Monday, January 26, 2009

Aloha Spirit

I've been struggling a lot lately with the concept of "aloha spirit" that is so frequently talked about in Hawaii. I know that people like to think of Hawaii as somehow different from everywhree else. In a lot of ways, it is, but I'm not convinced that it's different in the way that people want it to be. Here is a series of events that has led me to question how "different" Hawaii really is from anywhere else:

In late December, a Kahului man shot to death his own 19-year-old son in a dispute over, of all things, the son having left a game controller on the floor. It was the first murder on Maui in 2008, but it was followed shortly by:

The first murder of 2009. A Kahului woman stabbed her boyfriend to death in a dispute over her alcoholism.

On New Year's Eve, my roommate's car was broken into. About a week and a half later, it was stolen (presumably by the same people) and has not been recovered. I doubt we'll ever see it again. (Don't feel too bad. It was a POS car, only $800, and he didn't even have it insured.)

Last week, a man followed another man into the store where my husband works and started a fight with him that broke one of the store's window frames. It turns out to have stemmed from a road rage incident, although witnesses all felt that the instigator was high on drugs.

And I could go on, but I think you get the point.

I can't even begin to tell you how many times I've had people tell me how jealous they are that I live in Hawaii. It honestly perplexes me. In the most basic sense, Hawaii is no different than anywhere else. For the most part, you can't get by without a job. I don't know anyone here who spends all day on the beach. We all work. We all go to the store. We all sit home some nights and watch TV. And we all have problems.

Hawaii isn't some magical place that's outside the normal realm of human existence. Maybe if you could be on permanent vacation it would be, but that's not reality for 99% of the human race.

So does "aloha" really exist? I think it does. But I just see it as basic kindness. I've lived in other places where people are just as friendly and genuine. And I've lived in other places where they're not as friendly or genuine. I haven't seen anything special yet, but here is a nice story to leave you with:

In November, we were in the middle of a move that left our bank account briefly depleted. I went to Costco to buy some rolls for Thanksgiving dinner, not knowing that they don't take credit cards (I never shopped at Costco before moving here) and unaware that my husband hadn't deposited the cash our roommate had given him, as he had told me he would. Needless to say, when I got to the checkout, I didn't have enough cash to buy both bags of rolls that I wanted. It was excrutiatingly embarrassing. I was fumbling for the cash to buy just one bag when the lady in line behind me graciously gave me the money to cover the second bag.

It's two months later, and I still feel so grateful.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

And the Scandal Deepens....

Last week, a "group of Maui residents" (as the Maui News described them) initiated a petition to have county council member Wayne Nishiki impeached, based on the late filing of his financial disclosure.

Really, color me shocked. I never thought it would get this far. I have to admit that I have a hard time understanding where all of the moral outrage is coming from here. Are people angry about the perceived deception, or about the possibility that one of our council members could "owe" something to the biggest, baddest development company on the island?

Whether it's the former or the latter, I'd be really dumbfounded to discover that people on Maui are somehow ridiculously naive, as compared to the rest of the country. Do you really think politicians never deceive, never use smoke and mirrors, never fudge the truth? And what is politics if not deal-making and compromises done behind closed doors? Honestly, you'd think the island of Maui had never seen a political scandal before.

Maybe I'm just a cynic. But I don't think what Nishiki did was all that bad. And I certainly don't think it's worth an impeachment. A reprimand, certainly, but impeachment? Seems a touch dramatic to me.

At any rate, I was feeling a little suspicious of the motivations of the people leading the impeachment charge. The Maui News did not identify the group, and listed their leader only as "Dave Mackwell," without any explanation of who he is or how he's associated with the situation. 

So I followed the newspaper's link to the impeachment group's website. (Sorry, no link; I don't care attach it to my blog.) They also fail to identify themselves as anything other than "angry Maui residents." They make no mention of Dave Mackwell. However, they do take great pains to note that they are "in no way affiliated" with Don Couch, Nishiki's opponent in the hotly contested battle for the council seat that Nishiki won.

Hmmm, I thought to myself, methinks they doth protest too much.

So I started doing a little digging around on the Internet, and here's what I discovered. Dave Mackwell is a former board president of the Kihei Community Association. Don Couch currently serves on the board of the Kihei Community Association. How interesting.

Now, I don't have any conclusive evidence at this point which would prove that they served on the board at the same time, but it appears as though they did. They both seem to have been on the board within the last few years, and I gather that they may have overlapped for at least one of those years. It's a small board. I find it hard to believe - if they did serve at the same time - that they didn't get to know one another.

Which leads me to ponder: Does the Mackwell group's drive to impeachment really have nothing to do with Don Couch? And if these two men do in fact know one another, isn't this just as deceptive as what Nishiki did?

And, seriously, what's up Maui News? I found out this info by using Google. You might want to try it. Scandal sells papers, you know!

Will update when and if I find out more on this topic.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

33 Going on 13

One of my brothers was complaining to me the other day that his co-workers were making fun of him for bringing his lunch to work. Now, it's a firmly well-established fact that my brother works with a bunch of petty idiots, but I found this particular incident rather perplexing. How could grown adults possibly consider this something to make fun of?

I thought about it for a while, and it struck me that the last time I ran into this kind of attitude was when I was in junior high. Back then, it was "uncool" to bring your lunch to school. Only losers did that. I remember because we were pretty poor growing up. I couldn't afford hot lunch, so I was definitely one of those uncool losers. But I also remember leaving that attitude behind a long time ago. In fact, pretty much everywhere I've ever worked as an adult, bringing one's lunch to work was the norm.

This line of thought brought me to something my husband is frequently saying. I belong to an on-line forum where there is a fair amount of drama and stupidity. Whenever I complain about this to my husband, he says, "Well, everybody is 13 online." Which, when you think about it, is an apt description of many online encounters.

So this has got me to thinking. I wonder if, on the inside, we're all still 13 years old? Of course, some of us are better at controlling it than others, and some are better at hiding it than others. But what if our inner 13-year-old lurks there all the time, just waiting to burst forth when our guard is down?

I definitely see mine in me. She's been around a lot lately.

I don't like my 13-year-old self all that much. She's not who I want to be. I remember other selves that I like better. There was my 20-year-old self, who traipsed off to another country and finally learned how to make real friends. She was pretty cool. And there was my 23-year-old self, who moved to Portland with little more than a job and two suitcases, who managed to build a nice life for herself. She was a lot braver than she realized at the time. Then there was my 29-year-old self, who learned to stand on her own again. She had a couple of pretty good years, despite a few hardships.

I know all those selfs I admire are still in there too. So I wonder why the 13-year-old still resonates so loudly, these 20 years later?