Sunday, July 29, 2007

Hafa na Liberasion? #1

Its that time of year on Guam, where perceived Chamorro debts to the United States balloon out of control and Chamorro attempts to prove their understanding and love for their debts and subordination appear to reach such maddeningly levels that what they owe to the United States seems to be both infinite and eternal. What else could I be talking about save for Liberation Day, an event which seems to not just colonize the month of July, but also has a huge role in colonizing all of Chamorro time and space, past, present and future.
What is Liberation Day for those who don't know. On Guam, Liberation Day is by far the most obtrusive contemporary and historical presence on the island and for the island’s indigenous people the Chamorros. It is an annual public holiday celebrated each July 21st, and comprises a festivities packed day of parades, carnivals, beauty pageants, and political events all meant to memorialize the return of American troops to Guam that begins on July 21st, 1944 and eventually leads to the expulsion of the Japanese forces who had brutally occupied the island for more than 2 ½ years.

Nowhere in American military planning documents from World War II is the "invasion of Guam" ever referred to as the "liberation of Guam." Its important to remember that the majority of the soldiers who did invade Guam and retook it, had no idea what Guam was, or that there was anyone else on the island other than dreaded Japanese. Yet since 1944, that day, that event has somehow become transformed into a benevolent and loving liberation of a helpless island people, and the United States transformed into the magical and necessary means of life itself on Guam. The United States since 1944, in so many different everyday ways has come to signifiy and be perceived as the all purpose source of liberation. Almost any problem on Guam is understood to be best fixed and those of us suffering "liberated" through a simple equation of adding more of the United States, or simply being more like the United States.
What sort of liberation is this, if the giving back or giving of one's freedom and independence results in an eternal entanglement with the liberator? What sort of liberation is this, if we never release ourselves from our perceived debts, and simply exist to enjoy and love our subordinate position and defend and protect our dependency on the "liberator." How can we call it a liberation when the liberator stays, takes over 2/3 of the island and then refuses for 60 years to even weakly entertain the idea of the island's decolonization?

Over the next few weeks and posts, I'd like to share various writings, articles, perspectives and documents about Guam's "liberation" and hopefully draw out some of these issues, and make clear to all where I am coming from, and why when I see a Liberation Day celebration, instead of feeling an intense urge to eat an American flag and vomit patriotically, I always have a simple yet crucial question, "hafa na liberasion?" "What liberation?"

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From the Marianas Variety:

ON July 21, 2007, the people of Guam will again celebrate the glorious "Liberation Day." It's sad to say that our Guamanian leaders back on July 21, 1944 did not know that the American liberators became the re-occupation armed forces for the next 63 years. Guam and the Chamoru people continue to remain under U.S. colonial rule to the present day.

The following are excerpts from a letter dated approximately five years ago by American liberators Mr. Darrel Doss, Marine; Mr. Robert Arzenberger, Navy; Mr. Loran "Pee Wee" Day, Marine; Mr. Carilisle "Ki" Evans, Marine; Mr. Elmer Mapes, Marine: "…We have been honored as liberators, but did we truly liberate Guam? The answer is no. We only partially liberated you. The Congress of the United States could earn the title of true liberators by granting this paradise of the Pacific commonwealth status. Congress should also grant the citizens of Guam equal rights and voting privileges that we in the 50 states have enjoyed for years…"
The excerpts indicate that Guam was not truly liberated. So what liberation are the people of Guam celebrating? Should our Guamanian leaders rename the activities as "Partial Liberation Day" or, better yet, change it to "Re-occupation Day" or the "Recapture of Guam Day" or "Guamanian-American Friendship Day"?
Guamanian leaders of Guam, wake up! We are free but subjucated, liberated but occupied, proud but second-class citizens, democratic but colonized. Maybe our so-called liberation means we are free as long as we are under the control of another nation. Maybe that's why our political status, return of all stolen Chamoru homelands, war reparation, etc., are all but doomed. The impending massive U.S. military re-build-up will not only ruin us, but is certain to change the course of the history of Guam and her Chamoru people forever, doomed for disaster.
Fanachu, Chamoru! Biba Chamoru!

VICENTE "FA'ET" GARRIDO
Maga'lahi, Nasion Chamoru

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From Charissa Aguon

Mr. Darrel Doss was interviewed by Sonya Artero on KUAM Extra a few days ago. He recalled with heartfelt emotion- the strength and determination of the survivors of the Japanese occupation that he and many encountered on that day. He told of his life long love for our people and determination to advocate on our behalf -full rights as American citizens. I commend him and the many other "liberators"who continue to advocate and support our people's quest for self-determination. Mr. Doss had stated in his interview, that in his heart- he is Chamorro and I believe that he truly feels that way. He strikes me as a human being who understands that we are all in essence, members of one race- the human race.

As the Liberation Day celebrations come around the corner, many of us may have mixed emotions about the celebration. While we continue to do the important work of raising consciousness about the "reality" of our "liberation",our liminal political status and other injustices-let us not forget in the process to commemorate the end of a truly brutal period in our history. Let us not forget to remember those who died, those who survived and with great courage moved forward and share their stories with us today. Their stories serve to remind us of the ugly human potential for brutal destruction but more importantly- remind us of the strength , will and valor of our people in times of great tribulation.

We should also remember to commemorate those like Mr. Darrel Doss. Despite the "real" intentions of the larger political forces that brought them to our shores-they did put their lives on the line with the truest intention to "liberate" our people and they have since, made it their life's quest.

Sainan ma'ase

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