Editorial :: Pride and prejudice
Thursday, 03 December 2009 03:48
WITH the impending military buildup on Guam, the merging of the military population and civilian community will be an inevitable occurrence. Considering the differences in orientation between the two communities, the issue of peace is therefore a natural concern. Preliminary results of Variety’s online poll indicates that sociocultural impact and public safety issues rank as the top two concerns among residents.
The draft environmental impact statement for Guam military buildup identifies some of the sociocultural problems that the island will have to deal with as a result of increased military presence. The draft impact report acknowledges the Marines’ not-so-pleasant reputation as troublemakers, but at the same time dismisses the attribution as unfounded and lacking in evidence.
International news agencies have in the past reported cases of rape and other forms of public disturbances involving young Marines. And the fact that 8,000 Marines are on their way to Guam naturally causes concern among many in the community.
On the other hand, the military itself is concerned about the perceived hostility or xenophobia on the part of the local community. The report hence cites the potential “for social friction” that “could well trigger a transitional period of adjustment in which local young men test themselves against Marines in fights.”
Making a sweeping generalization on both sides is unfair. Overcoming the pride and prejudices and changing the “us” versus “them” attitude are challenges for both communities.
While it is prudent for law enforcement agencies to prepare for increased demand for public safety responses, it would be equally prudent for local officials to work with the military on creative initiatives to help bridge the gap between civilians and Marines.
The local community expects the military establishment to give the Marines adequate information and proper orientation about the local culture before they arrive on island. In the same breath, local leaders must work with the community to foster a welcoming atmosphere and demonstrate the hospitality that we always say our island is famous for.
While there is a place for protest, political debate and expression of discomfort about the uncertainty of our future, it should not be at the expense of harmony and looking forward.