The claim game
It is an indisputable fact that many years ago a group of foreigners came to the peaceful Hawaiian Islands and overthrew their local governments and way of life, enslaving them and taking away all of their rights to self-rule.
They did this with the help of waves of their fellow foreigners, overpowering the Hawaiian people with their “might makes right” philosophy and many acts of violence. Arguably, the Hawaiian people have never recovered from this oppression.
Unless one agrees that “might makes right,” these foreign oppressors cannot claim any legal rights or moral standing in these islands, and the government they erected on the ashes of the real Hawaiian people’s culture has no claims to the control of any land or assets here.
Of course, these foreign invaders were the Tahitians, and the government they imposed on the peaceful Hawaiians was the slave state of Kamehameha.
No one who respects the real Hawaiian people can claim any cultural or religious rights to Maunakea or anything else in Hawaii based on the results of a 14-year war of domination of Kamehameha, who the real Hawaiians did not respect or want as their king, often fighting hand-to-hand with his racist warriors and being killed or enslaved.
It’s about respect
All too often the big picture is obscured by events that define it. Such I would argue is the situation being revealed on Maunakea.
What we are really looking at is the embattled and obscured role of justice in its struggle to influence law. The big picture here is not whether the Thirty Meter Telescope should be built atop the mountain, or even if the cultural practices that appropriately govern such an undertaking are honored. Instead, the issue is whether or not a conflict of this stature can be adjudicated according to rules of fair play, rather than the rule of law.
It can be convincingly and even correctly argued that the observatory envisioned atop Maunakea would represent a significant scientific as well as economic opportunity. However, what is at stake here is not what ultimately happens, but how it happens.
Let us recognize that astronomy, while part of every civilization’s culture, most indelibly and profoundly belongs to the people of the Pacific, and in this case, the Hawaiians. Recently the voyages of the Hokulea demonstrated the practical engagement of astronomy, confirming the cultural attachment to the original inhabitants of these islands.
There is no doubt that the telescope would serve to advance the knowledge and perhaps even the application of astronomy, but before we go there, we need to understand that building such a facility on Maunakea is a proprietary issue for Hawaiians as it represents an adjustment to their culture, currently navigating a legal system all too often foreign to its values.
Perhaps respect, the very essence of that culture, is the overriding theme here — respect, I would argue, first toward the mountain itself. If this respect were shown by all parties, then all parties could and would work together to achieve what is fair to all.
Going forward, I would propose that we begin by removing every structure atop the mountain — every man-made object of recent history. This provides for a demonstrated apology to Maunakea by all offenders.
We then, going forward within the scope of the evolved culture of this place, design and build what becomes an extension of the spirit of discovery, a worthy amakua of the mountain, positioned so that the unadorned majesty of Maunakea is again displayed.
This is a win for astronomy, acknowledges the attachment to the past, and most assuredly a triumph for justice. Justice for both the people and for the mountain.
That is the big picture here which, if not seen, only confirms our trajectory toward a black hole of our own design.
‘My heart is heavy’
As a resident of Hawaii for over 37 years and a former docent at an astronomy center for over 12 years, I have had the privilege and extraordinary opportunity of learning many aspects of Hawaiian culture.
I have come to know and admire the many Hawaiians involved in cultural interpretations of exhibits, development of student curriculum and Hawaiian navigation by the stars.
Volunteering was a special experience, especially being part of their mission and noble goals: Ka Nu‘ukia, life-long learning where the power of Hawaii’s cultural traditions, its legacy of exploration and wonders of astronomy come together to provide inspiration, and Ke Ala Nu‘ukia, to honor Maunakea by sharing Hawaiian culture and science to inspire exploration.
No guest or visitor ever left without some knowledge of Hawaiian culture, in addition to all the carefully interpreted exhibits and sector displaying the expertise of ancient Hawaiian navigators and their knowledge of the stars.
The mutual sharing of the depth of indigenous knowledge with modern astronomy is such an enlightened goal. It never failed to elicit mutual respect and admiration. This is my personal observation and feeling and I do not speak for others.
I have watched the persistent and unfailing efforts of many Hawaiians to achieve this mission, which included the astronomy community and proposed new observatory. The Hawaiian naming of celestial objects was another aspect of collaboration to forward this goal.
The current contentious situation brings an overwhelming sadness to my heart, especially the disregard for so many cultural teachers who share this goal. My heart is heavy. I hope the many Hawaiians who worked so diligently to achieve this mission eventually have their voices heard and valued, too, just like the kupuna of Mo‘okini.
My admiration and respect for their hard work is limitless, and I will always hold them in the highest regard.
Centrist equals defeat
The establishment wisdom concerning the need to run a safe, middle-of-the-road Democrat, such as Joe Biden, couldn’t possibly be more misguided.
Hillary Clinton did everything but throw rotten fruit at the left-wing of the Democratic Party — that is, as Bernie Sanders has accurately said, “the Democratic wing of the Democratic party” — and the result was to elect a Republican president so bad that he was considered unelectable.
Now, once again, the established wisdom of the established media is that the Democrats need to back a lukewarm centrist, or in other words, make the same mistake again.
The logic behind the need for a centrist is nonexistent. Who does the Democratic Party intend to sway with such reasoning? Hillary proved that there are no moderate Republicans to be swayed to the Democratic ticket. Her strategy to do so proved a disaster. Those with any political awareness whatsoever (I no longer count the Clintons among them), already knew that was true before the last election.
Trump voters will never change their minds. Independents are notorious in their stubborn commitment to their own ideas and who can’t predictably be swayed by any strategy at all.
Finally, there are more Democrats than Republicans. Even after turning off millions of Democrats in the last election Hillary won the popular vote, and exit polls confirmed she swayed no centrist Republicans to her cause. There are no centrist Republicans, and they wouldn’t be voting for Trump in any case.
So despite the pro-corporate, pro-Wall Street pundits’ advice, the only result that can be expected from another boring, centrist, Democratic ticket in 2016 is four more years of Donald Trump.
Harley Brent Hightower