“Keep True To The Dreams Of Your Youth”: Friedrich Schiller

I’m okay with turning 85 years old tomorrow. I see all those obituaries of people in their 70s. You know — that Billy Joel song — “Only The Good Die Young.”

True, I no longer jump out of airplanes. No longer fly them, either. Not racing J-Class boats at Keehi Lagoon or diving for black coral off Lahaina. No hikes up to Lanai Hale. I did get a priority Covid vaccination and everybody now calls me Uncle and offers me seating.

From left: Me, K.C. Craver, Donn McLean

Some people get afraid of old age and inevitable death. I celebrate a life well lived. A long marriage to the fabulous Denby Fawcett, a moral child, travel galore, and a writing career in which I was able to infect some minds with curiosity.

Along the way I made mistakes, did some things I’d not repeat with a second chance. And who knows — I could have another 20 years to go like my late friends Sau Chun and Betty Ho. But I’m not counting on that.

Mainly, I got to watch our culture change. I was born just as Hitler was talking up a movement to supplant the Weimar Republic in Germany. My memory of WWII was that chocolate was rationed, and our German landlord was taken to detention at Camp Perry near Clinton, Ohio. My dad fired off his 12-guage shotgun from our Sheffield Lake, Ohio, porch when peace was announced.

My parents were poor. My dad had finished high school. Not sure about my mom, variously known in official documents as Ann or Anne, Zydiac or Saunders. That’s a total mystery to this day. Dad  insisted I should become a carpenter or a plumber at a trade school because people always needed those, even during the Great Depression.

Ann Zydiac Jones, aka Anne Saunders

That became moot because I ran away at 15 and did go to college. I do wish I also had learned carpentry and plumbing so I could have saved myself from the pros who charge me grandly per hour.

Through my late teens in Florida I thought it was perfectly normal to have White Only and Colored Only public bathrooms and drinking fountains and racial sections of towns and cities and schools.  It took reading and travel for me to shake that. I wish I could tell you I was a young progressive, but I wasn’t. Not until I moved to Europe and saw the world as it really is — full of people of many races and religions, cultural and sexual practices.

Jay Rowen and I at a mosque in Kuala Lampur, Malaysia

I’d eventually work at 6 newspapers, KGMB-TV News and NBC News. Cover wars in Nigeria, Vietnam and Iraq. Watch journalism rapidly drain away its vibrancy, get furloughed from my MidWeek column as the pandemic picked up, and move to this blog, where I don’t have to worry about offending an advertiser and am my own editor and publisher. A scribbler’s dream!

Got a George Foster Peabody award for a China documentary in the 80s and a one-man show at the Honolulu Museum of Art of my China photography. Two Emmys for local documentaries. Worked with many talented reporters and videographers.

Our daughter is a State Department foreign service officer, currently based in Canberra for USAID. Makes more money than I ever did, and travels more, too. Didn’t make all the mistakes I did. That pleases me because with children you never know what you’re going to get!

Brett Jones and husband, acting ambassador to Australia Mike Goldman

The best move I ever made was coming to Hawaii. I think I knew it would become my home the moment I stepped off the plane and got a real flower lei from a young woman in a real hula skirt at the bottom of the plane-departure stairs. I shucked my suit and rented a walk-up in the Tatibouet apartments on Kuhio Avenue. Went to work the next day at the Honolulu Advertiser and was surprised to learn that this city is where Pearl Harbor is! Hey, I had been a Europe resident 1956-1962. Who knew Hawaii?

That first night at the newspaper, the photographers Ishii, Umeda and Chong took me to a Dillingham Boulevard bar where the pupu was steak, ribs and chicken and several exotic Japanese delicacies, and I was hooked for life. Later, the steak, ribs and chicken — and even the popcorn — would disappear; so would the AJA waitresses, and it all became Korean “you buy me drink?”.

Most visitors I would take out for drinks came away impressed!

This begins my 58th year in Hawaii. Everything worked out okay. That’s the most anyone can hope for.


Special Sunday Report: Let Them In, But With Some Fix-Ups

One of incoming President Joe Biden’s first executive orders will end the Trump ban of travelers from predominantly Muslim countries.

