Saturday, February 02, 2008

Decolonization of Guam

I've been remiss in my pledge to address the issue of decolonization on Guam over a month ago. I, like most of my countrymen, have been paying close attention to the primaries, yet issues affecting people in America continue. This includes the people of Guam, of course, who are as much citizens of this nation as you or I.

To make up for this oversight, I have submitted the following letter to Sen. Obama, Presidential candidate and my senator, for whom I voted in 2004 and endorsed for President this year. I will post his reply, if and when I receive it.

Sen. Obama:

I write to you as an Illinois voter stationed overseas and someone who has contributed money to your Presidential bid on a matter affecting the island territory of Guam. I would first like to note that when selecting a category for this e-mail, there was nothing in there relating to issues affecting U.S. territories, which rather reinforces my perception that the future of our territories isn't even on most politicians' radars. I don't hold it against you, but I'm going to take it as my duty to put it there.

At present, 30% of the island of Guam is owned by the U.S. military, yet the people of Guam have no say in this matter. They have no vote in Congress, and they have no say in the upcoming Presidential election. I, however, do, and on their behalf I would like you to answer this question:

What will it take for the United States government to offer our territories (Puerto Rico and Guam) full statehood and equal standing with their fellow U.S. citizens?

It is simply amazing to me how many people don't even know that Guam exists, or believe it to be a euphemism for "very far away". While it may seem like a small, remote issue, I assure you that to the Chamorro people it is not. They are U.S. citizens, like you or I, but their voices are not heard. They are invisible to the establishment. I hope that, as a man of conscience, you will work to change that, either in the Senate or as President.

Best of luck to you on your campaign trail, and I hope you will find time to respond between your campaign events.

I've also come across this, which addressed the issue of self-determination on Guam:

The criticality of the need for self-determination for Guam's indigenous people was the topic of much discussion today at a summit at the University of Guam. "Protecting Our Way of Life and Ensuring Our Survival" sought to unite and educate Chamorros cross-generationally, and strengthen their awareness with the military forces to be transferred from Okinawa.

It is heartening to see this, since without a sense of solidarity among the people of Guam, it will be too easy for the powers that be to simply play "divide and conquer" among the people of Guam. Playing on racial divisions between Chamorros, Filipinos, haoles (Caucasians -- and yes, I've come to love this word for my people, even if it is often used as an epithet), and other assorted races living on Guam seems the most obvious way to keep people squabbling among themselves rather than finding common cause in seeking social justice. Racism is often used that way by established power, as demonstrated in mainland America -- keep a certain faction of poor or working class whites focused on their hatred of blacks, and you effectively get two groups of dispossessed and marginalized people working against each other while their true oppressors continue to exploit them unabated.

Here is a letter
from a Chamorro serving in Iraq (and his status as a fellow Iraq War veteran makes him my brother, as I've covered earlier):

This essay was written in my effort to express a local perspective into a war few in the media, and island understand. I sent it to Pacific Daily News, after making contact with a editor through email and was asked to write and send pictures. I did and found no response since. I could not find a contact in Marianas Variety so if any do please forward this, with the intention of remembering those from the Islands who have served and remain a ripple in the pond, have created change and are a part of a change regardless if seen as good or bad, honorable men and women who gave, or give the ultimate sacrifice, being gone for long periods of time from their families or to a higher place....................

First and for most, I would like to convey my families condolences to the to former senator Umpingco's family. All people from all parts of Guam, appreciate the sacrifice he, and his family gave to serve our Island.

I write to you not for fame or recognition, but to share a event that might bring the war closer to home, and sharing one of my experience's in Iraq. This is a example of the emotional rolacoster that we face everyday. I hope that those that read this (if published) understand my intentions for it's weight in my heart compelled me to write .......

I arrived In Balad, Iraq with high hopes of finding friends and family, like I did in 2006. A second tour for me, and a holiday free tour in the sand box. I met the Guam National Guards 909th, Gil Reyes of Yona, Craig, my second cousin from Malojojo and David Quimbao from Talofofo, a childhood friend and brother in arms. To my surprise and dismay, those days of comfort and taste of home no longer existed. I visited the former building of the 909th, and asked a officer I saw walking out if he knew where the the Chamoru's were and he looked at me with a no idea. I found it alittle disturbing considering the big cement mortar barrier with the 909th emblem and Guam seal to their backs, and they still had no idea of whom I speak.

As I drove away with mixed feelings about them being gone and me being alone, and reassuring my self of the better morning my comrades will have because they will wake up too their families in Guam, something struck me to the core. A man was standing along the fence line with a little girl in his arms courting with the other towards the little girl in his arms saying loud and clear " Gift, Gifts, Gift", as to gesture something from the impenetrable walls that divide us. To help clarify what a man was doing out side the fence, I must explain. Outside the wire, farmers tend to their sunflower patches, and other vegetables while still tending to the children and live stock. All my training did not prepare me for what I was seeing. I could respond to incoming mortar, and taking on enemy fire, but this hopefully innocent gesture by this farmer, did me in. All my thoughts of fighting and unhappiness from being away from home stopped. I did what every well trained sailor or soldier would do.....

