(The following letters are in response to Starr Begley’s Jan. 3, 2008 story “What does it mean to be a Local?”)
When I came to Maui 27 years ago, no 28 now, the culture spoke to me and I knew it was my home. My first real Hawaiian experience was on the Big Island where I saw real ALOHA at work and realized this what I had looked for most of my life. England—where I grew up—used to be this way, but not anymore. And no, not the government, but the people.
Though a white (haole), I felt ashamed of my own race and all they have done around the world, and still do—look at the last seven years—but that is not me. I am now part of a huge, loving family who support and help each other—that is local. Heritage and color mean nothing; it’s what’s in your heart that counts. I have heard Maui called the “heart chokra” of the islands. To me, that is so. You either get it, or you don’t.
-Peter Gooch, Haiku
Of all the dumb definitions of “local” the dumbest is Paul Wood’s since it excludes most Hawaiians. He says that the grand- and great-grandparents of all locals slaved away for agribusiness and lived in plantation camps. The reason Asians were brought over to work the fields is that the population of Hawaiians was decimated by European and American diseases, and few Hawaiians lived in these camps.
Another dumb definition of “local” is “pidgin speaking.” I taught in schools here for ten years and I can assure you that pidgin is not a language but a system of slang that handicaps kids and ensures that those who speak it exclusively will never rise above menial worker status. Pidgin’s vocabulary is miniscule and its ability to express complex and subtle meanings is very limited. You won’t find any science, engineering, math, history or great literature written in pidgin. Those who cling to pidgin as a status of their localism, and those new-arrival kids who pathetically adopt pidgin to fit in are doing themselves great harm.
Local people eat local food? Sure like spam, white rice, macaroni salad, and loco-moco (greasy, gravy-covered hamburger patties). By adopting these foreign culinary atrocities as local, Hawai‘i residents have adopted diabetes, cancer and heart disease as local ways of early death.
At the University of Hawai‘i there are Hawaiian Studies professors of Hawaiian ancestry who speak beautiful English as well as beautiful Hawaiian, but never pidgin, and they eat true Hawaiian foods (fish, poi, fruits, vegetables). They aren’t local? There are white descendents of missionaries whose families have lived here far longer than descendents of plantation workers. They aren’t local? Lots of tourists wear T-shirts, slippers and shorts, and are easy-going and good-natured. They are local?
It seems to me that the word “local” is like the word “spiritual.” People like the label because it gives them a sense of superiority without having to do anything to help others, contribute to society or help preserve the aina. Both words are useless and divisive.
-Kurt Butler, Wailuku
Your first in a series article on the definition of a Maui local intrigues me because the same principal applies to my hometown in Northern California. My family moved from the province of Liguria to Amador County, California, in 1852. My nieces and nephews are sixth generation native Californians, and that’s quite rare for a state with such a mobile population. The area where I live is rich with Gold Rush history, and my father and I started one of the first wineries in the Sierra Foothills.
The wine industry (mostly silly little lifestyle wineries) and tourism are the two basic industries in the Sierra Foothills, unless you want to count government and prisons. Like Maui, there’s a little bit of light manufacturing and a little bit of functional agriculture, but the Sierra Foothills is all about keeping the tourists and the retired folks happy.
So, locals like me can get real testy about disrespectful tourists. They don’t know how to drive on our little roads, they bring their urban attitudes to our mountain towns, and they never developed a small town (or small island) vibe. They’re all about “take” and don’t know about “give.”
Y’all call such folks haoles, and we call ‘em flatlanders. Flatlanders will come on to your land and have a picnic on your back porch even though you live nearly two miles off the county road (Yes, really—happens at least once a year on my back porch). Flatlanders trespass on their mountain bikes all through your vineyard and screw up the irrigation system by leaving valves open when they want to wash their hands. Flatlanders drive their rice rockets to the hills to race on mountain roads and force you into the ditch by passing on curves. Flatlanders modify every dish that they order at restaurants, and they tip poorly because they’re not going to come back more than once or twice a year. Flatlanders get indignant if you don’t sell exactly their preferred brand of booze/cigarettes/potato chips/soap in your little country store that’s about 30 miles away from the nearest Safeway.
Here’s the deal. I’m a local in the Sierra Foothills. If I didn’t have what you folks call aloha, I’d still be local, but I’d simultaneously be an asshole. Assholes have a real hard time finding plumbers, doctors, mechanics, accountants, or nearly anybody who will work with them. The karmic wheel spins faster in small communities. I’m a local because I participate actively in the community, I can explain the heritage of my community, and I cooperate with my neighbors. I don’t agree with all of my neighbors, but I’ll watch their homes or take car of their pets. Hawaiians call that aloha, and we don’t have a word for it in California.
