Several hundred years ago, a famous French woman was oblivious to how the world
was changing around her and ended up losing her head over a casual quip to “Let
them eat cake.”
We hope our newspaper knows its world history. Our
community has never responded well to an “eat cake” spin on editorial policy,
and a return to that now could not be more ill-timed, given the new momentum in
our island’s civic affairs.
Kauaians get plenty carrots we like to chew on
before we get to the cake, that’s why.
Most notably, we are learning how to
engage in civil discourse and get all of our island stakeholders and “citizen
experts” around the table and focused on consensual strategies for dealing with
any one of our many challenges.
At this transformational moment, the last
thing we need is our local newspaper tacking right into an ill wind that blows
cynically across the luffing sails of Kauaian community initiative. What’s the
point of “energy and spunk”- as one inbound reporter paraphrased his new Kaua`i
marching orders- if it masks our deeper challenges and forestalls their
So, call this one columnist’s counterspin for less cake, more
Sure, sometimes our community discourse is messy- nay, downright
ugly. Still, we might better call it growing pains rather than generic
In recent years, we have spent more and more time listening
closely to each other’s opposing views in various community struggles from
Ha`ena to Kekaha. Week in and week out, both in this space and on the KKCR talk
show, we unearth evidence that Kauaians are “getting it.” After we blow off
some steam, we’re ready to get down to business.
On one level, Kauaians do
not really care if other folks agree with them on these community issues, or
not. All we can reasonably do is clearly express our own viewpoints and be sure
we understand the views of others.
We may have little time for
reactionaries or gossips, yet we welcome more civil dialogue. Recall that Bob
Mullins put this goal at the center of his vision for Kaua`i when he was
featured (TGI, Jan. 3) as someone shaping our island future.
ourselves on being able to talk with anyone as equals. It makes us better
citizens, letter writers, talk show participants, and, yes, better
True, some of our more outrageous “flamers,” to use a web chat
expression, may need to be reminded that ad hominem attacks represent the
lowest form of debate and that “we wrestle not against flesh and blood,” as the
Yet, there is no need to scurry around protecting special
interests, or smoothing over differences, or painting island life with a happy
face. Unless these special interests are truly bad people who morally deserve
to be exposed, the newspaper’s role is to dispassionately bring their
viewpoints to the table along with others.
They know that. It is an
Can we talk? That is the question.
The Kauaian answer to this
question is emphatically affirmative.
Many attentive Kauaians are having
their civil discourse on-line; our e-mail stays busy. Neighborhood associations
and other community-based orgs around the island are making exhilarating
strides in process management, running inclusive meetings that forge consensus
and prompt broad buy-in. Look at recent progress in the Heritage River Hanalei
Hui, or the Nawiliwili Bay Watershed Council, or the newly revived Kekaha
And, never mind those who cite the Kaua’i Island Utilities
Cooperative debacle as contrary evidence. The fat lady has not sung yet on that
one, and truly collaborative efforts on Kaua’i Electric acquisition may only
now be possible-after lots of steam has been blown off.
Can we all agree to
stop thinking old thoughts here? Give ourselves more credit. Lift our
Look closely, again, and you may agree. If civil discourse is the
goal, Kauaians are halfway home already. Feels good.
Stick with the cakes
of concealment, if you like. Most Kauaians are going for the carrots of
Ken Stokes can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org