Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Musings: Power and Control

I spent about an hour standing at the intersection of Ahukini Road and Kapule Highway at pau hana time yesterday, holding a sign that read: STOP DV.

I didn’t make the sign, or I probably would have chosen other words, but how, really, does one address the complicated, emotionally supercharged issue of domestic violence on a piece of cardboard small enough to be held on a windy day?

That’s why I tend to shy away from bumper stickers and sign holding; such expressions seem to do little to shed any real light on an issue. But sometimes it’s important to stand up and be counted, which is why about 60 or 70 of us — kids, men and women of all ages and races — showed up and stood there holding signs, listening to people honk their horns, seeing folks wave, give a thumbs up, flash shakas.

We didn’t do any yelling or waving of our own. We were there to honor Fredlyn Hoapili, who was stabbed 18 times, mostly on the left side of her chest. Her husband, Joseph, is accused of the March 3 murder, which was witnessed by their son John in the family’s Anahola [correx: Lihue} home.

That alone was enough to set a somber tone, although I’m sure more than one of us there was recalling some unpleasant memory of his or her own. I was thinking as well about John and the other children in the Hoapili family. According to The Garden Island:

There had been a history of violence in the Hoapili home. Court records show that Fredlynn Hoapili briefly filed for a protection order more than a decade ago alleging a wide range of abuse against her and her children before withdrawing the request days later.

Just days earlier I’d read a report from Science magazine summarized in The Week — neither article can be read on line without a subscription — that found abuse can actually alter the functioning of a child’s DNA, making him or her more vulnerable to stress and depression into adulthood. The study, done at McGill University in Montreal, found:

The flood of stress hormones early in life prevents these genes from “turning on” properly, making life much more stressful and painful. It’s as if their nerves are exposed, with no defense against negative experiences. As a result, abused children have a much higher incidence of anxiety, depression, substance abuse and suicide.

And so the cycle of misery and pain continues.

Near the end of the vigil, Chief Darryl Perry showed up and joined the line that was stretching mauka. I was glad to see him there, and told him so, and on the way home I reflected that his place at the end of the line was an apt one. In domestic violence, the cops so often do represent the end of the line.

Yet it also struck me as ironic that the resolution of a situation based on the dynamics of power and control is so often dealt with through power — the cops — and control — locking up the offender. I’m not faulting that, because it’s one way to diffuse a volatile situation and when you need back up, believe me, you’re damn glad the cops are there.

But where do we go from here? Yes, we’re making some progress through education and counseling and public awareness, but still, nearly all our relationships with animals and other human beings, whether individually or systemically, on a personal or global scale, are invariably based on two underlying dynamics: power and control.

Until we can figure out how to behave in a more collaborative fashion, I don’t see much hope for ending that cycle of pain and misery that plays out as domestic violence in private and war, terrorism, racism, sexism, imperialism and oppression in public.

Meanwhile, the ongoing struggle between America and the kanaka maoli for control over land took an interesting twist on Maui yesterday when members of the Reinstated Hawaiian Government were cited for trespassing after camping at Waihee park. According to an article in the Maui News, which was picked up, and shortened, by The Advertiser:

"Is the county the legal property owner? We want the documents showing they're legal," Nelson Armitage of Haiku said as police vehicles and officers lined the park entrance.

"Inherent sovereignty, that's us," said Armitage. "Inherent sovereignty is the proper claimant (of Hawaii lands). The Reinstated Hawaiian Government is the proper claimant.

"It's not right to possess stolen goods," he said, referring to the 1893 overthrow of the Hawaiian kingdom.

The police apparently won't be the only issuers of citations. Armitage held a clipboard with a list of 19 officers' names neatly printed on yellow-pad paper.

"They give us citations. We give to them, too," he said with a smile.


Anonymous said...

According to the GI, the Hoapili family lived on Kress St in Lihu`e, a neighborhood that seems a bit isolated with all the business and cement surrounding the few homes there.
I wonder how much intervention beyond "power and control" was made available to this family over the course of two decades of abuse? Where was CPS? Where was the papertrail for agencies beyond the police and court records. Any??
I know people have to "want" help to get it...but this is a really sad reflection of failure.
I just hope there is some kind of "out-reach" to the son and daughter who are now adult children, because they seemed to get dissed by the agencies in their younger years.

Joan Conrow said...

Thanks for your thoughtful comment, and also for correcting my mistake on where they lived.

Anonymous said...

those citations carry as much weight as a homemade badge

Anonymous said...

You rent your home? According the the Reinstated Hawaiian Government's view, you too are in possession of stolen goods. Is it right for you but not right for the state? What would you do if they set up a sqautters camp in your living room? Call the state (police), I bet.

Katy said...

I highly recommend the book "The Color Of Violence: The INCITE! Anthology," INCITE!/Women of Color Against Violence. South End Press, 2006.

The book offers a wide array of often marginalized perspectives on the role of violence in our society, and alternative visions for addressing domestic violence, incarceration, and other problems facing communities of color and the poor.

Among other things there are some pointed critiques of the current institutional approaches to domestic violence.

Anonymous said...

"those citations carry as much weight as a homemade badge"

I take it you probably donʻt know what kind of citations the article was referring to, as it didnʻt specify, or you wouldnʻt have made that comment.

Anonymous said...

Doesn't seem hard to figure out. The police are probably giving citations for illegal camping in the park or whatever, and "We give them too" most likely means the Reinstated government whosits are going to give citations for some made up infraction like stealing their property or whatever.

Anonymous said...

Not correct.

Anonymous said...

Ooooh! You know something nobody else knows! Tell! Tell!

Anonymous said...

"I take it you probably donʻt know what kind of citations the article was referring to, as it didnʻt specify, or you wouldnʻt have made that comment."

----eh, yes and no. ive met and talked with some guys here that have been and are creating and issuing legal documents in place of the state (some of it on pretty nice letterhead, etc). an order to appear in ct served on a large property owner would be one example. so no, i did not see the maui documents, but i believe i have a decent sense of it/them

Anonymous said...

Sorry not correct.