Current Thoughts (Mostly Hawaii)
There is a line in the movie “The American President” in which President Shepherd, played by Michael Douglas, called out his competitor for criticizing his girlfriend and lobbyist, Sidney Ellen Wade.
In the piece, Shepherd said,
“Sydney Ellen Wade has done nothing to you, Bob. She has done nothing but put herself through school, represent the interests of public-school teachers, and lobby for the safety of our natural resources. You want a character debate, Bob? You better stick with me, ‘cause Sydney Ellen Wade is way out of your league”The American President, 1995
Change the wording just a little, put in some relevant actions that Saint Damien did in Moloka‘i for Hansen disease patients, slap on the name “Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez” instead of Bob, and you get the point. She went and picked on a figure that is way larger than the narrow racist-focused piece that she broadcast on Twitter.
Saint Damien, known more here in Hawai‘i as Father Damien, is a figure whose mere presence does not fit into any one box. He was a Belgian priest who came to Hawai‘i on a mission. Upon seeing the horrible conditions that Hansen disease (lepers) were treated upon their exile to Molokai, he went there to see it for himself.
His arrival at Kalawao, which was the first location of the leper colony on the Kalaupapa peninsula on Moloka‘i, he had to swim from the boat to shore. There was no landing for boats at Kalawao. He then saw utter chaos, a place where people were dropped off, ignored, and left to die.
He brought civility, gave those who were destined to die, hope. He gave people something kind. He learned the Hawaiian language, he advocated for the lepers there, he stayed with them until he contracted the disease, and died.
And so, comes along Ocasio-Cortez, probably not even aware of half of the story of Saint Damien, ties him to a discussion of why there is a lack of diversity shown in a hallway full of statues in our nation’s capital. It astounds me that people who purport to be all-wise and smart will take a symbol of what the human spirit can do for a fellow man, manifested as a statue in a hall of statues, and place them into a “race box”.
It was both a cheap shot for eyeballs on her Twitter account and a poor try at her message of diversity. She lost all credibility when she decided to use Saint Damien as that example of race uniformity in a hall full of statues.
And then, to add insult to injury tries to lecture on her twitter video about Hawaiian history and other individuals that “should be” in that hall. If you want to speak about Hawaiian history and its characters Ms. Ocasio-Cortez than I suggest you pick up a book and read about Hawaiian history.
If she would like to know more about what Saint Damien did, perhaps she should go to Kalawao, where the church that Saint Damien established and look at the work he did. She should look at his grave and the sanctity of the space it inhabits. She should then listen to the wind that blows through the trees near the church and listens for the voices of those who died there…and what they say about Saint Damien.
Because she will find, as I did when I went to Kalawao and Kalaupapa 12 years ago, that Saint Damien is indeed not just a “defined race” person, but a person who embodies the human spirit. And living at that level is a way higher game than most of us can even imagine playing at, including her I suspect.
As some readers may know, not only do I write a weekly blog on issues, I typically also post shorter items on my Facebook and Twitter accounts. These posts are typically in response to articles I read and would like to publicly comment on them.
On Friday, the 10th of July, I posted a comment, directed to the Governor, regarding the ending of the $600 bonus unemployment at the end of July. For those who don’t know, the Federal Government boosted unemployment payouts for those affected by the COVID-19 saga, by giving each filer an extra $600 a week on top of their approved unemployment amount.
I posted the article on my Facebook account, and in my comments, said:
Earth to Governor, Ige….you can wish that the Fed’s would continue to shell out cash for you to wait on opening the economy, but I don’t think all the wishing in the world is going to change Washington’s mind on UI.https://www.facebook.com/PoliticsHI/
What I was getting at with my comment is that the leadership of this state, now literally consisting of the Governor and the four mayors of each of the state’s counties, are currently huddling to try and figure out whether the state “reopens tourism”. Before this, the Governor kept on saying that “we are asking Washington to pass more financial relief to the states”.
In short, they want more time to reopen, but it’s all dependent on how people will still get money when there are no jobs to be had, and income to be gotten. People are also facing possible eviction from their homes and homelessness, along with the removal of food security if there is no reopening of the tourism economy, but other provisions like a ban on eviction are still lifted on August 1.
As s response to my post, a reader of my blog and Facebook page asked this very focused question of me:
I’m curious to hear what PHwSF suggestions of how to fix things especially with an executive branch that has no solid plan in place and is very retaliatory. Keep up the great information. Look forward to hearing more.See the question posted on the Politics Hawaii Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/PoliticsHI/
First of all, thank you to the person posing the question.
ONE ANSWER I HAVE to this question is that our state, and our nation for that matter, need to figure out what the numbers mean, and don’t mean when they are reported. Right now, we have a society that is so transfixed on a 12-noon report from the State of Hawaii Dept. of Health on how many new infections were discovered in the last 24 hours.
But ask any random group of people “what does that number mean”, and you will get a variety of answers – anything from “people have gotten it and should be isolated”, to “everyone who gets it will die a horrible miserable lonely death in some anonymous-looking hospital room in short order.”
Even our leadership -Governor Ige, Dr. Anderson, and Dr. Park among them – have been poor in trying to relay what the numbers mean. At that point, with a gambler’s mindset that seems to pervade Hawaii thinking, the higher the number, the worse it is. Full stop.
For us to fix anything means that leadership needs to come forward and state clearly what the numbers mean and what we should be concentrating on. Personally, to me, the answer is that the infection rate is just that, an infection rate and that we should be focused on hospitalizations and death rates when it comes to making policy.
