On Hold

On Hold

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Karleen C. Chinen
Commentary

Argh! The agony of a press deadline! We are sending this issue of the Herald to press on Tuesday afternoon, general election day. The polls will be closing in less than an hour and the ballot counting will begin in earnest. A few more hours and we would know who our top political leaders would be. But if we are to make our scheduled Wednesday morning print time, the issue has to go now. Regardless of who wins, or loses, I hope you exercised your precious right to vote.

Whenever I read or listen to reports about citizen uprisings in the Middle East or elsewhere in the world, I am reminded of how fortunate I am to be an American citizen who can voice my opinion through my vote. Yeah, I know, it sounds hokey, but think about it. I may rant about gridlock in Congress, or the horrible condition of the roads in Kalihi, where our offices are located. But I can voice my displeasure with my ballot on election day.

Sadly, however, that cannot be said of the people in Egypt or Syria. The euphoria of the Egyptian “Arab Spring” was sadly short-lived. But I hope the people never give up their dreams for a democratic society.

Also in a holding pattern as we send this issue to press are the people of Pähoa on the Big Island of Hawai‘i. After several days of living on the edge as the lava from Kïlauea volcano crept closer and closer towards Pähoa town, Madame Pele seems to be taking a breather.

For a while a few weeks ago, I wondered whether people with close family members interred at the Pahoa Japanese Cemetery would be rushing to the cemetery to move the remains of their loved ones elsewhere. A few did; others went to say a final good-bye to the physical grave. A few days later, lava began rolling into the cemetery, claiming some, but not all of the graves.

As I learned from contributing writer Molly Solomon’s reports for Hawaii Public Radio and her piece for the Herald, people who live alongside Pele have a unique relationship with the fire goddess. They have developed an acceptance of fate and of respecting and surrendering to nature without anger or hostility or regret.

There was sadness, most certainly, as the lava began rolling into the cemetery. I don’t think lava fields are dug up after the molten rock has cooled, so the graves covered over are gone forever. The remains of those people are now forever a part of Hawai‘i.

In the tiny Pähoa cemetery, where the Japanese tradition of honoring ancestors has long been observed, the Japanese honor also a goddess of Hawai‘i with awe. Cultures do not clash here — there is acceptance that the fire goddess may claim property, but most believe she will spare human life.

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