I was disappointed, but not surprised to read that Mayor Harry Kim had asked for another two-month moratorium on the Thirty Meter Telescope.
He cannot be so naive as to believe that the protesters are going to compromise after their stonewalling tactics have been patently successful since last July. They don’t mind that they are holding up a very worthwhile project, that they are costing the taxpayers (most of whom want the project to go forward) many millions of dollars, that they are defying the courts and breaking the law (largely with impunity), and that they are fomenting racism and xenophobia.
There is no reason to think they are going to become more conciliatory during the next few months. During the last “cooling-off period,” the TMT held up their end of the bargain, but the protesters continued to announce they would never back down while instituting yet another frivolous and expensive court case. The mess they left on the mountain belies their claim to have environmental concerns about the mountain.
They have created a myth out of whole cloth that the mountain is sacred to them. Older Hawaiians have told me that they and their family and friends have been hunting and hiking on Maunakea for generations and that none of them has ever seen other Hawaiians practicing religious rites on the mountain. In fact, before the access road was constructed, very few of them even went up there because the terrain was so difficult to traverse.
When asked what it is they are actually protesting about the TMT and what it is they want, their responses are all over the map. Some of them just shrug their shoulders and say something to the effect that they were told to show up, so they did. The bottom line seems to be that they want concessions and financial reparations. The TMT has offered several concessions, but no matter what is offered, it is never enough. Offering financial reparations for a political event that occurred over 100 years ago to people who obviously are no longer alive seems like a slippery slope. Most of us belong to groups who have a history of some sort of mistreatment. The largest group to have a powerful argument for atonement for the sins of their forefathers and of current governments is, of course, women. Paying reparations for political wrongs of the past would bankrupt any current government.
Moreover, many of the protesters claiming to be victims of the overthrow are not directly related to anyone who was mistreated then, and certainly the large majority of the TMT coalition and their supporters had absolutely nothing to do with the overthrow. What is the point of convincing their children they are victims of the past rather than teaching them that they have the ability to shape the future? What is the point of targeting the TMT?
If they need a target, they might want to begin with Office of Hawaiian Affairs, which has a long history of corruption, or Hawaiian Homelands, which has a reputation of cronyism and nepotism, or even Kamehameha Schools, which refuses more Hawaiian children than they accept into their schools.
The TMT will help to bring Hawaii into the 21st century. It will build from the ancient Hawaiians’ understanding and love of the stars. It will provide not only jobs and scholarships, but also role models. Like the other telescopes, it will be a good steward of the land and truck out all of their waste products. It will bring scientists, technicians, and scholars to the Big Island. It will offer community outreaches as do many of the other telescopes — events which the protesters eschew. It will benefit all of us in that it will expand and extend our knowledge of our beginnings and the nature of the vast universe whose stardust is literally part of each of us.
It is past time to allow the TMT to begin construction. They have the legal right to do so, and they have the support of the majority of the Hawaiian citizenry. It is past time for our mayor and our governor to develop and to adhere to a moral and legal compass. They need to stop mollycoddling this minority of malcontents and lawbreakers. They need to listen to the majority of their constituents, to quit squandering that majority’s tax money that could be used for much more useful projects, and to apply the law equally to all people. In other words, they need to do the job we elected them to do.
Kerrill Kephart is a resident of Kapaau.