Guam, Where America’s Voting Rights End
My 7th grade social studies teacher made us,
the children of Guam, memorize the names of
all 41 American presidents, whose portraits stared
down at us in the furthest American territory
from the White House. As I recited their names
at home, my parents watched Bill Clinton play
saxophone on television. “Are you voting for him?”
I asked. My dad, wearing his Army t-shirt, said:
“Didn’t your teacher tell you that our votes don’t
count. It don’t matter that we’re citizens or veterans.”
A few years later, my family migrated to California,
where I became a resident, graduated high school,
and registered to vote. But after Al Gore lost,
I learned that living in the states doesn’t guarantee
your ballot will actually count. I learned how easy
it is to memorize the name of a president who wages
two wars and sharpens your island into a weapon.
And isn’t that what an American president is: a name
to which our lands and bodies are ultimately sacrificed.
When Barack Obama campaigned in 2007, his name
gave me hope because it descended from slavery,
from the civil rights movement, from a mixed raced family,
from the Pacific. Yet Obama only visited Guam once.
In 2011, his plane landed at night on the air force base,
refueled, then departed. That’s when I learned the arc
of history doesn’t bend justice towards Guam. I learned
no matter what the president’s name is, he remains our
commander, and our island remains a forgotten name.
For thirty years, a straw poll on Guam has accurately
predicted the result of U.S. presidential elections. In 2016,
Hillary Clinton won the poll, yet still lost to Donald Trump,
thus breaking our historic (and ironic) streak. I voted for
neither candidate, which felt like a betrayal to my kin
back home, who don’t have a voice in the election.
Some activists now petition to extend voting rights
to the territories; instead, I want our decolonial
voices to be counted, I want Guam’s liberation
from American presidents to be inaugurated.