On this auspicious holiday, when much of Hawaii’s population is in a celebratory mood and perhaps distracted from the fundamental purpose of the occasion, it is appropriate to pause for a moment and think about why we celebrate.
The Declaration of Independence essentially affirmed that the people residing in the 13 colonies had the right to be free from tyranny and had the right to self governance. The words put down on that single sheet of paper stated unequivocally that individual citizens had the inherent right to gather together to discuss the issues, to decide for themselves the rules and structure of their society, and to elect their own government leaders.
The most famous of the words are the preamble which states:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
While we can debate, and argue and in the end concede that many injustices and in fact genocides have been and continue to be put upon the planet by so-called civil society, the fundamental truth to this statement remains.
For me, the 4th of July is a celebration and a reminder of the peoples’ right to self governance. Along with the right to self governance comes the obligation to be involved and to take ownership of our government.
We either let it happen, or we make it happen. We are responsible for our governments conduct, at all levels: County, State, and Federal.
Whether the problem is the condition of our roads or our schools, there is no one to blame but ourselves. The lack of affordable housing, the dirty parks, and the long lines at the DMV are the result of our inattention to our government and the abdication of that power to others.
Less than 30 percent of eligible residents will vote on Aug. 11. While many will grumble about the candidates, they will not themselves run for office nor often even show up to vote.
I come into contact with people on a regular basis who say to me (sometimes apologetically and sometimes in defiance), “I don’t do politics.” The truth of course is that “If you don’t do politics, politics will do you.”
With such a small number of voters determining the leadership in our County and State, there is a huge opportunity for those who do “do politics” as even a modest increase in the number of people showing up on election day can sway the results.
The secret weapon in the quest to elect new leaders at both the County and State level are consequently, the new voters.
Think about it. 70 percent of people eligible to vote are, if past trends continue, not going to vote in the primary election on Aug. 11. This pool of voters is a YUGE untapped resource for change. Who are these “untapped voters”? Conventional wisdom would indicate that they consist of the three groups who historically have the worst voting records: Hawaiians, young voters, and new residents.
The Declaration of Independence, was a document essentially written by one man, Thomas Jefferson. He was part of a committee of five that included Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Roger Sherman, and Robert Livingston. They were assigned the task of putting the words on paper, but the initial draft and ultimate majority of the document was written by Thomas Jefferson alone.
If five guys can get together and come up with the Declaration of Independence, think about what a handful of people here can do to make positive systemic change happen in our community.
Remember Aug. 11 is the day!
And remember also that if you have never voted, or if you rarely vote, on Aug. 11, your vote will be the one that makes the difference.
Gary Hooser formerly served in the Hawaii State Senate, where he was Majority Leader. He also served for eight years on the Kauai County Council and was the former director of the state Office of Environmental Quality Control. He serves presently in a volunteer capacity as board president of the Hawaii Alliance for Progressive Action (HAPA) and is executive director of the Pono Hawaii Initiative.