Catherine Flores McCollum (Photos: Kia Feliciano)
When I think about the candlelight protest that happened at Litekyan on a recent Sunday, I am at once heartened and disappointed. Heartened to see more than a few people (several media reports count about 100 attendees) care about some of our island’s last pristine lands, and about not wanting to allow bullets to rain down upon these lands from the military firing range planned for the nearby Northwest Field of Andersen Air Force Base.
I wasn’t at the protest. I was with my family that day up at Jinapsan Beach, which lies adjacent to Litekyan on its north side. This beautiful slice of pristine beachfront has been in my husband’s family for generations. My Chamorritas grew up there. We spent nearly every Sunday at the beach. My father-in-law would wander down the shore with his talaya and five-gallon bucket, away from the girls’ squeals of delight as they played in the water. I would try to shush them as he scanned the waters near the shore for the little silver kichu. He would gather his net and launch it, trapping his fluttering catch under the giant weighted circle. Sometimes we would fry up the bucket load fresh, and eat it with rice and vinegar and salt finadene – ai, there’s nothing better.
My father-in-law’s spirit lives up at Jinapsan – I know that. My husband goes up there often to commune with him. I now have a grandson that will eventually play in the water there, and I most certainly don’t want stray bullets landing anywhere near him or any other person who wants to enjoy our little span of paradise.
At the same time, I find the protest benignly disappointing. You don’t want the firing range at Northwest Field, so you light candles? What I want to see is some of you run for office. Become senators. One of you campaign for Congress if you don’t like how we are being represented. You are old enough – “seasoned” enough, and frustrated enough about having property uses dictated to you by the federal government, as opposed to being able to make those decisions yourselves. You are extremely knowledgeable about the Chamorro culture, the land takings after World War II, and current land issues.
Take a page from the late Sen.r Angel Santos, Guam’s most prominent Chamorro activist. After spending six months in a federal prison for violating a court order to stay off of Andersen Air Force Base, Santos became a statesman. His eloquent defense of Chamorro rights caught the attention of many. Had he not passed away at the age of 44, I am convinced he would’ve eventually become governor.
Becoming a part of the “system” can allow you to effect change from within. For example, we still, after 45 years, do not have a vote in Congress. Fight for this. I know we don’t pay federal taxes, but we also have extenuating circumstances. Being caught in the middle of a fight between two world powers during WWII and again now with the incendiary stance our commander-in-chief is taking toward North Korea should count for something.
Figure out a way, like the late Carlos Taitano and other members of the Guam Congress did in 1949 when they walked out in protest against the US Naval government’s rule of Guam. They told members of the national press corps about their intention beforehand, and the coverage resulted in President Harry Truman submitting a bill to Congress to transfer the administration of Guam from the Navy to the Department of the Interior, and eventually in the creation of the Organic Act of 1950.
Nearly seven decades later, you have the immediacy of social media – and worldwide coverage - at your fingertips. People will support this effort. They will listen. So put out your candles and put your name on the ballot.
Jayne Flores is a long-time journalist. She currently works at Guam Community College. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org