Letters for Friday, June 5, 2020

COVID is just one of several pandemics

COVID-19 has dominated the public health news in recent months, and understandably so. But there is an even greater threat to our well-being: the long-standing and pervasive public health scourge of racism, oppression, and violence in our country. These are public health threats and must be recognized as such. Disease pandemics are biological events that run their course—we can respond to and manage them, but even without our intervention they will eventually come to an end. Racism and oppression are human phenomena: we create them and only we can bring them to an end.

These toxins affect every one of us, and diminish each of us, every day. Whether we feel oppression or racism directed at us, whether we navigate around it and feel confident that it is not our fault, or whether we actively perpetrate it, we cannot escape the many ways it shapes our world.

I do not have the answers, but I know we cannot solve a problem if we do not acknowledge it. Even by acknowledging it, we cannot solve it by hope or by patience. Solutions require change, and change requires action. Change is uncomfortable. Looking directly at racism and oppression is hard. But our discomfort is nothing compared to the human toll we currently pay on a daily basis.

I hope you will join me in making change in whatever way you can. It may be truly listening to someone you might not otherwise have attended to, someone with a different perspective from your own; it may be having a difficult conversation with a friend or family member; it may be making a concerted effort to become better informed, by seeking out new sources of information; it may be joining protests or taking political action or voting more intentionally; it may be changing how or where you do business or make charitable donations; or it may be speaking up or speaking out when you see or experience an injustice.

Change can happen if each of us makes it happen.

Janet M. Berreman, MD, MPH, Kauai District Health Officer

Need to read ‘A Letter from the Birmingham Jail’

We have seen an explosion of destructive violence throughout our nation in response to the killing of a black man by a police officer. The demonstrations by protestors that have risen as a result of this action has been seen by other groups as an opportunity to exploit the situation to further other agendas. They have infiltrated the demonstrators to incite and embolden the uncontrollable crowds into dangerous and criminal actions. It appears that there are groups of people who want to our nation to be further divided and torn apart. Anarchy, chaos and criminal destruction runs rife in these demonstrations.

Abraham Lincoln related in one of his earliest speeches before he became president, “At what point then is the approach of danger to be expected? I answer, if it ever reach us, it must spring up amongst us. It cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen, we must live through all time, or die by suicide.”

There are numerous examples in history of this, but using just one compelling example would the total breakup from within of the former Soviet Union. No army could have done this.

The current demonstrations and riots in our country are counterproductive to their intent. They just further divide and polarize our nation.

We do have a powerful example of how to handle the underlying problem from our own past. I present not my own judgment but rather the wisdom of Martin Luther King. His successful overcoming of a century of segregation and denial of civil rights for African-Americans after the Civil War escaped the efforts of any other man. Anyone who would diminish his accomplishments did not live at that time as I did and experience first-hand what it was like before MLK sparked the paradigm shift in our nation’s history.

I urge every one reading this letter to read the classic letter by Martin Luther King, “A Letter from the Birmingham Jail.” In this letter is the philosophy, reason, the plan of action, and the source of power behind his civil rights movement. It can be clearly seen that Martin Luther King’s philosophy is totally opposed to the course of action favored by the current groups content to tear our country apart to forward their agendas.

George Brunstad, Kapa‘a

Demonstrations are effective

Reminder to all of us (me, too) who are walking on the road toward Justice For All :

Demonstrations are effective.

Often they do not seem effective, because change takes so long.

It is a very long way from peaceful demonstrations to legislation to accepted social behaviors.


As we move small step by small step toward the goal of Justice, we move all of society.

It’s easy to get discouraged because it takes so long.

That said, we are moving.


For the last 60 years (of my 77 years) I have watched us stumble forward.

We have made progress.

There is still a long way to go.

Per MLK: “We as a nation will get there.”


Aloha To All.

Mary Mulhall, Kapa‘a

  1. ruthann jones June 5, 2020 6:33 am Reply

    George…you missed the mark! Demonstrations are fundamental to a democracy…as differentiated from RIOTS!
    Janet and Mary…thank you for your wise words. It brings hope to me.

  2. therealhawaiian June 5, 2020 7:20 am Reply

    Thank you for the great letter George Brunstad! You said what needs to be said in the way one should say it! Mary, with regards to your letter titled, “Demonstrations are effective”? This is many times true, but sometimes they can be counterproductive, destructive, and just plain wrong! AKA the Rodney King riots in Los Angeles and the riots we’re experiencing over the death of the gentleman in Minneapolis who was being arrested because he bought things from a store with forged money. A stupid Cop made a grave mistake which cost him his life. A horrible situation made much worse by a segment of our society using the unfortunate incident as an excuse to riot, loot, and call for the destruction of America. Demonstrations like this one can turn into nothing but destructive “fix nothing” noise, that will actually detract from the issue being addressed by the Demonstrators!

    1. arealhangover June 5, 2020 2:08 pm Reply

      The store clerks who called the cops on George Floyd said they don’t think he knew it was a bad 20. He died for absolutely nothing. Seems like there is a pattern of abusing certain people in the population – something you’d expect real Hawaiians to commiserate with.

    2. Steve Martin June 6, 2020 8:53 am Reply

      Don’t forget the “Watts” riots in Los Angeles August 1965. My dad was boarding up stores and came home with bullet holes in his truck.

  3. Believing in Vaccines June 5, 2020 9:34 pm Reply

    Aloha Dr. Janet,

    Isn’t it about time your medical labs made a Racism Vaccine?

    Of course side effects would be shocking for solid racists having reality become understandable, and consciousness peg up a Few notches, self shame exposed, personal realization you were wrong your whole life; and all the other flavors of humanity including ones own being evolved from the primates who came before us, and who were the ones who perfected the wonderful immune system we have today, if only it was not so ignored and abused by the food and drug industry.

    Where’s your Dr. Fauci And the other virus expert, Bill Gates, when we need less world population.

    A SHAME VACCINE could be an effective annual booster shot.

  4. Nation going to ruination June 5, 2020 9:42 pm Reply

    Aloha George and ?Mary,

    The Nation is going down in Ruination, virus and demonstration, let the doctors and Democrat demon-strators have at it and finish the job.

  5. Pete Antonson June 6, 2020 3:10 pm Reply

    George missed one of the key points of MLK’s letter:

    “You deplore the demonstrations taking place in Birmingham. But your statement, I am sorry to say, fails to express a similar concern for the conditions that brought about the demonstrations.”

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