Crazy Man Tactics and All You Need To Know

It seems the nation’s attention is absorbed by Cohen’s testimony, what Trump may be doing with Kim in Vietnam, whether India and Pakistan are going to war, what Brexit means, and the increasingly vague hopes for Chinese trade negotiations.  The Wall?  Who even remembers the Wall?  I, on the other hand, am a slow thinker, so I’m still reflecting on an article in the Washington Post from yesterday, which seems like ages ago in the current way of news cycles.
James Hohmann, and others, reviewed Trump’s Mad Man tactic borrowed from Nixon.  By pretending to be an unpredictable out of control head of state capable of doing anything, it’s claimed he’s forced Europeans to up the ante for their own defense, brought Kim to heel, made the Chinese blink, and buffaloed congressional Republicans into dazed submission.  
Hohmann went on to note that Nixon’s Mad Man tactic didn’t work out as he hoped it would.  While some claim it brought about the end of the Viet Nam War, the same could have been achieved at any earlier time without Kissinger’s manipulative “Realpolitik,” and without so much additional loss of life.  It was supposed to save political face for Nixon, and it did for a few days, but history hasn’t been kind to it. 
Trump isn’t Nixon.  That’s obvious even to a small town commentator looking on from afar, trying to make sense of what can be known through reporting from others.  
What I observe is this: Nixon used the Mad Man tactic as one tool among many in his large tool shed.  Whatever genuine madness he slid into, it  shouldn’t be confused with his mastery of many political tools, including the Mad Man tactic.  Trump’s adolescent bullying version is not so much a tool as normal behavior.  He appears to approach every engagement as a win-lose transaction in which he wins and the other loses.  The only other tool in his small bag is an ability to feign kindness and generosity when it’s in his interest to do so, and then for limited duration.  When he doesn’t win, he never admits defeat, he just quits the field of play as if he was never serious about winning.  I suspect he compensates by collecting grudges the way some people collect commemorative coins, expecting a payback at the right time.  
Relationships with those who’ve surrendered loyalty to him are another matter.  From the outside they look like master-servant arrangements where obsequiousness is rewarded by avoiding the master’s wrath.
He may be an unwilling student of limited intelligence, but he’s schemingly clever in his ability to use the few tools he has to get what he wants, so should never be underestimated.  Moreover, since he plays by his own rules, it’s a mistake to assume that established norms and standards have any value to him.  He may be amoral, but he’s not without his own closely held standards.  Don’t buy into the idea that he’s unpredictable and might do anything.  He’d like everyone to think that, but it’s not true.  He may play by his own rules, but they are rules, he plays by them, and seldom deviates.  The press and political leadership are slowly learning, but they need to study harder and learn quicker.  A few pundits claim he learned everything he needed to know by watching Godfather movies.  Maybe that tells us everything we need to know about Trump.

