After reading yesterday's blog post about the confirmation of Allan Parachini to the Kauai charter commission, despite smarmy opposition by Felicia Cowden and Councilman Gary Hooser, a friend sent me an email that opined:
I dunno, I thought you were kinda easy on Felicia and Gary after one of the most appalling displays of McCarthyist public character assassination I've ever seen.
Neither of them had the spine to tell the truth about their opposition: He is a threat because he is bright and he disagrees with me on public policy issues.
Instead, the slimy innuendoes.
I suppose what's most surprising is that these two bright individuals lack the self-awareness that they were doing to Parachini what they accused him of doing. If they were held to their own standard, that would excuse both of them from playing a role in public affairs.
It's not often I'm accused of going too easy on people, though in truth, I've been trying lately to be a bit kinder and gentler, in part because Hooser supporters and anti-GMO activists are always bitching at me about questioning people's motives and intentions and writing a “polarizing and divisive blog.”
I tend to take such criticisms to heart, largely because I am a self-aware and kind person who doesn't like to hurt anyone, even when they deserve it. And the last thing this island needs is more divisiveness. Still, the totally unwarranted attack on Allan and the rhetoric constantly espoused by so many anti-GMO activists have led me to believe that their complaints are largely projection.
In other words, they are blaming me — and Allan and anyone else who questions them — for behavior they are engaging in themselves. Take this recent post by defeated mayoral candidate and anti-GMO leader Dustin Barca:
Delusional, messianic rant and persecution complex aside, what bugs me is how Dustin ends with an unsubstantiated judgment and clear threat: To YOU Corrupt Political Puppets, WE COMING!
Now how in the world is that helping to heal the island?
And it's exactly the sort of thing Gary was complaining about when he whined to Allan:
I don't see that as helpful to dialogue when we question the motivation and character of decision-makers.
Yet neither Gary nor Felicia have publicly said a word denouncing Dustin's rhetoric. Why? Because he agrees with them.
I recently had a conversation with Ashley Lukens, Hawaii director of Center for Food Safety, that ended with her taking me to task for writing unflattering — she termed them “hateful” — things about her on this blog, where they could possibly be seen by her daughter, and she didn't want that.
I asked her how she thought the Hawaii seed company employees must've felt when anti-GMO activists hacked their Facebook accounts and defaced their family portraits, turning them into ugly social media memes that linked them to Satan.
Well, I never did that, Ashley sniffed.
Maybe not, I replied. But you've maneuvered yourself into the role of spokeswoman for the movement, and you never ever spoke up against such actions, denounced them as wrong, distanced yourself from Babes Against Biotech and other groups that perpetrate such abhorrent tactics.
Though I'm often critical of Councilwoman JoAnn Yukimura, she does sometimes get it right, and one of those times was during the Council discussion on Allan's confirmation. Gary had just ragged on Allan, without any hint of irony, for “public behavior” that he deemed “disruptive and negative,” prompting JoAnn to observe, “All of us have been subjected over the past two years to being demonized with no cause.”
And then it was Councilman Mason Chock's turn to speak. “The guy comes here and wants to give back to the community and has to go through all this. I haven't found any specifics on the negatives [raised by Gary, Felicia and others.] The truth is that people are uncomfortable with him taking this position and that's uncomfortable for me.”
“Just because people feel uncomfortable with someone is not a test,” JoAnn responded. “People are uncomfortable with conflict, with someone who can speak up. We all have to get over that, but we also have to be as kind and gracious and diplomatic as possible.”
For this island to heal the polarization and division that has developed around the GMO/pesticide issue and most decidedly does still exist, it's going to require self-awareness, rhetoric in line with actions and allies willing to speak truth to one another. I have trusted friends who have told me, "time to put down the poison pen," and "your mean streak is showing," and I've appreciated them checking me.
Which doesn't mean we can't disagree, call people on their bullshit, laugh at people's foibles or expose wrongs, so long as we temper it with hefty doses of kindness, graciousness and diplomacy. And most importantly, make sure we've got our facts right before we go public.
I know it's a tall order, but I'm willing to try. I hope others are, too, especially those who like to leave comments on this blog. Perhaps it could be an island-wide New Year's resolution?