The Maunakea issue will not go away, like the humidity that has pressed upon our days like a giant wet blanket over the past few weeks.

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The two Davids — Lassner and Ige – like their biblical namesake are indeed wrestling with a giant. Political, economic, cultural and religious elements make up this Goliath’s armor.

Three smooth stones and a slingshot will not bring this giant to its knees or silence him. The giant is literally the size of a mountain. He bellows with a deep voice and alas he has brothers.

The Maunakea crisis is situated in the midst of three other crises: climate change, the ending of market fundamentalism, and the waning of democracy. The framing of the conflict by Civil Beat writers as one between science and religion, between modernity and tradition, between cosmopolitan, global values and local indigenous wisdom is evidence of how complex, perplexing, emotional and axial the conflict is.

Recently my wife and I, who are both high school teachers, marched with a thousand or so students at a climate rally in front of the governor’s mansion. I read the brightly painted signs that connected the climate crisis to corporate profits, war and tourism and self-serving political machinery.

The students were making the kinds of inference and conclusions about life and social reality that went way beyond our “common core” standards. There were connections being made there that felt more substantial than the ephemera of Snapchat photos of hot fudge Sundaes and Labrador retrievers (no offense to ice cream or dog lovers).

As a 68-year-old kupuna, I smiled and dreamed of the possibility that we might be on the verge of a great turning.

Lone demonstrator holds a Hawaiian flag near the summit of Mauna Kea as hundreds of protestors lined the road down at the visitor's center. 24 june 2015. photograph Cory Lum/Civil Beat
A lone demonstrator holds a Hawaiian flag near the summit of Mauna Kea in June. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

The passion of Greta Thunberg, these young people and the community and guardians of Maunakea indicate a hunger for a new ground, another mode of being in this place we call Hawaii. They seek a conversation that includes more than realtors and real estate investors and money changers who get to make decisions about this “temple” we call Hawaii.

Maybe it’s all sacred ground and we just haven’t the eyes to see it. Maybe some would say it is not new but a remembering of something we once knew but forgot.

Old Wine Skins

Kapu Aloha, as one savvy commenter shared, should not remain on the mountain but be the very fabric of how we build a community in Hawaii. This passion of the young bubbling up from below the ground on which the university and the governor, and the rest of our state institutions stand resembles the shaking of the earth in Puna when the fresh lava buckled streets on its way to the sea.

The good book says, “You can’t put new wine in old wineskins because the new wine will burst the old skins and all of your wine will be ruined.”

“We need a more flexible vessel, fresh skin and container to hold a deep dialogue.”

The old ways of settling conflict of court fights, media battles, lobbying all seem like old and feeble skins. As so many Civil Beat commenters have suggested we need a more flexible vessel, fresh skin and container to hold this deep dialogue about the different presuppositional grounds that the diverse community of the university and the state hold.

Underneath anger and hostility I suspect there is deep fear, which is natural, when you must leave your safety zone to enter the presuppositions of someone whose ground is different than yours.

The governor and the president of the university are maybe too strategically enmeshed to do this work of creating the container — but surely with all the Ph.D.s and intellectual capital in this state there must be someone who can create a safe space for these dangerous conversations to take place so that we can practice kapu aloha and not just describe or invoke it. It can become a mode of being for us, a way to be an ohana.

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