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Back Letter to the Editor Our sea of voices

Our sea of voices

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WHEN the giant fish began eating the middle of Guåhan, our ancestors did not receive an environmental impact statement (EIS) from DOD (Department of Destruction). Our ancestors knew that the wealth (food, clothing, shelter) and security of Chamoru people depended on the health and integrity of our land and water. Thus, the sound of the hungry beast devouring our home must have been terrifying.

Perhaps the sound of its gnawing teeth resembles the drumbeat of typing 11,000 pages of the EIS for the military buildup on Guåhan.

Perhaps the sound of its lashing tongue resembles the loud tongues of those in the Legislature, media, business community, academia, and the We Are Colonizers social network who support the colonization of Guåhan.

Perhaps the sound of its swallowing resembles the sound of the doors at a military recruitment office opening and closing, opening and closing, opening and closing each time it swallows another Chamoru body.

Or perhaps it's just noise.

The Final EIS (Volume 2, Section 6-1-1) defines "noise" as "unwanted or annoying sound and is not necessarily based on loudness. It comes from both natural and manmade sources. Noise can have adverse effects on physical and psychological health, affect workplace productivity, and degrade quality of life."

According to the Guam Compatibility Sustainability Study, the military buildup will cause an increased amount of noise from construction, traffic, air and sea operations, ground training and artillery. The land, the air and the water will become targets. Our eardrums will become targets. Violent noise will echo from every corner of the island.

Within all this noise, can we hear our own voices?

Volume 10 of the Final EIS contains almost all the public comments that were submitted during the 90-day comment period. This volume is filled with nearly 10,000 comments – our voices – protesting the military buildup.

This is one comment among many: “What scares me is that I am a young female (and) a target to those men who will be arriving.”

Remember how the daughters of Guåhan wove their hair into a net and lured the giant fish with their songs. After they sang all their known songs, they invented new songs. What did those new songs sound like? Perhaps their songs resembled the testimony given at community centers and schools during the public hearings on the military buildup.

Perhaps their songs resemble the speeches our peoples have been delivering for decades to the United Nations demanding international justice.

Perhaps their songs resemble the voices of past and present human rights groups, such as We Are Guåhan, Fuetsan Famalao'an, Guåhan Coalition for Peace of Justice, I NasionChamoru, OPI-R, Fight for Guåhan, Famoksaiyan, F.I.T.E., and many others who have spoken up against U.S. colonialism.

Perhaps their songs resemble the poems of the Sinangan-ta youth poets, and all the poets of Guåhan who are slinging their word-weapons of truth.

Perhaps their songs resemble the chants of Pa'aTaotaoTano' who sang to protect Pågat.

Perhaps their songs resemble curriculum by teachers in Guåhan's schools that practice decolonial pedagogy.

Perhaps their songs resemble "Letters to the Editor" by concerned Chamorus around the world, Facebook pages, blogs, and radio programs (like Beyond the Fence).

The apocalyptic beast of U.S. colonialism, capitalism, and militarism has been destroying our island, our culture, and our people for too long.

Look and listen: It has been lured out into the open and is violently beating its tail. Can you feel it? Can you feel the strands of our different songs being woven into one voice? Can you feel the net of our voice strengthening?

Craig Santos Perez,
Poet and Professor
Honolulu, Hawaii

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