Each voice be part of a harmony

Honolulu Advertiser
Friday, January 27, 2006

By Lee Cataluna
Advertiser Columnist

It is said about nearly every issue concerning Native Hawaiians, from federal recognition and self-governance to matters of land rights and housing, ali'i trust beneficiaries to issues of protocol and tradition:

All Hawaiians have to come together on this.

Hawaiians have to agree.

Hawaiians must unite.

It is both a wish and an excuse.

A wish that navigating the tricky corners of the American legal system and rocky rapids of politics could somehow be made easier with everyone on the same vessel.

A wish that every voice could be heard, every opinion pleased and every concern addressed.

And an excuse for indecision and inaction on things that greatly require decision and action.

Mostly, it is a simplistic, unrealistic goal for any group of complex people dealing with complex issues.

Isn't it insulting to demand any racial, ethnic or cultural group, to be of one mind on every issue? Or even one issue? Isn't that at the heart of stereotyping and profiling and xenophobia?

But Hawaiians are as different individually as are members of any other heritage.

Not every Hawaiian plays music and dances hula. Not every Hawaiian fishes and surfs. Not every Hawaiian has worked in the lo'i or attended UH or dropped their English first names once they were out of high school.

There are as many ways to be Hawaiian as there are Hawaiians. Even the Hawaiian language differs island to island, region to region. There are bound to be disagreements on a great number of crucial issues and methods.

A person who grew up on land that has been home to the family for generations will have different beliefs and life experiences than someone who spent their childhood in a Makiki apartment and visited a lo'i once on a field trip. Someone who was raised with their grandparents will believe their kupuna's words are absolute truth; no reference book will ever convince them otherwise.

Americans pride themselves on their different opinions. We don't all think the same way and that's what makes us strong at least that's the message we get in fifth-grade history class. (Then we get a little older and a lot more rigid and start to believe that people who don't think the way we do are blazing idiots who should be run out of town.)

It would be great if all people of Hawaiian ancestry came together to move forward as a people.

There needs to be a healthy acknowledgment of diverse views, a realistic attempt to address as many sides as practical, and a unshakable resolve to move forward in a way that benefits the majority.

Lee Cataluna's column runs Tuesdays, Fridays and Sundays. Reach her at 535-8172 or lcataluna@honoluluadvertiser.com.

© COPYRIGHT 2006 The Honolulu Advertiser, a division of Gannett Co. Inc.

Original article URL: http://the.honoluluadvertiser.com/article/2006/Jan/17/br/br04p.html/?print=on

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