Another reason to like Barack Obama

The President-Elect arrived on Oahu for a vacation while I was there. I spent Sunday talking with my old friends Chuck and Patt, and they filled me in on how proud the people are of their native son (Obama’s known locally as “Obomber” for his penchant for shooting 3-pointers on his high school basketball team). Chuck and Patt live down the road from the Obama’s rental house in Kailua.

The fact of Obama’s youth in Hawaii — and what that means in how he’ll govern — is missed by the press, because they don’t understand life in the islands.

Of all of the many peoples of the world, no group is like island people. On a piece of land where the roads don’t go very far, there exists a deep respect for each other, one that is born of the knowledge that your neighbor is a person you need.

In the Governor’s office in Hawaii sits a statue called “Island People.” It’s a wood carving with several humans sticking out of a small, mounded base. Its deep meaning is evident in the connectivity between the humans and the land.

The earth is an island, so we are all island people, although the size of our globe makes that hard to see.

Obama’s Hawaii is a collection of every size, shape, race and creed. I’ve often said that every Caucasian should live in Hawaii for awhile to get a glimpse of life without a “majority” race.

Barack Obama was born in Hawaii and lived formative years in the midst of island people. To Hawaiians, he’s just another hapa haoli, a mixed breed, just like nearly everybody else. The extent to which this cultural grounding influences his decision-making is significant, because we have never known it before. One tends to view the world differently as an island person, and this will escape the notice of the press, except, of course, in Hawaii, where they’re proud as hell that a keiki o’ka aina (child of the land) is bound for the White House.

Everybody here may think that the story of his being a man of African descent is the history being made with Barack Obama, but his internal governor is more that of an island person than anything else.

It will be fascinating to watch.

Mele Kalikimaka

From beneath the aged banyon tree on the beach at Waikiki, Merry Christmas to all my friends and readers everywhere.

Merry Christmas from Waikiki Beach

Somebody please tell me what a vacation is

Me attempting to look deep in thought on the beach at WaikikiThis is now officially a vacation for me. I finished a presentation at KGMB-TV this morning, did a little shopping at the Ala Moana Shopping Center, and now I’m just relaxing at Waikiki. I don’t do vacations very well. Never have. As my friend Karen says, “there’s a lot going on” in my mind.

Take this trip. I was surprised that the jet from L.A. was packed. I guess I thought travel to and from the islands would have been reduced, due to the recession. Wrong. Long flights aren’t so bad, if you’ve been upgraded to First Class, which I enjoyed. I could plug in my computer, write and watch movies. Just like home.

The queen stewardess, also known as the chief flight attendant, made an announcement that I’d never heard before, and it said a lot about how much the world has changed. “Our flight attendants,” she said, “are here primarily for your safety, but if you have something you need, just press the call button, and we’ll be happy to see what we can do.” This caught my attention, because I’d never heard it put so bluntly. “We’re not here to serve you; we’re here to do our jobs, which we hide in the name of protecting you.” Like so many other occupations, it seems, being a flight attendant has shifted from being customer service to company service.

Walking around the beach here, I’m convinced once again that I’m on the wrong mailing lists. Who knew, for example, that thong bikinis were out — replaced by the old fashioned bottoms that go straight across the hips. I feel SO uninformed about these important things.

I saw a sign in customer service at the Ala Moana Shopping Center that said, “Effective January 9, we will no longer accept cash for gift certificates.” I wondered how long it would take before cash became a net liability. Plastic’s where it’s at, I guess. Reminds me of that scene from “The Graduate.”

See what I mean about vacations? Probing social analysis from a guy just enjoying the sights and sounds of my old friend, Hawaii.