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Learn About Guam

Note: I wrote this early in the morning - I am going to update it with links to news stories.

Guam, a small island 2,000 km. from the Phillipines that hosts 160,000 Americans, has been the talk of the world recently. North Korea has repeatedly threatened it with a strike and the threat level is at such a stage that the territory's government has issued a warning to its citizens about what to do in the response of a nuclear blast.

This isn't the first time this has occurred. The same scenario played out and defused early on in Barack Obama's second term. However, the danger is greater with the sort of reckless rhetoric that Trump is known for - with him and his administration threatening North Korea with "fire and fury" and "the destruction of its people." Like with Iraq, it's possible North Korea could be a problem that was simmering during a Democratic presidency and popped during a Republican one.

Guam, in the twenty first century, could have any number of fates - it could be a modern Hiroshima (that is the worst and most freakish and tragic scenario), the first shot in some sort of nuclear war. It could be a modern Pearl Harbor, where North Korea launches a conventional attack in a war that would almost certainly lead to that country's destruction, or it could end up being another Cuba - a largely forgotten American tourist destination that suddenly will become part of people's minds due to its part in geopolitical tension.

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Whatever the fate of the island is, I owe it my life in many respects. I think of that island's people often and I credit my experience there, along with my experience with Jen, who was really immersed in spirituality and eco-Catholicism at the time I met her, with the creation of Radical Second Things. Guam violently shook me out of a dependency on benzos and SSRIs and brought me out of it, while also giving me a sense of how structure works in the world. I went through withdrawal of both abruptly there and somehow managed to get out of it because of the island, in my personal view.

According to Wikipedia, benzodiazepines impact the neurotransmitter gamma-Aminobutyric Acid, which in the body generally regulates muscle tone. In drug form, benzos act to treat amnesia and anxiety by increasing the level of gamma-Aminobutyric Acid, which I would guess would have an impact similar to the feeling of fatigue and satisfaction that usually comes from a good workout. SSRIs, a monoamine transmitter largely associated with feelings of well being or happiness, have compound impact that still, after many years of commercial use, is largely unknown. Like cocaine, they increase the level of serotonin by blocking their reuptake by receptors.

I was taking both of these for some time, to treat what I at least thought were the meltdowns, anxiety and neurosis caused by Asperger's syndrome. I'm not sure Asperger's was ever a real thing and the rest of the world seems to agree, calling in to question its very origins - but for a while I sure did, so did my mom, doctors and our friends and family. Medication like that was so part of my world that it's a blur when I even started using it.

The medications really do dull feelings of anxiety and I do credit them on some level with the adventuring that I did in my early 20s and also the general disconnection from other people that I had. There are chemicals in your body that trigger feelings of empathy and attachment to others and both myself and many people I met in an SSRI support group recalled feelings of detachment from other people, which only seemed abnormal when we were finally off the medication.

The period of withdrawal that I had on Guam was hard to describe and I only remember bits and pieces of it. I both ran out of the medication and had some capsules get messed up by the tropical climate. Honestly, given the environment I was in and the fact that various transmitters in my central nervous system were basically going schizophrenic, it is amazing that I made it through. The feeling of something like that is really hard to describe - it took a few years for me to both feel like me and to even figure out what feeling like me felt like.

I made it through for several reasons. One thing I do remember well is an uncle who was staying there - a senior citizen who would visit daily. He was Catholic as most people are in that part of the world. I made it my task, each day, to go get him a Catholic candle from the local shop and light it with him. It became a ritual that I remember each time I see candles like that for sale at Hispanic or discount stores in the Bay Area.

The candle lighting ritual was so important for him and, when I literally felt like I was losing my mind, it gave me an impression of the importance of religion that I really don't think I ever would have understood with the commercial, plastic faith of the west. In addition, as I've written about here before, a native priest told me while I was in hospital, "I'm not worried about you. I know you believe in God," words that have stayed with me for years. I stumbled upon liberation theology after that experience not in a quest to find some religious justification for socialism but in my research of what Catholicism meant to the poor and marginalized.

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Donald Trump (or his team) wrote an extensive editorial in Guam's new Pacific Daily News during the presidential campaign essentially begging for their votes. With a huge military population, that island is naturally predisposed to supporting Republican candidates although perhaps a bit passively. It's also had a critical yet largely forgotten role in United States' policy toward the world but I personally predict that could only become all the more so in the coming world, in which the US retreats from the Middle East and China becomes more and more of an economic juggernaut.

While Asian culture permeates much of the West Coast, America's island territories are its true link to Asia. In these places, "family" and "respect" are critical and uncompromising. We're only going to hear more about Hawaii, Guam, the Phillipines and both Koreas as China continues to accelerate as a superpower. I invite all Americans to learn about our island cousins so that we do not face this future uninitiated.

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About Radical Second Things

Michael Orion is a blogger, writer, artist and photographer based in the Bay Area. Besides his maintenance and promotion of Radical Second Things, he contributes to the San Francisco newspaper SF Western Edition, where he writes about local non-profit organizations.

Mark Cappetta is a practicing Catholic and active LGBT activist. He has been instrumental in keeping Radical Second Things and updates the Facebook account almost daily.

Eva Gnostiquette is an artist, programmer, "future scientist," bi-trans girl and graphic designer. She voluntarily helped to create the first print issue Radical Second Things and designed our beautiful banners. Thanks so much, Eva!

Jordan Denato is a professional artist based out of Iowa. He took the initiative to illustrate both Jennifer Reimer's story and Michael Orion's Oscar Romero work. He has his own art studio, Tar and Feather Studios, and is a critical part of Radical Second Things.

Radical Second Things is a liberation theology themed blog that has clear cut goals - we see the structural decline of the United States and much of the west and hope to present alternatives that will offer "a preferential option for the poor" as more become vulnerable.

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