• Hawaii Held Hostage

    July 18, 2021 // 1 Comment »

    We are being held hostage to a number. Hawaii is the last and only state with COVID entry requirements. Hawaii is the last and only state with broad COVID rules for fully vaccinated people. Hawaii is the last state and only state with emergency powers still granted its governor. Our economy is dependent on a series of one-time Federal handouts and our unemployment is among the nation’s highest. Our freedom is being held hostage by Governor Ige to an arbitrary number.

    Ige is holding to vaccinating 70% of Hawaii residents before dropping the majority of the state’s COVID-related restrictions. That number is wholly arbitrary and backed by no science. There is nothing to say 70 matters more than 65 or 89. In addition, the number employs a sleight-of-hand; since the governor insists it must be 70% of the total population, not the population eligible for the vaccine, the actual count is going to have to be much higher. With young children ineligible for the vaccine, we are actually talking about 70% of a subset of the population.

    Left entirely out of the clown car calculus is that 5% of the community already has COVID immunity because they contracted and survived the virus.

    The other sleight-of-hand is most people who want to be vaccinated already are, around 58%. Supply of the vaccine is plentiful. Anyone who wants it can walk in to clinics, Longs, pop-up sites, and the like. All the corny incentives — free food, airplane miles, admission to the zoo — have run their course. The pace of vaccinations has fallen 75% since early May, according to Hawaii Department of Health figures. The CDC predicts the rest of America, now open for business and a full life, won’t reach 70% until sometime next year. We may be stuck below 70% indefinitely.

    That in turn lead Ige to extend his emergency powers, which were set to expire August 6. He also said he will maintain the state’s indoor mask mandate, despite guidance issued a month ago by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention saying vaccinated people no longer need to wear masks in the vast majority of settings.

    It seems of little interest that in the midst of all this Honolulu dropped 42 spots on a popular “Best Places to Live” ranking. US News & World Report tallied the city’s ranking crashing to 113 out of 150 of the most populous metro areas in the country. The biggest factors are our COVID-battered economy and high unemployment rate. Honolulu also ranked poorly in value, quality of life, and net migration, i.e., people are leaving.

    When I brought up this fall to a highly unscientifically gathered group of local people who would listen to me at a coffee shop, their response was universal. Great, they said, tell outsiders to stay away. Tell tourists they’re not wanted. Maybe some of the rich mainlanders driving up home prices will move out, too. “Aloha” now seems better translated as insular and frightened of the outside world than anything welcoming.

    Outside of the business community people in Hawaii seem just fine with COVID-excuse restrictions extending deep into the future. They shortsightedly like the idea people may not want to visit here, live here, or stay here. People have become rescue dogs.

    COVID tapped into something deep and dark inside of many islanders, a fear of outsiders dating back to Captain Cook, and has turned too many of us into a nation of Momos. Momo is my rescue dog. She jumps at noises and shivers uncontrollably when I pull my belt from my pants at night. She invents new fears all the time — out of nowhere today it was a spray can rattle; last week it was the coffee machine beep. Momo never gets back to normal. She is terrified of strangers and does not even enjoy her walks. Best for her to get the business over with within sight of our front door to get back inside that much faster.

    I don’t think most dogs are self-aware enough for suicide, but Momo might be. Before we got the right kind of leash, she would slip off and dart into traffic. There were some close calls. For a dog afraid of everything, she has no fear of being run over. So you tell me, because one definition of suicide seems to fit: fearing the consequences of living more than those of dying.

    Momo knows there are bears in the woods. But her fears have gotten the better of her and she can’t separate the real dangers from the rustle of leaves in the wind. Soon enough, the grass near the woods has gotten too close and before you know it’s better to just stay on the couch, alongside the rest of Hawaii.

    We reprogrammed into one big Crisis News Network, with every story reported with a flashlight held under the announcer’s chin. It seemed as though we needed to be the victim, a nation of special needs people who all have to board first. And don’t forget how overprotected we want to be, wiping down the gym like we’re prepping for surgery, reading the daily COVID count each morning before coffee, dressing like bad cosplayers with ineffectual soggy cloth masks. This fetish of imagined fears doesn’t stop reality so much as it leaves us poorly prepared to deal with it.

    Our leaders seem content to hold us hostage to our fears for their own purposes. For many of us, however, it is time for a change. What are you afraid of?

     

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