A 40-year Hawaii resident on Obama and 'understanding Hawaii'

The first time I saw Barack Obama was around '76 or '77 when my brother-in-law Bobby Titcomb brought the young man who would be our future president over to the house after playing basketball.

I remember asking Bobby about his ethnicity, because having lived in Hawaii for most of my life, I was always interested to see the astounding mix of nationalities in the people who live here – especially after growing up in white-bread New England.

I never dreamed that the tall, awkward-looking boy I met that evening would someday become the catalyst for such dangerous racial and social unrest in this country.

I once read a comment by Michelle Obama that in order to understand Barack, one first has to understand Hawaii.  Having lived in Hawaii for more than forty years, I think I understand Hawaii pretty well.  And there is nothing about the Hawaiian culture that explains why our president continues to exploit racial divides for partisan political purposes. 

In Hawaii, a person with multiple nationalities is called "poi dog," or "mongrel."  But the term is used affectionately, in a way that reflects the melting pot that is Hawaii.  Until but recently, local people were quite comfortable making fun of each other's cultures, in a fun and joking way that was never taken seriously.  In fact, it brought people closer together by recognizing both our differences and similarities.

I left home at 17, moved to Hawaii, and married my own Hawaiian poi dog.  Our children are a diverse mixture of Hawaiian, Chinese, Portuguese, English, Italian, Irish, and German – a regular League of Nations!  But as a white – or "haole" – woman living in a dominant Asian and Hawaiian mixed culture, I weathered my own share of teasing.  But I loved it!  I thrived; I grew from it.

My father was a Massachusetts police officer for 28 years – a beat cop for most of that time.  I'm glad that he is not alive today to see how police officers around the country are being targeted.

When I was 16 years old, I was somewhat of a rebel.  I marched against the Vietnam War and smoked a little pot (though I never inhaled), and most of my friends were hippies, who could never believe that my father was a cop!  Once, I remember Dad putting a bumper sticker on my VW van that read: "If you think I'm a PIG, call a hippie for Help!"  I can only imagine that he must be looking down from heaven and shaking his head in sorrow and disbelief.

My husband's grandmother, Puna, who spoke fluent Hawaiian, would sometimes scold us.  "Auwe," she would say – "for shame."

All I have to say to President Obama is "auwe, Mr. President."  You have forsaken the magic of Hawaii and brought shame to these islands.  You are nothing more than an ideologue, spouting and inciting racial unrest and violence.