Embracing Our Island Diversity
Wednesday - May 16, 2007
I’m not sure how to deal with the exchange between Larry Price and Sen. Gary Hooser on KSSK’s Perry and Price Show.
Part of me wants to laugh along with Sen. Hooser; but part of me wants to cry. Somehow, I can’t find the anger in me that has filled so many letters’ columns this past week.
The British novelist Kingsley Amis has been heard to say that “there isn’t much point in writing if you can’t annoy someone.” All of us in the scribbling trade understand that; those in the morning radio drive business do too - even more clearly.
And politician abuse is a sacred American right, particularly well-exercised by columnists and radio personalities - of which Coach Price is both.
Now I don’t listen to the Perry and Price Show, nor do I regularly read my colleague’s column (as I suspect he passes on mine). But I recognize - and respect - his dual roles as provocateur and pummeler of pols. I indulge in both myself on a regular basis.
But the problem, of course, had to do with “blue eyes,” Hooser’s birth in California, and Coach Price’s distrust of people with blue eyes who were not born in Hawaii. That’s dangerous ground, historically understandable, but dangerous nonetheless. As a locally born, part-Hawaiian, Price knows the history of blue-eyed devils on ships from across the seas infecting a native people with disease and trading Christianity for precious Island land.
He’s also grown up in a society wherein blue eyes and pale faces have often meant, by some unwritten law, higher social and economic status.
All that said, the good Coach was out of line and he knows it.
Price knows that some of us blue eyes are also loyal, kind, obedient, cheerful, brave, clean and reverent - every bit as much as he and the friends of his youth who learned to distrust us. And some of us are untrustworthy, disloyal, mean, rebellious, dour, cowardly, dirty and irreverent.
We are virtuous and vile in roughly equal measure, even within ourselves - just as Coach Price and the presumably brown-eyed friends of his youth are.
He knows that as well, and that’s why Coach Price apologized for the line of questioning he took with Sen. Hooser.
Hooser is the only one who comes out of this messy little affair looking good. He laughed at Price’s question about whether he had “blue eyes.” I didn’t hear the program, but I hope it was raucous laughter; because that’s what such a question deserved. And he told Price that he took offense.
Bullying has become a staple of the media in our times. Somehow, if you can eek out a few more Nielsen points by being a jerk, the networks allow it.
In this instance, Hooser said no to it. He complained, on air, and both KSSK and Price recognized that an apology was in order. (Perry, inexplicably, did not. But Perry, inexplicably, still finds the war in Iraq a righteous endeavor.).
The whole Price-Hooser affair, however, points out the delicate nature of this society. We know a wonderful diversity of peoples, and we tolerate wide cultural differences that go far beyond the color of our eyes or where we were born. But we must be careful. This is a society in which no one ethnic group constitutes a majority and the possibilities for tyranny that come with it. Blue eyes do not dominate, and the shades of brown vary widely. Therein lays our strength: our need to make common cause with one another.
Let’s not forget that, even if doing so will win us a ratings point or two.
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