CAN’T YOU HEAR THAT WHISTLE?: Tin political ears are often the coin of the realm on Kaua`i. It’s a tradition going back at least as far as Smokey Louie Gonsalves, who in the 50’s purportedly, approximately said “people will know what they think about that when I decide and tell them what they think”.
Kauaiians rarely cared in the olden days because the paternalism was so strong that people expected the roguish behavior that recently departed Bryan Baptiste’s father Stan exhibited by running the island as Mayor from a jail cell.
No matter how many times pundits cite “changing demographics”- a code for the exponential increase in the influx of mainlanders- nothing has changed since the first time we heard this during the 1980 elections.
So when Kaua`i Police Department (KPD) Chief Darryl Perry got off on the wrong foot by playing up high-tech abusable cop equipment , jacking up a peaceful sovereignty activist , pledging to “take care of” protesters if the Superferry came back and finally writing a condescending tone-deaf commentary in response to suggestions for instituting community policing techniques, people figured that the anyone upset about the desecration of the burial site at Naue had already been stuck with the proverbial fork.
All that was left was for the cultural defenders occupying the location was to count down the hours to the day of reckoning, scheduled for yesterday at dawn.
It was assumed that this would be the final nail in the coffin, solidifying the impression in the community that this was the official end any illusory “our friends and neighbors on the force” era of policing on Kaua`i and that the interests of money and power were to be protected at the point of a taser and a riot shield.
But they didn’t count on Perry being smarter than the average bear and having a political ear that could serve him well if he ever chooses to exercise it in the electoral arena.
Nothing would have seemed out of the ordinary had he ordered his force to round um up and cart um off in the paddy wagon and give the thumbs up to the construction crew.
Although people would have shaken their heads in disgust we’re used to doing that on Kaua`i. We would have gone on with our lives and perhaps occasionally bemoaned the day that Perry brought us into the era when the department fully served the new plantation bosses as they had enforced the laws made up by lunas since the first commercial sugar cane stalk was plunged into the `aina in Koloa.
No one knows what will happen from here in the courts. Apparently the law Perry cited regarding “desecration (such).that the defendant knows will outrage the sensibilities of persons likely to observe or discover the defendant's action“ has never been court tested, especially as it may conflict with the Burial Council processes.
But the fact that Perry took the chance at angering the all powerful land use lawyer Walton Hong and acknowledged that there are people who Hong and his client know full well have their “sensibilities outraged” speaks as much as the action itself.
It would have been easy for him to say, like the small but growing part of the “haole” crowd - the ones for whom we commonly use the word in conjunction with a certain copulatory adjective- that they’ve been doing this for years so why stop them now.
He could have ignored the obvious desecration of his own people’s culturally iconic bones and no one would have said anything but “well, same as it always was”
Today the progressive, culturally-sensitive haole community is singing Perry’s praises. These are the self-same people who were calling for his job if not head yesterday.
With his action Perry gained a bank-full of political capital in future endeavors. How he spends it could put those that were critical of his previous words and deeds behind the eight-ball for some time to come if he abuses it
Should he seek to spend it allowing the rogue element in KPD to abuse innocent until proven guilty suspects and non-violent activists, the funds could disappear quickly, although he has established enough credit to have a no-minimum-balance account for the time being.
People say Perry’s snatching victory from the jaws of defeat shows that he has a good heart in his chest. Maybe. But what was most useful to him yesterday at Wainiha was the uncommon-for-Kaua`i size of the brain in his head and those uncommonly astute ears.