Questionable Headlines

I dislike headlines that end in question marks.  A year ago it seemed that few were without them.  Things have improved, but there’re still too many in teasers for television news, local papers, and the national media.  Today there were national headlines asking whether Trump would mess up with North Korean negotiations, if reporting on Klobuchar’s treatment of subordinates was fair, why Kim only travels by train, and whether dark forces are messing with the cosmos?
Maybe they’re intended to entice as in: Wow! What a great question; I can hardly wait to hear the answer.  More often I think they imply an opinionated answer disguised as reporting.  It causes me to suspect the writer has manipulated facts to fit an answer already implied by the headline question.  On the other hand, have publishers handed off headline writing to the marketing staff?  Would that be a good idea?
As a commentator commenting on inappropriate commenting, reporters need to report before they do any analysis, and analysis must stay as far away from opinion as it can, which is not always easy, I understand that.  But let there be no questionable headlines that suggest judgment before the what, where, how, when, who is even known.  
As long as I’m on a minor rant, although the NYT is one of my favorite go to papers (the others are WPO, WSJ, and the Guardian), they allow important news articles to be embedded with opinion in ways the others do less often.  And it’s not a recent thing.  I griped about it thirty years ago.  Add that to competition to be out there with breaking news as quickly as cable does it, and they too often jump the gun without adequate due diligence.  For example, they, along with others, were a little too quick to judgmentally report on Sen. Feinstein’s meeting with young Green New Deal advocates, and on Sen. Klobuchar’s management practices.   To be fair, they usually follow up with more detailed reporting a few days later, but it’s lousy timing.  Will Trump screw up in talks with Kim?  Given his track record, it’s entirely possible, maybe even likely, but first let’s see what actually happens, and not play games guessing about outcomes.  Leave that to pundits, who, like Wall Street Analysts, are right by chance more than anything else.
Still, and contrary to Trump’s many complaints and accusations, the Times is an important and necessary source of well written news articles long enough to cover more than cable news basics.  When they err, amendments are quickly made.  Besides, they can be checked against the other sources, with Reuters added in as a pretty good backup.  
One other complaint before I bring this nonsense to a close.  It has to do with Rachel Maddow, whom I used to watch several times a week.  She may be “the smartest person on television,” but dang she’s repetitive.  How many times can she say the same thing, sometimes word for word, but usually with minor mutations, before moving on to her main point, or any point?  Sometimes she goes on so long I get distracted by the crossword, or something the dog wants, and miss it altogether.  I doubt she’s yet found the upper limit for repetition.  Yes, she does her research, is not often caught with a Pinocchio, does investigate important issues, but when I watch I find myself yelling at the t.v. for her to get to the point already!   
Maybe the whole lot of them should take a master class from my friend Sheila Hagar, a pro in the old way, a do it all reporter for the little Walla Walla Union Bulletin.  No Pulitzer in her future, no book writing fortune either, just solid reporting on whatever needs reporting.

American Individualism, Socialism, Community & Balance (II)

As recent columns attest, I’ve been struggling with the balance between individual freedom and the need for a healthy community that limits freedom while creating conditions needed to have freedom.  It’s a complicated balance that turns on questions of which rights, which freedoms, for whom, under what conditions?  Community exists in many ways, and my immediate concern is about communities organized as governments: national, state and local.  How the community is organized and what rules it sets are made collectively in our tradition, but activist individuals are potent forces influencing them.  That’s as it should be.
American individualism, with its emphasis on self reliance, is a part of how the balance gets worked out in our communities, but it has a tendency to treat government as a barely tolerable evil always threatening to take away individual rights and freedom.  In its extreme forms it shows contempt for the role of community, yet relies on community for its ability to exist.  The most strident defenders of individual freedoms assert the right to define their freedoms for themselves, and are quick to use every power of government to protect them by limiting the rights and freedoms of others.  In a curiously disturbing way, they can happily march toward authoritarianism in the name of liberty.
On the other hand, liberals, tagged as left wing Socialists who are said to be intent on government control of the means of production, have been the most outspoken defenders of democracy and civil and human rights, demanding that government adopt policies and provide resources needed to expand and maintain them for future generations.
The particular topic for today’s column continues a theme from a few days ago: some tagged as liberal want the community to surrender to their demands that their unique world view and personal identity be acknowledged and respected as valid as the price for their agreement to participate in community.  While they may be revealing genuine issues requiring community response, it’s often expressed in ways nearly identical to those of open carry tea partiers and right wing white libertarians.  Their demands for community recognition of unique rights and freedoms heads toward the same authoritarian path. 
What I mean is that it seems popular to assert that one’s unique self defined reality be honored by society because it’s the right of each person to proclaim for themselves who they are within the reality they define.  They have a right to not be forced by the community into some other identity or reality.  So far so good, but they go on to claim the community is obligated to give their unique reality the same credibility as any other.  It’s not the same thing as authenticity, genuineness, or Jungian individuation which generally mean a healthy personal wholeness able to live in a workable relationship with others in community, even when acting as an agent of dramatic change on behalf of others.  What makes it different is the claim of uniqueness, the proclamation of a community of one to which all others must do obeisance.  They assert for themselves the right to be judge and jury of those who violate the rules they set for others to follow.
Conservatives often associate this sort of self centered hyper individualism with the young whom they assume to be left wing liberals.  It’s a label stuck especially on college students said to be selfish, lazy, and entitled brats who are being indoctrinated by socialist faculty.  Scorned by conservatives as they may be, I think the relative few like that aren’t liberal, but tea partiers in the making.  It’s a version of the old saying that today’s radicals are tomorrow’s stuffed shirts.  After all, where did all the aging tea partiers at Trump rallies come from?  Weren’t they of the selfish, lazy, entitled ‘me’ generation from not too many decades ago?
In fact, Trump may be the most public example of the demand that the community, the nation in this case, conform to his unique reality, his community of one.  He’s not a right wing ideologue; he just uses them as convenient tools.  He doesn’t appear to have any deeply held political ideology.  He only has a narcissistic disposition toward autocracy, and is willing to court whomever is most likely to loyally honor his unique claim to reality.  In business they were toadies and greedy speculators eager to use him as much as he used them.  He was the Bobby Riggs of real estate: a lucky amateur, second rate pro, and full time hustler.  That was then.  It’s a more dangerous game today. 
When governments become servants of hyper individualism, the fabric of community is shredded, and autocratic rule is the likely outcome.  When governments smother self reliance and individual freedom to engage in entrepreneurial initiative, community becomes a prison from which there is no escape.  Western representative democracy seeks to find a reasonable balance between the two.  For America, Trump is a clear and present danger to that balance.   College students are not.  They’re just intellectually immature.

