Pacific Daily News
As we crawl out of the dumpster fire that was 2017 for much of the United States and its territories, we inch cautiously into 2018 and hope for the best. As someone who has been working over the past few years to elevate the community consciousness about decolonization, I am most interested in what the coming elections and federal cases will bring in terms of changing the island’s political status.
What occupies my thought process is the role of the media in helping build that consciousness or impede it. The media institutions in any society don’t just exist to report or investigate. These institutions also, often in less perceptible ways, promote values and norms, usually on behalf of elite segments of society.
In a colonial context, these roles gain a colonial dimension. Both institutions and individuals often will be compelled to defend and naturalize the colonial status quo. In both explicit and implicit ways, the media will promote notions of the greatness of the colonizer and propagate a fantasy of American political belonging that may not really exist.
We see this in the media landscape in Guam. Guam isn't a state, yet the media functions in such a way as if Guam is just like any other part of America. You can replace certain words in your average story and suddenly it'll be set in Arkansas or Kansas.
This does a disservice to those who consume that media, as it promotes a mis-recognition of reality. It encourages them not to recognize the truth of our relationship to the U.S., but proposes patriotism and pride as appropriate responses to living in a contemporary colony.
The media isn't alone. We see the same inconsistency from both Adelup and the Legislature. One day there’ll be a press release condemning U.S. colonialism, the next day a resolution promoting the fiction that we are just like any other part of America.
The educational system is one of the most problematic sites for this type of intellectual framing. So much of what is taught is wishful American-centric lessons that range from stupid to harmful. There are many things that would overlap in curriculum on Guam and any corner of the U.S., but if the foundation of your curriculum is they are one in the same, colonial problems will emerge.
This can change, if only the media landscape of Guam take up resolutions like the rest of us. For instance, not every story has to highlight Guam’s colonial status, but this has to be a silent yet still fundamental fact. The media often portray Guam’s relationship to the U.S. as something we are failing to live up to, as if we are some rebellious and corrupt piece of American real estate.
We are owned by the U.S., a immoral relationship that shouldn’t be glossed over in today’s world. As such, the focus on decolonization not happening because of local leaders and problems misses the point. The U.S. has an obligation to assist in this movement, but for decades has largely been unhelpful or obstructionist. Any coverage of the delayed decolonization has to assign the karabao’s share of blame at Uncle Sam’s feet.
Let us hope that in the coming year the media resolves to abandon its role as defenders of the colonial status quo and work to become real guardians of truth.