I have flown in helicopters over homes made of clay and farms as green as the Talofofo valleys in the middle of a desert, I have seen many of things, nothing more troubling than the man outside the wire with that little girl. It brought to light questions of this war, and what that man, like those of his country think. With Guam always in my mind, and the image of that man and child staring in the fence, I immediately related with the thought of us Chamoru's looking in the fence on our own land, and saw me and my 2 girls (Ha'ani & Sinahi), looking at the already crowded island with base's extending the fence lines with the soon movement of Marines, and the island's economic hand being led into reliance on the federal government or foreign investors. Every day away from my family, and Guam, the more I ponder on our course as a people, just like those in Iraq hoping the effort put into this war, and it's restructuring is really for their benefit.

To those fellow Chamoru's who have served and sacrificed their lives, I remember you and your sacrifice, and use that fuel to keep my head up with the love from my wife and two kids.
If I could convey one message, to people in Guam, " Hita I man Taotao Tano! Hita I kutura, I linguahi, i biblia, I ire yan I Tano Chamoru!" Your pains are the pains of every people, no matter the shades of ones skin, we must work toward a common goal of affordability in our home land, and our acceptance of changes on our own terms.

Saina Ma'ase,
Sean R, "Aguon" Sanchez

Very true, very true. On the off chance that the author of this letter reads this entry, I would like to note that the Pacific Daily News is owned by the same company, Gannett, which owns my local newspaper from my home town, the Green Bay Press-Gazette, derisively referred to by many as the "Green Bay Packers-Gazette" for its over-emphasis on the Packers at the exclusion of news stories which actually matter. I'm half a world away from my home, isolated from family, friends, and other things about my home which I cherish, and yet the same behemoth which controls my home town's print media also has its tentacles here, on Guam. This bit of synchronicity is not lost on me, and I think that my status as one of the many unpersons in this world (my internet handle, CarbonDate, has as much meaning and significance with regards to my words as my legal name) makes me much closer to the disenfranchised Chamorros of Guam than I am to the white men who run this nation.

I will continue to press Sen. Obama on this matter as long as he is my senator, especially given that he may be our next President. I would implore my fellow mainlanders to also speak on behalf of the islanders whose voices are not heard and ask the question which I asked Sen. Obama: What will it take for the United States government to offer our territories full statehood and equal standing with their fellow U.S. citizens?

Orwell's hell a terror era coming through, but this little brother is watching you too -- RATM, 1999


Proud Chamoru said...

Excellent letter from Sean and blog by the author.

I hope one day many more Chamorus would view this and see the injustice and inequality among the US and Guam.

Our soldiers serve, my classmates have perished with honor under the American Flag. To know that my friend in the military cannot vote for the President of the United States his overall Chief, is an

RIP to Jesse Castro, Kasper D., and all the ones who lost thier life in this sad war.

"With Guam always in my mind, and the image of that man and child staring in the fence, I immediately related with the thought of us Chamoru's looking in the fence on our own land, and saw me and my 2 girls (Ha'ani & Sinahi), looking at the already crowded island with base's extending the fence lines with the soon movement of Marines, and the island's economic hand being led into reliance on the federal government or foreign investors."

Our people must decide our fate. We have lost our identity and are trying to figure out our identity.

A great division among Chamorus is happening we are all divided on issues, and are forced to think we are US citizens with equal rights.

To many Chamorus have perished what am I? An American or Chamoru, or Spanish, or Japenese, or Filipino, or am I just some puppet on a string and supposed to be satisfied with Status Quo?

IDK my mind and heart hurts and is tired. It just feels good to know there are people who I see who have the same outlook.

Thank you and God Bless all of us for peace and love around the world.

This is an excert from a book entitled An Island in Agony. written by Tony Palomo

With the enactment of the Organic act on 8 - 1 -1950, three and one half centuries of politcal, economic and social suppression under Spanish, American and Japanese military rulers came to an end.

As Governor Skinner later pointed out:

"Military colonial rule is evil in principal because the civil population is not free to make its own decisions. It is ordered, not self governed."

This is going to happen again when the Marines come. Guam will be under the Feds becuase anything that happens on Guam is a matter of NATIONAL SECURITY and is only handled by Uncle Sam. We Chamorus must step down again and leave our island and lives at the mercy or a government who does not consider us full US citizens!

Bless all who hope for a better Guam.

CarbonDate said...

Thank you for your thoughtful comment. In my travels, I have seen many an injustice. The Lakota Nation's dire situation in South Dakota. The obscene poverty in East St. Louis. The gross neglect after Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. The military colonization in Iraq and, of course, the military colonization in Guam. Had I not joined the military I would not have seen these things, but now that I have, I cannot simply sit by and passively observe.

My thoughts are and will forever be with my neighbors on Guam.