Woe to the Prideful Rich

Most people have heard of the Sermon on the Mount, even if they have no idea where to find it or what it says.  Fewer have heard of the Sermon on the Plain, which is like the former, but different.  The first is in Matthew’s gospel, and the second in Luke’s.  It’s a good bet that Jesus gave a bang up speech to a large crowd sometime during his time on earth, and these two “sermons” capture at least some of what was said – they read like hurriedly jotted down classroom notes, so don’t expect more.
Some church goers will hear a portion of Luke’s Sermon on the Plain read out loud this Sunday, but if you want to get a preview take a look at Luke, chapter 6.  Sunday’s reading includes a number of blessings followed by several woes.  Woe to those who are rich, have all they want to eat, are happy with life, and of whom others speak well.  What’s with that? Isn’t it good to have enough money to not worry about it, to have enough to eat at all times, to enjoy life, and be well thought of by others?  Add a three bedroom house and a couple of newish cars, and it’s the American dream.  So why all the woes?
When someone says “Woe is me,” we generally take it to mean that unexpected bad things have come into their life, making them feel sad, incompetent, and unsure of a way out.  When someone says “Woe are you,” it usually means that a person has made dumb decisions and is about to make more, reaping consequences that should have been obvious to them.  So Woes are not curses, but observations and warnings about unpleasant conditions in life. 
The woes Jesus proclaims, it seems to me, are warnings to those who are enjoying the good life, and assuming an air of well earned superiority over those who have less.  They’ve placed their confidence in things of transient value that cannot not endure.  It’s an offense against divine justice when it’s combined with belief that the good life is there for the taking if one is willing to work hard enough for it; others are missing out only because they’re too lazy to do the work, expecting others to make life easy for them.  Still, where is the woe in that?  It’s a popular conservative creed adhered to by many Christians.
The woe is that each of us will be held accountable for our life of stewardship, because no one really owns anything.  We’re temporary stewards of whatever we have.  As the psalmist wrote, you can heap all the riches in the world, but when you die they won’t be yours anymore, so don’t take any pride in them (Ps 49).  The cars we drive, the houses we own, the stuff they’re filled with, they all come and go, they’re in our hands temporarily, even if we have bills of sale and paid off mortgages.  There are all kinds of pride, but the deadly sin of pride is to measure human value by what we possess. 

