For the past sixteen years, Guam has boasted about the accuracy of its “straw poll” conducted during local elections. The unofficial tally allows us to pretend we are voting for the President of the United States. It’s an imaginary vote that makes us feel like we’re participating. Good for morale and stuff. Here, in our little Micronesian Paradise, Hillary Clinton won by a landslide. America, on the other hand, showed that its heart was in a very different place. We watched curiously as each state announced just how close the candidates were to each other.
As the hours pressed on and it became clear that The United States of America was giving birth to a boy instead of a girl, I heard the repeated whispers of “I’m not surprised” from relatives and friends. Personally, I was not surprised either. I sat with a colleague of mine who simply raised her eyebrows and confirmed that “that’s America!”
On the other side of the spectrum, friends I’ve made during my time living off island seemed shocked. They were baffled by the results. They were amazed by how many Americans really felt this way about immigration, women, climate change, Black people, or Muslims. They couldn’t believe a man who is endorsed by the KKK and in the hot seat for raping a 14 year old was their new Commander in Chief. Some of the people I know from the states seemed to have sunk into a very dark place, unable to process that these were their fellow Americans.
Why weren’t so many people on Guam stunned or shocked by this election? I suspect it’s because we might have been looking at the United States from such a different angle all along. Whether we want to admit it or not, we were looking at the US from the position of a possession. When you are owned, you see your possessor more clearly than he sees you. We have to. We need to know what you really think, where your heart lies, and how you really see us. It’s part of our survival as a colony. Naturally, the US does not need to know very much about us. All they really need to know about Guam is how we are beneficial. When you’re looking at America from the position of a second-class citizen, as a possession, you aren’t delusional about the overall goodness of your owner. You know his good points. You know what might make him a better owner than another guy, but you’re not blind to what makes him kind of scary, too. You also know, very clearly, that you are owned. Some Americans can’t even handle the word “owned.” They insist that we use the word “Territory” because it sounds less unsettling for them.
Sometimes, people from Guam will try to discuss Uncle Sam’s racist tendencies and how he treats us, but we are quickly reminded that we aren’t being fair by bringing that up. We are ever reminded that “not all Americans” are that way. We know this is true. Lots of Americans truly understand the indigenous struggle and have love for all types of minorities. We constantly confirm that the good ones exist. Love and light and all of that. We don’t look at the racism because “it’s just not all of you.” We often drop the subject and confirm that “yes, there are many good Americans who do not feel that way.” But here’s what this election shows: Yes, there are many Americans who don’t have racist, sexist, or bigoted sentiments; but there are a hell of a lot of you that DO (and some of you don’t even realize it); and that’s worth having an honest conversation about. We’ve been acting like “those kinds of Americans” are not there, or like they’re the minority, for a very long time. You don’t like your inherent goodness attacked. We totally get that. No one does.
But many on Guam have already known America is this way. We know that White and Male is still preferred. This is how America has treated us as a colonial possession from Day 1. No American President has ever treated our home with dignity, not even your favorite, most beloved ones. America has done quite a bit to help Spain and Japan dismantle our matrilineal structures, showing us how it feels about women. They’ve sent men here over and over again who show us what they really think of people of color. America does things to our soil, waters, and air that show us how it really feels about the environment on a regular basis.
What I’m noticing is that many of my friends from the US weren’t seeing their home very clearly. America has truly lifted its veil this election and some people are surprised by the face revealed. I’m sorry for those of you struggling with accepting your country’s choice, but I also think it’s important to finally see yourself clearly. That’s you. This is you. You’ve always been that way, only now you aren’t pretending not to be.
Wishing you a positive next four years. I’m curious to see how it works out for you, because you own us and everything you do affects our home. I’m concerned about many of the things your new President has said about my home and our Pacific Region, but that is nothing new. We are used to that here.
Another interesting thing to come out of America’s decision is that there are people who were previously apathetic about decolonization who have become more curious since Trump’s election. It’s the push some of them needed to realize Guam and America are on different pages.
I hope you use the next four years to see each other clearly and look at yourself more critically. Also, you guys just voted against our Human Right to self-determination at the UN (again). I hope that with time, you will be able to show us you’re the country you’ve always insisted you were.