A wisp of fleece floated lazily past a waning golden moon, while in a thicket of trees, the birds stirred into wakefulness, singing, when Koko and I went walking this morning. Mist curled and steamed in the crevices of the pasture, and Waialeale was clearly visible through a fine, almost smoky, haze that muted the intensity of the pink that warmed the sky behind the Giant.
I was all agog with the beauty of the dawn when we ran into my neighbor Andy, who mentioned, after several stops and starts in the conversation caused by interactions between the dogs, that he’d gone again to see John Wehrheim’s film about Taylor Camp. And it was, once again, a packed house at the KCC Performing Arts Center, which has 700 to 800 seats, with tickets going for $10 to $12 a pop.
I shared farmer Jerry’s take on Taylor Camp, which he had expressed with particular vehemence the other day when I ran into him at Cost-U-Less: they were the ones who brought in the drugs; they came in and did whatever they wanted, without caring how the local people felt, and that’s a mindset that continues to this day; it opened Kauai up to a lot of people who never would have come otherwise; they were living off food stamps and the charity of the locals, without giving anything back to the island; and it was all about people trying to make Kauai into some fantasy of what they wanted it to be, which is another mindset that continues to this day.
In short, Jerry said, it was the beginning of the end for Kauai, especially on the North Shore.
That attitude, and the hostility behind it, is one I’ve heard expressed by a number of locals. And I’m invariably struck by how it stands in stark contrast to the dreamy nostalgia of those who were a part of Taylor Camp, or perhaps wished they had been, and how it also underscores a lot of the tension that still exists between locals and haoles.
But while I can see why someone like Andy, a historian who actually visited Taylor Camp, might be interested in the movie, I expressed puzzlement that it’s proven so popular with folks who weren’t even on the island then, saying that it seems people are caught up in the mystique, and mystique tends to be based in bullshit.
As Andy described it, the movie builds on the theme of how young people wanted to change the world, even as they desired to escape from the tensions of the war in Vietnam and other ugly political and social realities of the time. He especially enjoyed looking at the faces of the campers, because you could see in them the idealism that shaped that generation.
“Which went on to become the most materialistic in American history,” I said, and that prompted Andy to brand me a negative cynic — labels I typically pin on him, especially when we're discussing Hawaiian sovereignty.
He then went on to inform me that many positive social changes had come from that time, leaving the country in a much better place than it was in the 1950s.
I don't disagree. But I wasn’t a part of that generation — which, as I told Andy, largely failed to instill much of that idealism in its own pampered children — or the Taylor Camp scene, and so I have no desire to see the movie, or give John Wehrheim money.
Still, I remain fascinated that what one person remembers as “the best time of my life” another recalls as “the beginning of the end.” Because those strikingly different perceptions of reality speak to a dichotomy that is still very much in evidence on this island — as paradise is found by some, it is lost to others.
It's a dynamic I write about in "Parallel Universes," which was recently published in Hawaii's literary journal, "Bamboo Ridge." The piece uses snippets of actual conversations to convey how people inhabiting the same geographic area — in this case, windward Kauai — view and experience it so conflictingly.
It’s not unlike the way so many Americans continue to see this country as the bastion of freedom and liberty, even as “Christian” ministers write letters to the editor proclaiming that homosexuality is “sinful in God’s eyes,” and so gays should reasonably be denied equal legal rights, and the Executive Branch gives itself the authority to target for assassination — for now, only overseas, although certainly that could change — Americans it deems a threat to the nation.
As Glenn Greenwald wrote in Salon:
That's basically giving the President the power to impose death sentences on his own citizens without any charges or trial. Who could possibly support that?
A better question might be, how many of the supposedly democracy-loving Americans even know about that, or if they do, care about it more than who wins the Stupor Bowl?