FOR those who follow the local decolonization conversation, you know that there are three options for Guam in terms of its future political status: statehood, free association, and independence. These options are part of an internationally recognized United Nations process for taking territories or colonies and getting them to become self-determined entities.
These three options were not created arbitrarily, and are not perfect, but are meant to reflect the most basic ways in which a colonized people can reassess their relationship to their colonizer and get rid of its colonial elements. At this level, decolonization is about ridding your relationship to the colonizer of its unilateral and unequal aspects; you can do so by splitting them off entirely, by integrating into them, or by creating a new agreement through which your relationship is managed.
This is a daunting task – helping bring Guam to the next step in its political evolution. As such, there is much fear in the process, and those who oppose it have no problem with spreading misinformation about what decolonization is. Guam, like many contemporary colonies, is stuck in a decolonial deadlock. While it knows that its current position isn’t ideal, it is still fearful of changing it to something else.
In this miasma of apprehension and uncertainty, new breeds of prophets naturally emerge. I sometimes refer to them as the Fourth Kind Prophets, because of the gospels that they peddle. These mystics preach to the cowering people of Guam that the Holy Trinity of status options is not diverse enough, and that we should not limit ourselves to just these three possibilities alone. What they offer instead is a Fourth Kind of future. They call on people to abandon the empty shells of the statehood, independence and free association, and instead seek to conjure together a new option, one which will make the U.S. government happy, but also the people of Guam happy. Its appeal comes from its pragmatic nature. Any of the three main options would be too difficult; both the U.S. government and people of Guam don’t want any extreme changes. So we create a Fourth option that will solve a small part of all problems.
This Fourth Kind, like all quick fixes, looks very attractive, but actually changes nothing. The Fourth Kind, when it comes to political status, is babarias. It is the illusion of something changing, when the colonial relationship remains obscured in some ways, but ultimately intact and untouched.
A case in point came from a former political science professor at UOG, who for years offered his idea of a perfect solution to the problem of U.S. colonialism. He began his argument this way: American colonialism in the Pacific and the Caribbean is deplorable and un-American, and what the U.S. has done to these places is completely against the Constitution.
Now, given this admission and acceptance of the sins of the U.S., you might think he would have a truly radical proposal for how to fix this problem. You might think so, but you would be terribly wrong. The Fourth Kind for this professor was to pass a constitutional amendment that would authorize the U.S. to have colonies. It would create a new constitutional category for places the U.S. wanted to hold and control, but would not want to give them full rights and integrate them into the union.
Beware the lure of the Fourth Kind, as other territories have not and were sucked into believing them. A case in point is the idea of “commonwealth” as we have seen in Puerto Rico and even in the CNMI. Both Puerto Rico and the CNMI were given commonwealth and recognized as decolonized because of it. The problem with both of these is that their fundamental relationship to the U.S. didn’t change. The case of Puerto Rico is different from Guam in name only, as the absolute power it has over both remains the same. The CNMI felt their Covenant would keep them on equal footing with the U.S., but have since learned otherwise.
The CNMI may soon create a task force to examine how they have been duped into thinking the Covenant was truly an act of decolonization.
They should do this, since their relationship to the U.S. is very much up in the air, and looks to soon be just like Guam’s. The problem, however, with recanting your belief in the Fourth Kind is that once you accept it as your savior, the U.S. will work tirelessly to ensure you can never go back.
The Holy Trinity of status options won’t solve all your problems, but it at least guarantees that if you pick one of them, at the end of the process, you will be decolonized.