Sometimes, I’ll get a new neighbor from the city, and it’s obvious from day one that they’re local material. Once they learn their way around town, they’re kind of a local by proxy. If you want to be a real local from Amador County, you need to graduate from elementary school and high school in Amador County. If that’s not possible, live aloha, set a good example, and we locals will eventually welcome you as one of us.
I hope Maui works like that. From my first visit over 10 years ago, I’ve been treated like a local. Because I grew up in tourist towns, I notice when my price is below posted prices, and I keep my mouth shut while leaving a generous tip. No reason to draw attention to local prices (kama‘aina discount—same thing). If someone sees me walking down the street, I might be a haole to them at first. If we talk at the bar, the grocery store or the beach, locals are often surprised when they learn that I don’t live Upcountry.
Local is all relative. If I unintentionally fool lifelong Mauians with my Sierra Nevada interpretation of aloha, then being local must be a natural state of humanity. Now if only you Hawaiians would just learn to speak Spanglish instead of Pidgin when you visit California.
-Anthony Spinetta, via email
What is local? I moved to Maui when I was three. I lived on Maui until I was a sophomore in High School. Now I live on the mainland. I am white and was teased until I was probably a sixth grader. I danced hula, ate Hawaiian food, etc. I have passion for Hawai‘i and everything about it.
My parents told me that when I was young I thought that I was Hawaiian and they would just laugh. But “local” to me is just that. When you know the culture, live it, act like it you are. It doesn’t matter what color your skin is or how you talk; if you have that passion for Hawai‘i and feel it in your heart, then you are “local.” Living on the mainland you realize the difference in people (not a good thing). I’m coming home to Maui with two kids. Even though they never lived there, they know the passion that I have for it, and they feel it, too.
-Anonymous, via email
This is what a Local is: a person who is born in Hawai‘i or raised here for most of his or her life—and I mean, many years, including attending schools in Hawai‘i and working in Hawai‘i. [It] has nothing to do with race! I know local haoles who were born and raised here in Hawai‘i or haoles who lived here for most of their lives and are considered locals! And they can easily converse in pidgin English with the best locals or Hawaiian natives!
Hawaiian usually is the same thing as local, having been born and raised here in Hawai‘i! And those haoles who live here and can’t talk pidgin obviously led a sheltered life, being kept away from mixing with locals and Hawaiians.
While in the U.S. Air Force on the mainland, we found we were like celebrities. [We were] asked about life in Hawai‘i, and some haoles wanting to learn pidgin so we could talk privately!
And while I am half-Hawaiian, half-Portuguese, I look white by appearance. Therefore [I’ve] experienced racial prejudice, and it wasn’t good; once certain whites got drunk, the true person came out and the bigots showed forth! I’ve heard haoles put down the Hawaiians, and also locals: “I wish the Hawaiians would go home.”
-Rodney Souza, via email
I enjoyed reading your article about what it means to be “local” and here is my take on this. You know you at least qualify to be a “local” when you were born and raised on Maui, eat “local” food, talk pidgin, moved out to join the military, experience more diversity, work in Washington, D.C., live on the East Coast for 17 years and then receive a text message on your cell phone from your favorite niece back in Maui (while you are watching your favorite team, the Washington Redskins, on TV in a must-win game) and the text message is, “Read mauitime.com on being local..u should comment!!”
You then proceed during halftime of the Redskins game to go on the Internet to Mauitime.com, read the great articles about what it means to be “local,” send an email to Mauitime.com to put in your two cents about being “local,” then proceed to watch the second half of the Redskins game and try to finish up the manapua that you were eating, which you got on your last trip back home in Maui during your sister’s surprise birthday party.
In summary, being “local” is a way of life, even if you are away from “local.” Hauoli Makahiki Hou (I hope I spelled it right).
-Marvin W. Salcedo, Alexandria, VA
I agree with many of these answers from “locals.” I am originally from Portland, Oregon and have been here eight years. I believe I must have adapted to the Maui lifestyle well because I remember “local” Hawaiian friends telling me years ago that I was very easy-going and was a good match with the Maui spirit. I lived on the Westside for four years and then moved to Kahului—you definitely start to feel more local living here—closer to all of Maui’s mixed cultures, away from the mass tourism.
