Koko and I woke to the sound of pigs tromping around in the underbrush, which got her whining and excited, and both of us quickly out of the house. As she sniffed curiously, I gazed up at Makalii and Triangle, directly overhead, and then we went walking under a mosaic of distant galaxies and countless constellations.
Dense clouds were bunched up on the eastern horizon, and they teamed up with the approaching dawn to slowly blot out all celestial bodies, save for Venus, which was far too bright to easily extinguish, much like the peace and happiness instilled in my own heart by the joy of spending all but two of yesterday’s daylight hours outside, and frequently in water, both fresh and salt.
We’re in the glory stretch of summer now, that time when the first north swell of the season comes in and freshens everything up and fills the air with the fragrance of limu, and both the water and air are warm and the light takes on that special golden sheen that gives all the greenness an ethereal glow.
It’s the kind of weather that fulfills most every tourist’s fantasy about Kauai, but apparently some — or at least one, according to an editorial in yesterday’s Garden Island — leave with hurt feelings when they discover it’s not entirely the idyllic paradise that the Visitors Bureau sells.
In this case, it was a father visiting his son (perhaps the unidentified TGI staffer who penned the piece?) who had an unpleasant encounter at a North Shore bar (care to wager it was Tahiti Nui?):
“Haole tourists!” a would-be hitchhiker yelled after being denied a ride to Kapa‘a. “No forget fo’ go home!”
The father did indeed go back home — in a fiery state of confusion. The lasting effect of this incident, and a growing number of similar tales we have been told over the past year, is will these victims of such senseless abuse ever want to return to the Garden Isle?
What the editorial fails to recognize — even as it scolds the cantankerous locals who are “undermining” the current $1 million effort of the Kauai Visitors Bureau to lure more tourists here and reminds us that “we should not bite the hands that feed us” — is that many locals (especially on the North Shore) do indeed hope that “these victims,” and the friends and neighbors who hear their sad stories, will go home and stay home.
Frankly, they’ve had quite enough of tourism and its spawn: vacation rentals, crowded beaches and surfbreaks, traffic, mainland mentality, ostentatious displays of wealth and yet more haoles — many of them with attitudes — moving to Kauai.
They haven’t been on the receiving end of all the wealth derived from the visitor industry, but they have endured all the fallout from its growth as they’ve watched tourism reach into every corner of this island and in the process, erode their communities and lifestyle.
They’re tired of being told to show more aloha when folks like Joe Brescia build vacation rentals on their burials, and sue them for objecting. They’re weary of dealing with tourists who behave with an ugly sense of entitlement because they’re spending a lot of money.
They’re sick of feeling like strangers — or worse, outcasts — in their own backyards.
I’m not certain if the editorial writer caught the irony in these statements:
When an embittered or unthinking local takes his or her frustrations out on tourists, or takes money or possessions from their cars or hotel rooms, what they are really doing is taking food off of their own family’s table. Take, take, no give, and suddenly there is nothing left.
That’s exactly what the visitor industry has been doing for years: continually taking more — the industry must always be growing and finding new secret spots to exploit and new diversions to entertain — while giving back to the locals a lot of low-paying, suck-up jobs. And as tourism so often disrupts fishing, it's actually taking food off their tables, too. Is it any surprise there's so little aloha left?
Yes, visitors are sometimes treated badly by locals who yell at them or rip them off. But by the same token, how many visitors (and clueless residents) have treated locals badly, dishing out a condescending attitude, trespassing on their land, disrespecting or denigrating their culture, stiffing them on tips?
And how many times have locals risked their own lives to save visitors from drowning, or offered directions, given advice, shared food or extended any number of kindnesses to total strangers who, like so many before them, are just passing through?
At any rate, aloha has to come from the heart. It's not something that can be mandated, nor is it to be expected as payment in a financial transaction.
The editorial, entitled “The Golden Rule,” goes on to advocate treating others as we would like to be treated – and I certainly can’t argue with that — before issuing the directive:
Reach out to a visitor as you would your neighbor. Offer some useful information without divulging favorite local secrets. When a friend or family member treats another person — any person — harshly or unfairly, step up and tell them to knock it off. That type of regrettable behavior demeans us all.
That’s fine advice, but again, why is it directed only at locals? To go back to the start of the editorial, why didn’t the father and son give the hitchhiker a ride to Kapaa? That would have been acting in the spirit of “ohana and the concept of kokua” that the editorial preaches, and perhaps they would have learned a thing or two about a fellow human being in the process.
If the hitchhiker was drunk, and they didn’t want him in their car, then why not just write it off as the kind of encounter one can expect in bars anywhere, instead of turning it into a personal affront, an indictment on locals?
Or is the real issue that tourists accustomed to privilege in their daily lives and besotted with the fantasy sold as Hawaii are shocked into discomfort when they encounter a down-and-out local whose only form of resistance is an in-your-face refusal to get with the program?