Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Fanhokkåyan #6: Letter on Liberation Day

People frequently ask me why I'm such a publicly critical person. They assume it is because I am half Chamorro, that I must be trying to compensate for my lack of cultural identity, and even I can acknowledge that there is some truth to that. It could be simply part of my personality, maybe I've always been an oppositional person, who challenged authority in some way. My father says it is because of the way I was forced to confront certain racial realities during my childhood. Some say it is simply because I have an artist temperament and so I am seeking creative ways out of systems, thinking about what could lie ahead on the next horizon of imagination.

Hekkua', ti hu tungo'.

While searching from some of my early writings on an old laptop, I came across a draft of this letter for the editor pasted below. It remember helping my mother write it about 13 years ago, and it was submitted to the Pacific Daily News. This was a time, when I was first speaking out publicly, although usually in online forums and in letters to the editor of the PDN. But I remember my mother at that time feeling proud of me, because it allowed her to connect to her own previous work as a community organizer on Guam, primarily on abortion rights. Talking through our nascent critical thoughts was lots of fun. Reading back over this letter, I cannot help but cringe a little bit because of some of the dated references, such as the mention of the culling of karabaos, which we protested about in 2003 outside the entrance to Navy Base Guam. 


On February 8, 2004 I was reading the Pacific Daily News online, and I was so excited to see so many letters from people who were interested in protecting Guam’s history. Unfortunately though, the only parts that these people wanted to promote or protect was Marine Drive and Liberation Day.

 While I am so glad to see these people excited about Guam’s history and remembering important events, I always get very confused when I meet these people or read their letters, who care only about promoting or celebrating the parts of Guam’s history that have to do with the United States’ military. Implying that we don’t mean much without the United States or its military, which I believe is totally false.

But in the spirit of celebrating and remembering our past, I guess I’m wondering where are all the letters to the editor about how important it is to protect the Chamorro Land Trust? After all, isn’t that agency just a memorial or a historic reminder of how the US military stole almost the whole island after the war? Those land takings have just as much impact on Chamorro lives today, as Liberation Day. Our family was fortunate enough not to have our lands taken, but so many other families were not. Where is the memorial or the re-naming ceremonies for their children, that will explain to them why their families have no land?

If the past is to useful to us in helping us plan for the future, then we can’t just remember the patriotic parts, like the parts where American Marines unintentionally saved Chamorro lives. We also have to remember that for years after July 21, 1944, other military officers came and intentionally destroyed Chamorro lives by lying to them, by cheating them and by forcing them to give up their lands. .

I feel sick thinking about those days, when because of a war, the United States was allowed to destroy so many families, and handicap their futures. In one of my son’s Guam history textbooks, it tells the story of a Navy officer testifying before Congress about the land takings. When asked if the land takings had been legal, the officer replied that, no they weren’t, but then everything is legal in a time of war.

I feel more sick thinking about today, where the president of the United States often talks about America being at war, and calls himself a war-time president. While visiting my parents last year, I took part in a protest against the Navy’s needless killing of carabao at Fena Lake. For the military, they are always at war with something, and so for them carabao don’t mean much. The Navy must of felt like that about Chamorros after the war, taking their land, their lives, because they don’t mean much. And since the president says we’re at war now, who knows what they’ll do next?

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