As Koko and I were driving over to the beach yesterday, I was struck by the brilliance of all the flowering trees. The Poinciana was aflame, the shower trees were jumbles of multicolored blossoms and the bougainvillea were a riot of purple, red, white and pink.
All this splendor was juxtaposed against a bright blue sky and a verdant landscape of green, creating such deep delight for the eye and the soul that it seemed impossible to feel anything save for complete and utter joy.
But earlier, on the radio, I’d heard Ka`iulani Huff crying, talking about how painful it was to live on Kauai and witness the ongoing disrespect and destruction, likening it to “a constant staph infection,” yet not wanting to live anywhere else.
She was still reeling from the news that the KPD won’t be able to prevent Joe Brescia from building atop burials at Haena because the law, it seems, is on his side. OHA, for what it's worth, has meanwhile jumped into the fray, writing to DLNR Chair Cynthia Thielen July 8 and asking her agency to issue a cease and desist order "against ongoing ground disturbance" at the site.
It’s not the first time I’ve heard kanaka maoli, as well as others who care about the island, express similar sentiments — I’ve felt the same despair myself. It seems to me a lot of people are grieving on Kauai, and we tend to blame development, greed, corrupt and inept politicians and the other usual suspects.
Those are all factors, yet it’s deeper than that, and Ka`iulani’s guest, Henry Noa, prime minister of the Reinstated Hawaiian Nation, nailed it when he said: “All the hewa [mistakes, wrongs] comes from a foreign government occupying our lands.”
For well over a century, kanaka have lived under this occupation, and for decades before that, their population was decimated and their culture suppressed by Westerners who inadvertently and deliberately did great harm.
This adds up to a lot of deep psychic wounding, and you don’t just “get over it,” as many have suggested they do. But there are those who don’t want to dwell in victimhood, either, or incinerate themselves with fury, so they’ve chosen another alternative, and that’s to work for change.
That’s why thousands of kanaka are actively involved in sovereignty and independence activities, and many more are watching and listening from the sidelines, waiting for the right time to come onto the field.
A lot of non-kanaka scoff at them, or make derisive comments, but I can’t help but wonder how many of the naysayers have devoted years of their own life to achieving anything but their own narrow self-serving interests?
Why is it so difficult for them to have some understanding of what kanaka have been through and what they’re trying to accomplish? Why is it so hard for them to search their hearts and find some empathy and respect?
Over and over again in comments I see folks taking jabs at those who are trying to right wrongs or curb injustice, saying they’re dreamers, troublemakers, meddlers who are wasting their time. But then I ran across this quote from Michael Josephson the other day, and it seemed to say it all: "People of character do the right thing, not because they think it will change the world but because they refuse to be changed by the world."
Shifting gears to the mayor’s race, which is supposed to be all about people wanting to do the right thing, as in serving the public, etc., (yeah, right) I was struck by The Garden Island’s coverage yesterday of Bernard Carvalho’s announcement.
Proving that they’re true political animals, Annette Baptiste and her four kids showed up at the County Building to pledge their support for Bernard, just a day after burying their husband and father. The show, it seems, must go on.
The other revealing nugget in that article was that Beth Tokioka, the county’s director of economic development, is serving as the co-chair, with Lenny Rapozo, of Bernard’s campaign. Does this mean he’s the candidate of choice for those who want to keep their jobs for another two years?
While I imagine it’s legal for Beth to take that position, or presumably she wouldn’t be doing it, it somehow smacks of impropriety to have a top government official running a campaign while working for new mayor Kaipo Asing. Aside from the total lack of loyalty it conveys, there’s also the question of whether other county workers will feel unduly pressured to participate in Bernard’s campaign.
And then there’s the question of just how much time Beth will be able to devote to her real job — working for the people of Kauai running the office of economic development — while she’s trying to run a mayoral campaign.
Surely Bernard could have found someone else.