Thursday, May 17, 2012

Occupied Okinawa #7: The Guam Delegation

Usually when I go on trips like this I start with a post introducing everyone and everything. Unfortunately because of time constraints and the hectic nature of my schedule it completely slipped my mind.

I am not alone on this trip, I am accompanying two others as we meet with activists and academics and everyone else we can talk to throughout Okinawa.

Ed Alvarez, the Director for the Commission on Decolonization is the one who organized this trip. He has been working under less than ideal conditions over the past year trying to get this process for self-determination up and running again. For the first year he had no budget, no office, not even a salary. He instead focused on reestablishing contact with the UN at the governmental level, and has travelled trying to get Guam’s message to whoever would listen to him. For his presentations he has focused informing the Okinawans that should they pursue decolonization Guam will provide them with guidance and advice on what we have done so far. Guam has been actively and passively seeking its decolonization for 30 years now, and while we may sometimes seem to be going nowhere fast, compared to some other places, it seems like we light years ahead.

Marilyn Manibusan, a former senator in the Guam Legislature and pioneer in Guam’s self-determination movement is also part of the delegation. Although she has not been active for many years, she began to become involved again when the Commission on Decolonization started meting again last year. Her presence with the delegation has been inspiring to say the least. She acts as the mother hen of the group and during presentations when Ed is very directed in terms of what the Decolonization Commission is doing and I am very philosophical or academic about the meaning of decolonization, she is warm and comforting. She constantly reminds the Okinawans that although their pursuing of decolonization may make them feel as if they are isolated or crazy at times, they need to know that they are not alone; that they have friends in Guam to whom they can turn for advice or even just a shoulder to cry and laugh on.

I am the last member of the delegation. I have been speaking on a ridiculous amount of topics since I got there. I have spoken about Pagat, the Organic Act, Chamorro Language, demilitarization and decolonization. I have been travelling in my capacity as both a scholar and the Chairman for the Independence for Guam Task Force. I have had fantastic conversations thus far with Okinawans who have being pushing for Independence for years, sometimes their own quiet and indirect ways, and others who have been shouting about it for years. So many people have inspired me and I have been inspired by so many. Okinawans in some ways have advantages in terms of laying the groundwork for independence, but they lack a vocabulary of their own to discuss it and discursively create it. I have met many writers and scholars who are working on independence for Okinawa and I hope to continue to be in conversation with them, as both of our islands work towards decolonization.

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