Big Problems With The Akaka Bill

Jerry Coffee
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Wednesday - June 07, 2006
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This week in the United States Senate may be the “moment of truth” for the Akaka Bill and the future of our country. Yes, not just Hawaii, but our country.

Early on in my 32 years in this beautiful state I became enamored by the Hawaiian spirit and culture. I’ve lived and worked in Maili and Makaha. I’ve drunk Primo beer with Hawaiian friends while prepping the luau pig, played music and sang with them, participated in more than one barefoot traditional Hawaiian wedding on the sands of Makua Beach - the groom passing the heirloom tapa cloak from his shoulders to the bride’s while dolphins frolicked in the background. I’ve seen the needs of Hawaiian people and have supported the Waianae Comprehensive Health Center which serves them. I am proud that one of my sons teaches math and science in the Hawaiian Charter School in Kamuela on the Big Island.

I love Hawaii, in part, because of its vibrant ethnic mix, all held together by the spirit of aloha - a spirit that is truly tangible

I could live anywhere in America, but I choose Hawaii. Just as while living the first half of my life in California I considered myself a “Californian,” I now consider myself a “Hawaiian” in the sense that I am “of” Hawaii.

So how is it that I’ve been called a racist and a bigot by some readers because I oppose the Akaka Bill?

The fact is, I deplore the mismanagement of the Hawaiian Homelands program over the past three decades until recently, and the state’s record of equivocation in paying Hawaiians the agreed upon income from ceded lands (it was just as bad under a Native Hawaiian governor). If Hawaiians have suffered any injustice, it has been in these programs, and they deserve better.

But Hawaiians have the best of both worlds; they are free to celebrate, nourish and perpetuate their unique culture through education, agriculture, language, music and dance. Tourism has enabled Hawaiians to share their pride in their culture and accomplishments, and to be appreciated throughout the world. At the same time, Native Hawaiians enjoy all the benefits of American citizenship, actively participating in the governmental process, from the U.S. Senate to the governor and throughout all levels of state government. Hawaiians have flourished in all professions and all segments of the economy. They have also shared the responsibility of defending their homeland. There are many Hawaiian names on the Korea-Vietnam Veterans Memorial on the Capitol grounds. And think of it, a Native Hawaiian could even become the president of the United States!

All of the above is why I oppose the Akaka Bill. It simply isn’t needed. More specifically, I oppose it because:

* As confirmed recently by the United States Commission on Civil Rights, it is race-based and unconstitutional, and no amount of revisionist Hawaiian history - even if it were not revision-ist - can change that fact.

* It will ultimately bring Native Hawaiians down to the level of Native Americans (the Akaka model), perpetuating a caste system with the lowest standards of living, the highest levels of dysfunction and graft, and perpetuate the perceptions of victimhood and dependency. Show me one Hawaiian who would trade places with a Reservation Indian not of the ruling class.

* It will result in two separate classes of citizens in Hawaii - one class immune from state zoning, environmental and tax laws, and established law enforcement and judicial system. As the few “benefit,” the majority will carry the burden of increased taxes and unfair economic competition. Next-door neighbors will live under separate governments - hardly a situation for unity and harmony.

* It will lay the foundation for a separate sovereign entity, above the state government and equal to the federal government, and eventually the means to secede from the Union, denials by proponents notwithstanding. Sen. Akaka evades this point: “That’s something for my grandchildren to decide.” Mexican minorities (soon majorities) will be emboldened to demand “the return” of the southwestern states, all of which will only promote division and fragmentation.

I love Hawaii, but I love America more. We are fighting a war that we did not choose, but if we are to survive as a nation, it must be won. And we can only win if we are united. How can anyone without selfish motives favor legislation that will only

separate us more?

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