We Are Not Free

Buenas yan Håfa Adai!

“Liberation Day” was about two weeks ago, and if I saw you that day, I probably greeted you with “biba reoccupation!” Here’s why.

I have mixed feelings about Liberation Day. On this holiday, we celebrate the liberation of our island from Japanese occupation thanks to the U.S. military with fiestas and a big parade in Hagatña. What I think we are forgetting to do and should be doing on this day is remember the suffering that our manåmko (elders) endured, commemorate the struggles that i taotao-ta (our people) overcame during the war, mourn the lives that were lost, and honor the people who lived through World War II.  If you’ve been to the Liberation parade, it’s all about the military and thanking Uncle Sam for coming back for us. It was only 71 years ago, and we are already forgetting what happened. Truthfully, I don’t know everything that happened, but I probably know more about the World War II Era more than any other era in the history of Guåhan. If your grandparents or great-grandparents aren’t with you anymore and unable to share their war experiences with you, I highly recommend that you read An Island In Agony by Tony Palomo. This book is a collection of written accounts of Chamoru war survivors and their experiences. I read it halfway, and had a hard time reading further because it was so wretched… This is what the book looks like, and you can probably find it in any book store.

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Liberation Day seems like a very joyful holiday on our island, but is it really? It seems like there’s more celebrating than commemorating, but what are we celebrating?

Our people were very thankful for help of the U.S. military in World War II, as am I, but what they did with our thanks is quite controversial. The United States of America, the Land of the Free, has stripped us of 1/3 of our ancestral lands and denied us the right to govern ourselves all those years ago. They took advantage of our size and location, and took took took. People were forced out of their homes, their ranches, their farms, and were forced to live in poverty. They promised us American citizenship, and gave us the title, but not the rights. We can’t even vote for what happens to ourselves and our island. We are second-class citizens with no voice. For detailed information of all the injustices we suffered during and after WWII, there are books and many documentaries, one of them being War For Guam. DVDs will be released soon (I will keep you posted). There are many others, all eye-opening, stomach-wrenching, and haunting, which I strongly advise you to watch.

You and I are colonized people and have been so for over 400 years. In fact, we are the longest colonized nation in the entire world. Che’lu-hu, WE ARE NOT FREE. So on July 21st, “Liberation Day”, I mourn. I’m angry. I don’t rejoice. Thanks for coming back Uncle Sam, but no thank you for your abuse, greed, colonization, and reoccupation.

 Please educate yourselves, get involved, be proactive, and free your minds. Remember, WE ARE NOT FREE.

Si Yu’us Ma’åse for reading

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