Current Thoughts (Mostly Hawaii)

The portrayal of your cousin

Over the past couple of weeks, you most likely have seen at least one of the “Your Cousin From Boston” commercials done by Sam Adams Beer. 

For those who have not had the chance to see it, you can find the series of commercials through this Google search. In general, it shows the funny but hapless antics of a person that is portrayed as your cousin from Boston. So you see him trying to play golf, camping, getting the vaccination, at a wedding, etc. 

southie
A “Southie” is a person from South Boston, MA. A working class community that does not mind being ribbed for their quirks.
PC: “southie” by pjbeardsley is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Funny and light-hearted, it puts this guy in a humorous light for the nation to see. Relatable to some especially from that part of the country, it seems like a regular piece of gentle ribbing of an ethnicity or culture. And in many ways, it’s nice to see in comparison to the heavy, loud, and sometimes overwrought discussions about things like racism and critical race theory that the nation is currently embroiled in. 

However, as a person from Hawaii watching these commercials, it was natural for me to ask if the people from Boston find this portrayal to be offensive. We’ll get back to the reason why this question came up in a second. 

To find out, because as a born, raised, and lifelong resident of Hawaii, one naturally has a pre-disposed thought about this. To either affirm or learn more, I reached out to my friend Michael Kissel, who runs the new podcast/blog called “Excogitate”. Although he is from Pennsylvania, and not Massachusetts, his familiarity with the area was enough for me to consider him knowledgeable of whether people from Boston were offended by this portrayal. 

His answer did not affirm my feeling that they were offended. On the contrary, “Southie” people have a sense of humor about themselves. “Southie” is about the type of person portrayed – a person who is from South Boston. Typically, Irish, they are working-class whose joking amongst themselves can be, as Michael said, “generally abrasive and coarse in their joking – very urban, very provincial”. 

For this type of portrayal as Michael then told me, “don’t think there’s a person in Southie upset about it”. 

Going back to the idea that anyone would be offended by this portrayal of someone from Boston, I had to check myself and note that if a Hawaii person would be portrayed in a similar (funny, stereotypical way) the people of Hawaii would not take it well, not well at all. Especially if the portrayal was done in a national campaign. 

And this is where the contrast between Hawaii and the rest of the nation comes into clear relief. 

Dawn of a new day
Hawaii has cultured a image that requires a lot of maintenance and oversight, teasing about your cousin from Hawaii don’t work with that.
PC: “Dawn of a new day” by Peggy2012CREATIVELENZ is licensed under CC BY 2.0

First off, some do portray Hawaii in a funny light, our quirks, nuances, stereotypes. However, unlike allowing a corporate entity to portray us, Hawaii people literally “give permission” to select people to portray us in this light. 

This was made very apparent about 2 years ago when I happened to be at an event in which Andy Bumatai, Augie Tulba, and Frank Delima were performing. In it, they pulled out a suitcase full of stereotype jokes about people from Hawaii. And the crowd both laughed and enjoyed it. 

To give an even more clear example of how Hawaii permits individuals to portray us, I bring up two mainland comics – Joe Koy and Gabriel Iglesias. Both of them are beloved in Hawaii and are known to have sold-out crowds whenever they perform here. They do (a little less than the locals) jokes about local stereotypes, with the crowd in Hawaii loving it. 

But to take these stereotypes and tropes, put it in a commercial and broadcast it nationally, that is not “pono” or right in Hawaiian and the complaints would ensue. Even if the commercial is produced by a local company that has a national presence, that would also be a no-no. Just take a look at how Kings Hawaiian Bread (yes, I know they are California based but they were founded in Hawaii and still have strong relations here) portrays its product in its recent commercials. In short, nothing about Hawaii, and nothing that even approaches any trope or stereotype. 

And you can forget about portraying “your cousin from Hawaii” in any light like how Sam Adams portrays Southies, whatsoever.

Returning to normal

With the news coming fast that the time for a “return to normal” is approaching those living in the United States, and those here in Hawaii, it’s probably time to provide a little insight as to what we are looking at and what this return may play out. 

