I have heard some pretty amazing statements in the last few days. First, from a contender for either the World’s Calmest or Most Clueless Person: a Hilo-based Hawaii tourism official told a newscaster that it is a “shocker” tourists are staying away because the eruption “is really a normal occurrence.” Wait, what? Lava destroying communities is normal? Would he think it normal if his home was on the street in the picture above? Where exactly on the island does he live? Perhaps in a community of caves with no internet access. I totally get that the local economy (which depends excessively on tourism) is suffering because of the eruption, and that is an awful thing that must be addressed, but if he is going to serve as a public spokesperson, I would suggest he a) become more informed, b) learn new vocabulary, or c) not lie. What is happening in Lower Puna is very much not “normal.”
There are other contenders for the clueless title: the people who refused to evacuate from an area that yesterday was surrounded by fast flowing lava on three sides and the ocean on the fourth. In spite of more than four weeks of drama and warnings, they stayed put. I get not wanting to abandon one’s home. But doing so in sight of a huge advancing wall of lava, um, yeah, it’s, um, insane. First responders had to risk their own safety to rescue those – sorry, I’m going to call a spade a spade here – knuckleheads. Perhaps they are relatives of the tourism spokesperson. Perhaps there is an isolated, cave-dwelling community that I am clueless about. If that is the case, I am very sorry for being unaware of your situation.
How about this: a few days ago a resident told me the eruption is a “really good thing” because it is “cleaning out the cults, drugs, and prostitutes down there.” Yowza. Ok, this is an example of the kind of thing I call a shocker. I can’t think of anywho who deserves this. Nor can I think of anything to say about it other than it is a telling example of what I call “Aloha Spirit, Selective Version.”
In further news, authorities require residents to obtain government-issued placards in order to access evacuation areas and retrieve items from their homes; the checkpoints reduce traffic in case of a rapid flight situation. In a strange instance of entrepreneurship – perhaps suggested by tourism experts? – some residents are using the placards to get by the checkpoints to make money guiding tourists into the heart of the devastation. Other people are burglarizing vacated homes. Other people are shooting or getting shot at. Sadly, there was an apparent suicide near a shelter.
These are very difficult times. Yes, humans are being humans and doing and saying things I can’t understand, but there are, of course, great people doing kind and wonderful things. Most people I speak to are heartbroken and helping out, and I will write about them in future posts. For now, I can say at least one public persona, a Hawaii Senator, spoke movingly and honestly of the loss and change due to the eruption.
I encourage people to come to Hawaii and bring their cash. But please, don’t try to sneak in and gawk at people’s suffering. Make a donation. Stay in vacation rentals and eat at restaurants. Consider volunteering at a shelter, maybe even one that includes addicts, cult members, and prostitutes. Because, you know, aloha – the unrestricted kind.
Photo from Hawaii News Now.
It is not a photo of normalcy.