Staying on course when tragedy strikes

Our country received a saddening blow when a place of fun and recreation was targeted by a mentally unbalanced killer with two guns and a knife early Sunday morning. We were all shocked. It’s easy to also become unbalanced when this happens. But we must use this tragedy to make changes that will stop or at least lessen the chance for it to happen again. Channel anger or fear into internet research on peace-keeping methods and organizations, gun control, LBGTQ support organizations, or how to offer support to the Orlando victims and survivors.

We must not let ourselves become as insane in our thinking as the perpetrator. “Thou Shalt Not Kill” is still a sacred mandate that most of the world follows.

It seems to me that many of the massacre perpetrators operated out of their own little ego world of thinking. They decided that something was true, or heard voices telling them to do terrible things that in their right minds they wouldn’t have thought of. They didn’t reach out for more information or support. But what if in their student days they had an opportunity to learn how to solve conflicts in respectful ways? If they hadn’t grown up with violent video games, but exciting personal challenge games instead? What if violence wasn’t all around them?

Last week, I wrote about the Convention of the Rights of the Child that the US has not ratified along with South Sudan. All other United Nations have.

You can read the rights for yourself at:

Now consider these:

Art. 13: Children have the right to get and share information as long as the information is not damaging to themselves or others.

Art 14: Children have freedom of thought, conscience and religion, as long as they are not stopping other people from enjoying their rights.

Art. 15: Children have the right to meet together and join groups and organizations, as long as it does not stop other people from enjoying their rights.

Act. 28: Children have the right to education: Primary and secondary education compulsory, available, and free to all. Guidance, psychological and vocational counseling also available.

Act. 29: Development of respect for all people. Preparation of the child for responsible life in a free society, in the spirit of understanding, peace, tolerance, equality of sexes, and friendship among all peoples. Development of respect for the natural environment.

There are resources available from the UN for getting these instigated if we can’t seem to do it ourselves. Maybe we’re ready to ratify this now.

One process easily available that helps foster understanding, peace, respect, and responsibility is mediation. Maybe it’s the word people don’t like. What if we called it “Caring Problem Solving,” where everyone gets their needs met as much as possible? Children can learn this at an early age. They have an inner sense of fairness unless it has been destroyed by others. Children who learn and practice this become adults who think more respectfully and peacefully. In fact, some of the Aloha Peace Project students mentioned that they taught conflict resolution techniques to their parents who appreciated learning it. But not all have the chance.

The second Wednesday of the month at 5 p.m. The Fifth Circuit Court of Kauai sponsors a mandatory program for parents who are divorcing or uncoupling. Their children also attend. After everyone watches a movie called “Split,” men meet with a male therapist, woman with a female therapist, and children are divided into two groups by age and meet with their therapists.

I have the pleasure of representing Kauai Economic Opportunity, which holds the contract with the state of Hawaii for mediation in Kauai. My topic is to introduce the process of mediation and suggest that it might benefit them. Last week, I was handed a page on mediation from the honorable Family Court Judge Edmund Acoba about mediation written by Jim Hoenig, the only Hawaiian listing under “Best Lawyers in America in Family Law Mediation.” It was in the May 2016 “Hawaii Bar Journal.” It’s a great article, and I’m editing it to fit this column.

Hoenig begins by stating that “Traditional litigation (going to court to solve a problem) pits spouse against spouse …which is by its very nature divisive … there appear to be winners and losers, but in reality both spouses and their children, families, and business associates stand to lose far more in emotional and financial consequences that may be gained from divorce litigation.”

“Mediation unites spouses in seeking solutions. Recognizing that the responsibility of children and property may require them to have years more of ongoing contact, mediation gives them the tools and experience for future collaboration and allows the marriage relationship to end in a manner which permits and encourages the preservation, and perhaps even the improvement, of the couple’s future relationships.”

“No area of civil litigation is as emotionally–driven as divorce. Divorce can involve loss of a loved partner, moving, loss of friends or family, and often job or other lifestyle changes. Divorce strikes at people’s self-esteem and very basic needs … from safety and security to the need for love and belonging.”

In court, there is not time or place for the judge and everyone else involved to pour out your hearts, but in mediation, which is private, “the parties do have an opportunity to discuss how they feel in a professional, structured, supportive, and formal proceeding. This may be the only time when a truly neutral person will listen, and it is usually the only time when one spouse must sit, listen, and pay attention to the other.”

He then reminds parents that by using mediation they have “the power to determine their own outcome by reaching a mutually acceptable resolution of their issues.” Do they really want to give that power over to a judge? Who knows their families’ needs better than the parents?

“Research shows that satisfaction and compliance with mediated agreements is substantially greater than with court judgments and that mediated settlements result in far less post-divorce litigation that court-ordered outcomes.” Voila. It works!

And to all the wonderful people out there, serving in the role of father to children. Thank you for your commitment, caring, responsibility and love. Those who know what a demanding job it is. May you feel loved and appreciated this Sunday on Father’s Day. Peace to your family.


Hale Opio Kauai convened a support group of adults in our Kauai community to “step into the corner” for our teens, to answer questions and give support to youth and their families on a wide variety of issues. Please email your questions or concerns facing our youth and families today to Annaleah Atkinson at For more information about Hale Opio Kauai, please go to


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