Tuesday, March 11, 2014

 

The larger problem: Does the House only censure Native Hawaiians?



January 17, 1893—the year the Hawai’ian Kingdom was overthrown by a group of businessmen backed by US Marines, followed by its annexation in 1898—was a true day of infamy. The centennial ceremonies starting January 16, 1993 were more important than the December 7, 1991 ceremony as commemoration of brutal statecraft.

Maybe some day we shall have an independent, multicultural, multiracial Republic of Hawai’i? Everyone, including the USA, would have much to gain. Wounds, if they are not dressed and healed, tend to fester.

However, efforts to undo the direct and structural violence of the past, counter the violence of the present and forestall the violence of the future would be of scant avail if the underlying cultural violence is not addressed.—
Pax Pacifica: Terrorism, the Pacific Hemisphere, Globalisation and Peace Studies by Johan Galtung, Pluto Press, 2005


by Larry Geller

Did you ever send an email knowing that most likely you’d never get an answer? I sent one late Sunday afternoon to Joe Souki, Speaker of Hawaii’s House of Representatives, with mixed feelings. I would like an answer, but don’t know if this email will even get through his staff to his desk, and even if it does, will he reply? I need to give it a little time.

To:    repsouki@capitol.hawaii.gov
Subject:    query on further censure actions
Date sent:    Sun, 09 Mar 2014 14:50:46 –1000

As Speaker, do you intend to censure or take action in another form with regard to other House members who have or who may have broken the law?

Clearly, my question is related to the news about Rep. Hanohano, a Native Hawaiian, who is currently the sole legislator to be so censured.

Larry Geller
Disappeared News

Sure, if I worked for a newspaper or a TV station, the odds of getting an answer would be much better. And obviously, it’s a “loaded” question. And also, no answer is kind of an answer. But the commercial news media will never ask such a question.

Sure, I have a point of view.

Chad Blair wrote in a Civil Beat article:

The chief clerks in the House and Senate told me last week that they could not recall any incident in recent memory in which a representative or senator was forcibly removed from a committee, censured or expelled.

Well, now it’s happened. See: House Speaker Publicly Scolds Rep. Hanohano for 'Intimidating' Conduct (Civil Beat, 3/6/2014).

I was not present for any of the incidents cited by the Speaker, but my question is clear: why is Rep. Hanohano the only one, “in recent memory” now, to be censured?

Do other legislators have some kind of permanently installed halo that protects them from censure under House or Senate rules?

I thought this anonymous comment, attached to my March 3 article, demonstrated the sensitivity that all of us, including legislative leadership, should be careful to exercise in this state, considering its history:

Writing as a local of Japanese ancestry, I understand that some might find the language Rep. Hanohano used offensive. I wouldn't like to encourage its everyday use, nor do I think she uses that language on an everyday basis. When facing the cultural imperialism embedded in our system of government and the flood of Western perspective invading Hawaii for far too long, it is far more offensive to ignore the genocide of the Hawaiian culture than it is to use the "J" word. Who are we to legislate the Hawaiian relationship to sharks especially when we allow the US Navy to bombard all ocean life with sonar and to use the ocean as dumping grounds for obsolete or hazardous weaponry?

# posted by Anonymous Anonymous : March 10, 2014 at 7:51:00 PM HST

When does the real conversation begin?

Where is an appropriate forum? TV will likely never go there, and while our daily newspaper finally noted (for example) the state’s failure to meet its trust obligations to put Native Hawaiians back on their land, the paper did not pursue the issue as an example of systemic and structural violence against Native Hawaiians in Hawaii.

I urge readers in Hawaii to read the Wikipedia article on structural violence. It begins:

Structural violence is a term commonly ascribed to Johan Galtung, which he introduced in the article "Violence, Peace, and Peace Research" in 1969. It refers to a form of violence where some social structure or social institution may harm people by preventing them from meeting their basic needs. Institutionalized elitism, ethnocentrism, classism, racism, sexism, adultism, nationalism, heterosexism and ageism are some examples of structural violence as proposed by Galtung. According to Galtung, rather than conveying a physical image, structural violence is an "avoidable impairment of fundamental human needs". As it is avoidable, structural violence is a high cause of premature death and unnecessary disability. Since structural violence affects people differently in various social structures, it is very closely linked to social injustice.

The Wikipedia article also touches on cultural violence, and how society’s actions become “invisible” and part of everyday life.

Here’s another snip that applies directly to Hawaii:

Theorists argue that structural violence is embedded in the current world system. This form of violence, which is centered on apparently inequitable social arrangements, is not inevitable, they argue. Ending the global problem of structural violence will require actions that may seem unfeasible in the short term. To some this indicates that it may be easier to devote resources to minimizing the harmful impacts of structural violence. Others, such as futurist Wendell Bell, see a need for long term vision to guide projects for social justice.

In Hawaii we’re sometimes willing to “minimize the harmful impacts” of ongoing structural violence such as taking small steps to improve the health of Native Hawaiians. This is at most, harm reduction, not removal or mediation of the harm, which remains ongoing.

Just as an example of ongoing structural violence, we allow the failure of the state to meet its obligation to Native Hawaiians under its Hawaiian Homelands trust to go on for decades. Even now, the State of Hawaii is contesting beneficiary damage claims in state court. An already decade-long trial could be stretched out for another decade or more, at the current pace.

Doesn’t that meet the definition of structural or cultural violence? Why does the state refuse to correct its ongoing neglect of a single ethnic group??

So, Speaker Souki, are you concerned only with the language used by one Native Hawaiian legislator, or do you intend to treat all legislators equally? And what, exactly, have you or other legislators done to fix the abysmal performance of the Department of Hawaiian Homelands? I didn’t ask that in my email because I know I’d never get an answer if I did. Certainly, there are many more questions that could be asked besides that one.

There’s a larger problem here, and every state legislator is a part of it. As perhaps, I am, and we all are.



Comments:

Hanohano's record and conduct have been abysmal. Fortunately, many candidates are challenging her in the primary, compared with 2012 when she ran unopposed.
 

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