I’ve been rattled for the past few days, ever since running into an old friend in the parking lot of a Ha`ena restaurant, where I’d gone to write a review.
How are you? I asked, and he answered, still lost.
He was cruising with a couple of other lost boys — or more accurately, middle-aged men — who have fallen down the "ice" hole and can’t find their way out.
I’ve lost everything, he told me, but I already knew, because I’d heard the stories from his family, and through the coconut wireless. They weren’t tales I’d ever thought I would hear told about him, someone who had raised a family of fine children with the old values, while living mostly off the land.
I’m sorry to hear that, I said, and meant it whole-heartedly, and he replied that he had no one to blame but himself.
He seemed to have shrunk in height and size, and he was shaking, either from being on the meth, or too long off it, and when I hugged him goodbye, I tried to send strength into his being.
I hope you find yourself, I said, and I’ve been thinking about him ever since, and all the other guys like him, so many of them local, who are caught in that spin of ice-procuring and using.
I once asked him why, and he said it was a community, the only one he had since the North Shore where he was born and raised had changed so dramatically, turned into a place where he as a country boy had come to feel inferior among all that new wealth, a place where he felt like he no longer belonged.
I’ve often wondered — and I know I’m not the only one — whether ice was deliberately introduced to keep the locals down, fragmented, weak, which is not to say that other ethnic groups don’t use it, too, but certainly it’s cut a wide swath through local men, at least on Kauai’s North Shore.
Driving home, shaken by the encounter, I thought of what could be done for him, and the others, how they could be reintegrated into the community, what we as a society had lost in our lost boys, some of whom I knew personally to have beautiful, deep souls and skills crucial to us achieving sustainability.
Incarceration wasn’t the answer; he’d already spent time in jail, and was still getting tested, and as for helping him kick the stuff, Kauai has no drug treatment center — not that he and his family have health insurance or the money to pay for it, anyway.
When I heard Judge Cardoza say yesterday, when ruling to lift the Superferry injunction, that “issues related to cultural values, conflicts between changing lifestyles and old and new Hawaii have been festering for a long time in this community and .... need to be addressed,” I thought of my friend.
He, and the other lost boys, are the walking wounded, the casualties, of that festering conflict. They grew up when the North Shore was still old Hawaii, when the lifestyle was rural and centered around the land, when the beaches where they fished weren’t filled with tourists and the land where they hunted wasn’t fenced and developed, when movies weren’t being made in Lumahai Valley during the middle of `o`opu season, when they could still afford a home to rent, when their neighborhoods were occupied by their friends and families, not transient vacation rentals.
In less than a generation’s time all that had changed, much of it was lost, and many of the boys, unable to adapt in time, got lost along with it. Yeah, maybe they’ve got only themselves to blame, but somehow I don’t think it’s quite that simple. And as a society, don’t we want to bring those who were here first back into the fold before we open the door ever wider to the forces that are destroying them?
These are the kinds of tough issues that don’t fit on a protest sign or get addressed in any meetings that I’ve ever attended. Yet they’re at the core, I believe, of so much of what ails us.
The question now is do we as a community really want to heal, or remain in denial of the true nature of our illness?