Anger won’t ever overcome aloha on Kauai

For those who attended the May hearings on Kauai on the draft plan of the Hawaiian Island Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary management draft plan, they likely couldn’t miss that there was a good deal of anger in the air. One man’s profanity-tirade was one indicator of that anger. No big surprise, since many of those who testified expressed opposition to the plan they don’t like and believe isn’t necessary, but simply more government intrusion into their lives.

But one comment by a sanctuary program analyst caught our attention. Anne Walton said the anger that dominated the public hearings is par for the course on Kauai — but not on the other islands — when any major change is proposed.

“I think people think that’s how you get heard. The loudest and the most angry get heard, but there are many other voices and points of view that get lost,” Walton said.

Indeed, they were. Several people said they were too intimated to give public comment in such a contentious atmosphere. Sad, really, that residents fear commenting at a public hearing, or commenting at all, because there will be backlash against them for not going along with the majority in the room.

That’s not a first.

The Garden Island published stories a while back on a family’s dispute with a neighbor. The family was first willing to put their name behind their situation. But when a family member was contacted by TGI later for a followup story, the person declined to comment, indicating there had been threats and they no longer felt they could speak out safely.

It should be a concern for everyone when people fear expressing their view in public or feel too intimated to speak up.

Feelings and talk of hostility seem to be growing on Kauai. Those are part of the reasons TGI asked this poll question:

“Is Kauai getting to be known as the angry island?”

Instead of a resounding no, which was expected, there was a resounding yes. The results? 368 voted “Yes. And for good reasons.” 149 marked, “No. Aloha prevails, always.” And 262 marked, “Maybe. Depends on the issue at hand.”

Now, these polls are far from scientific, but they provide a general look at what folks are thinking and feeling. And many people are wondering where the aloha spirit went. Some say aloha depends on whether someone has the same viewpoint as another.

People are noticing.

One visitor told TGI she “didn’t feel welcome” during her recent visit. Nothing had happened. No specific incident of yelling or threats or even a glare. Just a general sense she got. Not much you can do about someone who perceives folks aren’t being friendly. Could just be their own problem. But it’s not something to be ignored, either.

Talk of hate crimes on Kauai surfaced recently when a teacher from the Mainland reported he, other adults and students were attacked at the Hanalei Pier by a group of young adults, who threatened and punched them. People were hurt. When TGI reported on the incident, a woman called to say she was the target of a hate crime near the Hanalei pavilion and reported it to police. Why, she asked is TGI covering up these things? Another such incident near the pier was reported Tuesday night, reportedly involving visitors who were harassed, yelled at and threatened. This time, two men were arrested. A front-page story about the incident is in today’s paper.

So after all that, the question comes up again: Is Kauai angry?

Well, yes, there are angry people here, just like there are everywhere. No place, even Kauai, is immune from having people who do stupid things and make hurtful remarks.

But that’s not Kauai and it’s up to us to not let the anger take over.

If Kauai is anything, it is an island of good people with big hearts. It is a place of giving. Just ask all the local nonprofits about the support they receive. It is an island of wonderful spirit that instills adventure. It is a place of beauty and inspiration. Just ask the millions of tourists who come here each year. Kauai is a strong, independent island. It is the island King Kamehameha could not conquer. It is an island with fierce pride. Just ask those who have long called it home. That’s the Kauai people love and hold dearly.

Sometimes, in our hurry to get somewhere as we race along the highway, in our hectic hours at work, in our busy schedules and in our worry about finances and rising taxes and the crazy traffic, and our wish for life the way it once was, that spirit of aloha is lost. But it’s still there. Just sit back, take a deep breath, look around at where you live and take a look at the people around you. Pretty amazing. Does aloha live on Kauai? You bet.

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