Author Archives: radicalresearch

Lunch…with a side of racism?

A couple of weeks ago I got a forwarded email from one of my fellow members of Famoksaiyan telling me this story that PNC has finally done a piece on. So it goes, while having lunch at a restaurant on Guam, Cara Flores-Mays, a member of We Are Guahan, overheard officials from the Joint Guam Program Office and Marine personnel having a flippant discussion about the marketing strategy for the build-up. As I understand the story, the snippet of conversation was full of arrogance and condescension towards the Chamorro people. They discussed ways to infiltrate the communities by way of the mayors and the pro-military stories of the manamko’ (Chamorro elders), exploiting the respect that we have for our elders.  There was even a moment when one of the participants, JGPO Colonel Paula Conhain, ridiculed an older Chamorro man for the way he speaks and his lack of teeth.

Cara immediately wrote about her experience in an open letter and sent it out on the internet. One of the participants, Marines Public Affairs Officer Lt. Col. Aisha Bakkar, found her way to the letter via facebook and wrote a pretty heartfelt apology, taking responsibility for the conversation and admonishing the disrespect.

Still, as Cara touches on in her response to the apology (the first comment to Bakkar’s apology), Bakkar is part of a system that’s doing its thing, no matter how much she apologizes for it. It’s her duty to apologize, it’s others’ duty to shrug it off. Case in point, a few hours after this PNC piece came out, Col. Conhain issued a tepid apology of the “I’m sorry you feel that way” brand, giving the air that she only vaguely recognizes she did anything wrong.

Hm, it’s easy to drown in the negative in this situation, but Cara brought a positive into this whole thing. That conversation could have easily stayed at that table, in that restaurant that day, if Cara hadn’t blown it up. Way to keep them in check! And that’s what we got to keep on doing. Read the action letter below that Cara wrote as follow-up and contact your congressperson.

Dear Friends,

You may remember a letter that I sent a few weeks back where I detailed a conversation that I’d overheard at Mermaid Tavern. Though I did not know everyone at the table, they have since been identified. What I found particularly interesting is that the woman who made insulting comments about the older Chamorro man is Paula Conhain, JGPO Communications Director. The other Colonel present was Colonel Pond. Although COL Bakkar has reached out to apologize for the conversation that took place, no one else in that group has apologized for tolerating such blatant disgust of our culture.

It was Paula Conhain, JGPO Communications Director (working both in Guam and DC) who made the comments that I referred to in this portion of my letter:

I was most disgusted by the last piece of the conversation that I overheard where this group laughed at an older Chamorro man who was not present. They made fun of the number of teeth he had left and the way he speaks (his Chamorro accent, I’m assuming).  They mocked the fact that he had received a degree at the University of Guam.

These are the people who have been assigned to work on the Guam buildup: people who have no respect for our community, for the native language of Guam, or for people who can’t afford health care and maybe go toothless. These are people who lack the integrity to come forward to apologize, even when they’ve made a mistake. Instead, they allowed one woman, Aisha Bakkar, who was the only person who I could identify by name, to take the full fall for it.

I would encourage you to write a letter to the White House and Our Congresswoman, demanding that more respect be shown to the many sacrifices that our community has made in the name of “freedom, liberty and democracy”.  And more, it’s time for our community to be extended the same rights to freedom, liberty and democracy. This military buildup on Guam has made a mockery of democracy and has dishonored those who die fighting for it.

To contact Congresswoman Madeleine Z. Bordallo
OR Call 477-4272

To contact the White House
OR Call 202-456-1111

Biba Guåhan,si Cara Flores-Mays 




Filed under Military/Military Build-up

Poor Hank Johnson

Contributed by Alexandria Tom

Once again, Rep. Hank Johnson’s (D-Georgia)  less than eloquent remarks on the detrimental effects of the build-up resurface in the news. This all started late last month at a House Armed Services Committee hearing on the defense budget, where Johnson expressed his concern that Guam would “tip over or capsize” because of the sharp increase in population during the proposed military build-up on Guam.

He immediately got some heat from the media, as well as from a boisterous troupe of netizens, who insisted that Johnson literally meant the island would capsize. Of course Johnson later clarified through a spokesperson that he meant it metaphorically, but it was too late. A whole cache of motor boat Guam jokes and the like had already piled up in comment sections all over the web. (My favorite: “If we motored Guam over to China and tied-off they could all get free health care.“)

This time around Barack Obama is taking his share of that ridicule after endorsing Johnson in his re-election campaign. As the article discusses, Obama’s ridicule also has a lot to do with an unprecedented presidential endorsement of a black candidate in a majority black district. Comments and speculation on that angle could be an entire post in itself. But today I want to discuss the implications of a single comment now marking the career of this congressman.

Now as I see it, there is one truth, and only one truth, in this sea of misguided criticism: Johnson was not all there during those comments, which many, including his critics, his colleagues, and the President, believe is connected to the new treatment for his hepatitis C. So maybe he should take a breather while he adjusts to the medication. That still does not sway me from believing that his capsize comment was anything but valid, metaphor or not.

He may have bumbled his way through the lead in to his punch line, confusing the dimensions of the island and slow to correct mistaken words, but for any person who gives a second thought to what such a build-up could do to Guam’s already fragile ecosystem and infrastructure, his comments should make sense.

His clarifying statement could not have said it any better: “Having traveled to Guam last year, I saw firsthand how this beautiful — but vulnerable island — is already overburdened, and I was simply voicing my concerns that the addition of that many people could tip the delicate balance and do harm to Guam.”

It seems like a logical progression: island, water, boat, balance, tip, harm. Why would folks go through all the trouble of jumping over what is plainly obvious to take a jab at a sick man? I could simply chalk it up to the perennial sad state of American political discourse, but I could also suggest character assassination of one of the few congresspeople publicly questioning the build-up.

Beyond my little conspiracy theory, what do y’all think?


Filed under Military/Military Build-up