Sunday, February 05, 2006

What could the relationship be between blind patriotism and second class citizenship?

What people on Guam, especially Chamorros need to realize is that the way we remember the war and celebrate its end and often times forget what came afterwards have left many wounds for many Chamorros still open and very painful. And not always for the reasons we usually talk about. Yes, the Japanese were brutal, but the Americanization of Guam has been just as brutal (of course in a slightly different way), and there is a need for discussions about both, which go beyond patriotic propaganda or re-naming ceremonies.

I was speaking to a Chamorro woman who had been raised stateside, and never taught a word of Chamorro by her parents. I asked her why her parents had been so antagonistic about everything Chamorro. I expected to hear the usual response about the parents wanting their children to have more opportunities and a chance for a better future. I was surprised however when she said that her parents had left Guam because they were afraid another war might break out, and didn’t want their children to have to endure that as they had. They sold their land cheap and never looked back, and they were not alone.

In a presentation regarding war reparations for Chamorros, retired Justice B.J. Cruz talked about his mother and her experiences from the war. All his mother would ever say was this, “it was terrible, and every night I pray to God that you and your sisters don’t have to go through what I went through.”

These are not unique stories or perspectives, but they are the ones that don’t get publicized each July. The war created intense wounds on so many different levels and the lack of direct discussion about these issues has allowed diaspora and issues of inferiority to reak havoc on Chamorros. Many people write off and ignore these types of psychological and emotional barriers because Chamorro culture is not expressive about those things, or because those are personal issues, and of course it would be difficult because their experiences were so traumatic.

While these things may be true, the way in which we remember Liberation Day or the war, and the way it is remembered for us in books, in television has also played a role in making sure a lot of those issues never see the light of day. The celebrations that we shroud Liberation Day and Marine Drive in have basically steamrolled over many Chamorros who hurt and ache to this day, and turned them into flattened patriotic cut-outs.

While doing research for my master's thesis I found dozens of Chamorros who were angry at America for the war, more so than the Japanese and not always because they lost land. But so many of these manamko' whom I interviewed have asked that their names not be revealed when I publish my work. The feelings of these Chamorros have merit, but their issues of disaffection continue to go unvalidated and hidden, by the news media which tends to celebrate like drunk college kids, whenever a new tank, ship or plane ends up on Guam. Or by people who have become blinded by their patriotism to the fact that so many hurt because of the racism they have felt by being treated as a colony, a second-class citizens, not really an American, but not really anything else.

In the war, people were beaten, tortured, raped and made to watch all manner of horrors by both Americans and Japanese. Many were able to heal their wounds quickly by grabbing flags and offering their children up to future military service. They shouted loud patriotic slogans, and of their pride to be Americans, and in doing so drowned the voices of those who hadn't healed, and who weren't proud to be Americans.

For many the war did not end in 1944. There were wars for life that went on amongst families who were suddenly landless and without homes. And many other wars to find peace and comfort after seeing and enduring so much, when all anyone seemed willing or able to offer were American flags. For others, there is still a war on, fighting for survival in the face of increasing US militarization and forces that threaten to reduce Chamorro history and culture to the naming of a street, or a newspaper insert which can be hummed to the tune of Uncle Sam Won't you Please Come Back to Guam.

Blind patriotism to the United States has gotten Chamorros some things, but there are many things it won't get them. It doesn't heal the soul which cannot deny that for decades and possible til the present day many Chamorros are second class citizens. Doesn't heal the fact that many Chamorros felt abandoned in 1941. It certainly doesn't heal for many families who were tricked or lied about their land being taken, or being needed for defense. And blind patriotism won't improve Guam's status, but just ensure that Guam remains a colony, until it is destroyed by nuclear war, or swallowed up by the sea because of global warming.

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