Many have commented on the normalization of the rudeness coming from President Trump. I think that is a problem, but I will offer this story.

Some years prior to his run for the presidency, I sent one of my books to Mr. Trump at the Trump Organization for promotional purposes and I got a telephone call back from his executive secretary thanking me at his direction. This is far more than most bother to do and if nothing else, it tends to suggest that his rudeness is purposeful. Not that I am trying to justify it.

If we take a look back into recent history, there are some rather disturbing examples of normalization.

Up to our ears in debt: The author argues that the challenges of today have recent origins.

Flickr: Sean MacEntee

• Debt: Hopefully, everyone knows by now that the federal government is carrying very big debt and the problem has become acute. In the old days, people were embarrassed to admit they had debts and were generally looked down upon by their community. Top politicians were embarrassed by, and concerned about, government debt.

 Younger readers won’t remember, but credit cards didn’t always exist. They were pioneered in the 1960s by American Express and the San Francisco-based law firm of Morrison & Foerster. Today, we are so used to easy credit, and it is such a basic part of our economy, that we think nothing of getting in hock up to our eyeballs.

• Drugs: I don’t know about you all, but I am sick and tired of seeing television commercials selling me medical drugs.  In the old days, direct marketing of medical drugs to consumers was not allowed and the matter was left in the control of doctors. But when Medicare Part D (which created the drug benefit for the elderly) was enacted under Bush 43, Congress enabled direct marketing.

So when I hear the predictable histrionics from politicians about our opioid crisis, I must point out that people used to be embarrassed about “pill-popping,” at least they were before pharma started pummeling us daily with television commercials.

Some of our challenges may have been reasonably foreseeable back in the day when we set our feet upon the path.

• High-ticket military weapons: I get the idea of technological progress, but when you spend a lot on weapons systems, don’t you tend to give short shrift to the soldiers and the physical plant infrastructure? The unit cost in 1945 of a Grumman Hellcat was $45,000 (not inflation adjusted).

Fast-forward to today. The unit cost in 2017 of a Lockheed Martin F-22 is about $200 million. In addition, a modern jet aircraft can take about two years to build. So you’ve got to ask yourself what happens if we get into a big conventional war and our aircraft start to get shot down. What do we do then?

In World War II, America built about 300,000 planes. By the end of the war, we had about 14 million people under uniform. I’m not sure a war on that scale is even possible for us to fight today. Not that I’m advocating for one, you understand.   

• Free love: Americans have always been a bit more prudish than their European counterparts, owing partly to the original colonists having among them many refugees from religious persecution. The 1960s saw the sexual revolution, which was facilitated by various birth control methods. Today, estimates are that sexually transmitted disease are on the rise in the U.S. population. Gee, this is a short paragraph.

How Hawaii Fits In

I think Hawaii has many of the same issues that exist in other parts of the nation, although we are clearly ahead on the idea of people of many backgrounds living and working together. But one thing that has been normalized in a way that is disturbing to me is the lack of any attempt by some to be open to adopting some useful part of Hawaiian culture.

Does everyone know what the words “pono,” “hanai” and “akua” mean?  I sure hope so.

Two points to take away:

First, Hawaiian culture is the main thing that differentiates us as a tourist destination, so I’m talking business.  Second, if you compare the music of someone like Dennis Pavao or Mark Yamanaka to the Fourth Symphony of Anton Bruckner, don’t you think that there might be something good about Hawaiian culture?

A recent Hawaii Symphony concert with a slack-key guitar concerto by Maui-born guitarist Jeff Petersen showed that cultural cross-learning can yield great results.

• Final observations: I’m not sure I have a recommendation. Perhaps these are merely the workings out of history and que sera sera (whatever will be will be). But on the other hand, some of this stuff may have been reasonably foreseeable back in the day when we set our feet upon the path.

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