Though friends and neighbors have vowed to continue the search, it now seems sadly appropriate to eulogize Carl and Rae Lindquist, who went missing on Thanksgiving Day and were apparently swept away while trying to drive across an East Maui stream. The outpouring of support and grief from the Hana community show the impact the Lindquists had, and the legacy they leave behind. Officials have used the incident (the details of which are still murky) as a cautionary tale about the dangers of flash flooding. Any time a tragedy can increase awareness and public safety that’s a good thing (the National Weather Service’s “Turn Around, Don’t Drown” campaign is a fine place to start: www.nws.noaa.gov/os/water/tadd ). But mostly it’s a somber reminder that life is fleeting, and we should cherish the time we have….
Apparently a committed same-sex couple getting married is an affront to “traditional values,” but 20 Chinese couples simultaneously tying the knot for a reality TV show is something to celebrate. That’s the message Lt. Gov. Duke Aiona (a vocal opponent of same-sex civil unions) sent last week when he presided over the mass nuptials in Waikiki, and trumpeted the ceremony in a press release titled “Wedding Bells for China Couples.” The motivation is obvious: along with Gov. Lingle’s recent grip-and-grin whirlwind through the People’s Republic, this is part of an aggressive campaign to lure visitors from a large, growing market. So I guess all gay people have to do is convince Ainoa they’re an untapped tourism resource and poof!—equal rights. Hey, whatever works…. Speaking of ideologues in government: As the gubernatorial election approaches, religious leaders are rallying the troops, according to multiple sources, and using civil unions as a recruitment tool. Now, actually endorsing a candidate—like, say, Aiona, the only guy in the race who once said, “Hawaii belongs to Jesus”—would put churches’ tax-exempt status at risk. But clearly that’s not what they’re doing. Just ask Bishop Larry Silva of the Catholic Diocese of Hawaii, quoted in a November 30 Honolulu Star-Bulletin story: “We don’t want to tell people who to vote for. But we do want to talk about moral principles and lead them through that discussion of moral principles to decide who best then can express those principles for us as a leader.” See? Big difference…. Add the state’s public book dispensaries to the list of Furlough Friday participants. (Maybe we should just declare Friday “stay home curled up in the fetal position day” and be done with it.) Per a release from the Hawaii Public Library System, libraries and administrative offices will be closed December 16, 24 and 31. The furloughs will continue intermittently at least through May 2010, and the way things are going, likely beyond. For more info visit www.librarieshawaii.org …. It was impossible not to be moved by the story of the Oahu couple that lost their otherwise healthy three-year-old son to H1N1 in June, and chose to go public last week. Their goal is to encourage others, especially those in high-risk groups (pregnant women, young children, people with underlying conditions) to get vaccinated. In a November 26 AP dispatch, state health official Dr. Sarah Park is paraphrased as saying “there’s no excuse…not to get vaccinated.” Honestly, I don’t know too many people who are looking for an excuse. Most people are looking for the vaccine—and not finding it. When I interviewed Maui’s Department of Health representative Dr. Lorrin Pang last month, he pointed the finger at the feds: “They’re not telling us. It’s supposed to come in weekly and then they say, ‘None this week.’ So [we’re] kind of living from day to day.” But—based on multiple reports from frustrated friends and readers—that lack of communication seems to be happening locally as well. Add the fact that, while we know 266,000 doses have been “allocated” for Hawaii, no accurate count of how many have been delivered or administered is available, and you’ve got a muddled, bureaucratic mess. Fortunately, this strain of swine flu has remained relatively mild. But if this was our “fire drill” for when the big virus hits, we tripped getting out of bed….
This week, President Obama outlined his Afghanistan strategy, which involves deploying 30,000 additional troops early next year and beginning to withdraw them in July 2011, with a total pullout completed by the end of his current term. If, that is, all goes well. And really, given the history of occupations in that country, why wouldn’t it? As we look forward (if that’s the right word) to the next phase in this nearly decade-old war, now might be a good time to check the price tag. According to data compiled by the National Priorities Project, through 2009 we’ve spent $282.2 billion on our adventure in “the graveyard of empires.” Add the $65 billion currently awaiting Congressional approval and the estimated cost of carrying out the first part of Obama’s plan, and by next year the war will have cost more than $320 billion. Freedom, as they say, isn’t free—and clearly neither are open-ended foreign entanglements.