Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Musings: Hearts Sighing

The rain visited, blessed us for a few hours, and then departed, just in time for Koko and me to take our usual walk. The streets were wet and the clouds were on the move, traveling fast, north to south, driven by a wind I couldn’t feel, but that set the tall eucalyptus and ironwood trees sighing.

Today my heart is sighing as our nation enters a sixth year of war in Iraq, and it was sighing yesterday afternoon as I drove to an interview, listening to the Winter Soldier hearings being broadcast all this week on Democracy Now!

It wasn’t easy listening, the tales these young soldiers and veterans told of their tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan. I wanted to turn it off, but felt I owed them at least my attention. They had a story they wanted and needed to tell, a story of their own disillusionment and despair and grief and guilt, and I felt that I, as a member of the nation that had packed them off to war, had the obligation to listen.

It was difficult to hear some of the things they’d done and seen, but what struck me most was the psychic burden they carry and likely always will. Their hearts were and still are heavily sighing.

This war has been especially devastating for soldiers, who don’t always die, but suffer higher rates of hearing loss, brain damage and amputated limbs than those in previous conflicts. But what about the deeper wounding to the heart and soul that occurs when you know that you’ve done bad things for all the wrong reasons?

That’s what haunted me about their stories: the deep regret and cold cynicism that I heard in their voices; the memories, doubts and questions they articulated that will be circulating through their thoughts for perhaps a lifetime.

And will it be a lifetime cut short or weakened by exposure to the depleted uranium our nation used so casually in the Middle East, contaminating our own soliders and the people who still must live there?

From everything I’ve learned about DU, the answer is yes. And now, thanks to military exercises, we’ve got DU in Hawaii, too.

The state Senate committees on Health and Energy and Environment, (of which our own Sen. Hooser is vice chair) today are conducting a hearing on HB 2076, which would require the health department to establish air sampling stations to monitor for levels of depleted uranium.

It’s a great idea. But why an effective date of July 1, 2020? Surely it would be wise to assess the threats to public health and safety more quickly than that. I'm afraid 2020 is a little too late. You can send testimony to

Speaking of testimony, I got an email from KAHEA, the Hawaiian-Environmental Alliance, saying that more than 6,000 people had submitted testimony yesterday supporting the moratorium on GMO taro research.

The question is, though, who will the Lege listen to? The biotech industry and UH? Or the public?

The Lege did listen to those who opposed the so-called “ceded lands” settlement between the state and its agency, the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, a controversy I wrote about in the Honolulu Weekly.

Both The Advertiser and Star-Bulletin reported yesterday on the Legislature’s decision to shelve the bill, citing comments from senators who felt the public hadn’t been involved in the negotiations, the $200 million package was insufficient and it was difficult to determine how the two parties had come up with the deal.

With the bill dead, the question now before Hawaii is how will we resolve the question of what kanaka maoli are due for the theft of their land during the overthrow of the monarchy?

Perhaps the state will feel some compunction to finally deal with the much larger topic of “ceded land” ownership now that it’s prohibited by the Hawaii Supreme Court from selling or transferring such lands until that issue is resolved.

And it also seems like a good time to look more closely at OHA and persistent criticisms that the agency isn’t doing enough for its beneficiaries — the Native Hawaiians — with the money it’s already getting from “ceded lands” revenues.

Really, it's an issue whose resolution is long past due. It's been 115 years since the U.S. overthrew the monarchy, and five years since we overthrew Saddam Hussein’s regime. Will we still be in Iraq a century from now? Will debts stemming from our thefts still be unsettled? Will the hearts of those who have had to impose and endure the suffering caused by our imperialism still be grieving and sighing?

The sign in front of Hawaiian activist Mark Boiser’s place in Moloa`a said it all: “FREE LIKE IRAQ.”


Larry said...

2020 is a "defective date". If it is not replaced, it guarantees that a bill will go to conference committee.

Please note that democracy ends at the conference committee door. That's where decisions are made without regard to testimony or public input.

Anonymous said...


observe the end of the fifth year of the war this evening from 5-6 at Kuhio Hwy and Hardy St in Lihue, on the sidewalk across from McDonald's - in front of the Army recruiting station.

People will begin gathering at 4:00 so come early to catch the traffic from the state and county offices! Bring your own signs or use some of the ones we've prepared over the last few weeks highlighting the cost of war.

See you there!

-March 19 Organizing Committee

Anonymous said...

It looks like there is another ceded land bill still in the works so its not over yet. OHA would gain more respect if they would cancel the Akaka bill and learn to come out to the community more often to hear our concerns. They have really ruined it for themselves.

Anonymous said...

I even went outside and looked at the giant eucalyptus trees sighing in the breeze.

Yup. Just like you said. They sigh for the Winter Soldiers, thrown away and wasted at all of 20 years old, children really.

More than I can bear.

Anonymous said...


i, too, listened to the winter soldier on democracy now. i found it very hard to hear the stories, yet i felt it was important to bear witness to their is important to remember and speak.