And now what?

Since the announcement came from Hawai‘i’s Governor Ige, on March 8 that the mask mandate would end “at 11:59” on March 25th, the people of Hawai‘i got ginned up to move beyond this phase of the pandemic and possibly return to normal.

And who could blame them?

Sure, some continue to warn us that the pandemic isn’t over. But the idea that there was a definitive date on which a symbolic item so closely aligned with the dark days of the pandemic – March/April 2020 – was now going to end did lift the peoples’ spirits. 

But now the question emerges, what now? What happens now?

Well, if one were to walk around one of the local shopping centers or even go down to the Neil Blaisdell Center, one will find that there is a lot of people, moving around and doing things. One of the first events that happened with the end of the mandates – the “Foodie Con” food expo – the video showed a packed house full of people roaming around. Outside, you see people lining up for tickets, like in the old days when a concert was coming to town.

Go to any restaurant, and you will find them packed with people. And if the proprietors could get enough workers, you can bet that they’d be staying open longer than they are currently.

Get on the roads and drive around, and you will find traffic all over, with cars on the road, and people going places. Over the past few days, it felt like we had returned to “old times’ in Hawai‘i. Remembering the early days of the pandemic and just how ghost town-ish it was in Honolulu, it is refreshing to see people out and about, freely moving.

But with all this positivity, are we about to enter into a time when, as so eloquently stated in the movie Hunger Games, Mockingjay Part 2, in which Plutarch Heavensbee said in his letter to Katniss Everdeen,

The war’s over. We’ll enter that sweet period when everyone agrees not to repeat the recent horrors. Of course, collective thinking is short-lived. We’re fickle, stupid beings with poor memories and a great gift for self-destruction. Although, who knows? Maybe this time we’ll learn.

“Plutarch Heavensbee” letter to “Katniss Everdeen” in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2
Before we burn the past, and gaslight, our society needs to heal. Will our leadership do it?
PC: Briography, (CC BY-ND 2.0)

It’s that last part – maybe this time we’ll learn – is what we should be striving for in moving beyond the last two years. Lessons need to be learned from what various entities have done to each other, and to themselves, all for the sake of protecting “us”. The fear is, of course, that with the ending of the mandates, society, in its utmost desire to turn away from the trauma, will try its best to gaslight everyone and try to claim either it didn’t happen, or that it’s not worth worrying over, anymore.

If Hawai‘i society chooses to go down this road, sweep what we have gone through without processing it, then the adage those who forget the past are bound to repeat it – is guaranteed to happen.

Therefore, this humble blogger suggests that we take the time needed to review, reflect, and put into perspective what has happened throughout the mandates – which was 729 days, stopping only on the 26th of March, 2022.

How can this review happen? To address trauma, one has to face the feelings. Sometimes this is done through therapy. But in this case, we are talking about a whole society that has been through a trauma – physical, emotional, financial, familial, etc. It’s almost as if what is needed is for Hawaii to enter into collective therapy.

Yet, we know that, realistically, that ain’t happening.

What our political and social leaders can do, though, is create messages that do address this need to know that “we get it”. For instance, a speech by either the mayor or the Governor should say something along these lines,

For the last two years, leadership has told you that what you have been through is necessary because of the pandemic – protecting ourselves and saving lives. That message was little comfort to those who have lost so much during the time – from their quality of life to trust in government. Leadership should have recognized better then, and they will now, that regardless of why we were ordering you to do things way out of the realm of normal, our actions caused painful wounds that need healing. The work of healing is a worthy cause that your Hawai‘i leadership will now take on, to bring back the aloha, and the unity, of Hawai‘i.

If our society does not work to bind the wounds that have been inflicted over the past 2 years, surviving another round of the pandemic may cause more mortal wounds.
PC: “heal?” by atomicity is marked with CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

While the statement itself does not go into any detail as to what those hurts or divisions are, even saying something along these lines will go a long way to put behind the last two years for this state to move forward with whatever the future holds for it.

And if we are to listen to those who continue to remind us that the pandemic is not over and that we may have to go through what we just did all over again, healing now to prepare for that possibility is more important than ever.