There is a discrepancy in Hawaii – the Hawaii of the kanaka maoli, and the Hawaii that America occupies – and has corrupted for over a century. I am an empath, and the overwhelming love of the kanaka maoli’s Hawaii and her beautiful energy isn’t enough to alleviate the smothering my heart feels from the American Hawaii.
Tension festers between the kanaka maoli, the military, and the transplants that ran away to these islands to feel something that their homelands lost centuries ago. Speaking as a transplant with an empath’s heart, it’s torture to see the kanaka maoli in distress. I feel guilt for every step I take on their island, every deep breath that I feel in the bottom of my lungs – these are not my islands, and while it wasn’t ancestors that occupied and forcefully took over, I am inherently guilty by the shade of my skin – and before I go further, I have to say to the kanaka maoli: I am so tearfully sorry for what has become of your lands and your culture.
I am so sorry that America made you a spectacle to watch on a stage for the bragging rights alone of saying that they went to a luau, without actually knowing what a real luau looks like. I see your family parties every weekend set up with tents pitched early in the day and trays of the barbecue that I can taste just from the trade winds carrying the aroma into my presence.
I am sorry that America corrupted your monarchy – a monarchy that was a part of your ohana, that gave you food and shelter, but more importantly, a life of purpose. I am sorry that early on, America stripped you of your right to speak Olelo in your schools and gather in large groups and practice hula, and I am sorry that we impoverished your people and put you in decrepit Hawaiian homesteads as our sorry attempt at restitution for our actions.
I am sorry that we pushed you onto reservations in a desolate and dry section of the island and put your keiki in schools that do not serve them, and do not inspire their culture within them. I tried to fix the education issues – I really, really gave it my best shot – but the people running this system aren’t your people – and the few that are got to where they did because they learned how to comply.
I am sorry that we built hotels where homes should be and poured concrete where taro fields should be.
I am sorry that the oligarchy running this place created so many systems that simply do not work for the people of these islands. They take every opportunity pillage your wallet and your identity.
I am sorry that we handed you bibles in exchange for your beautiful pantheism.
And because I am so sorry for all of these things, I cannot stay.
It burns in my chest to see tourists sipping mai tais, blindly yet gleefully enraptured by your people on a stage acting out a whitewashed fantasy of your culture, as a king watches a performance, or as a Roman watches a gladiator.
Driving down Papipi Road in Ewa Beach blisters the idealism that used to reside in my soul. The juxtaposition of two worlds divided by pavement is an electric shock. The right side of the road is perfectly manicured – in this case, the grass is, in fact, greener on the other side. Emeralds sprout from the soil; bougainvilleas blossom in the hedges. Priuses wait in driveways and homes are insulated with promise and security. The left side of the road isn’t featured in the real estate ads that sell the other side’s homes – the grass is burnt, the soil is dry, and the windows are protected by rod iron bars.
There are other personal reasons that I must bid farewell – but those reasons are neither here nor there.
I don’t want to be another colonist telling you how things should be. What I want is for you to be a part of a system that you helped to create and improve – not the current one that finds every possible loophole to chop you at the knees.
Thank you for the three years of my time here – thank you for both inspiring me and humbling me; for showing me what ohana means to you; for forcing me outside of my comfort zone while teaching me that I’m worthy of being comfortable in my own skin; for showing me what perseverance looks like for you.
Before I go, please remember to do the same for you as what you have done for me – realize that you are worthy of more than what this system provides. You may not be told this enough – but you have value.
I won’t be here physically, but you will always have a cheerleader in me wherever I am. Show ‘em what your made of.