Now that the 2018 campaign season has finally concluded, I’m not sure who is more relieved: the public or the candidates themselves. Regardless of where you stand on the political spectrum, you likely agree that this election year has brought out the best and the worst of human nature, more so on the national stage than locally.
We are, after all, the only state in which the Aloha Spirit is written into law. As defined in Section 5-7.5 of the Hawaii Revised Statutes, “Aloha” is, among other things, “the life force
. . . the essence of relationships in which each person is important to every other person for collective existence.” The elements of aloha, as described in the Aloha Spirit rule, include kindness, unity, agreeability, humility and patience. HRS 5-7.5 further states, “In exercising their power on behalf of the people and in fulfillment of their responsibilities, obligations and service to the people, the legislature, governor, lieutenant governor, executive officers of each department (and members of the judiciary, from the Supreme to district courts) may contemplate and reside with the life force and give consideration to the ‘Aloha Spirit.’ ”
This year, just like two years ago, and two years before that, I hear people lamenting the loss of common courtesy and common sense on the campaign trail. “It’s not like the good old days,” old-timers say. “Where’s the aloha?” Especially on social media platforms, civility sometimes seems obsolete. Folks on all sides of the political divide urge their fellow citizens to not just speak up, but shout out.
Of course, controversy and confrontation aren’t exclusive to 21st-century politics. In 1976, the first year I covered elections as a radio news reporter (and the year I cast my first ballot), an idealistic group of political newcomers ran for office under the banner of the newly formed Independents for Godly Government party. Locals called them “the Krishna candidates” because of their connection to Chris Butler, aka Siddha Swarup Ananda Goswami, guru of an ISKCON (International Society for Krishna Consciousness) splinter group. The most successful of the IGG candidates was Wayne Nishiki, who tallied 20 percent in a three-way mayoral contest and would later go on to serve on the County Council for 12 years, from 1981 to 1992, before the five-term limit was established.
Nishiki, popularly called “a champion of the people,” joined both the Democratic and Republican parties at different times, but always prided himself on being a true independent. I don’t remember whether it was taken at a County Council meeting or a Democratic party function, but I clearly recall a Maui News front page photo of Nishiki wearing chains in protest.
Ten years before Nishiki first assumed office, County Council Member Joseph Bulgo took up the fight against what he and many constituents saw as “the hippie invasion” of Maui. In 1970, Bulgo put forth a number of proposals, including quarantine and mounted patrols of hippie colonies, and even a resolution that asked the flower children to bathe.
I was just a kid, more interested in pop stars than politics, but I remember the late ’60s and early ’70s as a tipping point, when locals began to feel wary, even resentful, of the newcomers. Searching The Maui News index of the time, I found headlines such as “Vegetarian beatniks under observation” (5/22/65), “Molokaians fearful of invasion” (6/7/67), “Riot control exercise held in case of hippie disturbance” (2/10/68), and “Chamber of Commerce checks vagrancy law as method of getting rid of hippies” (9/25/70).
Obviously, Maui County never did ban hippies or any other group from settling here, though the influx did result in legislation regarding hitchhiking, camping and water trespass. Most of those who arrived in the ’60s eventually moved along, but some adopted the islands as their home, and a few even ventured into politics.
One of the most memorable was Susanne Sydney, who ran for mayor several times, in between selling her homemade “Maui Wanna” popsicles at Baldwin Beach Park. She would show up at council meetings and public hearings, often on her skateboard and, at least once, mooned then-Mayor Elmer Cravalho in the county building elevator.
Ah, the good old days. At least Susanne and Elmer never resorted to mudslinging on Facebook.
* Kathy Collins is a storyteller, actress and freelance writer whose “Sharing Mana’o” column appears every Wednesday. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.