“APOLOGIES TO SAMOA NEWS”
I understand very well your frustration, and I personally apologize for not commenting on the well-written Samoa News story on the Senate's expenses. I personally believe that government must be transparent. I have to confess that I thought a lot about it, but in the end, I see myself very confused. I don’t know anymore what is right or acceptable and what is wrong and unacceptable here.
Either way, I have also wondered why people don’t react to such serious news of abuse, and there are several reasons that came to my mind about people not making comments about the story on the Senate's expenses. These are some:
a) This is what is expected of the Fono by the people: Since we elected them (even if indirectly through village/ family systems), are we trying not to recognize those mistakes?
b) Is this another cultural thing of not being confrontational? Apparently, culturally, if you are confrontational or opinionated, it is considered rude and problematic. And, I asked, even if you are right? "Yes, even if you are right" was the answer that I received from a person that knows the Samoan culture very well.
c) Is it because everyone knows or knew that this was going to happen and then it is not news anymore?
d) Maybe the media has not educated the public about the severe economical crisis in the U.S. (our main source of $$) and the disastrous state of economy in Europe, Latin America, etc...?
e) Maybe no one cares? Does anyone know what the heck is going on? Maybe progress has made Samoans care less and whatever happens no one really cares about it?
f) Fear? It is very hard for me to believe this, as I have heard and read about how the Samoans have survived over centuries because they are brave, warrior-like, courageous and possess the abilities to overcome their enemies — in other words fearless.
g) When I have asked some of my Samoan family about the lack of enthusiasm of Samoans defending their rights from such abuses, the response is — oh, just forget it, Samoans are very soft-hearted and forgiving people. Can this be a reason or excuse?
h) Maybe people are so used to contributing to churches and faalavelaves that they consider all of these expenses and abuses as extended faalavelaves, and faalavelaves are okay?
i) Too many friends and family members are taking advantage of this?
All of these, are questions that I am afraid to answer for myself, due to the lack of knowledge in the Samoan culture. Additionally, I am not sure how much time is sufficient to be considered a patient person. This is another thing that I have witnessed repeatedly — that Samoans are hopeful and very patient. Maybe the people here have the hope that this is just a bad dream that will go away and fix itself? Sometimes I hear, people will get what is due to them because of their bad deeds, I guess like “the sins of the fathers are visited on the children…” A generation of patience?
I have seen things and wrote about some of the wrongdoing here, and sometimes the explanation has been that "it is part of the culture".
Even the FBI has been confused in the past about the practices, and they've lost cases against individuals due to the excuse that they were "cultural practices". In some cases, I have been given the answer, "Its not our money anyway, its just federal monies”.
My biggest questions are:
Who is using the culture to protect their personal actions?
The ones that do wrong or the ones that allow such to happen?
Both? No one or everyone?
As you can see, this is very confusing, and this is my excuse not to make a comment over something that doesn't sound right to me. We all can have excuses or create them to justify our act or lack of them.
But, who am I? I am only a palagi.
Carlos M. Sanchez
American Samoa resident and proud father of 3 Samoan children