This letter appeared in the Boston Review (11 August 2017) and penned by Guam resident, Victoria-Lola Leon Guerrero. It Questions the Island’s incorporation into the U.S. and the use of its territory for a major military base. Two things that make Guam vulnerable to attack. The idea that American protection is needed is countered by the experience of history. During the Japanese occupation, the people were abandoned and left to fend for themselves.
I am glad that you are finally paying attention to what is happening in Guam. Many of you, as I am reading online, are asking for the first time, “What is Guam?” Every day growing up here, we have been told all about you. I am sorry that it is only when we are the subject of bombs that you even attempt to say the word Guam; there are so many more interesting things I wish you would want to know about us. We, on the other hand, are not as surprised by the latest bomb threat. We are quite used to hearing Guam and bomb in the same sentence. Every month or so, when another missile is tested, or rhetoric fired, we hear how North Korea, or China, or Russia could bomb Guam.
I have even saved pictures of China’s infamous “Guam Killer” bombs on my computer so our Independence group can use it in Independence 101 presentations as an example of why we need to get free NOW. Yes, there are people in Guam who want independence from you. But there are also people in Guam who hear these threats of bombs and cower to the hype. They start to believe that we need your mighty military bases and beg for more, because then we would not be bombed, right? But you have been the source of all our bomb problems.
The worst bombs that have ever been dropped on Guam were yours near the end of World War II. At the beginning of the war, you left us defenseless to the Japanese, knowing full well that they were planning to invade Guam all along. You safely boarded your white military wives on ships and sent them home months before the attack, but did nothing to protect us.
That’s right, the last time an invading nation that you said you would protect us from attacked, you surrendered in 2 days and left 20,000 people to suffer, many falling victim to the most atrocious of war crimes. But we are strong and we survived not just that ugly war but also the losses that came after. When you returned in 1944, you leveled our island with your bombs, leaving most families without a home to return to. We were scattered and displaced so you could build your enormous bases. And we were so grateful to you that our people served and continue to serve your military and die for your freedom in higher numbers per capita than you.
The worst bombs that have ever been dropped on Guam were yours.
Today you occupy nearly one-third of our island, and station bombers and nuclear powered submarines here to flex your might to our neighbors. You play endless war games emitting fumes and dumping waste into our air, water, soil, bodies. We breathe in the fallout when you test your bombs on our sister islands upwind—those clouds make their way down here. We eat fish from the waters you bomb around us.
Grieve the beached whales who rot at the shore, led astray by your sonar testing. We are being made to sacrifice—with no consent (and for many of us, against our will)—access to sacred ancient villages and a thousand acres of a lush limestone forest habitat that you want to destroy to build a firing range for your Marines. You fly bombers over my home at ungodly hours. Come on, America, I am raising babies here. Little ones, who notice when your flag is flown above theirs, and don’t like it. Who hide under the slide at their playground and tell their friends to duck when your blaring B-1s, B-2s, be everything in their safe zone. There is a sign on the road that reads, “Slow down, children at play.”
Will you please slow down and allow my children to play? I want them to grow up here. This is their/my/my mama’s mama’s mama’s homeland. There is no other place in the world I want them to be. I understand that for many “Americans,” you had to flee your homeland. That America became your better life, or at least the promise of it. That many of you long for your homeland and can’t return. And sadly, many of you don’t think enough about the indigenous Americans whose lands and lives were stolen to manifest this destiny.
But this land, this beautiful island everyone wants to bomb because of you, is my land, not yours. And I don’t want to flee. I left my land once for your college education. But I ached for home the entire time. As soon as I got my degrees, I came back to use them here.
My home is my better life. I am nourished by my land, where my family grows our own food. I am raising bright babies, with the jungle as their backyard, and this is the life my ancestors wanted for me and for them. I want to go to sleep peacefully knowing that my family is safe in our home. So please, stop all this bomb talk. And instead, ask yourself why Guam is still your colony in 2017.