As stewards accountable to God it’s not about pursuing a better life in the hereafter.  We take that as a given.  Jesus said he came to give life in abundance here and now, and gave instructions for how to live into it in these two “sermons.”  It might be that someone’s life is filled with enough: enough money, enough food, enough enjoyment, and a good reputation, but those for whom that’s so don’t assume it came by merit,  don’t lust for more than enough, make no claim of superiority, and recognize their role as stewards accountable to God.  Accountable stewardship is to do what one can with what one has to cultivate conditions where all can have enough, and none have more at the expense of those having less. 

Individualism & Community: A difficult balance

I don’t know if the value Americans place on individualism is greater than in other countries, but suspect it is.  I read a piece a few days ago that I can’t find again.  The author made a point out of praising his own self reliance, ridiculed those who, in his words, want to make life easy for everyone, lauded personal charity giving a hand to those who deserve a hand, and praised unfettered private enterprise.  I’d be more upset about not citing him correctly, but it’s the same generic theme preached by many others in almost identical words.  Another version of it came from a highly paid executive who complained that no one ever helped him, he did it all himself, so don’t lay any of that (white) privilege crap on him.  Maybe like you, I read articles, make a mental note of something said, realize only later how much I’d like to cite it, but can’t find it again.  I need a better system of taking notes for future reference.  In fact, I need any system.  It’s something to work on, but I digress.  
The virtue of self reliant individualism is deeply rooted in the American myth, and it’s not without value.  Self reliance is a real virtue, and so is the American ideal that every person should be able to explore the fullness of their authentic self to the best of their ability.  But self reliance can’t exist outside the context of community, whether local or national.  It’s only in a healthy, supportive community that self reliance and living into one’s full potential can be experienced to its fullest.  
Unhealthy, oppressive communities place barriers to both, sometimes to the point of destroying them.  Exceptional persons can overcome the barriers.  Their occasional triumph is often met with claims that anyone can do it if they try.  It’s not true.  Exceptional people are exceptional.  Creating unbreachable barriers was the intent of slavery, and the Jim Crow era assured that for blacks self reliance and personal authenticity was made as difficult as possible (Lest we forget, the same was true for other ethnicities as well).  
In a strange way, a society can produce a healthy, supportive community for some, that is also an unhealthy, oppressive community for others.  The point is, individualism, self reliance and self actualization, can’t exist outside the environment created for it by community.  Community is more than important, it’s essential.  Weakening the bonds of community is the most powerful tool of despots for gaining and maintaining control.  In states of greatly weakened community, persons become things to be manipulated, each one against his neighbor and each one finding security only through loyalty to a leader. 
In American history, the blame for breaking down communities at levels larger than neighborhoods gets laid at the foot of right wing movements and acquiescent conservatives.  It leaves progressives as the good guys who have claimed the title of community builders.  But it doesn’t always work that way because the myth of individualism is as strong on the left as it is on the right.  It’s expressed in the form of each person’s right to be treated as a unique individual in which the community must adjust to accommodate their uniqueness.  It begins with good intent such as requiring the community to accommodate various disabilities or ways of learning.  But if each person claims the right to define a universe of one, it can end with each requiring others to accommodate their unique requirements, thus creating a gathering of unique persons competing to force other unique persons to act as if they were a community that will bend to the particular demands of each individual.  While needs may be real, it can take on a kind of egocentricity that expects the world to cater to one’s personal desires.
