Sympathetic Ears

Amidst the pomp and circumstance of the Legislature’s opening day, it is more important to give pause to other news that is just as significant to people of faith. The resignation of Rep. Mele Carroll [1] (D – Moloka’i, Lana’i, Paia and Hana) is saddening on many levels. Most importantly are the significant health issues and tremendous personal adversity that she is facing. If you have the opportunity, please extend your thoughts, prayers and well-wishes to Rep. Carroll.

People of faith should recall Rep. Carroll’s remarks during the 2013 Special Session not because she stood against SB1, but because she stood beside people of faith. She was one of a handful who addressed the manner (and disdain) in which people of faith were treated by the Legislature. While other legislators eagerly stood with the cameras and touted their work as “fair”, “just” and in the name of “equality”, Rep. Carroll’s heartfelt remarks resonated because she called the situation for what it was – a travesty.

Rep. Carroll’s departure from the Legislature is a huge blow to people of faith – who find all-to-often that there is a lack of sympathetic ears amongst their elected officials. Christians alone account for 40% of the Aloha State’s population, yet it is clear much less than 40% of our elected officials are willing to speak on behalf of people of faith.

There is a lesson here, however, to all people of faith. With few sympathetic ears left in our state government:

  1. What are we doing to champion those who will listen and fight on our behalf? While the power of prayer is indeed awesome, it does not serve people of faith when our voices are being martyred at a burning stake. It is important that we not just pray, but uplift them and stand with them as they are persecuted for their faith, and defense thereof.
  2. What are we doing to foster relationships so that there are more sympathetic ears who might speak for people of faith? While we must be critically constructive of our current voices, we must listen to ourselves and the tone that we carry. People of faith stand for more than just morality – we stand for ethics, we stand against poverty, and we stand for an improved human condition.

I leave you, however, with an excerpt of Rep. Carroll’s remarks during the third reading of SB1 at the 2013 Special Session. [2] Her words brought clarity and wisdom to a body that has otherwise demonstrated that it is equally ignorant and blind.

Person after person came forward to speak for just two minutes. And even though they knew they would command just a short amount of our attention, they patiently waited for hours, for days, sitting on the cold granite hallway floors, or standing under the hot sun at the rotunda for the opportunity to say what they could.

As it was expressed what some had felt no matter what side they were one, it broke my heart because of the criticisms that I have heard from our constituents where some of our colleagues did not treat our citizens with the respect that they deserve, some of our colleagues chose to belittle testifiers for their beliefs or the way they talked, or for what they said. Or many were abruptly interrupted midsentence or told their message was repetitive or was dismissed without being heard.

Many left humiliated, upset and disturbed, asking themselves, ‘was the time worth it? ts anyone listening?’ Receiving this feedback from our constituents was heartbreaking to me. I blame the process. And our constituents still came back each day, and they stayed. Some may have even lost their jobs to come and stay. Hundreds upon hundreds came with the hope that their rnana’o would be considered sincerely.

But despite letting thousands of people speak for days, the committee came to a decision in just a mere two hours. Two hours. No one could read all that material and consider everything that was said within that amount of time and treat our people’s ,nana’o with the aloha it deserved. Again, I blame our process.

Aloha was a central theme throughout the public hearing. Persons both in support and in opposition used this term frequently throughout the proceedings. It was used so frequently, its meaning seemed lost to everyone. Aloha became the buzz word, and by using it, we were led to think that all the words were pono.

There were two testimonies that stood out for me. The first was from Karla Keliihoomalu Akiona, a hula kumu from Mililani, and this is what she quoted in her testimony. ‘We Hawaiians have so much taken from us, and just when you think there’s nothing more that can be taken, this happens. We don’t appreciate people coming into our hale, robbing us of our religious freedoms, trying to destroy our families, restricting our voting rights and polluting these spiritual lands by dismantling what God has instituted marriage between one man and one woman.

She continued, ‘you need to understand what aloha is, you have to understand what is, and most people do not know what aloha is. Aloha is everything that is pono, everything that is righteous, correct, and everything that is in the light. Anything else is other, is dark. So if you want to talk about love, kindness and compassion, and all of those things that what it is, aloha is the most sacred word in the Hawaiian culture, and it is being frivolously used by people utilizing my culture, my aloha, and to pass what we all know is wrong.

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[1] – Honolulu Star-Advertiser, January 21, 2015, “Carroll Resigns House Seat” (http://www.staradvertiser.com/newspremium/20150121__Carroll_resigns_House_seat.html

[2] – Rep. Carroll’s full remarks can be found on page 73 of the House Journal for Day 11: http://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/splsession2013b/HOD_HOUSEJOURNAL_11-08-13_DAY10_.PDF

 

 

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