I guess my family is a mixed bag of locals. My husband, Steve, has been on Maui eight years, too, and before that spent seven years on Oahu. Plus his dad grew up here in Kahului, with some of his childhood spent in the camps, before his family was able to purchase a home off of Puunene Street. Which is where we live today, raising our two daughters, Kaia (age three) and Sachi (two months).
And you can’t get any more local than my hapa daughters—half Japanese, quarter Norwegian, English and Scottish. We love Maui’s diversity and wouldn’t dream of living anywhere else!
-Leslie Gibson-Seno, via Mauitime.com
To me, locals are the kids that made fun of me because I was smarter than they were and made judgments about my sexual preference due to my short hair length. I still don’t understand why I was called a “dumb dyke” when a) I was getting A’s in classes some of them were barely passing, and b) I was dating an incredibly, physically masculine male.
I know that not all locals are like this, but this is the strongest impression left on me, made by the local culture and by the kids that I considered “locals.” Too many people have used their locality to justify concepts that in all other situations would have been deemed “discrimination.” Too often, I have felt that this idea of “Aloha Spirit” that everyone is so proud of, was concocted by the tourism agencies, to draw people to the islands. Too often, I have felt that this “Aloha Spirit” is dead, killed off by the things it stood against: close-minded, bigoted cliques.
-Anonymous, via Mauitime.com
As a recent haole arrival, I think of locals as being brown-skinned or Asiatic. My mind rejects fellow haoles as local, though I expect Caucasians born and raised on Maui, especially those whose families have lived here for generation, certainly consider themselves to be “local.”
Perhaps behavior is better than skin color as an indicator of “localness.” But there is a wide disparity of behavior, some very good, some quite bad. The clerks at the First Hawaiian Bank in Kihei are wonderful! Their smiles and greetings never fail to cheer me up. Likewise the friendly checkout people at Long’s and Safeway, the wonderful girls waitressing at Da Kitchen in Kahului and Miss Bunny and her son at the Kihei Caffé—all of these exemplify the best in being local on Maui.
But there is a dark side to being local. Leaving empty Heineken and Corona bottles on the beaches when fishing. Discarding garbage in the parking areas along Sugar Beach. Ditching refrigerators and washing machines on the streets. And of course leaving dead cars everywhere across the island.
Hawaiians are proud to claim that their ancestors cared for the land and were in complete harmony with it, and they urge everyone to care for the aina. Who then is littering the island with rubbish? Surely it cannot be these same aina lovers, but rather some other locals. So maybe we have different classes of locals, each with their own value systems.
I have participated in several cleanups of beaches and roads on Maui, and I always ask the question, “Where are the locals?” It seems that only us haoles take part in these cleanups. Where are the locals who love the aina so much? Where are they when these cleanups are scheduled? There seems to be a lot of talk, but little action.
And it seems this kind of “localness” infects Maui government—all talk, no accomplishments. We have a “temporary” bridge past Hana that in all probability will still be there 20 years from now. The parks that were badly damaged a month ago still are not fixed up, though it would take little work to get the job done.
And don’t get me started on the boardwalk by Kealia ponds! What’s with that anyway? The boardwalk is finished—I’ve walked on it and it’s lovely! But the sign by the entrance states that the walk is closed until the parking lot is finished. What’s to finish? Just take down the guardrail and it’s done!
That’s Maui for you. Beautiful island with beautiful people. But the government, are they locals or simply ineffective haoles who have lived here for a long time? At least it looks like the Mokulele Highway may be finished in my lifetime.
-Anonymous, via email
After finishing reading Ms. Starr’s article online, I have to say that what makes someone “local” is the respect you have for the way things are done here (or anywhere else for that matter). I know people who move here and act like we are beneath them because we are not like the mainland.
Conversely, I am encountering an increasing amount of Hawai‘i-born people who have an elitist attitude as well and look down on their own people for the same reason. There are not a TON of these people, but I do notice them more. That’s why they have an attitude of, “I can’t wait to get off this rock.”
So bottom line, it’s about understanding and respecting what the local culture is built on whether you are from here or not. You don’t see me going to Italy thinking that all Italians are Mafioso. The old adage still stands… “When in Rome…”
-Darren, via Mauitime.com
TALKING RON PAUL
(The following letters are in response to Anthony Pignataro’s Jan. 3, 2008 story “Ron Paul is Right!)
First of all, I would like to thank Maui Time for publishing an article about presidential candidate Ron Paul—a heavily biased article, but at least it is something. Now, I don’t blame you for writing this—well, never mind—“article,” since, like most Americans, after seven years of his Bushiness, [you] see all Republicans as evil trolls. You’re right, most are!
