There are 180,000 proud Americans currently celebrating US Independence Day in Guam, USA. The first US territory in the world, based on time zones, to see fireworks and celebrate the 4th of July Independence Day is Guam. When it is 8 pm on July 4 in Guam, it is 4 pm on July 3 in Hawaii.
Guam is a United States island territory that is 3,850 miles away or a 7 ½-hour flight away from Honolulu, Hawaii – that’s 1,595 miles from Manila; 7,000 miles from Berlin; or about 8,000 miles from the US capital, Washington, DC.
Car license plates say it all – Guam where America begins its day – but American citizens in this territory feel discriminated against by the rest of the United States.
Guam is governed by a popularly-elected governor and a unicameral 15-member legislature, whose members are known as senators. Guam elects one non-voting delegate, currently Democrat Madeleine Z. Bordallo, to the United States House of Representatives.
US citizens in Guam vote in a straw poll for their choice in the US Presidential general election, but since Guam has no votes in the Electoral College, the poll has no real effect.
In the 1980s and early 1990s, there was a significant movement in favor of the territory becoming a commonwealth, which would give it a level of self-government similar to Puerto Rico and the Northern Mariana Islands.
However, the federal government rejected the version of a commonwealth that the government of Guam proposed. Other movements are also in existence that advocate becoming a US state, a union with the state of Hawaii, a union with the Northern Mariana Islands as a single territory, or be granted independence. Guam is generally thought of as conservative on the political spectrum.
Today, Guam’s economy is supported by its principal industry, tourism, which is composed primarily of visitors from Japan and Korea. Guam is also promoting tourism in the United States and Europe. Guam’s second largest source of income is the United States military.
The July 4th celebrations at beach parties, picnics, fireworks, and the waving of American flags on this land of islanders who have been denied the basic human right of self-determination and decolonization remind us about the deep disparities between the principles and the practices of American democracy in the Chamorro archipelago of the Mariana Islands.
For Guam, much of this is, in fact, caused by a US military presence and strategies of the 21st century.
In 1776, the unanimous declaration of the 13 United States of America severely criticized the King of Great Britain for having:
“Kept among us, in times of peace, standing armies without the consent of our legislatures.
“He has affected to render the military independent of and superior to the civil power.
“He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution and unacknowledged by our laws, giving his assent to their acts of pretended legislation.
“For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us.”
It was clear that the signers of the Declaration of Independence were, in fact, decidedly anti-military in their castigation of America’s then-ruler.
Today, however, the United States’ spread of over 900 military bases outside of the continental US exists separate from civilian life, with its own set of laws and technology that abridge basic human rights and civil liberties in colonial territories and distant countries.
The United States’ own foundational document, with its anti-colonial and anti-military values, deserves an honest review in our classrooms and should be at the forefront of our thoughts today and every day until the day we are allowed to exercise our basic human rights in our own land.
This article was partially based on Hope A. Cristobal. He is a former senator and resident of Tamuning, Guam.