plebiscite on its political status. As usual, Guam’s efforts to pull itself out of colonial subservience are being met with disdain (15 US senators recently passed through Guam without bothering to greet the island’s lawmakers) and now even a lawsuit.
“Guam may be a forgotten outpost of empire, a resting place for Uncle Sam’s boot as he performs a “Pacific pivot,” but the Guamanians’ desire to regain control over their destiny ought to be a lesson – and an inspiring example – to the whole world.”
After almost three years in office, President Obama finally visited Guam this week… in the middle of the night, to refuel Air Force One on his way across the Pacific. Hardly what you might call a meaningful visit.
With last-minute warning of the president’s impending arrival, The University of Guam FITE (Fellows for Inquiry Towards Enlightenment) Club organized a protest entitled “Hey Mr. President, Come Meet the Residents,” outside the gates of Guam’s Andersen Air Force Base. Protestors brought banners and posters, including one lit with flashlights and aimed upwards. It read “Guam: Where America’s President Refuels.”
When Obama was first elected, I was genuinely (if naively) optimistic about Guam’s chances for change. After all, there was finally someone in the Oval Office who was both raised in the Pacific, AND from a family that had directly suffered the indignities and injustices of colonialism. If he wouldn’t pay attention, no one would.
But my repeated attempts to simply SEND him a copy of The Insular Empire went nowhere. I believe it’s quite possible that he’s not even aware of Guam’s colonial relationship with the US – though of course he should be, if only for geo-political reasons. One can only hope that he at least peeped out the window of Air Force One as he was landing, and saw the signs of protest shining up at him, and wondered – as Hope Cristobal would say – “what the fuss was all about.”
The Insular Empire will be screening this month on Okinawa, Japan, presented by an organization called Wattaa Loochoo, or “We are Okinawans”. The screening will also include a short talk by Mrs. Shinako, who will report on her recent visit to Guam and meetings with women in the Chamorro community. The aim of the screening is to raise awareness among Okinawans that Guam, like Okinawa, is an island colonized by the United States military.
The screening starts at 7pm. It will be held at the Okinawa Prefectural Museum and Art Museum, and is sponsored by Watta Loochoo.
I am continually impressed by Julian Aguon. He has a razor-sharp mind and a lightning tongue and a strong heart that beats for justice. In his recent presentation at the University of Guam, he discussed how US Constitutional Law and International Law apply to the question of Guam’s political status. Perhaps not surprisingly, he is now being attacked in the local Marianas press, as an advocate for armed violent struggle. Knowing Julian personally, I found this hard to believe – so I watched his entire presentation just to see for myself. As always, watching Julian was a real pleasure. A few of my favorite quotes (with links to video):
“The right of self-determination legally enjoys the same exalted status as the rule prohibiting genocide. As the rule prohibiting torture. To international lawyers, this is a crime. Colonialism is a crime.” [see the video]
“The whole world has spoken on some of these issues. Why not lift our heads out of the sand, and realize that perhaps, just perhaps, one country’s interpretation of international law isn’t the only game in town?” [See the video]
Aguon ended by asserting that, according to international law, ‘colonialism is a crime, and you’re allowed to fight back.’ Not being an international lawyer myself, I have no means for judging the veracity of this statement; but I did note that he then took great pains to honor the peaceful, non-violent contributions of Hope Cristobal, and her many trips to the United Nations on behalf of Guam. “She illustrates a belief, a conviction, on the part of the colonized population on Guam, that words are the better way.”
An advocate for armed struggle? I don’t think so. A brilliant young indigenous lawyer who’s justifiably pissed-off? Absolutely. More power to him.
Dr. Carlyle Corbin and Attorney Julian Aguon will be speaking at an upcoming public forum on political decolonization, presented by the University of Guam and Guahan Coalition for Peace & Justice. To me, the very fact of this forum is a sign of how high the political collective consciousness has been raised on Guam over the past few years. For those who are not on Guam, the event will also be streamed live over the Internet.
