Enchanted is the only word to describe the scene that greeted Koko and me when we went walking this morning. A swirling, steaming sea of mist lapped at the shores of the roadside, burnt-orange swaths of color lit up the Giant, still sleeping, and Venus burned gold high overhead. The world was muffled and strangely still, with muted crickets; even the roosters were subdued.
The swaths slowly stained scarlet and the rest of the heavens were tinted a delicate pinkish-baby blue. All the colors intensified, with the sky becoming a pale lavender and bleeding onto the faces of Waialeale and Makaleha, turning them deep purple, and as I climbed higher, I could soon see the land stretching out to Haupu, with all the cinder cones wreathed in mist.
On the way back, Koko lunged at a mynah bird wiggling toward the wedelia alongside the road, its wing dragging a bit. I wondered if it had been the victim of a vehicular hit and run, but when I stooped to check it out, it gave up such a chattering, squealing cry of alarm that I decided not to traumatize it further. Just then, two mynahs that had been perched on a tree directly across the street flew to the utility wires overhead and began scolding me loudly, as if they were keeping watch over their stricken comrade.
And people say animals have no emotions, no feelings.
I have to admit I wasn’t feeling especially sympathetic yesterday when a woman called in to Jimmy Trujillo’s show on KKCR radio to complain that rich people are being discriminated against on Kauai. Seems that all the outcry over gated communities, posh vacation rentals and McMansions on ag lands had her feeling that the elite were being unfairly scorned, rejected as a group when some of them are so nice and making a contribution.
She then went on to specifically mention negativity directed toward “the people on Kauapea Road” — an area that offers a perfect example of how ag land has been abused, to the detriment of farmers and the one-time wilderness beach below — which had me wondering if she worked for the reviled Michele Hughes. She also noted that when people criticize vacation rentals, they are belittling the people who work for them, which was a bit of a stretch.
Jimmy’s guest was Council Chairman Jay Furfaro, who responded with a little anecdote about how people often ask how long they must live here before they are considered kama`aina, and how he tells them it’s got nothing to do with time and everything to do with attitude and embracing certain cultural values.
We all know that some of the rich people who have moved here are nice and actually work to make Kauai a better place. But unfortunately, niceness doesn’t always equate with responsible, thoughtful actions. One example is Pierce Brosnan, who has been touted as nice by many, yet he’s waged a long and costly war over water with a Hawaiian farmer — he wants it for landscape ponds, she wants it grow taro —and his oceanfront Haena home is one of those where the yard is sprawling onto the public beach.
What’s more, rich people's “contributions,” which tend to be viewed primarily in financial terms, such as the property taxes paid on their palatial homes and the jobs given to the people who clean them, often come at a very high public price, like blocked access ways, narrowed beaches, disturbed burials and radically altered neighborhoods.
We’ve also seen over and over again how rich people who can afford to hire attorneys have literally bulldozed any opposition to their desires and/or bought themselves the consultants and politicians who can make their dreams come true.
And when rich people deliberately choose to shut themselves off from the community behind gates and high fences, or attempt to set themselves above and apart from others by ostentatiously flaunting their wealth, it’s not surprising that they generate some resentment.
Besides, if things get too uncomfortable for them, they have the luxury of being able to sell out, usually at a high profit, and flit off to one of their other homes — unlike the Native Hawaiians who are continually discriminated against and treated badly in their own homeland.
So no, I'm not feeling sorry for those poor, discriminated against rich folk.
Speaking of Hawaiians, I happened to be talking to kumu hula Kehau Kekua yesterday and asked her about Gov. Abercrombie’s visit to Kauai on Wednesday night. She said that he had specifically requested that the event be held at Wailua, which at first met with some resistance from cultural practitioners, but upon further reflection, was viewed as a good thing because it seemed to reflect his awareness of the special, sacred qualities of that place.
If that’s truly the case, and given his decision to choose Hawaiians committed to burial preservation as the director and deputy director of DNLR, we may be seeing a state government that is a little more sensitive to cultural issues and concerns.
In closing, some rich people are doing good things, like helping WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who has finally been released from jail, although under strict controls. He's vowed to continue his whistleblowing, like the leaked diplomatic cables that show, according to a Democracy Now! report "the pharmaceutical giant Pfizer hired investigators to find evidence of corruption against the Nigerian attorney general to pressure him to drop a $6 billion lawsuit over fraudulent drug tests on Nigerian children. Eleven children died. Others suffered disabling injuries including deafness, muteness, paralysis, brain damage, loss of sight, slurred speech."
Now that's the kind of sad tale worth feeling sorry about.