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David Shapiro
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By David Shapiro

Saturday, September 16, 2000

Trask sisters’ sound
& fury signify zip

THERE seems to be a touch of sibling rivalry between Hawaiian activist sisters Haunani-Kay and Mililani Trask since Mililani got media attention for calling Sen. Daniel Inouye a "one-armed bandit" -- in reference to the limb Inouye lost in an act of wartime heroism that earned him the Medal of Honor.

Gov. Ben Cayetano cited that and other racist slurs this week in declining to appoint Mililani to the board of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs.

Haunani-Kay jumped on the opportunity to show that the class in the Trask family doesn't end with Mililani. She defended sis by parading outside of the governor's residence during a reception for the president of the Philippines with a sign that said, "F-- Ben." Except she spelled out the word without the dashes.

It's astonishing how the sisters Trask keep getting so much attention -- not for the power of their ideas, but for their big mouths and uncouth conduct. Their persistent public vulgarity demeans them and the movement they claim to represent. It suggests an intellectual vacuum between the ears of women who pride themselves on their education.

I'm not particularly offended by the "F" word. I've seen it before as, I'm sure, have the governor and the president of the Philippines. The children present at Haunani-Kay's rally probably already knew the word, too, but seeing it used by a woman old enough to be their grandmother certainly diminished their chances of future public civility.

You would think the former director of Hawaiian studies at our state university could have come up with a Hawaiian word to describe her feelings about the governor. She could have at least put a kahako mark over the "u" to make it look more Hawaiian.

The Trasks have long been on the edge of the Hawaiian movement, trying to elbow their way into wherever they think the power -- and money -- are going to be. Their chief weapon has always been noise.

Think about this historical comparison: The great George Helm gave his life in the cause of Hawaiian rights. Bumpy Kanahele went to jail for his beliefs. The Trasks call people schoolyard names and flash children with nasty words. Their contribution kind of comes up short, no?

At one time, you had to give them credit for keeping the debate interesting. But it's been a long time since either has been in the news with anything interesting or important to say. Now they resort to obscenity to get the attention they crave.

AT this turning point in Hawaiian history, we can't allow those who make the most noise to keep drowning out quieter Hawaiian voices who have the most to say. Honorable public officials such as Inouye and Cayetano want to be friends to Hawaiians. Everybody loses if they're turned away as "anti-Hawaiian" in a barrage of silly name-calling.

Haunani-Kay would tell me right about now that there's an airplane leaving within the hour for back to where I came from. That's the line she used once on some poor fellow at the University of Hawaii who got on her cross side.

If the Trasks could only transform their talent for the crude insult to eloquent discourse that inspires followers to great accomplishments, maybe then they could truly become the Hawaiian leaders they fancy themselves.

David Shapiro is managing editor of the Star-Bulletin.
He can be reached by e-mail at

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