Under the Sun
Our thin veneer of rapport needs constant polishing
TELECOMMUTING spares me drive time and drive-time radio so I'm not clear on how a discussion between a talk-show host and a state senator
about the Superferry became a snap of words that scratched yet again the veneer of racial nicety in the islands.
What was said before the testy exchange doesn't really matter because what was said was said and can't be erased. It's already out there and will remain in our consciousness to be tickled to the forefront when the next of these hostile episodes comes up, and they will.
The idea that Hawaii is a place as sunny and cheerful as its weather is nuts and insulting. It jams the state into a rank of fantasy islands without the ornery accessories of cities and neglected demands of remaining rural areas.
That's why it's so easy for outsiders to take potshots at us, to consider us insignificant, our problems novelties, our strengths insubstantial.
A recent letter to the editor from a Minnesota man adopted this view.
"I have to wonder," he wrote, "just what is going on out there in 'paradise,'" citing what he construed to be racial violence, discomfort of "rich white folks" who might have to live near "low-income Hawaiians" -- which I took to mean locals in general -- resentment, hatred, income disparity, selfishness, gated communities and other issues.
He wondered why anyone would want to live here, and speculated that tourism has declined because "no one wants to go on vacation and see the same stuff they can see at home." He nailed shut his criticism by saying that if it weren't for having friends here, he would have no reason to visit.
I have to wonder why he hasn't asked his resident friends these questions. Maybe if he did, he would understand that the problems of an urban society do not skip beautiful places, especially beautiful places that are fast losing that distinction as the press of human flesh increases insistently with every birth, with every immigrant -- foreign and domestic -- with every ebb and flow of transient bodies.
I don't wonder at his disappointment and, despite his caustic tone, I have to agree that an atmospheric change is enveloping us. An inability to manage an influx of people and the pressures caused by the many are slowly infiltrating a long-standing mood of temperance and restraint in confrontation.
People seem more inclined to attack, find offense, to contradict and blame. Though much of this can be attributed to the crush of living conditions, I suspect at least a part of it bubbles from the mix of new ingredients into an old melting pot and a reluctance or incapacity of both to blend.
Hawaii's great assets are its glorious climate, marvelous cliffs and oceans, and unique plants and animals. But all of these -- blue skies, brown earth and green hills -- lose value if blues and browns and greens of eyes dull a still-strong desire for harmony and getting along.
Those who come to Hawaii with that sensibility and those who have thrived here because of it need to polish the fine veneer of acceptance. Even though thin, it is a layer of lasting, essential grace.
has been on the staff of the Star-Bulletin since 1976. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org