As our island prepares to celebrate the 69th Liberation Day of Guam, Governor Calvo reflects on the spirit of forgiveness and liberation.
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When We Forgive Others, We Liberate Ourselves
By Eddie Baza Calvo
Hafa adai, my fellow Guamanians,
It’s been 69 years since our Liberation… Seven decades since our parents and grandparents survived the worst of war. They were slaves… forced to work, starving, beaten, raped, and murdered.
They toiled the fields for hours in fear for their lives. They couldn’t even eat the food they harvested, so they ate scraps and rotting food. They had no where to go when they got sick. They were rounded up in concentration camps to die. They watched, helpless and in horror, as the people they loved most were killed.
Throughout the years I’ve noticed we’ve shied as a community from talking about these things. We prefer to focus on the hard work it took to rebuild the island… or the stories of valor and bravery during the retaking of the island. Who can deny that among our greatest claims to American patriotism is the fierce loyalty of our people during the occupation? Chamorros were so loyal, they kept American flags in their homes at the risk of being killed by the Japanese army.
The story of our parents and grandparents always has been about these things. The lessons we’ve passed down are of hard work, bravery, patriotism, and resolve. As I reflect on Liberation Day, there is another lesson that time itself has revealed… one we don’t often talk about, but perhaps is the greatest and most enduring legacy of our people.
For anyone of us born after the war — none of us can really understand what our parents and grandparents went through. None of us were slaves. We didn’t live in real danger that our lives could end at any moment. But we have experienced hardship. As human beings will do — as family and friends will often do — we’ve hurt each other. We’ve been struck by argument and misunderstanding. We’ve lost friendships, or stopped talking to siblings, parents, and cousins.
These things are real for all of us. Many times in life we do things that cause pain and suffering even for people we love… and the people we love can do the same.
Now think about our greatest generation… and try to imagine what they’ve been through. The eyes of the survivors now are wrinkled by age… but those are kind eyes. Those are eyes filled with love and honor. Those are eyes that have forgiven what they’ve seen… Hearts that have forgiven the pain and the suffering.
If our greatest generation could find it in their hearts to forgive the monstrosity of their occupiers… to forgive the murder and rape of others… and the slavery and beatings and fear they endured… then what is it in our lives that we cannot forgive?
There is really no issue worth dividing us from each other. There is no argument worth keeping families apart. This Liberation, let’s recognize that our greatest generation was able to forgive the worst crimes against humanity. They’ve taught us that there’s really nothing so big or painful that we can’t overcome. There’s nothing anyone can do to us that our hearts can’t forgive. And if this is the lesson each of us takes to heart in our own lives… and all of us find forgiveness in our hearts… then, together, our island can be that better place our parents and grandparents worked so hard to build.