The Myth Of A Perfect Paradise

Susan Page
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Wednesday - March 14, 2007
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Driving up familiar Aiea Heights Drive, my joy was so overwhelming I actually shouted out loud. Woo-hoo!

Years ago some amazing visionary had the foresight to plant nine shower trees - now 30 feet tall - on both sides of the lower drive, which every spring turns into a fireworks display of yellow blossoms.

Those trees are one of those sights that make you not care if USA Today told the world that Hawaii might just suck in the aloha department (“Racial Tensions Simmer in Hawaii” - By Martin Kasindorf 3-7-07). Those magnificent trees are just one tiny example of God’s natural beauty that shouts Aloha 365 days a year to all who set foot in the Islands.

I admit I was a bit bummed to read the USA Today article.

But I understand the reality of the news media. Where there’s a scab, the media will find it and pick it, overlooking the rest of the more or less healthy body. And, the headline “Trouble in Paradise” seems to be at the top of the media cliché list for describing any Aloha malfunction here.

But truth is Hawaii is not “paradise,” especially if the word is defined as being “perfect.” It’s just closer to it than most places, in my view. According to one Encarta dictionary definition: Paradise is “a place, situation, or condition in which somebody finds perfect happiness.”

We all find paradise in different things. I find perfect happiness looking at yellow shower trees.

Someone else might find it diving Kahuna Canyon near Mokuleia, another, watching a sunrise on Kailua Beach, and still another watching UH quarterback Colt Brennan throw long to Devon Bess.

Hawaii is full of people - Hawaiian and non-Hawaiian - and people aren’t perfect. They weren’t perfect in Hawaii before the “overthrow” when there was a governmental system of slaves (kauwa), peasants (maka’ainana), knights (kao warriors), priests (kahuna), dukes (lesser ali’i) and kings (ali’i).

And, they haven’t been perfect with a system of governors and mayors, and a legislature.

There were wrongs then and there are now. I am not discussing the Hawaiian sovereignty issue here - just the human frailty one.

Whoever in ages past gave Hawaii the title “paradise” didn’t do us any favors, because it meant we have had to constantly keep things like murders, assaults, homeless on the beach, sewage spills, hurricanes, tsunamis and shark attacks as low key as possible in the national and international media.

We also have prominent UH professor of Hawaiian studies Haunani-Kay Trask, who, among other things, wrote the following poem, which our visitors and convention bureau probably wouldn’t want USA Today to run.

Racist White Woman I could kick Your face, puncture Both eyes. You deserve this kind Of violence. No more vicious Tongues, obscene Lies. Just a knife Slitting your tight Little heart. For all my people Under your feet For all those years Lived smug and wealthy Off our land Parasite arrogant A fist In your painted Mouth, thick With money And piety

Trask’s poem sort of undoes the idea of “Hawaii’s harmonious aloha spirit” questioned in the USA Today article where she was quoted saying she hates the United States (making me wish my tax dollars weren’t paying her UH salary just as much as she wishes she could slit my white woman heart - not that I’m smug, wealthy or racist, unless being white is indistinguishable from racism, in which case Ms. Trask has some relatives to explain). Maybe violence is her idea of paradise. If the brutal assault on the military husband and wife at Waikele by a native Hawaiian father and son was a racist hate crime, maybe Trask was gleeful.

But, oh, those shower trees! They and the simply swell people who make up the majority here keep me shouting out loud - at least for now.

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