Hawaii, and Maui, is in a bubble. Enclosed by the Pacific and with our own unique culture and heritage, we are literally and figuratively removed from much of what happens on the mainland. Though residents are quite aware of island politics, national politics seems far away and foreign.
It’s tempting to think that the miles of land and ocean that separate us from the White House will protect us, but for better or worse, Hawaii is at the mercy of the federal government along with the rest of this country. The president’s choices influence all of us, in large and small ways. We can’t put our heads in the (beautiful, golden, warm) sand when it comes to national politics.
What’s happening on the very opposite side of the country is disturbing and dire, and it will affect us. President-elect Donald Trump will be the most unqualified person in our history to hold the highest office in the land, and he will have a say in all of our lives. “I never did anything like this,” Trump said of assuming the presidency of the United States. That much is more than clear.
Many mainlanders are freaking out. The national mood is largely one of distress and confusion, with a president-elect who is unpredictable, incapable, and filling his administration with politicians that range from the scary to the unqualified. It’s difficult to tell exactly what will happen, because it seems that Trump himself doesn’t quite know. But there has been quite a bit of fearspeak and unspecific policy talk, and many promises that will be difficult to fulfil. The whole thing is a giant work in progress.
We do know that Trump has assessed the situation and has made it clear that he wants change, of some sort. Regardless of his opinions, with a Republican-controlled House of Representatives and Senate, we know we can expect a few changes down the line.
To prepare ourselves, we can make some pretty good guesses about what and who might be affected here in our island home, and just as crucial, what we can do about it.
Planned Parenthood provides birth control, HIV testing, pregnancy testing, emergency contraception, STI testing and treatment for both men and women, vaccinations, and abortions. It is a pillar of women’s reproductive healthcare in Hawaii, providing coverage to over 80,000 people in this region. It depends on federal funding to provide these services.
A president’s power doesn’t just lie in the four years of their term, in which (we hope) they can only do so much damage. A president’s real legacy is in the lifetime appointment of a justice to the Supreme Court, which Trump is set to do. Though he has defaulted on many of his promises, Trump has reaffirmed his commitment to placing a pro-life Justice on the Supreme Court.
A pro-life Justice could ultimately mean the overturning of 1973’s Roe v. Wade, which constitutionally protects a woman’s right to abortion. Trump says we have “a long way to go” on this issue, and that’s true any way you look at it. But with a Republican congress and an outspoken agenda against women’s health rights, we might also see federal funding cuts to Planned Parenthood.
Government funding is critical to the operations of Planned Parenthood. “We’re not sure yet what’s to come, though we may see renewed attacks on Planned Parenthood and reproductive healthcare,” said Katie Rogers, Communications Manager of the Great Northwest and Hawaiian Islands. Regardless of who controls the White House, Planned Parenthood is prepared to “fight to make sure that health center doors stay open, and that people in this country can get access to basic reproductive health care, no matter their zip code, income, sexual orientation, race, religion, gender or country of origin.”
WHAT YOU CAN DO
You can donate directly to Planned Parenthood to help them further their mission. Through their website, you can contribute nationally or directly to the Greater Northwest and Hawaiian Islands.
You can also make an appointment for your health care needs at Planned Parenthood, which will show support.
Lastly, you can speak out against hate and speak up for reproductive healthcare. Talk to your family and friends, daughters and sons, even if–especially if–it is uncomfortable. Educate people: if abortion is an issue, let them know that less than five percent of Planned Parenthood’s funding goes toward abortion. Federal funding cannot be used for abortions as mandated by law. You can also speak your gratitude by call our state representatives to thank them for their support. Using your voice is more important than ever.
The Affordable Care Act, the so-called Obamacare, has benefited hundreds of thousands of Hawaii residents through expanding Medicaid, eliminating lifetime limits, ending discrimination for pre-existing conditions, and increasing funding for community health centers. Though flawed, thousands of Hawaii residents depend on those clauses. Although Trump has said that he is open to keeping “parts of Obamacare,” that statement shows his deep misunderstanding of the nature of the ACA. You can’t just keep the parts you like and do away with the parts you don’t; the parts of the system depend on each other. There are a few scenarios that could play out. The ACA could be totally overturned. If it isn’t totally overturned, and there’s an attempt to keep some parts of the ACA, like the popular existing-conditions clause, other problems are likely to occur, like skyrocketing costs from insurance companies.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
Right now, House Speaker Paul Ryan is doing a national survey. Call his number to register your opinion: 202-225-3031. Press 2 for information on the ACA and then press 1 to register your support for the ACA. You can also leave a voicemail.
The federal government disburses federal dollars each year through a variety of social programs. This funding affects various populations in Hawaii. There are social programs for like Head Start, the school lunch program, financial aid, and Title I and III programs, which are designed to meet the educational needs of all of Hawaii’s students. There are programs to meet the neediest among us, from health insurance to SNAP (food stamps) and housing subsidies.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
First, you can use your voice. Call your national representatives. They have to listen to you when you call. Using the good old fashioned phone is more powerful than emailing or posting on social media. We see this at the local level: when representatives are inundated with phone calls, they are forced to listen.
When you call, pick a specific cause you want to see supported, or list them. If it’s awkward for you, you can find calling scripts online. If you don’t know where to start, here’s the White House phone number: 202-456-1111.
Second, you can use your wallet. If you’re short on cash, your time is also valued. There are many remarkable local non-profits dedicated to supporting community members in need of money, time, and equipment. Check out annual MauiTime Charity Gift Guide for ideas.
National Parks and the Environment
Widely criticized by Republicans for using his executive power to do so, President Obama created more national monuments than any other president. He also increased the size of a national marine monument off of Hawaii fourfold to create the largest protected area on earth.
