Saturday, August 27, 2016

Spirit of Activism

As I and so many others have stated, social movements work in cycles. There are moments of ascendancy and then declines. Their are moments of incredible cohesion and then disruption and atomization. When I look back at my own life, I can see, in the movement for decolonization various ruptures in this sense. Some of which I have simply witnessed, others I was actively involved in. This letter to the editor of The Pacific Daily News by Kin Perez is an important reminder of the movements and moments that have come before, the ways in which we might build upon their actions, but the ways we might also be stuck with the same problems and similar dynamics. I would like to think that this year, we are seeing a type of resurgence and the foundation is being built for something larger. We shall see how long it lasts, but it is the first time in centuries that the momentum is towards autonomy and independence as opposed to further integration with the colonizer.

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Spirit of activism waning
by Joaquin P. Perez
Letter to the Editor
Pacific Daily News
December 23, 2015

Apathy has diminished enthusiasm towards pursuing changes in Guam’s political relationship and its rightful place in the international community. The infectious apathy is seen in all sectors of the community, in all age groups, economic levels and among the political leadership.

In today’s world, political status efforts are mundane and boring while glamorous and profitable careers in medicine, business and financial management, the travel and visitor industry, and even military service careers offer excitement, travel, longevity and instant gratification.

One-upmanship, politicians bickering on issues of seemingly immediate importance — especially when linked directly to fast and furious media generation — is creating indifference among the people toward all things government. This is exacerbated when elected leaders get busy finding ways to spend money generated by mortgaging, and remortgaging, the lives of those who must eventually pay the debt — Guam’s future generations. With existing debt in excess of $1 billion and growing, elected leaders whose political lives will soon expire race to spend as much as possible, claiming credit for payment of delinquent tax refunds, increases in public sector salaries, increased visitor arrivals, as well as increased military activity, personnel and dependents.

There is little time, or interest, to indulge in futile exercises thinking that Washington will ever consent or acquiesce to any status changes. Delegates to Congress, intoxicated with the rarified air of the Potomac, claim to be anxiously awaiting the decision of a nonbinding plebiscite. No matter what the people choose, Congress is not bound to accept it.

Expounding on the generosity of Congress, the White House, DOD and Japan in approving millions of dollars which will increase Guam’s population, increase the island’s nightmarish traffic congestion and increase demands on the island’s infrastructure to unpredictable levels, generates more favorable media. Telling the truth that Congress doesn’t have to recognize or honor the results of any plebiscite is unpleasant and doesn’t generate good press.

With the excitement of turning Guam into a stationary aircraft carrier, only precursory thought is given to the impact on the island and no thought given to deferred treaty promises and commitments to end colonial subjugation.

As the Potomac hordes are busy building defenses for the homeland, which Guam is not a part of, young politicos managing government of Guam agencies are also busy playing their one-upmanship games. They dwell on visions of two-million-plus visitors, increasing tourist accommodations, doubling of hotel occupancy tax dollars and increases in visitor industry jobs.

Their philosophy: Accentuate the positives only and pray that little thought is given potential adversities or negative impacts.

With these delusions of grandeur and abundance, who will take the time to think hard about joining a political journey, tenuous at best, because the decision-makers, on the Potomac, are ignorant about Guam, don’t care one way or another and don’t want to risk raising the ire of the military-industrial behemoth.

Guam’s Organic Act, as flawed as it is, happened because of the enthusiasm and obstinacy of the leaders in the postwar Guam Congress. Tired of 50 years of abuse by the naval government and no longer unafraid to voice their opinions, they refused to obey a naval governor and walked out. Their obstinacy was heard 10,000 miles away. Today, who among our elected leaders would have the courage to emulate the tenacity of the 1949 Guam Congress?

Para Pada defeated the ratification of the Guam Constitution of 1977, noting that establishing a constitution before determining a final and permanent political status was putting the cart before the horse. Para Pada activists included the likes of Robert Underwood, Benjamin Cruz, Ron Rivera, former Sens. Hope Cristobal and Marilyn Manibusan, and the late Sinajana Mayor Frank Lizama. All passionately believed in the dignity of Guam’s self-determination efforts. Like Carlos Taitano, B.J. Bordallo, F.B. Leon Guerrero, Ricardo Bordallo, Paul Bordallo, (they were) all leaders and all activists.

They questioned the wisdom of governance from the shores of the Potomac River. They challenged the morality of colonialist rule over a people who, before Magellan, were free and sovereign. Sadly, that spirit is waning, or perhaps simply gone, because to be an activist takes hard thought, hard work and passionate commitment — rare characteristics in this age of immediate indulgence and instant gratification.

Joaquin P. Perez is a resident of Santa Rita.

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