Standing up for aloha means just that

Our community is changing and the way issues are being dealt with is dividing us, with some behaviors in stark contrast to the aloha spirit that we hold dear. That is why we and many others have chosen to “Stand for Aloha.” The effort is not an individual or organization’s initiative, but actions by a growing group to move our community positively forward.

Whenever people stand up, some will challenge their purpose and/or intentions. It is expected these days, but can also be helpful as feelings are expressed. Here is an email received.

“In the opinion of Kanaka Maoli you are a DUMMIE!!! You should acquaint yourself with “Monsanto 101 for DUMMIES”! You and your silly organization would dare put “BUSINESS” before the wellbeing of human life, including that of children! You would dare to advocate for the “All mighty dollar”, over the poisoning of humans! That, Pamela, is the truest sense of “Dummieism”! Dummies don’t understand “Aloha Aina”, and you would dare to desecrate the usage by saying “WeStandForAloha”. Hawaiian 101 for Dummies (like you): Aloha means “Love” and Aina refers to the Land and its environment, and the people who are stewards of the land. You one haole that has no clue and don’t use kanaka ancestors to further your glossy agenda.”

This opinion gives us an opportunity to share more. For clarification and with no disrespect meant to the author, we offer the following to help people better understand our motivation and efforts:

* The comment that we would put business before the well-being of human life, including that of children, is just false. Businesses are owned and operated by people who live here, raise their children here, and who care about the environment. We incorporate scientific research to make informed decisions and support a triple bottom-line view of sustainability that includes economy, environment and social well-being. Such statements are disrespectful to our family, friends and neighbors who own or work in businesses.

* The platform we support in “Standing for Aloha” is the definition of the aloha spirit found in state statute, written into law decades ago, which the Maui Chamber of Commerce has and continues to publicly share. Over the years we have found that many are unaware of this law, from newcomers to those born and raised here. However, we find that when people read the definition, it unites them, rather than divides them. Others may define aloha or the aloha spirit differently, but we embrace the definition in the statute. That does not mean that we do not care for the land. We do and people banded together last Saturday to care for the land by cleaning up trash.

* The law states that “Aloha is the essence of relationships in which each person is important to every other person for collective existence.” We agree, which is why we and others are working to bring the community together to do good things.

* The statute notes that the aloha spirit “was the working philosophy of native Hawaiians and was presented as a gift to the people of Hawai’i.” We think that is a beautiful thing to be admired and respected, not a “glossy agenda.” We are choosing to cherish this gift “presented to the people of Hawai’i” and shine a light on it, not disparage it.

In contrast to this one email, many said they appreciated the efforts by all involved to “Stand for Aloha” and improve our community.

Please follow the group’s collective progress on Facebook and join in by sending an email to WeStandForAloha@gmail.com. More activities are planned in 2015.

* Pamela Tumpap is president of the Maui Chamber of Commerce.