When you become an adult, your actions become tied up in the power structures that you rely on to provide for yourself and your family. Even if those structures are broken and working against you, sometimes you have no choice but to rely on them in order to get by on a day-to-day basis. We like to think that we have the freedom to say and do what we want, to advocate for what we believe in, but it’s not entirely true, especially in a place like Guam. Before I had my son relying on me, I can honestly say I operated with a kind of fearlessness that was empowering. I also struggled to see where the “fear” that inhibited many on our island came from.
But lately, I have found that I am more easily intimidated. I have come to identify, more than I have in the past, with residents who hold their tongues. I now understand, more completely, what they mean when they say things like, “I agree. I feel that way too, but I can’t say it.”
We are an island feeling passionately about things that many won’t talk about openly. I have noticed that those who speak loudest are often those who are far away from the island or those who aren’t really from here. People who are not from here have very big opinions about who we are and what we need. People who have been here a “for a while” seem to think they have figured us all out.
I’ve started channeling a lot of the frustration I feel about not being able to participate into prayer. I pray CONSTANTLY. I pray for our island. I pray for a strong leader who will help us. I pray for our people. I used to be annoyed with some of the women in my family for telling me to “just pray.” I used to say, “stop just praying and DO or SAY something.” Now, I get it. And I’m not sure if “getting it” is a good thing. Is anyone up there listening to me pray? I don’t even know anymore. Will I die another biha sending up prayers to heal our home?
I’ve become one of the many residents who no longer trust any of our local news articles or radio shows. Like many, I smirk when I see their “polls” and don’t bother to respond. I’ve become another resident who refuses to contribute to certain dialogues. I could care less about voting. When I do it, it’s simply the act of choosing the less crooked person while sending up a small prayer that they don’t completely destroy our home. I’ve become part of the problem. I’ve become the kind of resident I used to complain about quite often: The kind who knows what’s right, who knows what they say I think isn’t really the case. The kind who whispers about my disappointment.
How did I get here so quickly? I’m kind of disgusted with myself about it.
I go places and I behave. I say what I’m supposed to say. I feel terrible inside for it. I know what I am doing is not right. It’s only right for the moment. It’s only what’s comfortable. I have learned that the things that are right are very seldom comfortable or popular. I watch some of the people who are brave enough to say the things I feel need to be said carefully. They’ve made sacrifices that I’m not sure I’m brave enough to make. Speaking up or actually using YOUR VOICE can result in losing friends (even friends who agree with you, but are too scared to let others know).
We are a small island. What we say and what we do is tied up in who you know and who can move you around on our tropical chess board. I’m a bit of a chicken, but I’m grateful for those who aren’t. With that being said, I’ll leave you with a quote from our governor’s recent response to individuals who do not agree with his position. I probably shouldn’t say much in response to his comment except this: all individuals employ a kind of rhetoric. All people have politics, not just those who do not believe in what you do. It’s easy to call someone’s position mere “politics” when they don’t align with your politics.
“I caution senators, especially the same ones who almost derailed the buildup the first time around, to exercise restraint and some decorum and care for the future of Guam when dealing with this issue. Sending letters to Congress insinuating that you represent all the people of Guam in your opposition to the buildup is irresponsible, reckless, and misguided from the truth. Wild and uncontrolled political rhetoric from senators serves one purpose: politics. The Marine movement is bigger than anyone’s politics.”