Kicking Our Keiki In The Teeth

Dan Boylan
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Wednesday - March 30, 2005

A week ago Saturday, I was reading the letters column of the Honolulu Star-Bulletin where I came upon a missive from Alan Cummings of Port Angeles, Wash. Wrote Mr. Cummings:

“I really enjoy Corky’s cartoons whenever I read them, which is every day, but I have one question. How is it that he has a job with a newspaper that is so slanted to the right (by that I mean the editorial section)?

“When I read the letters I sometimes think that the vast majority of the letter writers are employees of the FoxNews network.”

By golly, I’ve had the same thought — not about the Star- Bulletin’s editorial policy; it seems reasonably balanced to me — about the letter-writers. Whew! They come disproportionately out of right field, along the right field foul line — in fact, maybe across it. And those FoxNews employees seem to correspond equally with the other daily paper, and MidWeek as well.

Consider, for example, the editorial that ran that Saturday right next to Mr. Cummings’ letter. It began: “Fluoridation of water has provided most Americans with the safest and most economical protection against tooth decay, but paranoid activism has denied that benefit to most Hawaii residents.”

It sure has. The last time I wrote on the need to add fluoride to Hawaii’s water, I heard from every anti-fluoride crackpot from Laie to Lanikai, from Hawaii Kai to Hauula, from … oh, you get the idea.

As the S-B editors pointed out: “Hawaii and Utah are the only states where less than 10 percent of the population has access to tap water containing fluoride additives; such water is only available on military bases in Hawaii. As a result, the state’s children have the highest rate of tooth decay in the nation.”

The highest! Doesn’t it make you proud? All those little kids with silver teeth and stumps in their jaws running around our streets. And why? Because a bunch of nuts who once argued that fluoridation was a communist plot to poison us all are still capable of scaring the willies out of our legislators, our governor, our mayors and our councils.

Political courage usually comes in small portions, but on the fluoridation issue miniscule is the proper term. Holy crow! The World Health Organization, the American Dental Association (and its members have a lot to lose: money, money — bundles of it), and the American Medical Association all support fluoridation. You’d think that would strengthen the spines of Hawaii’s elected pols.

But no. Every campaign season, every session of the Legislature, Gov. Linda Lingle, Speaker Calvin Say, President Bobby Bunda, Mayor Mufi Hannemann — all of ’em, at some point — make the same plaintive appeal: “Let’s do it for the keiki.” Let’s do this for the keiki; let’s do that for the keiki.

Well here’s an easy one, and it’s been around a long time. “Let’s put one tablespoon of fluoride in every 4,000 gallons of Hawaii’s water — for the keiki” so that they don’t have to spend gruesome sessions in dental parlors having their teeth ground and filled.

Why won’t the politicians do it? Because the Guv, the Speaker, the Pres and the Mufster don’t give a rip about the keiki if it means angering a bunch of voting age certifiables — who probably now attribute fluoridation to a terrorist attack on the United States.

Hawaii’s Democratic majority should feel the greater guilt. The George W. Bush Republican party has, in New York Times columnist Bob Herbert’s words, “fashion a new era of exploitation of the poor and the very young.”

But for half-a-century Hawaii’s Dems have argued they’re the party of compassion, of caring, of concern for the welfare of young and old. So, dear Dems, tell the keiki one and all:

“We have a cure for tooth decay — but we’re not going to let you have it.”

Why? Read the letters columns and hear the loud paranoid voices who cow us all.

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