The Obama-Hawaii Connection

In honor of a dear long lost friend of Hawaiian origin that I have recently been reacquainted with, check this email sent to Andrew Sullivan about the connection between Obama and Hawaii and what it means for us voters.

Obama isn’t the first credible African-American candidate so much as he’s the first credible Hawaiian candidate. Everything that’s essential and appealing about him is Hawaiian in character, and reflects his years growing up there. People in Hawaii don’t fixate on race, because everyone is mixed race, individually or by marriage, and they don’t think in terms of political party, because that’s at best a secondary characteristic; and above all, they don’t think in terms of traditional left/right, red/blue polarities– those are for the mainland. Hawaii is a place where conservative evangelical Christians are Asian and Polynesian, and the secular liberals are white and not quite local; where “black” isn’t even a common category, because African-Americans are so rare; where liberal Democrats revere military service, largely because a lot of Hawaii’s political leaders are veterans of the legendary all-Japanese 442nd Infantry, starting with Medal of Honor winner Dan Inoyue. In Hawaii, ideological stances are looked at with huge skepticism, because they imply pretension and putting on airs– or as it’s said there, “Hey brah, no act!”

The key to understanding Obama isn’t race, or Kennedy, or any of that: the key is Hawaii.

No doubt, Obama is a complex guy. But, it isn’t because he’s black or from Hawaii. It’s because he’s human. It’s easier for us all to think of candidates in terms of these easy categorical terms. But, it’s a false way of understanding someone. True, there is some relevance to a small subset of category definitions. But, only a small relevance.

It is uncomfortable to think of these candidates as complex human beings who have all the deep internal contradictions and variances that you and I do. But, it’s true. And that’s what makes voting hard. If you don’t have to think of them as real people, and only as archetypes, then the decisions are easy. But, we don’t have that luxury.

This democratic primary is fast devolving into a race vs. gender war. And that is outright ridiculous. Elections are far too important for that. |The race and Gender of a candidate, what state they grew up in, have little connection with who they actually are. Some maybe, but not as much as we’ve been making it out to be.

Obama is black. Hillary is a woman. Get over it. Let’s get down to talking about what they believe in. What they can do for us. And how they’re going to do it.

For me, the jury is still out. But, I like Obama. I like Clinton too. They’re both complex and interesting people. Just like us.


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