Editor's note: This is the English translation of Robert Underwood's previous CHamoru column article titled "Håyi para ta hongge."
There are three sayings about liars and lying which we have long heard since we were little.
During this election season, it is good to remember these sayings and see whether they can be applied to our experience before we go to the voting booth and mark the ballot. If we were give 10 cents for each lie that was told during this season, I am sure that we would all come out millionaires.
First: Try it and you will not be lied to (Chagi yanmungnga madagi)
Vote for me and you will lose nothing. If we were to try to prove this saying, you have to try it first. Hopefully, you won’t be fooled. You won’t know the end result until you try it first. There is only one way to know whether it is good or not. You have to try it. Once you try it, you can’t be lied to afterward. But you would have already swallowed the first lie and if you were fooled, you will be trapped with the result.
I don’t know about you, but this is how I feel after an election. Among the candidates, you will find smooth talkers, good-looking people, respectable and an attentive personality. As soon as they are seated, we notice that there are special interests that may not be good for the public and they are going in a different direction.
Secondly: It is easier to catch a liar than someone who is lame (Guse’ña un gacha’ un dåkon kini un kohu)
This is a meaningful saying that I frequently heard when I was small. It means that we will quickly catch on to who is lying in our path forward in life. We were taught this saying in order not to lie. The lame person can run faster and will be ahead of us than any liar. It is a beautiful saying and it would be great if it were true.
In my experience, especially in political activities, many liars keep running. In this kind of endeavor, it seems like the slow and the crippled are the honest ones. Instead of catching the liar, it seems like the liar learns how to lie and their lies get accepted.
Let’s take a look at the discussion about our island finances. We keep getting told that we haven’t spent all of our funds and that there is money at the end of the year. With a great deal of pride, we are told that there is a surplus and that there is sufficient reason to celebrate those who are managing the money. When the time comes to prepare a plan for the upcoming year, we are told that there is not enough and that we must have a new tax. A sales tax is increased and then the next week, we are told that there is a surplus.
In children’s speech, surprise (manghang)! This is what is most startling. We cannot choose who to believe. The same people who are asking for a tax increase are also proud of the abundance of money. Then, they ask for a raise in their salary. Then, we give it to them and vote them in again when there is a new promise wrapped up in a new lie.
Hopefully, this saying by the old people about the lame and the liar were true, but I have my doubts when it comes to politics.
Thirdly: The more you say, the more you lie (Yanggen meggai sinangån-mu, meggai dinagi-mu)
The more you talk, the more opportunity you have to lie. And who talks more than a candidate during election season? This saying is absolutely true. In previous times, we would go to Mass for maybe an hour. If we were lucky, the priest’s sermon didn’t exceed 10 minutes. When we go to political meeting, it lasts two or three hours of talk. I am positive that there are more lies at the meeting than during Mass. I am not saying that the priest never lies, but he doesn’t have enough time to lie to us abundantly. For the candidate, he or she must call our attention to something and nothing attracts our attention more than a whopper.
Of course, a priest and a candidate do not have the same status. When a priest lies, someone will challenge him. When someone in politics lies, we accept it as natural.
In these three sayings, I am sure that two are correct. We must change one.
It is easier to catch a liar than someone who is lame unless they are a candidate for office.
Robert A. Underwood is a former Guam delegate to the U.S. Congress, former chairman of the CHamoru Language Commission and soon-to-be former president of the University of Guam.