Kapu Aloha is failing.

Whatever the goals of protecting the mountain, Kapu Aloha — the order of restraint, to act only with kindness, love, and empathy — is becoming ironic given how the aloha fabric of Hawaii is being torn apart.

I support the Thirty Meter Telescope. I also sympathize with the Maunakea kia’i. When the Protectors claim that this is about “more than a telescope,” that makes sense. The Hawaiian Home Lands program needs a great deal of work. Gridlock over global warming is frustrating when I see the coral reefs dying. Our economy is woefully dependent on tourists even as tourism creates problems. There are many issues worth advocating about.

On a bigger scale, many activists point to the “illegal occupation” of the United States. Yet, the sovereignty that some seem to desire is an existence I’m not sure was ever possible in a world with wars and the world wide web. I look at the history and I agree that the process of becoming a territory was more of a coup than a joint resolution. However, this was a snapshot in time. Was King Kamehameha’s “unifying” of the islands any cleaner, any more legal? Quite the opposite. He conquered the islands!

Kamehameha brought peace only after bringing war. As such, who’s to say the 1800s are the proper period of time to consider relative to sovereignty? Given our planet’s history of mergers and conquest, if we didn’t have a U.S. flag flying in Hawaii, what are the odds we would have a Japanese or Russian flag flying instead? Given at the military implications of “power in the pacific,” the answer seems clear to me.

TMT Mauna Kea demonstrators hold their hands up and gesture the Mauna Kea hand symbol.

The symbol of the mountain has come to illustrate solidarity for the Mauna Kea protestors. But the author raises concerns that the largely peaceful protest has fueled anger in some quarters.

Cory Lum/Civil Beat

The facts remain that 119 years ago, Hawaii became a U.S. territory, despite Liliuokalani’s protest. Thereafter, the first official proposal for statehood was from Prince Jonah Kuhio Kalanianaole in 1919. I find that fascinating, given Prince Kuhio was the last living person who would have had a direct claim to a Hawaiian throne. For those curious about the timeline, I might point to a Hawaii Senate resolution establishing a celebration of Admission Day.

It has details on various public votes leading up to 1959, including the 94% in favor of statehood. For reference, native Hawaiians were approximately 16% of the population in 1959.

But where does that leave us now?

After five generations of marriages, birth and death, the buying and selling of property — I don’t know how to tease this apart, or even if it’s right to try. I do know that we all have to do what we can to live and work together, even in messy circumstances, and even when we disagree, which brings me back to my original concern:

Why do I claim Kapu Aloha is failing?

I recently watched as some friends from the mainland were the subject of unprovoked road rage, seemingly because they were driving a rental Jeep which marked them as tourists. The other vehicle was a lifted Tundra flying the Kanaka Maoli flag.

Yes, road rage against tourists pre-dates the current protests. This event was on Mamalahoa Highway so I can’t say for certain whether this was related to Maunakea. However, I think it’s disingenuous to claim the protests aren’t fueling anger. In this case, the native Hawaiian vs. “outsider” ties seem clear. The event shook me and was the reason for this letter.

To the kia’i, I applaud your stance of Kapu Aloha but it seems there is a much angrier group following you that does not subscribe to these ideals. Social media is filled with vitriol and not aloha for those who disagree.

Consider the Hawaiian flag that was cut during the removal of the unpermitted learning center: the flag had been screwed on under two-by-fours and all the screw heads intentionally stripped. Forced entry was still required to be sure the structure was empty, so the flag was damaged when the door was cut. The anger at the symbolism of a cut flag is understandable. But whomever posted a $5,000 bounty for the identity of an officer doing his job, that’s intimidation tactics and it’s messed up.

(View the video at the 7-minute mark of Gov. David Ige’s press conference.)

I want to pose a question to the kia’i: Are you willing to try to enforce Kapu Aloha beyond the confines of your camp? Will you condemn road rage, even when the victim is a tourist? Are you willing to stand and say that hate and personal attacks are wrong, even when they come from someone who applauds your goals?

I hope this call can serve to reaffirm that respect is not contingent upon universal agreement. I can look for ways to support you. The kia’i are my friends and neighbors too. Refocus this protest to find ways to improve the Hawaiian Home Lands program —I will gladly stand with you. Clean the beaches — I’ll bring my keiki.

Values To Live By

Standing together regarding TMT is more complex but not without hope. I cannot protest a self-contained and socially responsible observatory that brings our schools volunteers. I do not wish to “protect” against those that offer our economy funds not reliant on tourism. I do not believe there is an arbiter who can determine where the sacred starts and stops. I believe we are now and forever a U.S. state. I believe that the rule of law matters and is being compromised.

“We all need a little more restraint, kindness, empathy, and love.”

However, I can support accelerated telescope decommissioning — a basis of compromise. I would ask TMT to take a voluntary moratorium to prove that promises can be kept. I would then ask the kia’i to clear themselves from the road such that law enforcement doesn’t have to.

I try to live by the value that “in-so-far as it is possible with you, live at peace with all men.”

Strong opinions on TMT are making this a challenge, but not impossible. I also believe in speaking up when I see something wrong. I know the kia’i believe this too.

My hope is that we are all willing to stand for Kapu Aloha, regardless of our thoughts on TMT. These days, we all need a little more restraint, kindness, empathy, and love.

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