Palikir, Pohnpei - When I was introduced to Paul Frederick Kluge at the restaurant of The Village Hotel in Pohnpei, proprietor Patty Arthur, long time friend of Kluge hooked me before he arrived by telling me that he wrote "Eddie and the Cruisers", one of my favorite books and movies from the 80's. Kluge has been a freelancer and reporter for many major publications for over 40 years and has written several books, both fiction and non-fiction including "The Edge of Paradise" a non-fiction book about Micronesia published in 1991. He co-wrote with Thomas Moore an article that appeared in a September 1972 issue of Life Magazine entitled, "The Boys in the Bank" based on a widely publicized New York bank robbery and hostage situation. The article became the basis for the movie "Dog Day Afternoon" that starred Al Pacino. He once guided actor Lee Marvin on a return trip to the place where Marvin was wounded in the battle By BILL JAYNES The Kaselehlie Press of Saipan during World War II for which he received a Purple Heart. Most of Marvin's platoon was killed during that battle. The stories that Marvin told to Kluge during that tour of Saipan inspired the book, "The Day That I Die". The book was optioned for a movie but it was never made. The earliest citing of Kluge's writing that I could find was a 1964 article in Life magazine about the U.S. roots of "The Beatles". He was 22 years old at the time. Since then he has written articles for Life magazine on other iconic public figures such as Ann Margret, and John Wayne. His words have appeared in The Wall Street Journal, Rolling Stone Magazine, National Geographic Traveler, and many other publications. On the 26th of December I interviewed Kluge, who introduces himself as 'Fred' though he has, since he was 25 years old, had the right to introduce himself as Dr. Kluge. I was nervous to meet him in the same way as I was nervous to meet President Bill Clinton. I get that way around people of great accomplishment but Kluge's nature put me at ease, though as interviewer I was supposed to put him at ease.
In 1967, after he earned his Doctorate, he joined the Peace Corps and was stationed in Saipan. He said of his experience in Micronesia that 'he never shook hook'.
Kluge has, over the years, returned several times to Micronesia. In 1975 he was invited by leaders of the day to return as a director of public information at the Micronesia Constitutional Convention on Saipan. During that time he wrote what has now become enshrined as the Preamble to the Constitution of the Federated States of Micronesia.
I asked him how he came to write that important piece of the Constitution.
"I was in my office one day and a fellow, I think from the Palauan delegation stopped by. Palau ended up not being under the constitution that was being written. They had proposed a constitution of their own. They were still participating in proceedings but you sensed that the Trust Territory was coming apart.
"There was some language in the preamble to the Palauan-proposed constitution that wasthat was well meant but flat, and some of the delegates asked me to work on it. They felt it needed to be ratcheted up a notch and I did that.
"I guess I was having a good day; all those phrases, 'the seas do not divide us, they bring us together', 'our earth itself is an island in a sea of stars', all that stuff, I just had it in me in my fingertips that day…
"It was a good moment. It's a little bit of something to leave behind."
A road not taken…
Kluge said that he thinks about Micronesia more often than people might believe. He said, "This was always a road not taken for me. I chose another life which involved journalism, and professing, and living in the United States, and writing books, but I keep coming back here and taking a few steps on the road not taken here and there."
He said that if he had been assigned to another place as a Peace Corps volunteer in the 60's he might have been just as taken by that place. He smiled wryly, "Maybe if I'd been hooked on China or someplace else I'd be an important person. I'd be appearing on 'Nightline'. Instead I'm coming back here and talking to you and Patty Arthur.
"But really, it does matter to me; maybe because of the fact that it is 'unimportant' as the world goes."
He said of his time in Micronesia toward the end of the Trust Territory days that though he didn't want to paint a picture of Micronesia as Camelot, "there was magic in the neighborhood at times, with the negotiators going out into the world to make something new."
He said, "One of the promises I made when I left here the first time was to keep coming back to see how things were turning out." I asked him how things, in his view were turning out.
He chuckled and said, "Well, of course no one elected me judge. I visit for just a short period of time and I have to be cautious in my judgments. They're not judgments, they're just reactions." After a few moments consideration he said, "It always mattered to me how, or whether, small islands could engage with a super power and get any kind of justice, any kind of charity and what they would accomplish. It was such an inherently uneven relationship. Could they hold their own? Would they want to hold their own? Those were questions that were interesting and would test the character both of Micronesia and of the United States.