As some know who read this blog, my life has seen me live in other countries besides America, with at least three years living in Asia and a lot of time on the road beside. For those who are posted to live overseas for an extended period (like say longer than 3 months) returning home after experiencing another part of the world can be either be a bit abnormal or downright disturbing, depending on your mental acuity. 

Its this concern of how a person will return home the reason why more established churches that have missionary outreach programs periodically have their members “in the field” come home for a sabbatical (sometimes as long as a year) so that they can continue to keep a grip on reality in the place they call home.  

Belfast - Letter Box
Diplomats, missionaries and private business employees, assigned to overseas posts, sometimes have a hard time coming home due to the adaptation of their life to the new “normal” of the foreign post.
PC: “Belfast – Letter Box” by infomatique is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

However, and this happens to many in the private sector, they may not return to their home country for years, only after retirement or the complete raising of children to the time they graduate from high school and go off to college. 

The return to a person’s home country can depend on length, create a situation where the person experiences what is known as “reverse culture shock”. 

EVEN THE US STATE DEPARTMENT recognizes this issue and has a complete brief on the concept at its website. At its core, it is defined as “the feeling of disorientation experienced by someone who is suddenly subjected to an unfamiliar culture, way of life, or set of attitudes.“ Except, in this case, the disorientation comes when you return to your home country, home state, home town, etc., and attempt to “pick up where you left off” when you left for your foreign assignment. 

Because one, after a period of disorientation when entering a new, foreign area, people after a while get used to their surroundings and social/government rules that are part of the place. These experiences become part of one’s identity, adding to the matrix of a person’s persona like how a computer uploads a new program, overwriting certain parts with new code. 

EQUIVOCATING THIS with our current situation with the COVID-19 saga, we as humans have been through at least 14 months of change in many parts of life. From how we interact with each other, to where and what we eat and how we even approach working in this world, the rules which we live by at this very moment are pretty different than what we were doing in the middle of March 2020. 

And for a bit of time, especially during the first part of 2021, a general sense of re-angling to a “new normal” seemed to have taken hold. From wearing masks and staying six feet away from each other, while we didn’t like the rules it seemed that this was going to be the rules to live by. Considering that we at that point didn’t know if the vaccines that were developed would work, there seemed to be a realization that this was the way things would be, and we better get to work living in this world. 

As mentioned before, getting used to a new way of life outside of what you lived before programs the life matrix of people in ways that change them, in some ways evolving them into another level of behavior, of thinking, and of doing things. In many ways, the COVID saga did just that to the population of the world. 

AND NOW we are being told that the saga might be over. As this is written, letters are going out from employers informing employees that they should plan to return to the office and that social norms that were created to address the crisis will be rescinded with a timeline to match. 

With the news coming out of this, all one needs to do is go on social media to see how widespread people’s opinions are of this development. Some are enthusiastic, never seeing the event as a permanent thing and never allowing the changes to change them. 

But for some, the situation, changes in rules, and cultural changes have done more permanent changes to a person’s life matrix, and going back “to normal” will not be an easy road to go down. 

Just like the overseas American that returns home, many in their own country through this will experience similar things as we re-emerge our social lives to a pre-pandemic state. This is even visualized in the State Department’s wide-ranging discussion of this phenomenon 

Image courtesy of John & Jeanne Gullahorn
The roller coaster to normality, both going into new things and returning back to the old
PC: U.S. Department of State Website https://2009-2017.state.gov/m/fsi/tc/c56075.htm

Among the points made in the State Department brief, one point to be made here is the fact that a successful “reintegration” is done when proper closure is conducted. An improper “goodbye” to those things you are leaving does make it harder to “accept the new home” that you’re going to. 

In this case, the new home is the old home we all abandoned around the middle of March 2020. 

While it might seem terrifying to some reading this, that we are going to return home now, and we don’t have a lot of choice on the matter, the fact remains that change is coming again, and it might be best that we get ready for it. 

For those who have been through this before, missionaries, those who worked overseas and lived there for long periods, this experience may seem more familiar. For this humble writer, the book on “reintegration” got dusted off when it was realized that this was not a permanent event and that there would be a call to “return home” if you will. 

