I read about our leaders working to pen an agreement with Guam and I must commend them on their effort. This is by no means meant to be an attack or to be disrespectful to the efforts to reunite with Guam as it is indeed a noble deed. But the realities of a political agreement or union may be just too unrealistic for a number of reasons. It is great to get the political nod with such a venture as reunification but in reality reunification can’t be manifested in the foundation of the political ties with Guam because there have never been any real political ties between the NMI and Guam. Another inhibiting factor is the cultural fact that there was no single leadership over the ancient Chamorros as each island had its own chief so it is even a challenge to reunite under a single umbrella. The only unification existed under the short Trust Territory government and that proved to be a temporary fix.
Regardless of which road we decide to travel, they both pose significant challenges. But for the purposes of this essay let’s start with the political route since this is our second or third attempt at the political reunification route. Political Science dictates that it would be an insurmountable task to reunite Guam with the NMI due to the immense pressure that will be exerted for control over the political power in governing. It is for this reason we can’t forget the Chamorros of Guam lobbied against the NMI on many political issues when the NMI was pushing to become a commonwealth. There is also the fact that the Chamorros of Guam voted against the CNMI joining them in the American family, which was a slap in the face the CNMI that we’re only now getting over. So history has already taught the NMI that Guam don’t want to be politically connected and the question is why or what made them change their minds or if they have even changed their minds.
As for the Political Science perspective of reunification it all revolves around “money and power” and Guam is not going to readily give up money and power without something in return of value. So the question is what do we have to offer Guam and we all know the answer is nothing much—yet! When you think of sharing political power with Guam you must consider who has the biggest population, who is the biggest bread winner. You can bet Guam will be demanding more representation in government and most of the budget and will control most of the major elections, especially for the executive office and Senate seats. So I ask, will the people of the CNMI really submit to a primarily Guam rule over our government? I don’t think so! As you can see a political tie is far-reaching, to say the least.
Now let’s take a look at reunification by reweaving the social or cultural fabric of the NMI and Guam into a single cloth. I am hopeful that readers will agree that the number one goal of reunification is to “protect, preserve, and promote” the Chamorro nation’s future and ancestry in an effort maintain the Chamorro nation perpetually.” What matters most are the social and cultural ties that already exist that need reweaving and fixing because they have been all but severed, mainly due to politics, the ocean and distance and the high and constant rising cost of transportation.
But even in the face of rising transportation cost there are many things that can be done today that couldn’t be done just a decade or two ago. By traveling the road to reweave the cultural fabric of the Chamorros, a great deal can be done to reunite with Guam by simply working with the social tools we have on hand. We can start reweaving:
1. By reuniting the language commissions of the NMI and Guam to update the Chamorro language as it is becoming more and more dysfunctional (computer terms, technology terms, medical terms and others). There is also a need to come to a consensus on some words like Chamorro or Chamorru and other things where the NMI differs from Guam.
2. By building on the reconnection of the customs and traditions (revival of warrior training and chief system with one magalahi for CNMI and one for Guam).
3. Via education exchange programs with the creation of a Chamorro curriculum that will contain everything about Chamorros, with a “certificate” for high school students to show they have mastered cultural preservation.
4. By establishing real ties with a liaison complex for CNMI residents to congregate in Guam and one for Guamanians on Saipan. Both societies will benefit from these installations with more unifying activities that will serve to complement family and cultural ties.
In fact, a great way to start the reunification building is through the medical referral program. I actually did a brief analysis of our medical referral program in Guam while I was in Guam for medical referral and I found some very interesting things that I actually forwarded to the governor for consideration. First and foremost the med referral program needs to focus more on building “long-range and permanent functionality” programs, especially in Guam. Guam’s new regional Medical City is now specializing in a lot of illnesses and procedures that we used to have to go to Hawaii or the Philippines. In fact, the Guam referral office is now busier than it has ever been, which is why we should prepare to be more permanent in Guam.
I know there was an effort to cut cost recently but that was based on “cutting services,” which is wrong as it put lives at stake instead of making the program more cost-efficient. Housing is one of the biggest costs that could eventually be eliminated through a land swap with the government of Guam. By creating a NMI cultural complex in Guam with a hotel for referral accommodations, the medical housing issue would be solved and it would create the infrastructure for endless cultural and family connecting activities. The money we are spending on hotels in Guam is now enough to make payments on a hotel complex that we can own! Guam will also have a complex on Saipan that can be used to promote cultural and family connecting activities, making the old adage of killing two birds with one stone a reality.
There are also other cost cutting steps that can be taken and I sincerely wish our leaders the best with reunification because the Chamorro people should be unified culturally. I just know for a fact that taking a social approach to reunification will yield far more success than trying to create political ties of power. Believe me, it will take something extraordinary, dramatic or even catastrophic on a hemispheric or global scale to cause a political union between the CNMI and Guam, especially when our fathers in Washington have to agree with any political status change first. So please, don’t try to put the cart in front of the horse; just fill up both carts with social goodies to help the people and never mind connecting a political horse.
Ambrose M. Bennett