This year marks the 100 year anniversary of the National Park Service. “Our future funding levels will be set by the next administration and Congress,” said Andrew Munoz of the National Park Service. But the NPS anticipates “little or no” immediate impact on park visitors: Munoz shared that “National parks continue to see record breaking visitation that contributes billions of dollars to local economies nationwide. Haleakala National Park contributed nearly $92 million to Hawaii’s economy alone.”
“People of today have truly benefited from the foresight and legacy of those who lived 100 years ago, when Haleakala National Park and the National Park Service were created” says Polly Angelakis of Haleakala National Park. 100 years from now, let’s hope they can still say the same.
So while our parks are likely protected, for now, there is the troubling issue of climate change. President Barack Obama worked to catch America up to where the rest of the developed world stands on the issue of climate change. In contrast, Trump does not honor the science of climate change and has installed Myron Ebell, a climate-change denying environmental boogey-man, to help head the Environment Protection Agency team.
Politicizing the environment and denying the role of fossil fuels on climate change has terrifying implications for our island state (and nations–the Maldives and the Marshall Islands are already witnessing these effects). This is one of the big areas in which what they do at the national level will impact our lives down here at sea-level.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
First off, get outside and go visit Haleakala National Park, and bring your kids: all National Parks are currently free to fourth grade students through their program Every Kid in a Park. Vote with your dollar and buy local. Be a part of behavior change, and support county measures, like the Styrofoam ban, that show support for our environment. And just to be safe, don’t buy beachfront property (as if we could afford it).
Human Decency (and, oh, the shame…)
“It really was something I was proud of,” Trump said of his divisive and unethical campaign, in which he called for a ban on Muslims and deportation of immigrants. Here on Maui, we exist somewhat outside of the racial tensions of the mainland and its social movements, like Black Lives Matter. We don’t border Mexico, and Muslims and African Americans are a minority in Hawaii. We have our own unique cultural issues and inequalities. But as a state that used to be a sovereign kingdom, we are aware of deep and historical injustices and we know a bit about the boundaries of freedom. These ideas are deeply harmful to democracy. Recently, there has been more talk about a registry for Muslims in America. One of Trump’s staffers even cited the Japanese Internment Camps of World War II as a precedent. An action like that is a major threat to American citizens, including those who are not immigrants or Muslims. Harm to “them” is harm to us.
The atrocity of these proposals is appalling and disgraceful and cannot be tolerated. In addition to affecting policy, the president can have, the presidency is a symbol. We are coming into a very troubling symbolic figure who has no qualms about sexually assaulting women, who cares not at all for protecting minorities or other vulnerable members of our society, and who has broken the boundaries of ethics and decency at every turn.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
Be decent. It sounds like such a soft solution, trite in this world where many people feel powerless to control the world around them. But it is when people feel powerless that they become so. Believe in truth, and believe in decency. Encourage dialogue, and don’t accept less than what is true and right. Don’t be afraid to say what you think.
Lucky we live Hawaii, truly. Here on Maui, we are unique. We are small yet powerful, and hold up the ideals of community and generosity. We need to maintain that. The principle of aloha has been commodified for economic advantage, packaged for tourists, and misunderstood and misrepresented, but it has not been defiled. Rather, aloha is what defines us. It must be maintained, and it is everyone’s responsibility. Leading us to our last point…
Vote, Vote, VOTE!
There has been a shift in social and political consciousness on Maui in recent years. New voters came out to impose a moratorium on GMOs in 2014, and the Shaka movement has continued to make gains, with new seats on the Maui County Council. Last year, protesters lined the roads up to Haleakala and Mauna Kea. Protesters took to the streets in front of Paia Inn regarding new development. There have been protests in Wailuku over water rights, and in front of First Hawaiian Bank in Kahului to support Standing Rock (the parallels between North Dakota’s Native Americans and Hawaiians in regard to water rights has struck a bit of a nerve).
But despite all the progress, most residents still are not voting in local or national elections. This year, roughly 25% of Maui County residents voted. Only a quarter of citizens in Maui County help decide their own leaders, a decision that’s arguably as important to your future as picking your life partner.
Not disturbed about national politics, or don’t believe your vote matters? Think local. If you want smart development and preservation of agriculture land, if you care about our beaches, oceans, and mountains, if you care about the education of our keiki and water rights for sovereign people, if you don’t want the Old Maui High to be developed into a mini-Paia or you do want a say in things like what Monsanto is doing, then do not be a part of that 75 percent of people who decided not to elect the people who make these decisions on our behalf. It’s not too late if you happen to be a non-voter. We vote every two years.
Vote in your local and state elections. At the risk of sounding like an alarmist, do this while you still can–because who are we to say what the future holds for this democracy? The excuses are noted: I don’t want to be on the draft. I don’t want to be on jury duty. Just another way for the government to keep tabs on us. These are not good excuses. The draft isn’t much of a concern these days, as much of our warfare is conducted via drones and contractors. And jury duty? Really? Additionally, it’s very unlikely that you are anonymous or off the grid; if you have a driver’s license, a registered car, a home, or fill out a W2 form, the government is quite aware of your existence already. Voting will only make you a more powerful and involved Maui resident.
“Don’t be afraid,” Trump soothed shortly after his election. We agree on something: fear won’t accomplish anything positive here. But based on the sinister promises he gave for the reign of Trump, we should be prepared.
Your life shouldn’t be dictated by politics, but you should be aware of what’s going on around you. Although you should not flee the country, you and your family should certainly have passports, in case you ever need them. You should not abandon decency, but you should stand up for what you think is right. Believe in facts and truth. Give where you can. Be decent. And vote!
Cover photo: DonkeyHotey/Flickr
Cover design: Darris Hurst