I’m struggling right now with a question about claims of individualism originating on the left in which each person feels entitled to demand of the community that it acknowledge and respect their particular, unique, individual reality as the price of their willingness to engage in community life.  It can look like a fight against oppression, a demand for equity, but it’s missing a key ingredient.  Genuine struggles for rights are often led by courageous persons on behalf of entire populations within communities.  They are not demands by individuals that entire communities bend to their unique, individual desires.  When such demands become a force consuming community decision making, they suggest the kind of social atomization that makes Trumpian style politics possible.  Or, as Hannah Arendt would put it, when every individual becomes his or her own self contained community, then every other person is a potential enemy, no other person can be a trusted friend, and society becomes a dangerous place to live in. 
From where would such a convoluted question arise?  Is it real, or imagined?  It’s real, but the source is not world shattering, nor does it create an imminent danger to democracy, but it is infused with highly emotional content.    
A recent movement in institutional communities such as classrooms and corporate offices has to do with how the institution, as community, is supposed to respond to claims that each person is entitled to a personal pronoun by which they want to be known when a personal pronoun is used in a sentence referring to them.  Not everyone self identifies as he or she, so it’s only right to ask what pronoun would be acceptable to them, and then use it, and only it.  Failing to use the correct word has been said to be an offense justifying high dudgeon, and worthy of judicial review.
It’s a clumsy way to deal with a problem in the English language, indeed in most languages.  We have no gender neutral singular pronoun.  ‘It’ doesn’t work because an ‘it’ is an object; ‘it’ renders a life to be unimportant.  ‘They’ is sometimes chosen, but it’s a word meaning not only plural persons, it’s also widely misused in ways making it hard to know what ‘they’ refers to.  One solution is for each person to adopt a made up pronoun, leaving others to wonder how much new vocabulary needs to be memorized and affixed to each person about whom they may sometimes need to use a pronoun.  To be fair, English does need a generally accepted non gender specific pronoun that implies human intimacy, and maybe one will be forthcoming.
In the meantime, pronouns appear to have become gateways for expectations that each person also has a right to one’s own reality, which is not the same as one’s own opinion.  These unique realities seem to be related to unpleasant life experiences causing some form of emotional trauma – where trauma is broadly defined.  The institution, as community, is expected to accommodate them for fear of creating unpleasant emotional reactions resulting in litigation or bad press.  It requires limitations on subjects or conversation that might cause heightened anxieties or trigger post traumatic stress.  While traumatic emotional stress is a real thing, not to be trivialized, pandering to it leaves victims ill equipped with coping skills adequate to maintain emotional health when unpleasant events confront them outside the confines of the institutional community.
These expressions of individualism’s demands on the community come from the left, not the right, but it has an eerie similarity to right wingers who demand that the community accommodate their right to live and act according to their unique realities without regulation or interference. That they may be overtly oppressive of others, well armed, racist, and violent is clothed in words of Constitutional patriotism, and they take offense at any challenge to the realities they have set for themselves.
If individualism’s claims to supremacy over the community win out, the only way to enforce them is with the iron hand of autocracy.  It seems all wrong, counter intuitive, but there it is, and once applied it eliminates all individual rights, centering them in the exclusive rights of the autocrat.  
In institutional communities such as schools, it restricts the academic freedom of teachers by placing it under firmer control of administrations.  What may look like a win for individualism quickly turns to shackles for both teachers and students.  In the broader community of local and national politics, the demands of extreme individualism corrode movement toward a more just society, and shove the state in an autocratic direction where individual rights are surrendered to the leader.

It’s a question of balance – never an easy question.  