The timeline for this reintegration, by experience, can take anywhere from six months to a year. For this event, it might be less, as mental health practitioners are beginning to ramp up to address this need moving forward.

But change, reverting to an older set of social and cultural rules, is coming, whether we are ready for it, or not. 

Hard getting a seat now

As the debate rages in Hawaii about the mandatory mask issue, since the CDC came out with its new guidance on masks and vaccinated people, one element of the economy that is affected by all this is restaurants.

Of course, we all know when the pandemic started, the hospitality industry as a whole took one, if not the biggest hit with mandatory shutdowns and such. With the relaxing of regulations on capacity and how patrons should conduct themselves, restaurants in the urban core of Honolulu are taking different tacks as to their operations.

Most Prefer to Remain Outdoors 04
As more people get used to going out again, and politicians encourage it more, there will need to be corresponding relaxing measures to not mess up both customers and proprietors. The Hawaii state government needs to do a better job.
PC “Most Prefer to Remain Outdoors 04” by byronv2 is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

But one thing that all of this relaxing has done is still keep a lid on capacity while the people cooped up in their houses over a year, are finally ready to hit the restaurant scene again. This was made very clear to me this week when a friend of mine met to go to lunch.

We met at one place, only to find out that it was closed (the website said they were open, but the Google info on the place said they were closed). We then scrambled and jumped into my car to go to another place.

Arriving there, we found a line out the door for those choosing to eat in the dining room. We didn’t even park, but left the establishment and started driving around. Along King St., we tried to go to an old standby only to find that they are not even doing dine-in service.

With some groans, we tried to figure out where to go next, continuing down the street we eyeballed a place that looked open, and didn’t have a line outside. Figuring there is a 50/50 chance on this place, we parked, jumped out of my car, and walked in to find finally a place that had indoor service and had seats.

Needless to say, my friend and I spoke about this saga in the context of “what is our government doing?” Since the day before, the Governor of the State of Hawaii came on television after the CDC guidance came out to say, specifically, he was not going to change one rule in the mask mandate.

In essence, he told the people of Hawaii to suck it up even more while, I dunno, his crack team of experts figures out what the infographic from the CDC means.

Guidance from the Centers for Disease Control (you know, the scientists we should be listening to) about what people vaccinated and non-vaccinated can do in society.
PC: CDC at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/fully-vaccinated-guidance.html

This tug of war between staying safe with the guidance coming out that we can be more relaxed now with our interactions while playing out is hurting the people that are back at work, both the consumer (the restaurant-goer) and the producer (the restauranteur).

As more restrictive rules are kept on people, while the rest of society makes the move to interact more in society, this tussle is going to become even more of a struggle. The fact is that the people are on the move in Hawaii, they are looking to return to normal life, and are getting less and less worried about their interaction with society.

Thanks to the vaccine, which we were told going back to the beginning of the COVID saga was the only real solution to solving the crisis, this relaxation can come with confidence. And it’s this confidence that our state government needs to start expressing should it want to play the role of supporter of society, rather than the oppressor.

In the end, the time for an adult conversation about reopening is going to happen, whether our Governor and Mayors want it or not.

And with the way our government is handling the new news of CDC guidelines and even big-box retailers finally announcing what vaccinated people can do in their properties, this conversation can’t come soon enough. 

Because people want to go and eat, and take a seat doing it at the restaurant.  

Read past entries of Stan Fichtman and PoliticsHawaii.com!

What am I listening to?

These are the Podcasters that I am listening to, try them out!

Tim Pool (on YouTube)

Pod Save America (on YouTube)

Sargon of Akkad - Carl Benjamin (on YouTube)

Who am I reading/getting news from

I am very choosy as to where I get my news from, here are some dependable sources I refer to when reading up on topics

The Atlantic

CNBC

Civil Beat (Hawaii on-line newspaper)

Honolulu Star Advertiser (mostly paywalled, but you get free headlines)

Beat of Hawaii (Tourism based news source from Kauai)

Twitter Feed

Here are my current thoughts of things going on.

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