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  • By Joseph Meyers

Golf swings and machete attacks

Does anyone think it’s accurate to refer to a machete attack as an “exaggerated incident?”

Well, it happened recently and I think there may be some regrets.

Let’s pull back for a minute and gather some perspective. In golf, when a casual player blows a shot, there’s a chance for a do-over or taking a “mulligan.” It’s one of those things that everyone does— do-over — because everyone needs it from time to time. It’s probably why you’re not as good at golf as you think you are.

But unlike the game on the green, life doesn’t usually give you mulligans (although it does often share golf’s high cost, goofy clothes and a requirement to get up early.) This is especially true for a public figure, who tends to produce a sound bite — newsworthy or not— just by saying anything. Great for journalists, but not so for politicians.

Even in the social media sphere, those all-too-easy-to-delete tweets are even all too easier to capture into a screenshot. Those who have the instinct for “gotchas” don’t waste any time. So those screenshot tweets live forever as zombies in the cloud.

So I think a wish for a do-over might have been the case for Dededo Mayor Melissa Savares, who referred to last month’s infamous machete attack in Mangilao as an “exaggerated incident.”

That didn’t seem to go too well with the witnesses and victims. Nor did it sit well with other people who have seen or been directly affected by the seemingly growing lawlessness and uncivil behavior on Guam.

One can’t dismiss a situation as an “exaggerated incident” when a person is being attacked with a weapon that could easily kill in one blow.

After all, a machete isn’t a golf club and I don’t think it’s being used to cut sword grass.

A man ended up in an ambulance in the June 4 incident, which gained greater attention with former senator Judi Guthertz in the picture. She was again in the news after her car was attacked while she was in traffic near the University of Guam. Public reaction that followed at town halls and even from Judi Guthertz herself widely disputed Mayor Savares’ claim that the incident was just being “exaggerated.”

Perhaps, so many other similar incidents in the past were either ignored or shrugged off with blasé attitude by authorities that Mayor Savares felt the reaction was disproportionately reported.

Or maybe, that’s a sign the community is waking up and getting tired of government’s inaction on the issue. We need to set the bar high for civil behavior.

It’s not just “attacks” that we need to pay attention to. There’s vandalism, public drunkenness and brawls. I’ve seen it happen before. The neighborhood where I grew up in the mainland went down from being a safe working-class enclave to one of the most dangerous districts in the country. The people I grew up have since left the neighborhood and none of us wants to go back there anymore.

We do not want that to happen on Guam but people don’t want to be forced out of the island.

We don’t even need to look at statistics to understand how these social problems have become much worse recently on Guam because we see and live it every day.

The new town halls, the community engagement and the media attention are welcome developments. But just like GovGuam can only do so much without federal help, local communities can only do so much with neighborhood watches and awareness with help from GovGuam authorities, including the police.

Long-term solutions such as education, curbing substance abuse and providing job opportunities are imperative. For the short term, community initiatives to secure their own neighborhoods are a good start. People should be able to walk down their streets without fear of being attacked.

Maybe public servants need to spend more time out in the streets and visit apartment buildings in Dededo and Mangilao instead of taking trips to Taiwan or attending balls. They should take fewer trips to golf courses to practice mulligans. We can’t get do-overs on all inanities we say or do, and neither can politicians. But we can demand do-overs on policies and priorities going forward.

And really, what should be a bigger priority than having a safe community?

Joseph Meyers is a pilot, who calls himself an armchair commentator. He is a longtime Guam resident.

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