AS A SECOND PART TO THE ANSWER, our society needs to stand up and tell everyone else that this issue is no longer about politics, and eschew any public official in making any comment that would allude to that.
I take for example the passive-aggressive tones that our Lieutenant Governor, Josh Green, makes with the Mayor of Honolulu. Kirk Caldwell, about Mayor Caldwell’s plans to bring business into Chinatown and Waikiki during this time.
All things being equal, the criticisms by Green, and then the retort by Caldwell could be seen in the context of robust discussion and compromise.
But the ugly head of “politics” rears up right away as both Green and Caldwell declared that they will run for Governor in 2022, replacing Governor Ige who is term-limited.
So now, no matter what each party says, the filter of “politics” is automatically applied. That filter can change the perspective of how the people see those leaders, and even what they say. That view, already, has discounted any authority any leader has in expressing order and having people respect it.
Being that Governor Ige is a supporter of Mayor Caldwell’s gubernatorial campaign and that Lt. Governor Josh Green is seen as the more trusted outsider, political perspective comes more into play in a lot of people’s minds, obscuring the messaging of these leaders.
And if you listen to the leaders – Governor Ige and the Mayors – putting politics to the side, sometimes they do say things that make sense.
But we won’t fix any of this unless the people who are being led by these leaders demand that all parties start acting like leaders, and not politicians. That means becoming united in defining what the numbers mean, and making a unified statement that politics has nothing to do with the decisions being made.
It might not be the fix that everyone wants, as we live in a world, as Joe Friday put it on the Dragnet episode “The Big Departure”,
I don’t know, maybe part of it’s the fact that you’re in a hurry. You’ve grown up on instant orange juice. Flip a dial – instant entertainment. Dial seven digits – instant communication. Turn a key – push a pedal – instant transportation. Flash a card – instant money. Shove in a problem – push a few buttons – instant answers. But some problems you can’t get quick answers for, no matter how much you want them.Listen to the whole speech here on Youtube.
But for me at least, this is a start.
Thanks again for the challenging question.
Observation of our country this July 4
“We can be cold as the falling Thermometer in December if you ask about our weather in July. And we’re so by-gone stubborn, we can Stand touching noses for a week at a time, And never see eye-to-eye.”Iowa Stubborn, The Music Man. 1957
As long as this country has been around, there have been people that have tried to put their finger on the mentality of an American.
Sure, they find their finger on “American Exceptionalism” or “Frontier Spirit” in many of their discoveries. However, as this country enters its 244th year, it might be that we have to dive deeper to really find what it is that drives Americans.
We can go back to a point in time to find this. The State of the Union Address in 2014.
At that address, President Barak Obama, working to try and move a conversation along about climate change, said, “The shift to a cleaner energy economy won’t happen overnight, and it will require tough choices along the way. But the debate is settled. Climate change is a fact.”
“The Debate is Settled…..is a fact”.
While those in the “climate change denying camp” said that nothing is settled, this very debate opened up an insight to me about what it means to be an American.
It says to me, first, that telling an American that the debate on an issue is settled will receive a healthy dose of “yeah, right” from many across this country.
Even with the current situation occurring in this country, where more and more legalities are mandating the wearing of a mask to control the spread of the Coronavirus, you will find many on the other side of this pronouncement saying “it doesn’t work” and “I ain’t wearing no damn mask even if you tell me one breath of this virus will kill me.”
Nothing, in this country, stated as “fact” is immune from other Americans working to challenge that assertion. While some may want the debate to be over for the sake of, say, achieving a goal, the DNA that makes America will never lead us to any 100% consensus on many matters.
While it might be frustrating for the American to deal with, it is also what attracts so many to our country to start a new life. Instead of being told “we say this, and you will believe it”, the American psyche says, instead “we have a belief, and you are free to challenge it”.
There are not many countries that allow for a counter debate, let alone celebrate it as we do in America. In fact, not only do we celebrate it, we almost demand it be done by those who choose to engage in the marketplace of ideas. Why? Because while we may all know something of a subject, the combination of all of us, complete with the tussle of debate, allows us to know more about a subject than not.
Let’s take for instance the Black Lives Matter (BLM) situation that our country is now engaged in, and a position I am taking on it.
As a person from Hawaii, it is a subject that has a number of buffers between me and the core of its issue. Some of the issues don’t exist here as they do, say in Minneapolis. Some of the unique issues of Hawaii don’t exist anywhere else in this country.
But an exercise, making the rounds again on Facebook, brings to me a pointed example of what we are talking about in race relations:
“I want every white person in this room, who would be happy to be treated as this society in general treats our citizens, our black citizens. If you as a white person would be happy to receive the same treatment that our black citizens do in this society – please stand!”
This statement is made by Jane Elliott, who is a diversity expert. She makes this statement to a group of white people in a classroom as part of her lessons on teaching about what is racism and what is diversity. In this example, no one stands up precisely because those in the room know full well how one set of Americans are treated over another set.
So, while I am not happy with the violence that has occurred in the name of BLM – I think violence is a very poor way of making a point – I can also see the underlying reasons why people, by and large, are mad and want a change.
And it is on those issues, emphasized by the example done by Jane Elliott, that we should focus on, to lessen the widening gulf between the races in this country.
Going back to the premise of this piece, I am sure that there will be one or more comments that take the exact opposite approach, and possibly a debate will ensue. It will only stop by the people in that debate, as there is no one person in this country that will jump in and say “the debate is settled…and this is what we will believe.”
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is one of the hallmarks of what makes America what it is.
Happy Fourth of July folks!