THE Native Hawaiian community eventually will owe Big Island haole Freddie Rice a debt of gratitude.
If Rice had not sued the state, challenging voting restrictions for the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, the issue probably would not have come so soon to a legal head at the U.S. Supreme Court.
Rice thinks all Hawaii residents should be able to vote in OHA elections, not just those with Hawaiian blood. The courts disagree. He has lost at every level. And he'll lose before the Supreme Court, too. Even the U.S. government has sided with Gov. Ben Cayetano on this one, saying the government has an obligation to Hawaiians because of the overthrow. President Clinton also apologized for the overthrow, which isn't that big of a deal because he's also apologized for slavery, the Crusades and, I think, gravity.
The point is the Hawaiians never willingly gave up their sovereignty and they deserve some form of self-government.
It was inevitable that the Hawaiian-only voting restrictions would be challenged and the Hawaiian community should be happy the highest court in the land will be ruling in its favor soon.
That said, let's look at other aspects of government that could use this kind of intervention.
There are something like 80 million Americans who do not pay taxes. Should they have a voice in deciding what the government does with the projected tax surplus? I don't think so.
TAXPAYERS form a distinct group, something like the Hawaiian community. They share a culture that includes working for a living and giving a lot of that money to the government. Non-taxpayers form a different community. They don't pay taxes. In fact, our taxes are spent on them in the form of welfare for the poor and corporate welfare for the rich. Either way, they aren't tossing any money into the pot and they shouldn't have a say as to how it is divvied up.
Sure, both taxpayers and non-taxpayers are voters, just like both Hawaiians and non-Hawaiians are voters. But Hawaiians deserve to make decisions that affect only them and taxpayers should be allowed to make decisions that affect how much of their money they must fork over to the government.
Now, you may say this isn't fair. Taxpayers always are going to want to pay as little as possible. That may be what they want, but it doesn't happen that way. The fat cat non-taxpayers and the skinny cat non-taxpayers make sure the tax-paying cats in the middle shoulder most of the burden. In fact, the worker cats are projected to give so much of their money to the federal government in the next few years that there will be a surplus in the trillions of dollars. Trillions. Trillions of dollars that morally belongs to the people who earned it.
Non-taxpayers, not surprisingly, are all for the government keeping the money. In the crazy upside-down world of Washington D.C., some argue that the non-taxpayers have a RIGHT to this money. They say the non-taxpayers should be the ones deciding what should be done with the surplus.
This is what the federal government has been doing to Native Hawaiians for decades, deciding what is good for them.
Maybe Freddie Rice's next lawsuit will be on behalf of taxpayers. And hopefully he'd win this one.
January '97 OHA Ceded Lands Ruling
Charles Memminger, winner of
National Society of Newspaper Columnists
awards in 1994 and 1992, writes "Honolulu Lite"
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