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  • By Bruce Lloyd

Marianas political evolution: beer to water

It’s the political season on Guam again and after decades of hanging out and observing pocket meetings and rallies on both Guam and in the CNMI, I have a burning question. What’s become of the beer, which used to be a primary draw at such gatherings?

Water, water all around and not a drop of beer to consume while taking in the political rhetoric. Seems to me it used to make those often familiar words from the aspiring politicians that much more bearable.

Less than two weeks before the just completed Guam primary election, the GOP’s much numerically hyped rally at the Dededo Skate Park featured rock groups and tables groaning with McDonald’s boxes along with the speechmaking. And of course there were piles of bottled water cases surrounding the tables. I would bet that there were some coolers stashed in the nearby pickup trucks, but I didn’t see a single bottle or can in anyone’s hand.

Of course it wasn’t always thus. On Saipan in the 1980s, the setbesa was more like the operating principle. Toward the end of any rally the bitter ender bulacheru part of the crowd was always busy slogging down the leftover brew. I once heard a discussion in a political meeting in which one organizer suggested it might be effective fundraising to start charging for the beer after the first two or three. This was rejected out of hand as inconceivable.

During another gathering back in those days, political observers noted that the Democrats were providing low priced Korean beer at their rally instead of the pricier product from Anheuser Busch. This was viewed as a sign of their imminent electoral defeat.

I suppose price might actually be an issue, but bottled water isn’t all that cheap in such quantities either.

I don’t want to let this descend into another dreary suggestion that ‘political correctness’ is behind the beer drought, but certainly there are some practical reasons for it, including—gasp—health concerns. DUI laws certainly get enforced more, though sometimes it seems, as always, selectively, depending on the individuals and their relatives in law enforcement. Guam’s drinking age went up to 21 a few years ago, though slogging down free political beer seemed in the past an ageless pleasure. Exiting the GOP rally I didn’t see the police stakeouts that used to occur to snag impaired drivers, but then, I didn’t see much evidence that this was a problem at hand that evening.

Water not setbesa detected at rally

Just to show that I am being even-handed and up to date, I attended a later pre-primary rally for Democratic gubernatorial candidates Lou Leon Guerrero and Josh Tenorio in pouring rain, in search of… Beer. Rigorous investigation revealed a few cans here and there, but water was again the drink of the day. The bottled kind and not that falling in profusion from the heavens.

There will of course always be those traditionalists who yearn for the past. For these purposes, we will define traditionalist as those souls who have survived—liver and lights intact—to the ripe old age of over 50.

I don’t generally have much of a dog in the fight these days regarding beer consumption, but of course there are those who have kept the brewed faith in the face of modernity. Yes, Guam Sunshiners, I am thinking of you. I am sure that former Governor Carl T.C. Gutierrez will always retain that special cooler or two for those so inclined around the picnic table. After all, it worked pretty well for him in the past and I don’t expect he’s planning to give it up any time soon.



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