Friday, April 12, 2013

Threatening Thoughts #3: Patriotic Tokens

Guam’s colonial experience is frustrating. Given the way the island and its relationship to the United States have developed since World War II, Guam is in so many ways already “American.” The island gets so many benefits and has prospered through its relationship to the US. Although Chamorros were treated in terrible ways before World War II, that seems to have changed now into simple disrespect, ignorance and disinterest.

It is important at points like this to remember that colonialism is not about positives or negatives. You do not define colonialism based on whether or not the people colonized benefit or not. You do not define colonialism based on whether or not the people suffer worse than anyone else in history or at that time. You define it based on the type of relationship that two entities have. You define it based on whether or not there exists a democratic relationship between the two. What are the legal cases or precedents that bind the two together? Do they affirm each as equal or do they affirm that power emanates solely from one end and the other is simply an object of that power? Do the rights in the colonies stem from basic founding principles or are they the result of exceptions?

As so many do not want to admit to this colonial present for the island, they seek any and all ways to try and deny it or overcome it. They simply refuse to admit to this possibility or they look for any and everyway to give a greater American identity to the island so the colonial truths they feel will now appear to be silly.

The “threat” from North Korea is no exception. In recent weeks both governmental officials and everyday people on Guam have latched onto this issue because of the way it represents another chance at overcoming the colonial difference and asserting an Americanness for the island. Even if it is just for a moment, by accepting and exaggerating this threat Guam can feel moments of American inclusion. Even if these moments are pathetic tokens or even require the base objectification of the island and its people.

North Korea is threatening Guam not because of Guam itself, but because it is America! Yeah! Biba USA!

US media is paying attention to Guam and we’re being mentioned constantly on all the 24-hour news channels. The US is recognizing us! Biba USA!

The Federal government has to now pay more attention to Guam since it is in such a  dangerous and terrible spot! Biba USA!

As America seeks to defend itself from possible threats Guam is constantly included in that articulation, and so as they talk about missile shields its like feeling a warm American flag, fresh out of the dryer wrap around you.

But all of this is ephemeral. It doesn’t touch that basic, foundational political difference. If people truly want to be part of the United States then they should seek to decolonize the island and not accept these tokenistic moments of identity as being reality.

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