The fourth of July is America’s independence day but some question whether the promise of the holiday has been fully realized for everyone in Guam.
For the decades since Guam became a U.S. Territory in June 1898, the island has celebrated many of the country’s holidays, including the Fourth of July, also known as Independence Day.
Dr. Laura Souder, a member of Kumison I Fino Chamorro and board member of Guam Indigenous Heritage Alliance (GIHA), went on air with Newstalk K57’s Patti Arroyo to talk about her personal history with the national holiday.
Souder described the discord of Guam celebrating a holiday that celebrates freedom when the island is still a U.S. territory.
She said as people who have been colonized, every kind of celebration is an opportunity to examine how they correlate with the people of Guam.
“That is the path of people who have been colonized, that’s it’s never a clear,black or white so to speak. We operate in the gray and the gray space is a conflicted space and you have to make sense of those conflicts because you don’t want to diminish in any way the significance of July fourth, because July fourth is the singular, most global celebration of independence from colonization and that is a good thing. That in itself is always a good thing,” Souder said.
Souder says that even as we struggle with our status as a territory, the desire to honor the ideals that so many of our people have died for remains strong, even if the political expression of those ideals in Guam remains incomplete.
“It’s a promise that’s yet unfulfilled so it is very conflicting. I’ve always been conflicted. I’ve always felt weird because as a person who is colonized, as a nation, as an island nation that’s been colonized for 500 years now, it’s extremely difficult to let loose of that knowledge,” she said.
Souder also said that while celebrating, Americans should not turn a blind eye to racism, bigotry and other forms of hatred as independence day is supposed to be a call to end oppression.
“So if we are to celebrate the accomplishments of this nation, in its fullness and the promise of this nation, we have to understand that we have to walk the talk every day and sexism is oppression, it’s a kind of form of colonization, if you will, because it’s power over another. Racism, all the -isms that we continue to perpetuate, betray the very principles that are embedded in that great holiday we call Independence Day,” Souder said.
Sounder says that the Commission on Decolonization is making a concerted effort in incorporating colonization and decolonization as a component of education and residents need to support that.
She adds that although she doesn’t have a preference in political status, she doesn’t want the island public to lose consciousness about what they celebrate, its principles, and Guam’s history with them as those are the biggest enemies of colonization.