But hey, oblivious to the facts, you go right ahead—on purpose or not—and leave out some inconvenient truths. Let’s take his ideology: I mean, “far right.” Oh boy, name-calling. This is not even true; he is much more of a libertarian (he ran for president in 1988 on the libertarian ticket), which has to do with LIBERTY. Ever heard of it? You know, what our country was founded on.
Listen, if you want the government to take care of you, and in the meanwhile take 38 percent to 55 percent of YOUR income, well, just go right ahead. And, hey, you know, what’s so bad about federalizing everything? The government will take care of you. God bless the USSAR!
Bullcrap! You, the people, are the only ones who can govern justly, not the corporate/government bureaucracy. Ron Paul is about SMALL GOVERNMENT, the idea that you can run your life better than anybody else can ever hope to. But this is just the tip of the iceberg. Get off your butts and do some research on Ron Paul; don’t take my word for it! Sorry I don’t have more space. If you are interested, contact the Maui Ron Paul Meetup group! Mahalo!
-Chris Regan, Lahaina
I read your piece on Ron Paul in the Maui Time and hope you haven’t been unfairly hounded by over-zealous Ron Paul supporters!
I would like to point you to a piece (from the political left) in support of Ron Paul because of his positions against the most important questions of war and empire: http://www.counterpunch.org/goff01042008.html
Although I lean toward liberal environmental causes, I support Ron Paul for his vital anti-war and anti-imperial stances. Certainly I expect Faux-News and other MSM/Neocon news outfits to do everything to ignore and discredit him for his anti-imperial positions. But I would hope that Maui Time will give Ron Paul’s anti-imperial, anti-fascist, pro-free market (anti-corporate welfare) ideas a little more faithful airing.
At the very least we can rejoice that he will continue to stir up quite a ruckus in the political establishment.
-Aaron Culliney, Kihei
Having explained the tenants of libertarianism to people who were initially Ron Paul supporters, I appreciated your article elaborating on the Ron Paul platform. While Ron Paul’s philosophy and indeed libertarianism itself are rooted in a wonderful ideal, that people are generally “good” and can be trusted to regulate their own behavior, it is just that, an ideal. Its real world application in this land of dog-eat-dog capitalism leaves much to be desired. Call it the completed evolution of corporate thought and leave it as an intellectual exercise. I certainly wouldn’t appreciate it if all the beachfronts in Hawai’i were private property.
Jonah Goldberg, editor of the National Review’s online edition described libertarianism as an inroad to conservative thought:
“The beauty of libertarianism is you get to be rebellious and opt out of the regime and all the assumptions of your professor and be provocative while at the same time you don’t have to draw any moral judgments about the people doing drugs…”
-Darrel R. Smith, Kihei
You guys must be on crack. I thought for sure you’d support Ron Paul’s bid for president since he’d decriminalize your drugs. Nice hit piece, Mr. Pignataro.
What happened to the Maui Time Weekly balanced coverage of both sides of the issue righteous claim? You could perhaps give Fox News some pointers. Actually, they’re more interested in outright media blackouts and censorship.
“Falls squarely on the right wing of the Republican Party, Iraq War opposition notwithstanding?” Come on now. A constitutionalist, he wants to restore the Republic the founding fathers designed to limited government, free trade and friendly relations with all countries and entangling alliance with none. That means not policing the world. Close the 700 military bases in the 130 countries around the world. And he’s the only candidate on either side for ending the Welfare/Warfare state.
Or how about sound currency- you know, gold and silver like the constitution says, coined by Congress? Everyone but the not so federal Federal Reserve should be for that. Perhaps leftists prefer hyper inflated fiat currency? Too libertarian for you?
All our socialist entitlement programs are swell. Recommended by Karl Marx himself in the Communist Manifesto. The second plank—“a heavy, progressive or graduated income tax.” So you like the terroristic intrusion of the IRS in our lives. Call me old-fashioned—no, make it Right Winger—I fully support Ron Paul’s stance on abolishing the IRS. The weird part is that leaving that money in our wallets would only cut the government back to the size it was less than 10 years ago. Do you socialists think you could possibly tighten your belts that much?
Oil from the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. You hypocrites—it’s okay to pollute Iraq for their oil and Iran’s next. Actually, as the honest journalist I’m sure you are, why don’t you read The Energy Non-Crisis by Lindsey Williams. Or just You Tube him and see the truth on Alaska’s environmentally conscious oil that would bring our gas prices to $1.50 a gallon within a year. OMIGOSH—St. Al Gore doesn’t teach this at Matrix University, does he?
