Current Thoughts (Mostly Hawaii)
As regular readers of this blog know, I am a big fan of aviation. It is part of my family’s experiential DNA, and what helped develop my families ties to Hawaii.
In fact, recently during my father’s funeral, many who worked in that field came out and helped my family say goodbye to him, a person who became seeped in the industry after his service in World War II. I grew up around planes, both those in the hangar and having them transport my family to far off places – London, Bangkok, Rome, New York, Warsaw – the list is expansive.
So, when I go out on my apartment balcony at night and see nothing but sky with no planes flying around for hours at a time, it is an unfamiliar sound. Yes, we all lived through 9/11, but that ban of flights was only for 4 days.
This scale down of flights to the islands could last months, if not longer.
Part of the reason is due to the proclamations that force anyone coming to the islands to self-isolate for 14 days. As a traveler-at-heart, the last thing I want to do is spend gobs of money going to a place only to spend even more gobs of money to do absolutely nothing before being allowed out to do anything.
And be limited in spending even more gobs of money because everything that is worth seeing, is closed.
The fact that our skies are cleared, airplanes are being lined up on inactive runways that typically are flying all over the place, and limitations so severe to travel even interisland also leaves me with the feeling that no matter what, we in Hawaii are stranded.
But it’s the quietness that I notice the most. And unlike before, it will be a while before the roar of jet engines fill our sky with noise and planes become, once again, a typical site over East Honolulu. It is hoped, though that there are enough people with a vagabond spirit who, once things are back to normal (somewhat) that will want to buy a ticket and start travelling again. Because if we lose that spirit, this virus is indeed killing more than just people.
As regular readers of this column know, the issue of the civil rights of citizens during this time of COVID-19 has been an examined subject.
Going back a couple of weeks, this column spoke about some of the legal issues that have emerged with the sociological limitations put in place. At the same time, a discussion ensued with a friend of mine, delving into these issues a bit more.
They were interesting discussions. He being a Lawyer and I being a Political Scientist by education proved that while we understand that society needs to have these limits put on it now, there was agreement that, indeed, the Constitution of the United States does not simply get put to the side just because of a pandemic virus.
It would turn out that our discussions were not the only ones happening on this issue. In fact, top people in the field of law were also talking about it.
This came to fruition on Monday, March 30, when it was shared with me a message from Hawaii State Bar Association President P. Gregory Frey, in which he told his members:
“Government attorneys play a significant role in advising their clients how to combat COVID-19 and how to continue to protect civil liberties in this restricted environment. Legal service providers like Legal Aid Society of Hawaii continue to service their clients every day (remotely or otherwise) and through the innovative use of IT. Mediators and arbitrators continue to move cases along remotely subject to party/counsel agreement(s) to proceed (and existing governmental mandates/orders)”.Hawaii State Bar Assn.
As our nation continues to go down the rabbit hole of new restrictions that upturn lives for the sake of killing a virus, keep in mind once again that civil rights still exist. As mentioned before, the Constitution does not simply disappear just because we are fighting a virus.
An open letter to our government leaders in Hawai‘i,
Dear Government leaders of Hawai‘i.
Over the past two to three weeks, you have made it very clear that the only thing that is going to save all of us from the COVID-19 virus is to shut down general society, force everyone to work and stay at home, and relegate the people to a very narrow band of options to even go outside.
You have passed proclamations, which have forced over 80,000 of Hawai‘i residents to file for unemployment, and shut down any semblance of normalcy in people’s lives. You have effectively shut down the ability for anyone to leave any of the islands (albeit I will say you’re keeping cargo moving – a lifeline that must be preserved at all cost).
I know this sounds like a brutal verdict of what government has done for the sake of keeping our healthcare system from being overwhelmed. But at the end of the day, this is what government has done.
And in response, instead of fighting the rules either through the courts or marching on the State Capitol with pitchforks and torches, the people have largely complied. In fact, many “essential” industries which could justify the need for everyone to be in their office, instead judiciously looked at their own operations to see if they can get more of their people to stay/work from home.
The people have done this, with many as noted above, doing it at great personal cost.
Now with compliance, the questions must pivot from the actions of the people to those of the government. Being that leaders at all levels literally was able to shut down our society and economy, what is government planning to do to restart it?
Trust me, I get it, we are just in the beginning of this “war” if you will over a virus. And that the actions taken so far was, unfortunately, necessary. But in the haste of shutting everything down, there is going to be a growing desire to see how we can both initiate a restart and how we will live with the virus. We need political leadership to figure out what the balance that we need to make, and initiate plans to both create that new balance, and get things back up and running.
Right now the people of Hawai‘i are being told that these rules will be in effect until April 30. For this writer, I agree with that assessment. However, the government needs to know that the clock is ticking – it has 36 days (from March 25th) to figure out how to ameliorate the situation so that the April 30 re-open date is firm.
Whether that means you have to get more supplies for our healthcare workers, convert public spaces like civic centers and the Hawai‘i Convention Center into alternative care areas, by all means, make it happen. I hear the Army Corps of Engineers has been tapped for this – good!
We’re burning daylight folks, make every day between now and April 30 count! Because the people of Hawai‘i are doing their job. Now we need for you, in government, to do yours.
Stanford J. Fichtman
Resident, Taxpayer and Voter in the State of Hawaii.