Reflections On Political Harvests

The State of the Union speech is over.  Right wingers are thrilled with network snap polls of those who watched it.  They show approval ratings over 70%.  Never mind that network snap polls are the love child of ill informed marketing types.  Pundits and other commentators shrug it off, labeling the speech as adolescent, trite, a dud.  Fact checkers list the exaggerations, lies, and mostly true statements.  Congressional body language is studied far beyond credibility.  So here are a few related thoughts, not so much about the speech, but about Trump’s ability to create and maintain a loyal base.
Not long ago there was a five second news clip of someone saying he likes Trump because he is a “stand up guy who tells it like it is.”   His five seconds echo what many local folks say, and aren’t shy about taking up a lot more than five seconds.  It’s confusing to me because I think of stand up guys as men and women whose integrity and personal courage give them the confidence to proclaim and defend what they believe to be right, even in the face of overwhelming opposition, and to do it without deception.  Trump, as a stand up guy, has all the integrity of an infomercial huckster, and demonstrates courage only when backed by a mob willing to do his bidding.  Whether Tump intends to deceive is another matter.  He may have bought so deeply into his make believe world that it’s real to him.  He may be deceived about how deceptive it is.
On the other hand, Trump does tell it like it is in the sense that he gives public voice to real and imagined complaints some have about how they’re ignored, disrespected, and cut out of decision making by elites, people of color, feminists, and immigrants, all of whom, to avoid being labeled as prejudiced, are lumped together as socialists out to destroy the American Way.  He does it with the consummate skill of a Robespierre like provocateur demanding that heads roll.  
The source of all the complaints has been thoroughly explored, so it only remains to say it’s a combination of declining hope for economic well being, isolation from the centers of society as depicted on television, increasing political power of women and minorities, and an unwavering commitment to the myth of rugged individualism that takes perverse pride in belittling government.
Among the harvest reaped from seeds sown by tea partiers, and brought to maturity by trumpism, are very odd fruits.  
  • Anti-science fundamentalism that often imitates the forms and language of Christianity.
  • Combative politics in which nothing is ever ceded and negotiation is impossible.  It’s win or lose, live or die, do as much damage as possible to the other.
  • Gullible susceptibility to threatening conspiracy stories wedded with resistance to verifiable contrary information.
  • Fear of imminent harm from low probability incidents.
  • Disregard of harm from high probability incidents.
  • Revealed ignorance of basic American civics.
  • Distrust and disrespect for government, including the very programs providing them with needed services and quality of life.
It adds up to a kind of determined Trump supporter: one unwilling to be an independent thinker, and who has bought trumpian ideology in toto.  They remind me of pie eyed erstwhile American Communists in the 1920s and 30s who had been convinced there really was a Bolshevik paradise.  They adhere to the party line without deviation, and are convinced it’s all the others who are not thinking.
But there is another kind of Trump supporter: one who is knowledgable, conniving, calculating, power hungry, and decidedly anti-democratic.  It’s been said before that they are disturbingly fascist like.  And they are, no matter how hard they try to look like good conservative patriots.  Curiously, they hold the first type of Trump supporter in utter contempt, easily manipulated, needed only as the means to get and keep political control that will benefit their own interests.   
In between are others unwilling to believe a sitting president could be both incompetent and malevolent, so are willing to give him every benefit of doubt as they seek ways to work constructively with him.  There aren’t any.  Occasional outcomes of good turn out to be coincidences, a lucky roll of the dice, or the product of actions from other sources.  They never offer a foundation to build on.  
We live in perilous times.

