The moon, just slightly fuller than half, was directly overhead in a patch of blue within a sky of quilted gray that soon enveloped it, too, when Koko and I set out on this breezy morning.
As we walked, I detected two distinct vibrations of sound — chirping crickets and buzzing bees — that were audible even through the cacophony of crowing roosters. Koko, for her part, focused on scents lurking in the grass and dead things in the street.
I found a small bird’s nest beneath a stand of ironwood trees, and was carrying it, cupped in one hand, marveling at its intricate construction, when we ran into my neighbor Andy and his dog, Momi, an encounter that never fails to thrill Koko — and me, to a lesser degree.
We talked about my trip to Honolulu, which was taken up with research into Hawaii’s fisheries and an interview with the Rev. Kaleo Patterson, a former Kauai resident who is continuing to work on nonviolent approaches to social change through the Pacific Justice & Reconciliation Center.
I was working on a story last night about Kaleo and his explorations into indigenous peace-making initiatives, including the Hawaiian practice of ho`oponopono, so regrettably was unable to attend “The Queen's Women,” a play that re-enacts a meeting about the Kue, or "monster," petitions, which were signed by nearly every kanaka maoli to protest America’s annexation of the Hawaiian Islands.
People don’t seem to realize that Hawaiians never did support America’s theft of their kingdom, and 115 years later, that sentiment is still very much alive.
The federal and state governments obviously find that rather threatening, and I was interested to learn from Kaleo that the state has its own little “Secret Service,” a group that monitors Hawaiian activists and their activities. I wonder if it’s comprised of bruddas, in the usual attempt to pit Hawaiians against Hawaiians, or if it’s staffed by non-Hawaiians who don’t give a rip about the injustice that was committed.
I’m always struck, in video footage I see, by the faces of local cops when they have to participate in actions against Hawaiians. It’s obvious that they don’t relish the duty. In one video, I saw several cops wiping tears from their eyes as they walked through Brescia’s land at Naue, where each burial was identified by a little tiki torch. And in the film “Noho Hewa,” their expressions were grim and their actions were very gentle as they arrested houseless Hawaiians living alongside the road on Oahu. Kaleo said that during the Star Wars protests out at PMRF in the early 1990s, Kauai cops participated the first day, then refused to return for the second round of action, requiring the navy to bring in MPs from Schofield to execute the dirty deeds.
Obviously, many local cops recognize this kind of stuff for the travesty that it is. I mean, arresting Hawaiians for objecting to launching rockets from a sacred burial dune, or for being without houses in their own homeland? How bogus is that? How can the state in good conscience criminalize homelessness, anyway, especially when it’s caused by the state’s own economic policies, which favor the rich who are rapidly displacing the poor, a disproportionate number of whom are Hawaiians?
In researching my piece on Kaleo, I came across an article he’d written for the New Internationalist back in 1993, following Iniki, in which he talked about how tourism and militarism have adversely affected Hawaiians.
In the 15 years since it was published, both have only gotten more entrenched, with tourism morphing into even more insidious forms: the proliferation of vacation rentals in the conservation district and luxury estates that are sprawling over coastal ag land. Both types of construction frequently disrupt burials.
“Noho Hewa” included footage of the many burials that were disturbed in building the Hokulia golf course and estate homes on the Big Island. And if that’s not bad enough, burials that are preserved are turned into marketing tools, offering the clueless a chance to feel like they’re really getting close to "Hawaiian heritage."
When I was in Honolulu, I had dinner with a man who attended Kamehameha Schools for nine years, during the 1970s, yet learned virtually nothing about his culture. As we talked about “Noho Hewa,” he gave the responses I frequently hear from Hawaiians and non-Hawaiians alike: “Isn’t it too late to get the land back?” and the kicker, “This is too depressing.”
Yes, it is depressing, but only if one resigns oneself to accepting this injustice, to believing that it is too late, and that nothing can change. I’ve come to believe that it doesn’t matter what form sovereignty ultimately takes, or how it all shakes out for non-Hawaiians.
The first step is to make things pono again, to acknowledge the wrong that was committed when the U.S. overthrew the monarchy — as was done in the 1993 Apology Resolution, Public Law 103-150 — and take concrete, good faith steps to begin the process of reconciliation mandated by the resolution.
Once that’s done, and I’m not talking about the rip-off known as the Akaka Bill, then the rest of the solution can fall into place.