Thursday, August 23, 2012

Mensahi Ginnen I Gehilo' #5: Not Just for Protestors

Mensahi Ginnen I Gehilo’ #5
"Not Just for Protestors"

The Independence Task Force for Guam has been meeting for several months now and we finally held our first event in July. Days after Liberation Day supporters for Independence as Guam’s next political status gathered early in the morning to pick up trash along the beach and road in Hagatna. Twenty-two volunteers showed up to collect beer cans, cigarette butts, tires, newspaper and all other types of trash. All in all more than a dozen bags were collected. The Mayor’s Office of Hagatna was generous enough to dispose of the trash once the cleanup was over. Jon Guerrero, a recent graduate of the Masters in Clinical Psychology program at the University of Guam was the lead organizer for the event. Guerrero felt it was important to take on an activity like this because people think of Independence as being very abstract, but in truth its really about feeling like you can take care of yourself.

This is the approach to promoting Independence that the Task Force will be utilizing. Due to misconceptions about what Independence would mean for Guam and the fear that people have of appearing to be unpatriotic or anti-American by discussing it, the idea of Guam becoming Independent is much maligned and in many ways feared. Independence has gained much passionate strength from advocates who insist on righting the wrongs of the past and reminding people of the sins of Guam’s colonizers. As a result people have come to associate Independence with protesting and angry rhetoric, rather than something which holds a great deal of opportunities for Guam to grow and evolve. Seeking Independence for Guam is a sort of protest, it is a protest against the way the US has treated Guam since 1898. But it is also a new beginning for the island. It is something to build upon. As such we cannot be seen as a status for the protestors, but a status that anyone can support.

The approach we are seeking to take now would naturalize and normalize the idea of Independence for Guam. The beach cleanup was our first attempt to move Independence out of context as being something only an outspoken activist would care about and put it in another context, one where people can more freely consider it or think about it. We pay tribute and honor the generations of activists who endured the criticism and scorn of others in order to bring us to this point where we can discuss more easily ideas such as decolonization and independence. We must build upon that and make these ideas others can take part in.

Over the next few months we will have more activities, several of which will focus on the village of Umatac, to build upon this strategy.  Stay tuned for more details.

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