Under the Sun
Living in paradise with all its flaws and failures
ALOHA Airlines goes belly up. Molokai Ranch shuts down. Cruise ships that promised fresh deliveries of tourism revenue have quit the harbors.
Gasoline prices relentlessly pump toward the $4 mark, the fleeting threshold of pocketbook pain until a higher one is set. Everything greased by oil -- from essentials like food, clothing and electricity to discretionary items like alarm clocks, books and flowers -- gets more expensive.
Friction over land and water grind louder with each successive conflict in a state that sees its resources pushing at finite.
Industries and businesses look hard for silver linings, taking comfort in foreign visitor numbers that skip up as the dollar buckles against other currencies. Local banks and mortgage lenders smooth financial feathers with the fact that foreclosures here haven't yet reached the extremes seen in other parts of the United States.
Government spending, the backbone of employment and economic vitality, hasn't tapered off, but decreasing tax collections hint at inevitable tightened layouts and possible tax increases.
Tough economic times ride constant on Hawaii and though U.S. Census figures have a small number of people leaving Oahu, still more are choosing to live on these small islands.
I wonder why.
The typical answers of weather, good environment and exotic locale should be nullified by expensive housing, overpriced goods and services, bad roads, bad public schools, bad public facilities, a bad business atmosphere and bad government led by bad elected officials and administered by a host of bad, unionized workers.
There seems no end to criticism of life in Hawaii. Not-in-my-backyard and finger-pointing reign as supreme sports in the state.
Muted racial divisions are condemned ferociously when they surface, as if they do not exist elsewhere or are worse here because they take different forms. A landfill less visible than a blinding, glass-and-mirror Kakaako highrise becomes a wicked conspiracy to victimize one side of Oahu. A quarry operation that since the 1970s has been excavating material needed to build the masses of houses on formerly vacant scrub land finds itself a target of new house owners who don't like living near a dusty, ugly outfit and want it gone.
When the company that owns an inordinate amount of properties on the Friendly Isle had the limited choices it served up rejected by the community, it petulantly slammed its doors. Thereafter came a deluge of blame, most of it flowing over the Molokai inhabitants who wisely said no to more tourism and to outsiders whose wealth would eventually have undue influence over the island's future.
Aloha Airlines' demise unleashed another torrent of fault-finding. Few were spared. Blame-worthy were the airline's previous and current management, its employees, do-nothing legislators and an equally idle governor, a predatory competitor, people who opposed the Superferry, bargain-hungry passengers and environmentalists who blocked drilling in an Alaskan wildlife refuge, causing the price of oil and the jet fuel to skyrocket.
With such a grand population of bozos and incompetents and the mess of civilization, no one should want to sign up for island living. But many have and many more will come.
Maybe it really is the environment, the still-beautiful beaches, remnants of untouched mountains and flats of green between them. Or maybe it's simply hope, the prospect of a paradise, even an imperfect one.
has been on the staff of the Star-Bulletin since 1976. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org