16 November 2011

Our sovereignty in our own home - the case of Guam

by Peter J. Santos
(now serving with the U.S. military in Afghanistan)
Letter to the Editor
Marianas Variety

MY DEAR Chamoru people, history has its lessons to teach. Just because we live in a world of relative security, comfort and individual freedom, history’s lessons must not be lost on us. Have you ever wondered why the Europeans went on to dominate the rest of the world? How did they conquer Africa, South and North America, Australia, etc.? How did they use the few to dominate the many? To answer the how, we must examine the more important question: why?

The reason why is because they had a self-importance to them. They believed they were the chosen race and that other uncivilized peoples were placed on Earth to be conquered and subjugated for their benefit. This mode of thinking was so pervasive for centuries that the subjugated races were made to believe this. The “inferior” races were made to believe, and did believe they were less important and indeed inferior in mind and body. The historical development of laws through the centuries illustrates very clearly that these notions of inequality were accepted and abided. Under this legal framework and mindset, the white man was able to exploit and subjugate the other races.

In the 19th and 20th century, there was an awakening and shift of belief. Human beings, regardless of race, color or creed, are considered equal. The United States was behind the power curve of other Westernized societies, but we eventually caught up. Yes, it may surprise many to know that the United States was late to this party, although we were not the last.

Guam and the Chamoru people were definitely affected by this reality. Spain, Japan and the United States all administered Guam and its people with the mindset and attitude of their self importance to the detriment of the Chamoru people. The Chamoru people and the Chamoru culture suffered immensely because of this. Yet today, the Chamoru people and culture still exist. We have evolved tremendously as a people and a culture, which is natural. It is ridiculous for anyone to assert that the Chamoru people and culture are non-existent.

Mindful of our painful and atrocious history, there are those of us who advocate restoration of what was stolen so long ago: Chamoru sovereignty. Those who oppose this notion argue that it was so long ago and so much has changed, we must just let it go. They claim that to do this, you must necessarily exclude others. To do this would be unfair and racist even. 

Well isn’t it funny how it is framed now that the Chamoru people wish to assert self-importance? But it is different what the Chamoru people are demanding. We are not seeking to take away anyone’s property or interests. We are not proclaiming that we are better than anyone else. We are not venturing to the territory of another group of people to subjugate and exploit them and their natural resources. We just want back what was taken so long ago: our sovereignty in our own home.