I once knew a man who was a taxi-driving hippie anarchist in Honolulu.

It was the early 1970’s and I was a student at UH Manoa. We didn’t really know each other, but I knew of him. You couldn’t avoid knowing about him in those days. The loud, brash comments about establishment politicians, how things had to change, and how he was running for office to start the revolution and change the world from the inside.

I liked what he had to say. It made sense. I viewed him as a “friend”.

That taxi-driving hippie anarchist in Honolulu was Neil Abercrombie.

Sadly, he’s turned into just the sort of man he hated.

He went to Washington to change things. Instead, Washington changed him. Once he got there, he discovered the world wasn’t black and white and he had no power to change anything.

So he joined forces with the one man from Hawaii who had power, Dan Inouye, the same man Neil had criticized in his campaign. He soon became Dan’s boy. So began Neil’s amazing transformation from taxi-driving hippie anarchist to establishment Congressman.

DC does that to you. Capitol Hill is a nice place. It’s clean; the police know you; there’s a free gym, a nice pension plan, a budget for an office, staff, and return trips to your state, plenty vacations and – did I mention – pretty good pay.

I know – ’cause I liked the atmosphere there too.

My name is PF Bentley. I was a contract photographer for TIME Magazine for almost 20 years. I covered many beats, one of which was Capitol Hill. I was trusted by both major parties and given access to closed door meetings in order to photograph history. I was also trusted never to repeat what was said.

You might remember my black and white images in the pages of TIME. I was there in 1995, when Newt Gingrich took over as Speaker of the House. I was there on 9/12, 2001 and have the only images of high level meetings among Congressional leaders of both parties, along with the President and Vice-President. I have photographed some very intense and sensitive times in our nation’s history. I left that beat in 2003.

But this isn’t about me.

In all the time I worked on the Hill, I never saw or photographed Neil Abercrombie in any meetings. When the Capitol Hill media would mob some Senator or Congressperson for a quote or reaction, Rep. Abercrombie would sometimes be walking alone on the other side of the hall. No one really cared about Neil. He wasn’t a player.

When his name would come up with members of either party the reaction was usually the same: “Oh, The Hippie,” said with a little smirk, like it was a joke.

The people of Hawaii may have thought Mr. Neil was some big shot doing our business in Washington. I saw a much different man. A man who had his principles sucked out of him by the realities of Washington. A man walking the halls of Congress alone, just hanging onto Dan Inouye’s coattails.

You see, Neil had no real power until he was elected Governor of our state.

And unfortunately, like many people who finally obtain real power, it’s gone to his head.

Power can be a good if used for good things.

Power can be bad – like a dictator’s power.

Which brings us to present-day Hawaii, where we have a liberal fascist governor who’s hell bent on a world class boondoggle — industrial wind turbines, undersea cables, and a state-wide electrical grid.

Neil, have you lost your common sense?

Abercrombie inherited the turbine/cable project from Governor Linda Lingle, who thought she could pay off big contributors and help the state go green at the same time. Instead, she fell for snake oil salesmen, peddling inefficient, obsolete technology that doesn’t actually reduce our carbon footprint. The turbines planned for Molokai and Lanai will devastate the last unspoiled Hawaiian Islands. The one thing this project is guaranteed to do is raise our electric bills.

Surprisingly, my old taxi-driving hippie anarchist friend went along with this plan, even though experts from around the world keep saying these wind turbines are bad news on all fronts. Where is the skepticism? Where is the distrust of big money and shady deals? Where’s the guy I knew?

Neil today is like some old grandpa who keeps buying vacuum cleaners and encyclopedias from the nice salesman at the door, without really thinking it through.

I still see Neil as a friend.

And friends don’t let friends buy industrial wind turbines.

It’s always sad when a man loses his principles.

Real men admit they were wrong, rectify the situation and move on.

It’s not too late to find yourself, Neil.

Try to remember who you were 40 years ago.

I remember it very clearly.

About the author: PF Bentley grew up on Oahu in Waikiki and is a former contract photographer for TIME Magazine. He also has produced programming for ABC-TV Nightline. He graduated UH Manoa in 1975 with a B.Ed. Mr. Bentley is currently a documentary filmmaker living on Molokai.


Community Voices aims to encourage broad discussion on many topics of community interest. It’s kind of a cross between Letters to the Editor and op-eds. We do not solicit particular items and we rarely turn down submissions. This is your space to talk about important issues or interesting people who are making a difference in our world. Columns generally run about 800 words (yes, they can be shorter or longer) and we need a photo of the author and a bio. We welcome video commentary and other multimedia formats. Send to news@civilbeat.com.