In a press release dated Aug. 16, 2018, titled: “A Veteran, a Vote: An open letter to the nation from the Governor of Guam, Gov. Eddie Calvo calls for veterans on Guam to have a vote in presidential elections. As with the way his administration has created, explained and implemented policy, his meaning is cloudy at best. It alternately seems as if the governor is advocating for veterans to have the vote, for all U.S. citizens on Guam to have the vote, or for Guamanian veterans to have a vote. Which is it, Governor? Governor Calvo’s meaning was further muddied by the disingenuous, incomplete, and simplistic way it was covered by Guam’s primary media outlets. For now, I will give Governor Calvo the benefit of the doubt and assume he was referring to all U.S. citizens on Guam.
I would like to remind the Governor that it is not only Guamanian veterans who do not get a vote. If you are a U.S. citizen who moves to Guam and chooses to be a resident, you give up your right to vote for president. If you are a Guamanian who is a resident of one of the 50 states, you are allowed to vote. This is a question of geography and political status, not citizenship.
There is not a single issue on Guam that, when you go more than two levels below the surface, does not come back to political status. The question I ask, then, is getting a vote for President an attempt to distract the community from questioning the status quo, political status, and the military buildup? The Organic Act of 1950 granted citizenship to residents of Guam to allow the federal government to use eminent domain to steal indigenous lands. Is the vote a political sleight of hand to distract from an increased overreach of imperial power as the colonial governors line their families’ coffers while taxing residents into poverty?
All U.S. citizens, regardless of geography, should have a voice in selecting the individual who will make the decision to sacrifice their children to the Gods of War. Again, Governor Calvo, all citizens. Using the blood of fallen veterans and repeating the hollow platitudes of the military-industrial propaganda machine will convince some. Citizens of U.S. colonies (Let’s call them what they are.) are denied many rights —constitutional and human—other U.S. citizens take for granted.
The Oath of Enlistment sworn by all who enter the US Armed Forces states, “I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic…” I raised my hand and voluntarily took this oath, as have millions of other men and women. I did not do so with the expectation of any special treatment when I finished my time. At the time, I made a life-long commitment to support the key American values of tolerance, acceptance, and empathy for all people, everywhere. Anything less is simply un-American and unpatriotic.
There are many other disturbing elements in this short press release, but I focused on Governor Calvo’s exploitation of the public deification of veterans that has been perpetuated since 9/11. While I could fill pages with our policy and other disagreements, in this I am in cautious agreement with the Governor: all citizens on Guam need a vote for the president.
Craig W. Burns is assistant professor of Social Work at the University of North Dakota