It is so intriguing the way in which local media covers Liberation Day in Guam, the holiday meant to commemorate the American re-taking of the island from Japanese forces during World War II. Objectively, the American reoccupying of the island in 1944 was not a liberation, at least not in most senses of the word. It's level of "liberation" depends largely on whether or not you exclude the Chamorros, the indigenous people of Guam, who have called this island home for possible thousands of years.
It is very bewildering how we predicate the idea of Liberation Day being a liberation on the experiences of the Chamorro people, because so many of them express it as being a liberation, but calling it a liberation requires suspending their human rights and reducing their to a mere colonial effect of the United States.
You can refer to July 21st as a liberation from Japanese occupation, as a liberation of US territory from foreign clutches. Even if Chamorros themselves may call it a liberation, because of the joy and relief they felt by having the Japanese and the myriad of daily horrors they represented gone from their lives. But how can it be a liberation in an full formed or true sense if it meant a return to colonial control? If the Chamorro people were liberated from one master and then returned to the control of another?
If you don't believe me and think I am just an ungrateful young person who didn't experience the horrors of Japanese occupation and don't understand why we must refer to it as a liberation, don't take my word for it. Take the words of one of the US soldiers who did the liberating, who hits the beaches and expelled the Japanese and partially freed the Chamorro people. Here are the words of Darrell Doss in 2003:
"Fifty-nine years ago, on July 21, 1944, I and more than 57,000 Marines, soldiers and sailors came ashore on the beaches of Asan and Agat, and were honored to be referred to as 'liberators.' But in the end, we failed to accomplish what we had come to do -- liberate you. More correctly, our government failed both of us by not granting the people of Guam full citizenship. Another injustice is not allowing Guam to have equal say, as we in the states do, in governing your island home. Please remember, we men who landed on your shores July 21, 1944, shall never be fully satisfied until you are fully liberated."
That is why it is so interesting when the media attempts to grapple or explore what the true meaning of the day is. Patriotism is constantly mentioned as being what the root of the event is meant to be. Patriotism to the United States and gratitude for what they did in freeing us from Japanese oppression. The problem though, as we look to the future and look to our postwar history, is that this traps us in a particular subservient relationship to the United States, and becomes a way of enthusiastically and patriotically explaining away our colonial present. The most common way in which patriotism or our potential attachment to the United States is articulated is not critical, does not move us forward, but pushes us to accept what we currently have, and that we should appreciate everything Uncle Sam is kind and generous enough to gift us.
Instead, we should re-imagine Liberation Day in a way that benefits us, provides the lessons for us looking to the future. Gratitude to the United States can be a part of this, but not patriotism to a country which is our colonizer and our most formal and fundamental connection is that they own our island and our rights. We can commemorate this event as it is so important in our recent history, but we should organize it in such a way that it pushes us forward, towards true liberation, self-determination or decolonization.