At first it was too cloudy to see anything, but I just stood out there in the gathering dusk, patiently waiting, and sure enough, as things have a way of doing, more and more was slowly revealed, until finally there they were, those two celestial beacons, with Venus just slightly above Jupiter, and appearing much larger, though of course it isn't, and so bright and sparkly that the twinkle song immediately came to mind, though of course it's a planet and not a star, and directly opposite that majestic pairing, rising up out of the east, was fiery red Mars.
So much to see if you only just look, though it's not all that distant glittery beauty of the heavens, especially when you start scrutinizing things here on Earth, like reports that the solider who allegedly shot all those civilians in Afghanistan had already been wounded twice himself in combat, including a brain injury, and just couldn't hack a fourth tour of duty in the Middle East. And really, who could?
Journalist Neil Shea, interviewed today on Democracy Now! about an extremely harrowing article he wrote for The American Scholar, talked about how the American soldiers in Afghanistan are starting to scarily fray in this prolonged, meaningless war that has left so many of them angry, ugly, violent and disillusioned — and soon to be returning to live among wives, family, the rest of us.
I was thinking about disillusionment last night when I listened to Kepa Kruse on the radio. He's the award-winning musician who has worked hard for months to save his lifelong home at Koloa Camp from being destroyed by Grove Farm, with its plans to build new housing on the site. I've been struck from the beginning by Kepa's sunny optimism, his commitment to behaving in a respectful, pono way, his efforts to find a solution, seek out the ever illusive win-win. Mostly, I was touched by his faith in a system that I knew to be heavily weighted against his interests.
His hopes had been raised when the County Council approved a resolution on Wednesday urging Grove Farm to explore alternatives with the tenants. Then he had come to understand that the resolution was merely symbolic, carrying no weight, and Grove Farm obviously had no intention of changing its plans because of it.
Because the very next day, yesterday, the company had alerted the remaining residents that it would inspect their homes on Tuesday, which happens to be the birthday of his late mother. “I don't understand what the point of the resolution is if the disregard is going to happen almost immediately,” Kepa said on the radio. “It's like we're back at square one.”
Of course, there's no real reason why Grove Farm needs to inspect homes that it plans to demolish, or why it couldn't wait until the residents move out. As John Patt, another Koloa Camp tenant, put it, “This just seems to be harassment, rubbing our noses in it, the corporate push back. This is not aloha.”
No, it's not, and Kepa is not the first young man I've seen fall into disillusionment when confronted with the machinations of a system they've been taught to believe is just and fair and caring and reasonable, when of course, those of us who have been around for a while know it's everything but.
It just so happened that the disillusionment of another young man — the Kapaa High School student who was Tased on campus during an arrest last month — also came to light on the radio yesterday. A guy called in to talk about how he and others on the Kauai Cowboys semi-pro football team had been working the student.
“This was someone we wanted to take under our wing,” he said. “You're talking about someone with a lot of talent. It's definitely not a crime to be hefty, or 18 years old and in school, and it's definitely not a crime to be a local boy. In the media, they made a thing about this guy was intimidating, he was a big person, he was resisting. In truth, it was not handled well.”
Typically, he said, a student would be called out of class if any sort of police action was planned, rather than approach a subject in front of everyone. “This was not a professional situation. I've seen Tasers used, and t's not a pretty sight. He ate the first one, it didn't even affect him, so they did it again. It's a really radical scene to do it twice.”
But his point, aside from the impropriety of Tasing a student in a situation that radio programmer Jimmy Trujillo said “could've gone even further south,” was how the scene affected both the youth who had been Tased, and the students who had witnessed the use of force.
“This kid is young, he can turn his life around, but what kind of feelings do you think he's gonna have toward authority, and all the rest of those of who witnessed it?” he asked.
It's a good question, and one I've thought about many times, especially when I read The New York Times piece by Nicholas Peart, a young black man who has been randomly frisked at least five times by NYPD under its extremely questionable “stop and frisk” program that primarily targets young men of color. As Peart wrote:
We need change. When I was young I thought cops were cool. They had a respectable and honorable job to keep people safe and fight crime. Now, I think their tactics are unfair and they abuse their authority. The police should consider the consequences of a generation of young people who want nothing to do with them — distrust, alienation and more crime.
Yes, just as we should consider the consequences of a generation of young people who have been turned into ticking time bombs, hollow shells, in the senseless slaughter of Iraq and Afghanistan, who have lost their faith after being screwed here at home by the great American system we're forever trying to foist on others at the point of a gun.
It's so easy to resort to force, to the “might makes right” way of doing things. But as we see over and over and over again, that approach damages both the aggressor and the victim. And until we stop inflicting trauma, there isn't going to be any healing, any true progress for our species.