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  • By Jayne Flores

Guam's lack of choice

Guam is my home, and has been for 32 years. In past presidential elections, my frustration at not having been able to cast a vote has been mild at best. I just shrugged it off as a consequence of having fallen in love with my studly scuba diving instructor, married him, and made a home for our three Chamorritas here on this beautiful tropical island with its rich Chamorro culture.

Not this year. This year, my very being quakes with frustration at not being able to cast a vote for our next commander in chief. My reasons are many. One is that we have the highest military enlistment rate in the nation. My nephew, friends’ sons, husbands,brothers, sisters, wives, daughters – so many serve in the U.S. military and put themselves in harm’s way. Yet we cannot choose whom we think will be best at keeping our beloveds – and ourselves – safe from the despots of this crazy world. This afternoon at Guam Community College, our English Department held a “Teach-In,” where people representing the three political status choices Guam has been presented with – independence, statehood, or free association – extolled the virtues of each status

before a packed crowd in our Multipurpose Auditorium. It was refreshing to see so many young people so interested in the political future of our island. One point that struck me was when independence proponents Michael Lujan Bevacqua and Victoria Leon Guerrero told the crowd that our current status as an unincorporated territory is a status of belonging to, but not part of the United States.

“We are not making our own choices,” Leon Guerrero said. I’m not pushing one status or the other right now, but those words struck me because none of the people in that auditorium today can make a choice for president. And never before in the history of this country do I believe that this choice is more important. For many reasons – because our political process breeds long-time politicians, because corporations have exercised undue influence over our politicians for decades, and this time around, because we are a society obsessed with reality TV that glorifies the lowest common denominators among us – we have to choose between former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and reality TV star and branding mogul Donald

Trump. She is clearly the more qualified, more rational, more reasoned of the two.

The thing that frightens me the most about Donald Trump is the level of vitriol his candidacy has produced. This hatred of minorities, of women, of people that are not heterosexual, is palpable. Trump has fired up white people who feel disenfranchised by decades of change and who blame everything on President Obama because he is black. His rhetoric is utterly divisive. Never in the history of the world has divisiveness between races or ethnicities been a good idea. It has never produced good results. Yet here comes Donald Trump, wanting to build walls, keep people out based on their religion and stop and frisk people based on their race. His ideas are the antithesis of the foundations on which the United States of America is based. I watch the news, read the papers, listen to the radio and see way too much on Facebook that frightens me about the direction in which the U.S. is moving with this presidential race. I think of Guam, where we are a proud melting pot of different peoples. I think of my Chamorro children over on the mainland, and worry about their future. I am reminded of the classic saying, “United we stand, divided we fall.” Trump is dividing us. If he is elected, most assuredly, we will fall. And here, where America’s day begins, where so many of our loved ones put themselvesin harm’s way so that everyone over there can vote, we have no choice.

(Jayne Flores is a long-time journalist. She currently works at Guam Community College)

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