Friday, November 25, 2016

In wake of Trump’s win, let’s consider independence for Guåhan

Guam spent November 9 watching the votes be tallied in the U.S. for their presidential election. Although Guam, as a colony of the U.S., doesn’t get to participate in the presidential election, like much of the world, the island anxiously watched to see who would win. The options: Hillary Clinton, a life-long public servant with a philandering husband and some email problems, or Donald Trump, an angry, impulsive, and selfish billionaire buffoon, who openly bragged about sexually assaulting women and would bring no substantive plans or experience to the nation’s highest office.

As the counting continued and the predictions of pollsters, pundits, and most of the world turned to bitter tears, it was clear that while more people would probably vote for Clinton overall in the popular vote, the Electoral College map would favor Trump. It hit the U.S. and the world like a shockwave, setting off some excitement, but mainly anger and fear. Indeed, he had campaigned on fear, hate, and intolerance. In doing so, emboldened white supremacist groups at home and abroad. Would this be the character of his term in office? If so, moving to Canada, which had been said in partial jest prior to the result, now seemed like the perfect escape plan. As we can see from the Trump protests that continue around American cities in small and large forms, there was no mass exodus. People have instead decided to stay and resist the hateful future that Trump’s reign might bring and fight instead for a vision of America that is more tolerant and inclusive.
But what about us in Guam? Especially for those who are Chamorro and, therefore, indigenous to this part of the world. As a colony of the U.S., we didn’t get to participate in this election and, in general, our island exists as an object of American democracy and not one of its subjects. As millions rise to fight for their country, is this even really our country to fight for?
Across social media on Election Day and in the days that followed, Trump’s victory was processed in Guam as it was elsewhere – albeit with an interesting and independent difference. While thousands on Guam expressed outrage at the choice of so many voters and fear over what might happen next, recent discussions on political status change – namely, decolonization – provided another means of dealing with that anxiety. Rather than vent their feelings in the form of fleeing to Canada, they articulated this moment as one perfect for Guam to re-examine its relationship to the United States, and possibility to seek independence from it. 
Fellow member of Independent Guåhan, Kenneth Gofigan Kuper, articulated this local and sovereignty seeking variation perfectly in one of his Facebook posts:
"For my taotao Guåhan who want to move to another country because Trump was elected, [how] about we just push for our independence? We get to move to another country and stay in the same place at the same time!"
I wrote in the Sunday Posta few weeks ago that each presidential election year is an important moment for Guam, as our exclusion from American democracy, our status as a possession of the U.S. is reinforced through this reminder that no matter who wins, Democrat or Republican, we didn’t have a voice in picking them. Even if the island’s preferred candidate were to win, can we really say that he or she is our candidate?
This year, far more than any year before, people on Guam seemed to understand this point. In social media posts, young and old began to make the connection, with the shock of a Trump victory providing a catalyst for them to not only question the direction the U.S. is headed, but whether or not Guam should be dragged along with it. 
Here is a small sampling of these sentiments share online:
  • “So, Independence for Guåhan?”
  • “This is the biggest thing to ever shock the world. And it’s all a joke. BIBA independent Guåhan yan Mariånas”
  • “Guåhan, this is our time. There’s no need to flee from the fear of what America has chosen. This is our time. It has always been our time. #ivoteforguam #DecolonizeGuam”
  • “I believe Trumps win will actually help push forward with our long overdue quest for self-determination. Trump makes people feel uneasy and so does having conversations about changing our political relationship with the United States. #DecolonizeGuåhan.
  • “Make Guam independent again.”
  • “Truman then, Trump today. Different shades of imperialism. Perhaps now more than ever. #decolonizeguahan.”
  • “Maybe Guam can join up with California when they secede from the US. That might be a good plan. That way, we could have more say in what happens here. Who knows, Hawaii, the CNMI and American Samoa might join in too.”
  • “Holy ****! Donald Trump is the President-Elect of the U.S.!!!! Time for Independence for Guahan!”
  • “Happy Veterans Days to my fellow Guåhan Brothers and Sisters in arms who are still second class citizens, who still can’t vote for Presidency, who continue to spill blood and die for our colonizers, who continue to die-hard about the red, white and blue, and who fail to learn the honest truth about what is really going on. Enjoy!! #decolonizeyourmind #decolonizeguahan.”
It is no wonder that when I helped organize a teach-in on the topic of what a Trump presidency might mean for Guam, more than 70 people showed up, with dozens more emailing and messaging, requesting that we offer more so people can join the conversation. People on Guam feel uncertain about the future of our island, but for the first time in a while, they are seeing decolonization as a real possibility. 
Dr. Bevacqua is committed to the decolonization of Guam and the revitalization of the Chamorro language. He is currently working on a Chamorro translation of the Shakespearean play “Othello.”

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