This was written Saturday, November 19, 2011, before the "We Are Here" protest of President Obama during his short visit to Guam.
Pau fatto magi Si Obama lamo'na hun.
Although the urgent momentum from the buildup process is for the most part evaporated, and now people see it more as stalled than going anywhere, the self-determination process appears to be picking up new speed. Gof likidu este na momento, ya magof hu na gaige yu' guini gi hilo' tano' pa'go. I have read about previous generations of Chamorro activism. The confused and war-weary efforts for political rights in the 1940's. The Legislative pushes from the 1960's. The indigenous, intellectual and environmental awakenings in the 1970's. And of course the last generation, the direct action, ancestral land based activism of the 1990's. Today we see the newest incarnation of Chamorro activism being defined by both a desire for decolonization and also feelings that the US, through previous policies and through continuing militaristic policies, has taken much from the Chamorro people. Estaba manmamaigo' i taotao Guahan. Lao este na mamta' i militat yumahu siha.
The colonial difference is an uncomfortable thing, and it is more irritating and more unnerving the less visible and less violent it is. In a place where the colonizer is blatant in their machinations, the difference is like a gory open wound. It is one of those wounds which keeps you awake and makes you clear headed and able to defeat every enemy soldier and save your wife and kids in some stupid action flick. The wound is terrible, and hurts like sasalaguan, but it gives you focus, it is a na'klaru na ga'chong, it clarifies things, makes the lines of battle, whether they be literal or ideological visible. Prior to World War II on Guam, the colonial difference was clear. You may learn about the US as this fantastic ideal in school, something you would love to be a part of and have in your life, but while the US made some effort to indoctrinate you with the rhetoric, they worked hard to keep the reality from Guam. That is why, as a people Chamorros did not want to be Americans and did not feel as if they were Americans-in-waiting before the war. They liked some of the things America was giving them, but recognized that equality and belonging wasn't a part of it.
You may not always be different, but there are very fundamental ways that you are not part of the one you are breed from birth to crave a union with. No matter what you feel, those differences are not overcome. The only way to fix them it feels like, is to accept your inferiority and accept that no matter what the rhetoric of your colonial relationship is, no matter how many American flags you place on your body, your car or your front yard, you are not supposed to be equal, but exist to be subordinate. And that is the joyous colonial existence that you are supposed to embody.
I have often said that if the White House really wanted the military buildup to happen in Guam, all they would have had to do is have Obama come to Guam, hold a town hall meeting, let everyone state their case, and then they could do whatever they wanted. Obama could nod his head, say "hafa adai," make a joke about who loves Spam more, people in Guam or people in Hawai'i. A more serious Obama would also say something about how he is concerned as well about the potential negative impacts, but that this buildup is going to be good for Guam. Then he would not commit to anything and leave, and most people would feel like their voices mattered, even if they don't actually affect reality or policy. If Obama did that, buildup support would most likely increased dramatically.
The colonial difference is that wound. It can be gaping and nasty or it can be ga'tot, almost invisible, perhaps just the ring left from a chain around one's wrists. It demands that something be done about it. It demands to be healed, to be touched, to be looked at. For most people on Guam, the amot of choice is to be recognized. You cannot be made whole or equal through law or through reality, so you accept the gaze or the look of the colonizer instead. That is the key pillar in the colonial imaginary, is that the colonizer, through his goods, his ideas, his presence and even his look, holds the keys to completing the colonized, and giving them a secure sense of being, a final wholeness. The lie of the colonial world is that the colonizer offers not just the secrets to improving your life, but also to healing that wound. It can come in the forms of citizenship, welfare, Marines from Okinawa, cable television, a new stamp or quarter, but all are potential forms of amot meant to heal large parts or small parts of that colonial wound.
But self-determination and decolonization start with a refusal to accept the amot. A pulling back of our wounds and the admission that even if the US has a lot, alot of which is stuff that we want for ourselves, it cannot solve all problems, and cannot heal all wounds. These are perhaps wounds that only we can heal for ourselves.