GOP Insults Hawaii’s Host Culture

Dan Boylan
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Wednesday - August 29, 2007

On the weekend preceding the 2000 General Election, Republican Linda Lingle and her running mate Duke Aiona and Democrat Mazie Hirono and hers, Matt Matsunaga, met in a televised debate before representatives from the Office of Hawaiian Affairs.

I watched that debate, and along with almost everyone I know who did, I came away convinced that Lingle and Aiona bested the Democrats. Lingle seemed to express genuine concern for the plight of Hawaii’s first people: their alienation from the aina that had once been theirs alone, the disproportionate number of homeless and incarcerated among them, and their continued position at the bottom of Hawaii’s economy.

Lingle’s promise of a fairer deal for the Islands’host people - and the presence of the part-Hawaiian Aiona at her side - certainly contributed to her victory in 2000.

On several fronts, Lingle’s administration has done well by Hawaiians. Micah Kane at the Hawaiian Homes Commission has worked well with all parties concerned to put more Hawaiians back on the land. He’s demonstrated a willingness to forgo partisanship and work with anyone, of any political denomination to improve the lot of Hawaiians - his people.

Early on in her administration, Lingle threw her support behind the Akaka Bill - the long-stalled federal legislation designed to grant Hawaiians the recognition enjoyed by every other indigenous people in the United States. Many Hawaiians believed that her influence with the president and the Republican-dominated Congress would finally deliver passage of the bill.

It hasn’t happened. Instead, Republican idealogues on the National Civil Rights Commission recently appointed Hawaii residents H. William Burgess, Paul Sullivan, James Kuroiwa, Reubellite Johnson and Tom McDonald to the Hawaii Civil Rights Commission. All have either been party to suits against Hawaiian agencies, gone on record in opposition to the Akaka Bill, or both.

The Office of Hawaiian Affairs sent a list of nine candidates for local commission. None received an appointment.

In other words, the National Civil Rights Commission stacked the deck - well-stacked the deck - against the Akaka Bill. Then they announced hearings on the bill in Honolulu.

Oh, the Republican Party of George W. Bush and the dearly departed Karl Rove - old white guys, still trying to fashion national political realignment on the debris of Iraq and battered American minorities, from blacks to gays to Native Americans to Hawaiians.

Ain’t they grand? In their final days they’ll stack courts and commissions with those who’ll fight a rear guard action against the demographically inevitable American future: one in which the United States will be a nation of minorities, including those indigenous peoples - Native American and Hawaiian - who’ve been victims of western germs and land thievery.

I mean to heap neither scorn nor derision on Gov. Lingle, but she’s running with the wrong crowd. She deserves better than so-called civil rights advocates in her national Republican Party who feel that the host people of her state unequal to every other indigenous people in the country.

Lingle deserves better, but she also needs to say something - something supportive of the Akaka Bill, something critical of her national political party that would so insult Hawaii’s host culture by appointing Burgess, Sullivan, Kuroiwa and McDonald to the Hawaii Civil Rights Commission.

Clyde Namuo, the Office of Hawaiian Affairs administrator, has condemned the Republican-dominated National Committee on Civil Rights for “intentionally (appointing) people to the Hawaii committee who oppose the Akaka Bill.”

Namuo argues that opposition to the Akaka Bill has “billions of dollars and a network of think tanks as part of a nationwide agenda. They are a formidable foe, but we believe we will prevail. We continue to work closely with Hawaii’s congressional delegation and Governor Lingle.” Good. But Hawaii’s congressional delegation and especially Gov. Lingle have a responsibility to renounce - or persuade - those in Washington and Hawaii who use the cover of civil rights to destroy the hard-won institutional progress Hawaiians have made in recent years.

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