I know a lot of you in this liberal state with a heavy history of in-migration of Chinese, Japanese, Filipinos and Pacific Islanders got your dander up each time Trump unveiled a new anti-immigration policy.

But the facts tell us our immigration system is in need of some repair. There may be 10 million people here from other countries with no legal permission. We wrestle with the pros and cons of allowing them free schooling, jobs which citizens might want, and free hospital care.

Do we honor our history and traditions as a nation that’s welcomed immigrants from everywhere? Or join the immigration restrictionists who say there are rules about who gets in and who is rejected and we should strictly enforce them?

Example: We allow asylum for those politically persecuted. A noble allowance. But often misused by skilled fakers. Immigration judges are tasked with weeding out the unqualified. There are no set rules. It’s always a judgment call.

And as for general immigration, we’ve seen more Americans supporting it, rejecting entirely ICE raids, calling for open borders. They have been out-shouted recently by those wanting  maximum enforcement and even total abolition.

The think-tank Center for American Progress asks “Isn’t it time to break this cycle of extremes and build an immigration system that is workable and humane and that the public broadly believes can — and should — be enforced through rules that are fair and just?”

That certainly would be my goal if I had a voice in making policy in the Biden administration. For now, this column and these suggestions will have to suffice.

For those who say “American jobs for Americans first” I’d say let’s use a supply and demand system rather than our how-many-can-come-in one. Some jobs go wanting as Americans move up in education. Crop harvesters, house cleaning, yard cleaning, slaughterhouse work, and various sanitation jobs. Immigrants are willing to take them.

Most urgent for me would be creating a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. Allow people to come forward, register with the government, pass a background check, and be put on a path to permanent tax-paying residence and eventual citizenship.

Did you know that most undocumented immigrants here on average have already lived in the U.S. for nearly 15 years? 

And their record of employment and law problems pretty much matches that of citizens. Wouldn’t you rather have them integrated as tax-paying citizens rather than prey being hunted by ICE agents, not paying taxes and using our hospital emergency rooms in place of doctor’s office visits?

There’s no question in my mind that we need laws that at least keep families together while their status here is being determined. We should also grease the way for children who were left behind, or parents who let their children slip in first, to be reunited.

We need heavy-duty vetting for those with criminal or terroristic backgrounds. No question there.

But our quota system by country seems patently unfair and unAmerican. And to even think about denying immigration to Muslims is a repulsive thought only our former president and his most sycophantic followers would tolerate.

The Biden administration will have its hands full but high on the list of to-do’s should be revisiting our immigration laws.

We haven’t done that since 1986 with the Immigration Reform and Control Act, which made it illegal to hire or recruit illegal immigrants. The law did not provide any legal way for  low-skilled workers to enter the United States. So they sneak in, hide, but use our schools, welfare programs and hospitals.

It isn’t working but we keep refusing to fix it.


Divided We Stand. United? No Way!

There’s an alarming, growing wave of Americans who distrust and/or dislike government, both national and state.

Politicians and pundits keep repeating that “We are all Americans. We will come together.” No we won’t. There are too many powerful divisive matters to be so simply overcome by nationalism. California is too big for its government britches and needs to be split north and south. Missouri, Nevada, Arizona, Michigan and Texas are in turmoil over gun rights.  Many cities find themselves hosting angry Blacks who are rising up over discrimination and lack of equal opportunity. Others have serious police problems. You saw Portland, Seattle, Atlanta, Boston and Chicago. Riots hit 74 of our largest 100 cities, plus smaller ones such as Rochester, N.Y. and Kenosha, Wisconsin. We are mad about the slow-poke roll-out of the Covid vaccine here and what seem to be at-odds-leaders ways of combatting the virus.

I’m retired and not poor, so my interaction with government is minimal. Pay taxes. Collect Social Security, Use Medicare, report large potholes when out on my moped. Getting vaccinated this morning.

So many are not doing so well. They see big corporations skip taxes while theirs are taken out of salaries from too-low minimum wage jobs. They can’t find affordable housing. They send children to under-performing schools. They fear college costs and whether their small savings will be exhausted by the time they are old. They see the 1% with dozens of billions in net worths paving the road to government influence with campaign donations. They’d get more help in Germany, Singapore or Scandinavia.

