I am fed up.

NOTE: pick the correct link

No statement is more appropriate than these words to express the internal conflict, anger, confusion, and discontent that the Thirty Meter Telescope construction on Mauna Kea presents as a Hawaiian, no matter whether one is pro-TMT or anti-TMT. The ebb and flow of this issue from headline news over the last few years has pacified my emotions momentarily over time but the inner-turmoil resurfaces in tsunami-like force when new developments occur.

Now here we are, facing the state’s green light to proceed to construction on the TMT and ferociously standing in solidarity to passionately express ourselves as the Mauna stands in all of its majestic glory reminding us that possessing a strong, unbreakable stature in turbulent times is the only way to effectively move forward as a culture.

The issue on face value has always been whether the TMT should be built on arguably sacred land. Although debatable, it is my belief that the Mauna is sacred to any Hawaiian who believes it is sacred. With conflicting historical information, does it even matter whether or not we have a source that tells us undeniably that Mauna Kea, or the TMT site specifically, is or is not sacred?

No.

IUCN demonstrators holds sign ’STOP TMT’ fronting the Hawaii Convention Center. 3 sept 2016

Demonstrators display their anti-telescope sentiment during the International Union for Conservation of Nature conference in Honolulu, September 2016.

Cory Lum/Civil Beat

We all worship in different ways and have diverse spiritual beliefs generally. The same philosophy should be applied here.

The issue in principle is really about how the government respects Hawaiians — our culture and our people. We just want to be genuinely heard and valued. Hawaiians are able to protest peacefully and evoke our First Amendment rights.

However, having a forum where we can speak up for the sake of voicing our opinions is not good enough. We need a listening ear by decision-makers.

Why is it always a fight to preserve our cultural values as Hawaiians? And moreover, why do we have to fight so hard? We have endured a rocky trail and a plethora of roadblocks throughout our Hawaiian history, and we continue to fight.

Our state leaders, although perhaps well-intentioned in their misguided approach to achieving a sense of goodwill in fostering positive relations with Hawaiians, want us to believe that they are respecting our Hawaiian cultural values when executing plans for proceeding to construction on the TMT. I will not deem dismantling shrines, albeit even carefully, and arresting a seemingly calm protestor as being respectful in any light.

When it comes to arrests and the prosecution of protestors, we need a better way to deal with these culture-specific offenders and offenses. This is similar to the situation with the criminal justice process involving Hawai’i’s homeless population.

Is it fair to prosecute a homeless person in a strict manner when they violate certain laws (low-level, non-violent offenses), when doing so is simply a by-product of their homeless situation or the fact that they have limited resources? (i.e., when a homeless person violates park closure laws by sleeping in a park after hours).

No.

Our laws do not exist in a bubble and we need to understand the needs of these specific populations and respond to their needs accordingly.

Cultural Remedies

Leaders in our criminal justice system established Community Outreach Court in 2017 to help community members who need proper resources and address the underlying problems they face. The logic behind the formulation of this program is a creative solution to dealing with community members and the homeless population in the criminal justice system who qualify for Community Outreach Court.

Years prior, in 1995, the creation of the Hawaii Drug Court sought to implement this same approach: to rehabilitate non-violent drug offenders who meet certain qualification requirements outlined by the program. Additionally, this thought process also applied to Driving While Impaired Court when that program began in 2013.

“We need to effectively reshape the conversation regarding TMT.”

As these remedies relate to cultural Hawaiian issues, the creation of what I would call a “Cultural Court” is a valid solution. Instead of criminalizing our “Hawaiian-ness,” we should be able to find ways to provide a means of cultural sensitivity for these so-called “offenders.” Arresting Hawaiians for violating laws while defending our culture and grasping on to our sense of kuleana, absent violent behavior, is not pono. A disproportionate number of Hawaiians already exist in the criminal justice system and arresting Hawaiian protestors only increases the toll.

We need to prompt unconventional thinking and encourage new approaches for resolving conflict and bringing people together. We need to find a way to bridge the gap between the varying legal, political, social, and cultural frameworks existent and cohesively create solutions to dealing with the TMT issue, as well as other Hawaiian issues.

Only then can positive change and finding common ground occur. Most importantly, we need to effectively reshape the conversation regarding TMT. It all begins with respect for our cultural heritage and fresh ideas.

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