Friday, November 9, 2007

Musings: A Yawning Chasm

Koko wanted to go out at 3 a.m., so I indulged her, and the reward was snuggling in and sleeping in on this wet, new moon morning. A survey says 47% of Americans sleep with their pets, and I’m among them. I once went out with a man who emphatically announced: “There’s no way I’d ever let a dog in my truck or in my house.” Needless to say, there was no second date. Some chasms are just too wide to bridge.

I wonder if the same is true with the Hawaii Superferry and its Kauai opponents, even though Sen. Gary Hooser has been pushing for some sort of reconciliation process and Jeff Fishman, publisher of LightLine, yesterday sent out a letter to his subscribers urging folks to “slow down with rhetoric and reaction and get up to speed with education of the issues and avoid escalating conflict.”

It’s good advice, as I think few — aside from the media, which thrive on conflict above all else — want to see a showdown between protestors and law enforcement if the ferry returns to Nawiliwili Harbor.

I see a couple of difficulties, however, in resolving the dispute. Aside from the question of Superferry’s sincerity in wanting to pursue ho`oponopono, there’s the issue of who on Kauai would be asked to sit down for peace talks.

Since the protests, especially the actions of jumping in the water to block the ferry, were spontaneous events, it’s not like there’s one group that can speak for all or profess to have any control over the actions of other demonstrators.

And then there’s the issue of Oahu folks continuing to fan the flames of the controversy, as they’ve done from the get-go. Last night’s KGMB News carried a segment on a letter written by Big Island attorney Lanny Sinkin and non-violent activist Jim Albertini that had been picked up by The Surfer’s Path magazine.

The lengthy letter states, in part: “We do not come to convince or discourage. We come only to urge you to follow carefully the last step of non-violent resistance. After you have examined the facts, studied the law, examined your heart and conscience, and decided that action must be taken, the last step is to fully inform yourself of the consequences and make proper arrangements.”

The letter goes on to outline, in what I thought rather chilling detail, the possible legal ramifications of violating the federal “security zone” imposed at the harbor, including prison time, fines and the substantial cost of mounting a defense.

However, those aspects of its message were ignored by the KGMB broadcast, which instead focused on the letter’s comments about “you have to be prepared at the level of the Native American who decided when it was ‘a good day to die.’”

The broadcast also included a comment by state attorney General Mark Bennett, who charged the letter encourages people to break the law, and a statement by special agent Brandon Simpson: "The FBI in collaboration with its partners over at the United States Coast Guard will investigate any threats to the Superferry operation."

Hawaii Reporter's Malia Zimmerman and KSSK talk show hosts Perry and Price also jumped into the fray.

In her post, Zimmerman repeatedly attempted to discount Albertini, who spent a year in federal prison for jumping into the Hilo Harbor to protest the entry of a naval vessel carrying nuclear weapons, as a felon, while Perry and Price dissed the Kahului Harbor Coalition, one of the plaintiffs in the Superferry litigation, for not having a professional website.

Zimmerman even questioned why The Surfer’s path boasts that it uses “non-GMO soy based ink” on recycled paper: “Why does it matter if the product is GMO if isn’t being consumed? Isn’t this taking the whole green thing a little far?”

Apparently Zimmerman and Perry and Price missed the irony of accusing others of engaging in diatribes and inflammatory rhetoric.

My point is that many on Oahu have already made up their minds about the Nawiliwili Harbor protests and Gov. Lingle’s Kauai meeting based on superficial media coverage, which continues unabated, and it will be difficult, if not impossible, to change that perception.

Still, Jeff Fishman offers some wise advice about how Kauai folks can proceed in this ongoing controversy:

“Media is limited in its coverage and regardless of the man-made Laws and the process the State and others may have gone through to help get us to where we are now, the blame game is not really going to save Kauai from the irreparable harm that may occur with HSF. Conflict with SWAT teams and Coast Guard officers that are "just doing their job" will not be in anyone's best interest and will further exacerbate the image of our beautiful island and people. Yet, in a way, we are under siege and the pressure from such forces acting upon us causes many to have to release in ways that we might tend to judge, so let's kokua and love more. Hopefully the more self-destructive tendencies will be channeled in more creative and constructive directions in the weeks to come.

“This is a struggle in evolving consciousness, one to be resolved within, more than without. Keep the peace, gather information (Light), send it out (Lines), and let people know what you can about this.”

Yes, education and conscious awareness are perhaps the most effective and enduring bridge-building materials.


Larry said...