You probably have a size limit on letters to the editor so before you hack this all to pieces (I mean edit) I’ll quit and perhaps address the rest later.
-Patricia Aiken, Wailuku
What’s LEFT of Ron Paul? Is he ALL right?
I’ve always thought of myself as a liberal democrat. Liberal democrats are supposed to protect our civil liberties and keep us out of war but they don’t do a very good job of that lately. If you look at the leadership ladder, it seems like the policies aren’t a whole lot different. Foreign policy never changed. Domestic fiscal policy, the welfare entitlement system never changes. Monetary policy won’t even be discussed. That’s both parties.
The fact is that we need to change course in this country. We need a candidate who will respect the constitution but not be overly rigid. There is a vehicle for changing it. Don’t ignore it and never go to war without declaring it. We need a president who will follow the fourth amendment. Look at what is happening to the privacy rights of the American people.
Why don’t we hear about Dennis Kucinich in the big media? Why is Ron Paul excluded from the debates in New Hampshire? It seems that it’s the tendency of the big media to want to narrow discussion and keep the conversation down so it can be more intimate among the real candidates. But there is no quieting Ron Paul or the massive grassroots campaign. There is still enough freedom in this country to get a message out and reach the people (even though it’s shrinking all the time).
Some critics say that Ron Paul is a hero to liberals because he is against the war but many do not support all of his views. Critics like him on foreign policy but disagree on welfare. Today we have a dollar crisis. If we don’t change our financial situation everyone is going to go broke. How are we going to keep up with the cost of living increases for the people on retirement when they’re losing at a 10 percent rate and getting a two percent increase? Other critics accuse him of illiberal sentiments about race concerning the slavery during the civil war and that he is always attacking the Israel lobby (the Jewish lobby).
I think that people are getting nervous about what he has to say. Ron Paul is running as a Republican with libertarian ideals and libertarianism is the enemy of all racism. Racism is thinking that people belong in categories; gays belong here, blacks here, whites here and women here. Libertarianism is the belief that you have rights because you are an individual.
Ron Paul wants to cut down the money spent overseas and save hundreds of billons of dollars. He says that we can do it without throwing anyone out into the streets but we have to stop being so dependent on the government if we want to keep our freedoms. What we need to do is introduce sound money into our economy so we can have a good economic policy and insure that the next generation will have a foothold and be able to take care of themselves.
The revolution is happening now with a new generation that understands what freedom is all about, what the founders did not intend for a strong centralized government. They wanted a minimal government and this is what Ron Paul stands for. His supporters want government but they want a smaller more localized government. A government that represents the people living in the area without becoming a “Nanny State” that takes care of us by telling us how to think and what to do. It should be obvious to anyone looking at the administrations track record (GMOs, Alternative Energy, Healthcare, Alternative Medicine, Vaccinations, Low Frequency radar, Iraq) that they care more about catering to corporate interests then the interests of the American people.
Ron Paul’s message is freedom with no distinction between personal freedom and economic freedom and the message is getting out. Even though big media tries to minimalize him we still have the freedom left to share thoughts and ideas on the Internet. As far as I’m concerned, this country is sick and Dr. Ron Paul has the cure. Mahalo to everyone who still has hope for America.
-Ramon K. Madden, via email
Bravo Anthony Pignataro on your article on Ron Paul! It’s slicker than any hit piece I’ve seen done by even the national media. (Care to work for Fox Newscorp?) I mean you took the most controversial issues that is barely even being debated today and used Ron Paul’s own words to make him look like a far right wing nut. But you neglected to add one crucial piece that you hoped the reader wouldn’t see and that is: every stance that Ron Paul takes HAS A CONSTITUTIONAL basis for it. Something that he has been fighting for in 30 years of service in Congress.
All those issues that you mention pale in comparison to the main issue that Ron Paul is emphasizing: the continued growth of the welfare/warfare state, the increased erosion of our personal freedoms and the collapse of the fiat dollar. All the other divisive issues are used by the statists to create a false division among the people between left and right, blue state and red state. Meanwhile their power gets larger.
I’m surprised that such an intelligent person such as you would fall for this. I’m just glad the 80 percent of the American people who are in the middle and who gave up on politics a long time ago have woken up and are flocking to Ron Paul’s message of peace, freedom and prosperity. Time to join the mainstream Anthony: it’s gonna get lonely at the fringe on the left or the right.
-Peter Nebres, Kahului
Anthony Pignataro responds: Advocating that the government should crack down on illegal immigration and ban abortion are libertarian ideas? Since when?