The U.S. flag can be found all over Guam. It can be easy to forget that just because this well-known configuration of red, white and blue colors flies over Guam, it doesn’t mean Guam is a part of the United States.
We know this because there is over a century of court cases that reinforce this. We know this because even in the recent ruling of the Davis case, Justice Francis Tydingco-Gatewood argued while some of the Constitution should apply to Guam, other parts shouldn’t.
We also know this because as more than one non-voting delegate has reminded me, their role in Congress is often to remind Congress about the territories and its control over them.
We know our relationship to the U.S. and the rest of the world is defined by a broad, gray sea of inclusions and exclusions. Sometimes Guam is allowed to participate in international or regional forums, sometimes it isn’t. The same ambiguity persists at the national level.
Because of this lack of a formal or stable place within the international or national systems of governance and recognition, the concept of solidarity is of critical importance. Without a formal place, you are invisible, without direct power over the structure around you. There are ways you can fight for power, but solidarity is an important part of changing your invisibility or your lack of visibility, and therefore lack of relevance of standing, into something different, something more strategic — something from which a campaign to change political structure can be launched.
As the movement for decolonization and independence grows, it’s important we find ways to connect it to other similar movements that can offer lessons or inspirations. This was the case in the past, when members of Nasion Chamoru or Organization of People for Indigenous Rights achieved a greater sense of their place in the world through interacting with people who were members of Black, Brown and Red Power movements in the U.S. It was also true in general from Chamorros who traveled to the U.S. in postwar years and felt affinity with African-Americans, Hispanic Americans and Native Americans.
Ignored by world
My last three appearances at the United Nations to testify before the Committee of 24 have reminded me of the importance of solidarity. Those of us who remain colonies, non-self-governing territories, the pieces that still don’t quite fit in the global order, we are often forgotten or ignored by much of the world, including our own colonizers.
Solidarity can be difficult, as our experiences are so diverse and the geographic distance mirrors historical, cultural and political differences between the 17 colonies spread across the Pacific, Caribbean and Atlantic. But the colonies that come to the United Nations and build alliances with nations willing to support their cause can make progress. Those who don’t remain stuck.
This week, Gov. Eddie Calvo and the Commission on Decolonization approved a formal letter to the U.N., requesting it send a visiting mission to Guam to ascertain the status of our quest for decolonization and make clear what impediments the administering power is placing before us.
I offer my thanks to the commission and Calvo for taking this important step in helping build greater international solidarity to support our efforts.
Michael Lujan Bevacqua is an author, artist, activist and assistant professor of Chamorro studies at the University of Guam.