The public discussion as reflected in the press always omits discussion of the institutional violence done against people, including damage to the environment and to their quality of life. Often legal rights are at stake if not defended.

The assumption of proposed reconciliation processes is that the protesters must give up their positions and submit to this institutional violence.

Social justice doesn't work that way. Whatever happens in the future, a process that calls for one side to give up what it holds as valuable or even sacred so that the other can make obscene profits by trampling those values, is an unfair process. Nothing will change that. It demands submission and nothing else. It is also likely meet with continued resistance in one form or another.

Anonymous said...

I'm actually encouraged by the tenor of the discussion I hear "on the street" in Kauai. You can overhear people all over discussing, disagreeing, even arguing (I've personally eavesdropped on such discussions at the breakfast diner, the post office, the library and the beach, and I was even drawn into one at the wine store) and they have all remained perfectly civil and, perhaps more important, people from all sides of the debate make perfectly reasonable and valid points.

I agree with Sen. Hooser when he said good, moral, intelligent people can agree to disagree on this issue. True, the chasm between the demonstrators and the institutional powers is perhaps to great to bridge, but my experience and my observations tell me that the greater community of Kauai is not torn apart by this controversy.

Anonymous said...

If we are to effectively resist the Superferry, we cannot be guided by the desire to please the media. No matter how hard we try, the media will always find one minor incident and blow it out of proportion to smear the protests. We will NEVER win the "media war," and the sooner we face that the sooner we can go about the business of EFFECTIVE direct action.
There are always those who would like to see us all stand half a mile away from the harbor and hold candlelight vigils - and the superferry corporation is not the least of these!

Joan Conrow said...

I agree, Charley, that the Superferry is not tearing Kauai apart. My chasm references were to institutional powers, as you state, and those elsewhere with misperceptions about Kauai.

I also agree with both Larry and anonymous, which is why I think there will be substantial demonstrations if Superferry returns, regardless of attempts at reconciliation.

Anonymous said...

I've read that article wrtten by Lanny Sinkin and Jim Albertini a couple times. I think its utterly
despicable that both of these people
are advocating violent protests against the HSF.

Both of these people are supposedly
advocates of peace. But in this case,
they are not. Instead they are trying
to incite more violence in an already hostile situation.

Anonymous said...

I also read Sinkin and Albertini's piece and I am surprised that anyone would characterize it as an exhortation to commit violence. Both men are demonstrably commited to non-violent direct action. However, if you consider civil disobedience in itself to be violent, that's another matter; I suppose you also object to Rosa Park's "violent" act of not giving up her seat on that bus, or the "violence" of sitting at a segregated lunch counter. Recall that these actions were initially not widely supported outside of the black community, and were loudly decried by segregationists.

There is a big difference between "violence" and actions which effectively upset the apple cart in the service of justice.

Anonymous said...

The Albertini/Sinkin letter does not advocate violent protests against the SF. It does warn of the physical and legal dangers that may result from "non-violent resistance". Although the letter states that they are not trying to convince or discourage, their description of what might happen may have that effect. They convinced me.

When the Superferry returns, I will be on Kalapaki Beach with my sign and some kind of noise maker. Hopefully the Marriott will convince the Unified Command to allow us back on the seawall.

Anonymous said...

Doesn't avocate violent protest???

Then, why the "good day to die" phrase? Standing in a defined protest area with your sign does not represent a day inwhich you might die.

I think they are rabble rousers, which just might rouse the RABBLE in opposition to LEGAL operation of the HSF.

Don't like it? Elect new people. Don't have enough say in the state as a whole even with your definition of "good" officials? Too bad...democracy in with it or move.

Anonymous said...

It is clear to me from the letter that the writers are advising those who are considering entering the water that they will face a life threatening, highly militarized situation. If they do not understand that their lives are at risk, and if they are not committed on that level, they should not enter the water. That is what is meant by referring to the "good day to die." This is far different from advocating that protesters use violence - it is merely pointing out that even a non-violent protest will probably invite a violent response from authorities in this case.
Those here who fall into the trap of equating conscious, non-violent direct action with some kind of "terrorism" are furthering our loss of freedom - and should be ashamed of themselves.

Anonymous said...

Advising them that they will be in danger is a far cay from imploring them not to "engage the opposition" with anything more than sign-waving from the side-lines.

I think their "advise" equates with encouragement under the guise of "full disclosure".

Shame on them!

But what do you expect from a wing-nuts like Albertini/Sinkin?

Albertini got 1 year in prison for protests...I only hope that EVERYONE violating the rules gets more!

Stupid people.