PUBLIC FORUM on Political Decolonization
Wednesday, October 19, 5:30 – 8:30 pm Chamorro Standard Time (GMT + 10 hrs)
(LIVE STREAM: Tuesday, October 18, 12:30am PST (GMT – 8 hrs))
University of Guam
CLASS Lecture Hall
Dr. Carlyle Corbin
United Nations Advisor and Internationally recognized expert on decolonization
“The Role of the United Nations in the Self-Determination Process”
Attorney Julian Aguon
Guahan Coalition for Peace and Justice
“Defrosting the Self-Determination Imagination: The Trajectory of Right Under International Law”
I can barely keep up with the news coming out of Guam lately: Dispatch Japan‘s article “Dead Plan Walking” and KUAM’s report that “Talks Indicate Delays for Buildup” point to the inevitable demise of the ill-conceived military buildup on Guam. In the (repurposed) words of General MacArthur, “old military land-grabs don’t die, they just fade away…”
But the proposed buildup’s legacy – if a plan can have a legacy – is a renewed focus on self-determination on Guam. Julian Aguon’s “Legal Appraisal of Self-Determination” in last week’s Marianas Variety points out how murky the term still seems to those in America’s far-west colony, even as it clarifies what the right of self-determination means, in a legal context.
Lately, Guam has been appearing in the annals of Wikileaks – Julian Assange’s non-profit whistleblowing information website. Evidently, the US has been using Guam not only as the ‘tip of the spear,’ but also as a diplomatic tool. Today, the Mainichi Daily News reported on the latest revelation: evidently the US Assistant Secretary of Defense proposed last year to the Japanese government that they might use Guam for joint training purposes, and that “a permanent JSDF presence on Guam to support the training would be appropriate.”
This revelation is troubling for a long list of reasons. At the top of that list might be the fact that this diplomatic discussion was held without any input from Guam’s leaders. (How would the residents of, say, New Hampshire feel if they found out the DoD was negotiating with Germany to station German troops in their neighborhoods – without informing New Hampshire’s Representatives or Senators?)
Next on the list might be the fact that – unlike New Hampshire, which was never occupied by the Germans – Guam has a particularly long and troubled relationship with the Japanese military: the people of Guam were subject to a brutal Japanese occupation during World War II, the effects of which were so deep and so painful that they have been carried over several generations. Equally troubling is the fact that while these recent diplomatic talks were happening, the United States federal government was simultaneously denying Guam’s requests for reparations for their wartime suffering. (These requests have been ongoing for decades, and have continued to be ignored by consecutive US administrations.)
One of the many unfortunate effects of World War II was that the Chamorro people of Guam saw the US military as ‘saviors’ – and because of this they have been willing to forgive the American military for a long list of subsequent transgressions against Chamorro lands, people, and culture. But what will the people of Guam think now, when they see that the US has been trying – behind their backs – to station Japanese troops once again on Guam soil?
Things on Guam are hopping. Guam’s Governor Eddie Baza Calvo has begun the process of appointing members to the island’s recently reinvigorated Commission on Decolonization (first established by Hope Cristobal during her tenure in the Guam Senate).
Calvo’s first appointment? None other than Dr. Lisa Natividad, advisor to The Insular Empire and champion of Guam’s Chamorro people and their right to self-determination. Travis Coffman interviewed her on Guam’s K57 to get her thoughts on decolonization. Dr. Natividad explains in this interview that the governor has “an aggressive plan for when to hold a plebiscite.” She also points out the pressing need for public education and a ‘social marketing campaign’ to make people aware of what they are voting on.
Travis Coffman: And so, in this plebiscite, what will the choices be?
Lisa Natividad: There will be three options on the ballot: independence, free association, and assimilation into the administering power – often referred to as ‘statehood’, though voting for this option doesn’t guarantee statehood.
Travis Coffman: I see. So… we wouldn’t necessarily get statehood, we might get some form of assimilation that feels a lot like being a territory?
Lisa Natividad: Exactly. There is no guarantee that the US will be in support of what we decide for ourselves… clearly we’re going to have to rely on the international community to put pressure on the US to honor this process that is long overdue.