Imagine that…

Archive for April 17th, 2005

It’s All in the Spam!

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Imagine…many years ago, a young Ebeye boy looked forward to Liberation Day Celebration. In those days, Ebeye Marshallese crossed the three miles of water to attend the celebration at the Kwajalein base with the Americans. While making the ferry crossing, the boy would crane his neck looking for the Kwaj water tower. As soon as it came into view, great excitement would fill his heart. Soon he would be riding the carnival attractions, viewing the historical photos of the invasion of Kwajalein, and cheering the American heroes!

Ebeye workers still ferry across to Kwajalein today, but much has changed. Those carnivals on Kwaj are gone, the visitor programs have been all but nullified, and even Marshallese employed on Kwaj sometimes feel unwelcome.

One thing that has not changed since I made those journeys long ago: Marshallese still welcome Americans with grace and liberality.

From the time of the WWII liberation, and the US occupation which inoculated the Marshalls with canned SPAM and westernized thinking, Marshallese have valued their relationship with the US and looked up to the Americans.

This is spite of the fact that America misused its oversight responsibility under the UN Trusteeship, to make the islands its nuclear testing ground and in doing so, made the Marshallese its guinea pigs. Hundreds of people were displaced and sent to strange islands, and thousands of their descendents still have not returned to their homelands.

Today, the US brags to the world about its premier missile base at Kwaj, while the local people live on nearby Ebeye, which some call the ghetto of the Pacific.

Imagine…any other country and its people allowing these things to occur in their homeland, and not fighting back against it.

Imagine…any other people not holding great bitterness and objections toward the presence of a foreign power who did this.

But that hasn’t occurred. Instead…

We signed the Compact of Free Association with the United States and its recent reauthorization, even when:
1) the agreement endeavors to seal-off any future compensation for the years of suffering and displacement due to nuclear testing.

2) the US encouraged the RMI to sign off for the US military operating rights (MOURA) to Kwaj, without negotiating with the landowners for a lease first.

3) the RMI must be scrutinized and threatened with monetary withdrawal of funding which are given, not in charity, but in exchange for use of land and for strategic and defense purposes.

At every turn, we support the United States in the international arena 100%. The Marshalls staunchly stood with the US at the United Nations time after time — sometimes the only one.

There are no radical environmentalists, nor anti-military movements, clashing daily with the US presence on Kwajalein or elsewhere in the Marshalls. On the whole, there is a peaceful and honorable relationship between the two countries.

Our particular relationship with America is not limited to the political field. Over the last twenty years, Marshallese, trusting that Americans are good, have relinquished hundreds, maybe thousands of babies into their care. No other country has had such a high percentage of out-adoptions.

This is why recent remarks made by a visiting US congressional staffer grabbed my attention as absurd.

“The US doesn’t want to be where it’s not wanted.”

(What is even more ironic is that Al Stayman made this statement following a visit to Rongelap, the island saturated by US nuclear testing fallout and still not resettled after 50 years.)

Imagine…saying that after all the Marshall Islands has put up with for the last fifty years under the American hand.

Why have Marshallese for several generations accepted Americans with open-arms and forgiving spirits?

It must be in that delicious, canned SPAM.

Imagine that.

Written by Aenet Rowa

April 17th, 2005 at 4:53 pm

Posted in General