"My sense is that those islands who have decided to keep a bit of a distance from The United States, i.e. The Republic of Palau, The Federated States, The Marshall Islands, may sometimes regret having not gotten closer and the ones that got closer to The United States, i.e. The Northern Marianas may regret not having gotten farther away.
Best Interests Served?
"The underlying question, which won't go away, I think about it involuntarily, it ambushes me, is whether everybody's best interests were served by what in retrospect at the time seemed inevitable, the division of the Trust Territory into several component parts. Certainly, there's a lot of doubt and restlessness and turbulence around and I don't think anything has been settled permanently for good or for bad yet.
"The point has always been to have the most benefits from association with The United States and the fewest obligations. You can't blame anybody for that. You wanted to get the most and give the least…
"I don't know if I'd recognize a happy ending to all of this if I saw it. I won't live to see the end of this…
"It seemed to be a pure choice once, independence or assimilation. Now everything has gotten tangled up."
Torn Statesmen of Micronesia?
On the members of the Congress of Micronesia's Future Political Status Commission with whom he worked he said that he always felt that it was one of his "luckier days" to have been associated with them. "They were interesting, complicated men, torn men and frequently very good company."
When asked what he meant by 'torn' he said, "I think they felt the pull of The United States. They were attracted by competition. They were, for the most part, U.S. educated. They had a taste for many things American. They also had a complicated commitment to the places they came from and represented.
The conflict between change and status quo was in them a lot.
Simple Answers and Resolutions
"The answers we proposed then, 'independence', seemed simplistic. Assimilation as a State is impossible so it's always going to be some turbulent, 'in the middle' zone. A lot of the States chose 'Free Association'. That meant, if I understand the idea, that Americans would come here and do well-do good. Micronesians would go to the United States, likewise and do well-do good. I'm not sure that's really happened to the extent that was hoped. I think that people have just stuck around waiting for the future to arrive, to show up to see how they can position themselves in regard to it. It seems we're waiting for the future to declare itself.
"The first generation of leaders was attempting…hoping to make it happen. They were rushing to confront the future. They'd had enough of the Trusteeship. Its days were numbered. They didn't want their future decided in Washington. They wanted a hand in determining the future.
"Unfortunately, now I sense that people are waiting for it to arrive from off the plane or something." Kluge is in the very early stages of a book set in current day Saipan. His visit to Pohnpei had nothing to do with that effort. It was a time to catch up on what was going on in the FSM and to reunite with long time friends.
He said that he will be writing a piece on a visit he will be making in the next few months to Antarctica and that part of the subject matter would be how one feels "in their skin" in two vastly disparate climates. He said that his visit to Pohnpei would help him to gather his impressions again on life in a tropical climate.
FSMers may not remember any of the words Kluge had to say to The Kaselehlie Press on December 26 but they will likely long remember these:
WE, THE PEOPLE OF MICRONESIA, exercising our inherent sovereignty, do hereby establish this Constitution of the Federated States of Micronesia.
With this Constitution, we affirm our common wish to live together in peace and harmony, to preserve the heritage of the past, and to protect the promise of the future.
To make one nation of many islands, we respect the diversity of our cultures. Our differences enrich us. The seas bring us together, they do not separate us. Our islands sustain us, our island nation enlarges us and makes us stronger.
Our ancestors, who made their homes on these islands, displaced no other people. We, who remain, wish no other home than this. Having known war, we hope for peace. Having been divided, we wish unity. Having been ruled, we seek freedom.
Micronesia began in the days when man explored seas in rafts and canoes. The Micronesian nation is born in an age when men voyage among stars; our world itself is an island. We extend to all nations what we seek from each: peace, friendship, cooperation, and love in our common humanity. With this Constitution we, who have been the wards of other nations, become the proud guardian of our own islands, now and forever.
Paul Frederick Kluge who says he wants "Wordman" as a description of him on his headstone, no matter what else he has done or where he is from, played an important role in the history of Micronesia that will long be remembered.