The full moon was up but going down, and all the stars and planets were out, though faint in the light-washed sky, when the dogs and I headed out for a walk on the mountain trail that brought such gifts as cloud tendrils draped around jagged green peaks, blood red lehua blossoms and on our return, a curtain of light beams shooting into the sea from a bank of orange-red clouds that held the sun.
I went because there's something about going mauka, into the native vegetation, away from the sounds of cars and people, that is more restorative than anything I know. And I went because I was reminded of its recharge powers yesterday by a friend — a hot-headed local boy from Hanalei — who had sought such solace after an encounter with tourists on the North Shore.
Seems he'd been driving along the road up there, when a car passed, heading in the opposite direction, and he felt some hard objects, which he determined to be candy, pelting his face and bare chest through the open window of his car.
“It was coming at like mock speed, so I knew it had to be aimed. Get a lot of sassy people in Hanalei, tourists and newbees, it's hard to tell the difference. I was livid. So I threw my car in reverse and caught up with them at the bridge. And I'm telling them that kinda shit don't fly, they could've put somebody's eye out. Then I hear this hee hee coming from some kids in the back seat and I'm like, wrong guy, you don't hee hee toward me, and the dad says, I told you not to be throwing things out of the window. So right there, he admitted it, and I was just so pissed off I reached in and slapped him upside the head.”
“What? You can't go around hitting people.”
“I didn't use my fist. It was an open hand.”
“Still. You can't be doing that kinda stuff. What did the guy do?”
“Nothing. Because he knew he was wrong. I thought it was just. It felt really good to dispense some roadside discipline. You hear all the old timers saying, what happened to our sleepy little Hanalei? And I tell them, our town stay overrun with these sassy motherfuckers, and they're like, yeah, get way too many haoles nowadays and I'm like, don't you think that's a little racist? I don't know. This place is getting nuts. Hanalei is so fucked up, the entire North Shore is gone. We need to take a good hard look at what this progress we say we can't stop is really all about. I'm like a bomb ready to go off.”
“It sounds like you already did.”
“Yeah. Well, I'm not the only one.”
“I don't imagine you are.”
“So I'm all nuts, but then I go up mauka, way up mauka, where the oopu live, and I saw them swimming in their pools and I felt good again. You gotta go back to those places that remind you, yeah, this is what's real. It's not the tourists. It's not the guys taking down the mountain for a fucking road. It's this.”
It brought to mind the conversation I'd had with Kaiulani (Edens) Mahuka the night before, when she talked about how William Aila, a Native Hawaiian who is head of DLNR, told her the state had only recognized four lineal descendants in Wailua and she wasn't one of them, so she didn't have a say about what happened to iwi in the district.
“When you have the original people in the country, it only makes sense they should govern their own shit, but it doesn't make sense to say some don't have enough blood quantum. It's apartheid. It is saying I have more rights than you because I have more blood quantum than you. This is exactly what Nelson Mandela spent his entire life fighting, but because it's so colonized here, we're used to it. It's absolutely evil. It's not Hawaiian.
“I always imagined my enemies were the officials of government, when under apartheid, my own kind are working harder than anything to obliterate our past," she said. "William Aila, that Pua [Aiu] chick at SHPD, they're working 70 to 80 hours a week for the state. They're working harder to destroy our iwi, our antiquities, than I am to save them. When I realized that, I didn't even want to leave my yard. I think I understand why so many people are on anti-depressants."
She sighed. “No matter what, we're always going to be dealing with a corrupt government, but how do we help our people prosper, anyway? And how do we not hate?”
It's a good question, one that needs an answer as tensions mount and tempers fray in the face of rapid, seemingly unalterable changes, to this island, to the planet. Good people, caring people, people like my friend and Kaiulani, don't want to hate, don't want to be going off on anybody, don't want to be existing in a perpetual state of unease. Yet how, really, do you live comfortably in a society that is antithetical to your values, that seems hellbent on following the wrong path? How do you move easily within a system that requires land, water, communities, indigenous cultures, to be destroyed, defiled, degraded in order to keep running?
I think Kaiulani has the answer, though it's one that many will find hard to hear, and even harder to heed: “What if we all just supported the truth?"