LETTER: Kent State & the Aloha State—A Cautionary Tale

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May 4, 1970: We should remember this date. Not only because it signifies a time in our history when things went horribly wrong as events spun out of control, but is also a cautionary tale that it, or something very close to it, could happen again … here, in the peaceful Aloha State. It is also a study in laws, good and bad; the laws of men, the laws of logic, the laws of science and politics and religion and war and peace.

Our president at the time called the protesters on the Kent Sate campus the ‘filthy hippie bums’. They were protesting the war in Vietnam and our incursion into Cambodia. The governor called in the Ohio national guard. We all know the rest. Almost fifty years later and we still find it painful to even think about, but why? Could it be that we still can’t admit to ourselves that we could have been so obviously, painfully and blindly wrong? We were duped by our respective ‘sides’, the antiwar movement and the government.

There are strident voices here calling the Mauna Kea protectors ‘secessionists’ and invoking the imagery of our civil war and the more than one million dead. These voices have called for the federal government to step in and arrest our governor, lieutenant governor and mayor for ‘treason’ for not upholding the laws, courts and policies of our state. We are advised to not ‘coddle’ the rabble, rather jail them, and quickly. I’d suggest we consider the wisdom of, “Those who cannot learn from the errors of the past are doomed to forever repeat them.”

Such arguments provide the illusion of ‘doing something’ vs. ‘caving in’. In reality, these feelings offer a glimpse into the souls of the folks making that case, and it’s not a pretty sight. By their logic, we’d need to ‘remove’ most of the southern states who actively did, and do, support the Confederacy, particularly the tenets of supremacy and secession. Clearly, the million dead did not ‘heal the wounds.’ Violence, arrests and confrontations fix nothing. The ‘south’ is still angry and hurt by the past. Is that really the toxic soup that you want to bring here?


This is not an impossible situation. Two observatories only on the summit; the TMT and one other. For every truck climbing upward with build materials, another rolls downward with the remains of the disassembled observatories. Only two. When one is deemed no longer ‘current’, it can be replaced with a newer version. Be reasonable people, how many obsolete cellphones do you really need in your dresser drawer? You only need one that works, and maybe a backup just in case.

And to the protectors; I found a piece of a spirit I had lost long ago. It was on this island, and it wasn’t anywhere near the mountain. Another piece of serious wisdom; “Don’t make the perfect the enemy of the good.” Instead of shaking your fists at the future, why don’t you supervise it instead?

Who better?

Letters, commentaries and opinion pieces are not edited by Big Island Now.



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