Miscellaneous Maui Observations

Maui has been our treasured go to place for over thirty years.  It’s hard to explain why.  My wife and I each have reasons.  Speaking for myself, there is no other place that makes my soul feel so much at home.  I am fascinated by Hawaiian history, culture, music and language, although my language skills are sub-minimal.  Yet I don’t want to live here full time; long visits are enough.  There’s a point at which we seasonal visitors are no longer tourists, so hurrying up to do the things tourists are supposed to do has little appeal.  It’s time to slow down, get centered.  Not everyone buys that.  Another seasonal visitor once asked me, “If you don’t play golf what on earth do you do?”  We’re involved in a local parish; have seasonal and local friends; my wife is a professional artist connected with the local arts community; I love revisiting museums and historical sites; we take long morning walks; we go back to favorite spots up on the mountain; we’ve never tired of watching whales; we get lots of exercise and lots of rest; she paints; I write.  We even like doing touristy things. 
With that as background, I’ve been reflecting on tourism, and the differences between tourists and locals.  The local population includes those born and raised here, as well as more recent arrivals who’ve become fully involved in the life of the community.  It’s an odd mix of cultures and ethnicities, each maintaining their own identity while engaging in the ways of others.  Although native Hawaiians are in the minority, it’s their history, culture and language that is a unifying force loosely binding Chinese, Japanese, Portuguese, Samoan, Tongan, Haole, and other ethnicities into the whole that is modern day Hawaii.  True, there are full time haole (white) residents who remain isolated from that kind of multicultural immersion.  They tend to live in conclaves sandwiched between tourist accommodations and the world of locals.  Thankfully, there aren’t many of them.  Maui is too expensive for the average mainland retiree to afford the comfort they desire. 
With that as a brief background, it’s occurred to me to think of Maui as having a vibrant manufacturing industry driving its economy.  Once upon a time it was sugar, pineapple, and cattle, but no longer.  Now it’s the Fun Factory, and it’s enormous.  
The Fun Factory is staffed by overlapping shifts of thousands of workers.  Tourists are the raw product of the Fun Factory.  Tired, anxious, full of expectation, and thrilled to be here, they’re fed into the Fun Factory where workers do what they can to manufacture a week or two of romantic Hawaiian adventure, churning out contented, homeward bound people who will have paid well for the experience.  The Fun Factory itself is a combination of accommodations, entertainment, food, resort clothing and related goods, landscaping evoking the Hawaii of dreams, and, of course, time share presentations promising the opportunity of a lifetime.  It requires an enormous army of workers to pull it off.
When each shift is over, workers head home to a Maui not often seen by tourists, or even seasonal visitors.  Many are in neighborhoods remarkably like cookie cutter suburbs anywhere else.  Many others are in cramped apartments, old shacks tucked into mountain valleys, rooms over shops, and homeless camps hidden mostly out of sight.  There are also a few more traditional villages in “Up Country,” or along less frequently traveled shore side roads.  Farmers markets, school activities, shopping centers, less expensive out of the way places to eat, and the beach are the things of daily life away from the factory.  All beaches in Hawaii are public, but access to the best of them is often controlled by the Fun Factory.  It must be allowed, but without much parking only a few can get in.  That doesn’t keep workers from using every inch of road access beach for camping, birthday parties, family gatherings, and just hanging out.   
A relatively small island with a large Fun Factory filled with a river of tourists arriving and departing, plus all its workers occupying the same piece of land in the middle of an ocean, two thousand miles from anywhere else, creates a special kind of community requiring all the same sorts of things any complex community requires: local government, utilities, roads, public transportation, medical services, parks and recreation, schools and colleges, public safety, arts and cultural organizations, service clubs, places of worship, and the incredible logistics needed to supply it.  Moreover, while plantation days are long gone, there’s a thriving agricultural sector producing garden vegetables, livestock, flowers, and most everything else needed for daily life.   It’s remarkable in every way.  It’s an amazing place.  We love it.  The Fun Factory aside, there is something deeply spiritual about Maui,  There’s a saying, something like “ka mana’o o ka’aina,” meaning the spirit of the land, which is alive, and has personality.  It’s why adventuring into new places is often preceded by a chant asking permission to enter and promising to honor the spirit of the place.  For me it has the familiar ring of ancient Celtic practices that still haunt our Episcopalian ways. 

Of course there are hiccups.  Not everyone gets along.  Crime happens.  Politics and issues of public policy can get messy.  Not everyone likes the Fun Factory.  Traffic can be a nightmare.  Weather can easily disrupt all the hard Fun Factory work.  Tourists can be disrespectful of local values.  Officialdom runs with less formality and urgency than it does on the mainland, and well established relationships can be more important than strict adherence to regulations.  None of it is more than hiccups in the long run.  Or, as the old saying goes, Maui No Ka Oi: it’s part of a chant boasting that Maui is the best.