Change is a Mixed Bag
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written by Jocelyn:
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           On my first trip to Moloka'i in the early 1970s, I was strolling along the beach near Kaunakakai when I heard a voice calling from a nearby park. My friend and I turned. A man, middle-aged, waved to us from the pavilion. “Come eat! Come eat!” he called., waving us toward him. “Get plenty food.”
            My friend, blond and newly arrived from the mainland, and I, unrecognizable as an islander behind huge glasses and fake frizzy hair, joined his party. He had never seen us before yet greeted us warmly, as guests, to his old-fashioned lu’au on the beach. Smoke curled from an imu. Kids played tag and called us “Aunty” and “Uncle.” The tables were set with laua’e ferns and hibiscus. And two total strangers, my friend and I, joined this merry party as bewildered and appreciative guests. 
            The children and the elderly were seated first. The fish were caught by the families, the seaweed gathered by their hands, the sweet potatoes grown in their soil, the pig hunted in the mountains. It was a communal effort, resulting in an abundance of food—plenty to share, and enriching to the palate and the heart. The music and hula went on long after the appetites were sated, and when it was time to leave, our host asked us when we planned to leave the island. We told him Friday.
            “Before you leave, swing by the fire station,” he urged us. So on Friday, on the way to the airport, we stopped by the station and found our new friend. He had a cardboard box for us to take home: fresh fish, dried fish, and papayas.
            I thought of this man—and of others like him that I have known—as I listened to the news of Hawai'i’s attorney general arguing over ceded lands before the U..S. Supreme Court on Wednesday. The over-all objective of this challenge is to deprive Native Hawaiians of the 1.2 million acres of former Hawaiian monarchy lands, called ceded lands, and to transfer their ownership to the state. This has already been argued before the Hawai'i Supreme Court, which prohibited the state from selling these lands until Native Hawaiian ownership claims are resolved. Legal efforts like the state’s, now under consideration by the nation’s highest court, aim to separate Hawaiians from their all-important land base, an effort I consider unconscionable, especially in light of the illegal overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy in 1893. 
            When our kupuna said “Change We Must,” I don’t think they had this kind of change in mind.
            There are other less significant changes that eat away at our levels of tolerance day by day, layer by layer. The other day, in search of a new printer, I went to a big-box retailer specializing in office products. I had the model number, the price, and the make, passed on by a friend who recently bought one there. The “sales associate” led me immediately to another, much more expensive model and claimed it was the one I was looking for. He said my friend must have bought hers on sale, and the sale was over. It was clear that he was intentionally misleading me, and when I pointed out the discrepancy in the model numbers, he shifted awkwardly, mumbled something, and reluctantly led me to the model I was looking for. His dishonesty was transparent, and it angered me. More than angry, I was disappointed—disappointed at the decline in basic human decency that we seem to encounter with more frequency, in situations as wide-ranging as retail stores, Wall Street, and, perhaps most blatantly, government (our new president excepted).
            We all know that progress is change, but not all change is progress. We pay a price for growth and globalization. When life becomes impersonal, when the setting is a big-box retailer instead of the mom-and-pop store around the corner—or a state bureaucracy instead of a face-to-face conversation with a neighbor—it’s easier to not be accountable. But it’s not unreasonable to expect a standard of honesty and accountability at all levels, even at the most basic, impersonal level.
            The salesperson at the office appliance store will no doubt continue his dishonest practices. In the big picture, it is a small thing. And while it’s unlikely that families on Moloka'i invite strangers to dine with them anymore, there are still many of us fortunate enough to have experienced such extraordinary kindness. We know there are heroes among us, inconspicuous, in ordinary clothing. We hold these memories, hopes and standards deep in our collective memory, to sustain us, to remember they’re possible, through the cold and sunless days.
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