Under the Sun
Trading legal order for potential chaos
In the 1960s, Americans who took to the streets to protest the Vietnam war, civil rights violations and other social issues were chided for their conduct and told to "work within the system."
The decades that followed saw advocates for change doing exactly that. They campaigned for candidates who supported their views, pushed for legislation, petitioned and appealed to their governments and the courts.
They followed the rules with the expectation that on a level field of play, determinations made on the merits of reason would have the weight of authority behind them.
Turns out they were wrong.
Rule-breaking rule-makers, it seems, have no compunctions about self-immunization. Thus, the state Legislature and Gov. Linda Lingle are primed to rearrange the orderly process of law for the Hawaii Superferry.
They say the majority wants what they want -- the proof is in the polling -- and in this country, majority rules.
Right. That's why, with polls showing the majority of Americans want U.S. troops out of Iraq, soldiers are still fighting a war that has no end in sight. That's why with polls showing most Americans favor a program to help low- and middle-income parents buy health insurance for their kids, the plan to do that has been rejected by the Bush administration.
They say Hawaii's economy badly needs the ferry service to help farmers, small businesses and tourism, so much so that environmental laws designed to protect farmers, small businesses and tourism as well as marine mammals, natural resources and the social structures of each island should be set aside.
They say they'll make an exception just this once, a refrain echoing from a legislative attempt to get a West Hawaii luxury housing project out from under a legal dispute last year. They say it is necessary because of extraordinary circumstances made so when the administration made a mistake in exempting the company from the law and legislators tuned out cautionary voices of county officials and neighbor island people.
Neither is willing to own up to their part, though lawmakers want an investigation of the administration's decision-making process in hopes of laying blame on Lingle.
As things stand, the fault for the ferry failure has been pinned illogically and unfairly on the plaintiffs' groups on Maui. They, bundled in with ferry opponents on Kauai, have been branded as "far-left fringe" groups, the vocal minority and "hysterical protesters" who, having moved to Hawaii only recently, want to shut the door now that they're inside.
It may be that all members of the plaintiffs' groups don't have the vague credentials to wear the local badge, who weren't "born and raised on poi," as one of their critics perplexingly claimed to validate his opinion. But that doesn't matter; none should be denied the right to challenge the wisdom of political leaders who can lose sight of the need to balance powerful, moneyed interests against the welfare of the state, and who don't grasp that these are not mutually exclusive.
The Maui people who brought suit sought to get the government to obey the law. They worked within the system, a system that's being mutilated to choke them off, a move that is as chaotic and divisive as protests in the harbors.
has been on the staff of the Star-Bulletin since 1976. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org