We are in the midst of a global pandemic, and our economy is on the edge of collapse.
Sparked by violent acts of racial injustice and fueled by the ever-increasing economic disparity between the 1% and everybody else, people across the United States and around the world are gathering and marching by the tens of thousands.
In a pervasive atmosphere of uncertainty and fear, everyone, it seems, seeks a scapegoat.
Here in our United States, good ole boys from the heartland and Deep South blame the urban “elites” from the North and West. Too many “haves” blame the “have nots; the “have nots” often blame each other. Agent provocateurs on both sides are manipulated by those in power who benefit from the unrest and uncertainty.
Those with guns, engorged by testosterone and arrogance, are convinced they stand on, and must defend, the side of justice.
Meanwhile, the media, both mainstream and live-streamed from the streets, focus and thrive on the amped-up, anti-hero wanna-be; the 15 seconds of fame-seeking bad actor, and other sideshows made for YouTube. Sadly, the outcome is increasingly real violence, real bullets and real deaths.
The world, as they say, seems to be going to hell in a hand basket. Live, in real time.
Unfortunately, a great majority of us have no confidence in the government institutions responsible for leading us out of the mess they led us into.
In Hawai‘i, we have so far escaped the social unrest and violence that have torn apart communities on the continent. While there is broad-based dissatisfaction with our state government’s management of the COVID-19 crisis, our problems have not been compounded by police shootings, looting or riots.
We can and we should engage in the greater dialogue, and vote in the coming presidential election. I am hopeful the conclusion of that election will be one that honors our constitution.
For today, and for the foreseeable future, my thoughts are to think global and act local. I hope you will join me.
Mayor Derek Kawakami has done a good job keeping Kaua‘i County safe. While the rest of Hawai‘i has to a great extent been rife with dissatisfaction over their local governments’ management of the COVID threat, most of us here on Kaua‘i give our mayor high marks for both style and substance. His recent personal and direct involvement in defusing and ultimately ending the standoff between community and cult is another example of his excellent, hands-on and relatively-low-key style of leadership.
Moving forward, I am hopeful that Mayor Kawakami will remain focused first and foremost on protecting the health of our community. There is no doubt tremendous pressure from the visitor industry and others in the business sector, both large and small, to open up our island to air travel. There is talk of “visitor bubbles,” pre-testing, post-testing and all manner of possible protocols that might allow visitors to return safely. But, at the end of the day, I believe the community response to any such proposal at the moment would consist of just three words.
“Don’t do it.”
Our island is now relatively free of COVID-19. While we still wear our masks and keep our distance when in the store or at the beach, we do not want to return to a full lock-down. The economic pain for our community is real, but we do not need to move backwards after having come so far.
The ramping up of “contact tracing” seems to only now be getting up to speed. The number of daily cases on O‘ahu remains in the triple digits, while Big Island and Maui cases continue to climb.
Kaua‘i is in a good spot, and we should strive to stay there. The state of the science with regards to testing is moving at lightning speed. In another few months the tests will be faster, cheaper and, most importantly, more accurate. It makes sense to sit tight for now and wait.
And while we wait, we patronize our local businesses. We buy from local farmers and local markets. We eat at local restaurants, and we donate if we can to local organizations. We look out for each other, and we help our neighbors. We cut the sarcasm and the constant criticism of each other. If needed, we get off of social media entirely. We show respect to one another, and we live aloha.
Gary Hooser formerly served in the state Senate, where he was majority leader. He also served for eight years on the Kaua‘i 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 Hawai‘i Alliance for Progressive Action and is executive director of the Pono Hawai‘i Initiative.