Sunday, May 08, 2016

Letters to the Colonizer

When talking about decolonization in Guam it is easy to assume that the lack of progress must be due to local problems. It is easy to look at the last three administrations and say in different ways that they weren't focused, or didn't understand the issue, or were afraid to upset the United States by taking it on more aggressively. We can also to certain Government of Guam agencies, such as the Commission on Decolonization, the Guam Election Commission or even the Department of Chamorro Affairs, for not taking the issue more seriously and incorporating it regularly into their outreach and community goals. It is easy to look at the Guam Legislature and see its members as not really understanding the gravity of the issue, or being afraid of taking it on because it may make them seem anti-American to local voters or US Federal officials. All of these things carry some truth to them. But to assume that this is the problem misses the larger structure, the larger limitations by being the colony of a country that doesn't want to admit that it has colonies. The United States government is disengaged in this process, and has been for decades. Some leaders will support it in broad terms by saying that they agree that "self-determination" for Guam is important, but what that means is always vague and generally amounts to little more than "improved status quo" or more being a colony with friendly benefits. The United States doesn't cooperate with the United Nations on this issue and with the exception of a small amount of funding providing this year for educational outreach, there has been little since the failure of the Commonwealth movement in the 1990s to indicate any meaning traction. Compelling the local government to act on this issue is very important, but we must always keep in mind the larger problem, the imperial apathy that will no doubt deter us, even if we educate ourselves, hold a political status plebiscite and begin work towards realizing it.

Recently the Calvo Administration has begun to take up in a stronger and more focused way the issue of decolonization. But at least in rhetoric it has always been there, something mentioned in various State of the Island Addresses and in press releases dealing with problematic Federal-Territorial relations. In 2011 for instance, as we can see below, the Calvo Administration sent a letter to the Obama Administration reminding them about the need to decolonize Guam. This reminds me about what Robert Underwood once said about the purpose of the non-voting delegate to the US Congress, your purpose there isn't so much to pass legislation, but rather to simply remind the colonizer that you exist, and that you have a different set of interests and needs.


Guam Governor Advises President Obama on self-determination process
Pacific News Center
October 17, 2011
(via Overseas Territories Review)

Guam Governor Eddie Calvo has written a letter to President Barak Obama detailing Guam's intentions to seek political self determination. The Commission on Decolonization met last Friday for the first time in 8 years. In his letter, the Governor declares that Guam's Commission on Self Determination "is embarking on a quest for political destiny."

He points out that Guam is one of 16 non self-governing territories identified by the United Nations and he asks the President for his administration's continued support during this "significant endeavor."

Members of the Commission on Decolonization voted to schedule regular meetings every first and third Friday of the month.

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