Ken Leon Guerrero responded to my letter to the editor rather quickly, and the gap between his response and mine now would lead readers to believe he had made his very valid points against me. Checkmate. However, here is my response to Ken LG and those of a similar mindset: We, the younger generation of Guam, know that politics is not simply a matter of numbers and voter participation. We can talk to our elected officials – and we do. We can petition for legal action – and we do. We can attend hearings and read reports – and, again, we do. But we are not the elected officials, the lawmakers or writers of reports yet.
We know the U.S. federal government has built dependencies on its aid and programs for years. We know this because we have educated ourselves on Guam history and law. We know whatever the government of Guam decides is subject to the authority of the U.S. federal government. We do not have the same rights as other American citizens, and our government does not have the same rights or abilities as those of states. We know when we do become officials and policymakers there will be limitations. We know in order to effect the kind of change we want we must reach beyond those limitations in the present, and beyond the ballot box.
Ken Leon Guerrero’s focus on voting as the mechanism for change ends up blinding him to the important work accomplished by his generation and ours. Cultural movements, marches, protests, educational activities in the community, all of these represent upheavals that have transformed the way people think, how they see the present, future and yes – how they have voted. Those acts serve as forms of education for the public when information or history is repressed or largely unknown. Ken Leon Guerrero does activism a great disservice in believing a ballot box and meetings with elected officials alone cause change, and if he is representative of his generation’s thinkers and movers on Guam, we are sadly at a loss for elders.
Our T-shirts, marches and concerts are all parts of effective work to educate about our political status. Our generation is being educated and engaging with our history, our laws and our political status options before throwing our futures into a ballot box. We have seen how previous generations have put our generation in predicaments such as climate change, economic crises and continued poverty because they acted out of their limited knowledge and self-interest. We know that breaking that cycle will take more than simply voting people out. If the system is the problem, voting within it doesn’t help much. You have to change the system, that’s why the younger generation is so interested in decolonization. It is one of the ways we can accomplish that.
Mikhael Cruz Phelps lives in Mongmong.