In the spirit of the anti-Vietnam War teach-ins that informed opposition to that war in the 1960s, members of the Guam Commission on Decolonization Tuesday night harnessed the confusion and fear resulting from the election of Donald J. Trump to make a case for an independent political status for the island.
A press release promoting the session at the University of Guam from members of the Commission’s Independence Guahan Task Force, emphasized that regardless of Guam’s overwhelming but meaningless vote in support of Secretary Hillary in the Guam straw poll, little would change without a political status change. (Other Decolonization task forces favor statehood or free association for the island).
“As a possession of the U.S., we had no say in Trump’s election and we will continue to have no control over what policies he or the US Congress might soon create,” the release said.
Dr. Michael Bevacqua told students and community members gathered in a UOG classroom that the election results once again illustrate Guam’s powerlessness. “This is what it is like in an unincorporated territory. Your vote doesn’t matter. We are not included in American democracy.”
Bevacqua said that social media had inflated what few things Trump actually said about the territories during his campaign: “Everyone’s uncle who served in the military too long and everyone’s auntie who is afraid, they all were saying this, like Donald Trump won’t be so bad because he will make sure we are not ignored. You should not believe this, though that this statement was in lots of Donald Trump’s press releases to basically everyone in the country. So he didn’t really say anything special for Guam.”
While Bevacqua and his independence task force co-chair Victoria Leon Guerrero ran through a number of Trump’s more outrageous campaign statements and proposed cabinet appointees—already prompting large scale mass protests in the mainland U.S—Bevacqua emphasized that the concerns of Guam would be lost in the shuffle, should there be an effort to present them in such a forum.
But participants were clearly looking for another means to present Guam’s longstanding grievances to a national audience. One audience member noted that Governor Edward Calvo had served as co-chair of a committee supporting Trump in the Asia-Pacific region. The governor is also the official chair of the Commission on Decolonization, said Victoria Leon Guerrero. “Calvo put himself out there as wanting to decolonize, he wanted to have a plebiscite in the last election, but since then has done very little and now is doing nothing,” Leon Guerrero said, noting the governor hasn’t called a meeting of the Decolonization Commission since July. Citing the approachability of Guam political leaders, she urged Guamanians to call and write Governor Calvo, demanding that he use any influence he has earned with the president-elect to Guam’s advantage.
Others in the audience were looking for more action about Guam issues and independence than talk in a university classroom. Local activist Lasia Casil, a veteran of the Occupy Wall Street protests in New York City, made it clear that her choice would be direct protest action on behalf of Guam, whether carried out on local talk radio or in the streets. “I’m a very pro-active person,” Casil said. “Especially after this election, it’s very evident to me that the people of Guam do not have the same core values as the people of the United States of America. 74 percent [on Guam] voted for Clinton, we now have a racist, bigot president, so it’s obvious to me there needs to be a separation.” Casil judged the teach-in a success: “I think it inspired, lit a flame under a lot of people.”