We all bear some of the blame in that we tend to keep electing the same old. If a community-minded Natalie Iwasa or Choon James offer themselves for government service, we turn them down. We keep the Calvin Says going, along with most of the 76 lawmakers in our Legislature. And wonder why it’s the same-old.

Frankly, governments need serious makeovers. In an ideal world, we’d rewrite the U.S. Constitution to reflect modern times and issues. It’s not a realistic goal. No one would agree or compromise.

The politicians say “there will be reconciliation and healing.” No there won’t. Our differences were ridden into the White House by Donald Trump and nourished. Some 80 million voters want him kept there — indefinitely. Polls say about 88% of those who support Republicans still want him. That D.C. insurrection needs to be taken seriously. It wasn’t an aberration. It’s not even new. In 1713, more than 400 people rioted and fought police and soldiers in Boston over the high price of bread.

Hawaii people, especially, know that you ignore a huge, building wave at your peril.


Beware The Urge To Censor All Speech You Don’t Like

Some recent headlines in the news:

Faculty Calls on Chapman U. to Fire Prof Who Spoke at Trump Rally.

National Association of Realtors Board Moves to Control Professional and Private Speech of Members.

Facebook Blacklists All Content Mentioning ‘Stop the Steal’.

Let’s give some thought to the new era in which so many people are getting their “news” and their societal ideas from what they read on social media, Breitbart and Newsmax, and from those bloviated personalities Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and Tucker Carlson.

But let’s also give some thought to free speech and legal or crowd-sourced limits thereon.

And whether we are holding back on what we know should be said, but we muffle it because it’s currently out of public favor.

Prof. Jonathan Zimmerman of the University of Pennsylvania wrote a thoughtful but alarming op-ed piece recently in our local newspaper. It was about the trend in America to self-censor what we say for fear of being called a fascist, a socialist/communist, an anti-Semite, homophobic or even an animal rights Nazi.

That endangers discussion, intellectual argument, and tossing out not-so-popular ideas for others to consider. Zimmerman sees it most pronounced in universities. He cites examples of professors teaching one-sided-view of things and students afraid to argue against that or challenge it. I’m seeing it more and more in all social settings. it’s the Age of Political Correctness. How could I possibly be against giving welfare assistance, free public schooling and free health care to immigrants here illegally? Why would I suggest that a religiously devout person could understandably be against recognizing a same-sex marriage? How can I not be enraged by oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge?

I think you get my point. We’re approaching Correct Think, something the science fiction writers Ray Bradbury and Arthur C. Clarke entertained in an earlier literary period of American life.

It’s not really new in colleges. In my sophomore year I took a world history class. The professor said something that did not square with what my own research concluded. I raised my hand and asked for his sourcing and evidence. The dean of men called me in and explained that students should not publicly question what professors teach.

And the Virginia Department of Education has instructed teachers in that state to ignore a passage in the high school history book which says that thousands of Southern blacks fought on the side of the Confederacy in our Civil War.

Correct Think is not new in the military. My first Air Force year a chaplain gave my whole squadron a lecture claiming that any pre-marital sex activity tended to damage later married life. I stood up to object to that without-source evidence. My commanding officer called me in to explain that one does not contradict the chaplain in public.

Political science professor Flagg Taylor of Skidmore college says we’ve always had some version of “watch your tongue”, but the current one is different. “The old version seemed rooted in multiculturalism—it proclaimed cultural relativism and attacked the idea of natural standards for the good or justice. The new version shares this, yet it seems to go further in its demand for the recognition or affirmation of equality (a kind of homogenizing equality) in all spheres of life. All are deserving of equal shares of recognition and respect. ”

So we carefully examine anything critical we might want to say about Blacks, Hispanics or immigrants; also about anything political or suggestive of needed change. We might offend a friend or a boss. Best to keep your thoughts to yourself.

I, obviously, reject that. If we feel we have good reasoning and some solid evidence behind what we’re about to say, then go ahead and say it and see what the other side says.

To do otherwise is to condone intellectual life in North Korea or Cuba. You’re morally subsidizing China, where government controls social media posts and arrests dissidents collecting a following.

It creeps up on us. Suddenly one day, we realize that for a long time now you have not criticized or offended a single person or anyone’s ideas.


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