I’ve said for years that I’m an agnostic on the question of Hawaiian sovereignty.
Look up “agnostic” in the dictionary and you’ll find a definition something like this:
a person who believes that nothing is known or can be known of the existence or nature of God or of anything beyond material phenomena; a person who claims neither faith nor disbelief in God.
Apply that outside of religion, and you get a related definition like this (Dictionary.com):
a person who holds neither of two opposing positions on a topic: “Socrates was an agnostic on the subject of immortality.“
And that’s how I feel about sovereignty. I don’t think enough is known, or agreed on, to be able to figure out whether any form of sovereignty would advance or hurt the interests of the broader Hawaiian community, so at this point I’m not opposing or supporting the sovereignty idea in general.
But I am supporting the Na’i Aupuni election process because it is a concrete and organized step to both broadening and focusing the discussion of sovereignty, as contradictory as that sounds.
It broadens the discussion by opening it up to all eligible Hawaiians, but focuses it by limiting the number of delegates and imposing a time period for reaching at least tentative conclusions and recommendations. It has the potential to move the whole process forward. But if it fails, it could slam the door on real progress for another generation or more.
While I intend to vote, I haven’t yet done so. And that worries me, because I’m guessing that many others may be having similar problems sifting through the candidates and selecting those to support. And low participation will endanger the whole effort.
Some candidate choices are easy, people I have known over the years, and I’m confident that they have the experience, vision, and good sense to sort out the many competing issues, interests, and personalities. But after that, choices are difficult.
Many candidates appear to be primarily supported by their extended families, judging by those who signed their nomination forms. The descriptions candidates have provided of themselves are heavy on broad generalities, and don’t always provide information on educational and employment backgrounds, or political views and affiliations, economic perspectives, etc.
Over the past 40 years, new Hawaiian institutions have developed, with the Office of Hawaiian Affairs likely at the top of the food chain. Older institutions, like the Hawaiian Homes Commission and the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands, have give greater emphasis to having Hawaiians in management positions.
I am interested candidates views on how a new Hawaiian governing entity can transform these institutions, or their essential functions, for the better, but there are few clues in the candidate statements.
Many candidates stress the importance of land.
Well, DHHL has land. So does OHA, on a smaller scale. What do they think a new Hawaiian governing entity can do to make better use of this land? How will any available land be allocated to address issues of homelessness and community economic development? How will the land controlled by the alii trusts be treated if a new governing entity is approved? I doubt the trusts are prepared to turn over their portfolios any time soon.
These, and a host of other questions, buzz through my head every time I sit down and try to systematically evaluate the candidates. And so far, I haven’t made it through the list or come close to casing my vote.
I will make decisions before the deadline for voting. But the process of getting there has me worried about whether the election, and the resulting convention, will be a success.