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Bob Jones Gets it Wrong on Molokai

Honolulu newspaper columnist Bob Jones recently wrote a piece on his observations of Moloka‘i. As a columnist, he is paid to present his opinions as fact, and as a journalist of a sort, he has a protected right to say whatever he wants. It is just unfortunate to see anyone bare his ignorance and narrow-mindedness in such a public way.

For those who have not encountered Jones’ Moloka‘i musings, he calls it "the Screwed Up Island," and says that residents should not try to preserve the island and its lifestyle "if you insist on welfare." He closes by claiming that, "Most people make something happen. Not on Moloka‘i."

Mr. Jones lives in the suburbs of Honolulu. I imagine he shops at Whole Foods, recycles, and keeps his property in a condition that prevents his neighbors from giving him dirty looks when he goes on his evening walks around the neighborhood. He orders the fresh catch in restaurants to keep his cholesterol down. He occasionally buys produce from the farmers’ market because it is closer to nature, and to support local agriculture.

None of those things are bad. They are simply lifestyle choices that he has made, a version of day-to-day life that makes him happy and comfortable, the way that all of us would like to be in our lives. If there is a negative aspect to the Jones lifestyle it is the assumption that his choices are superior to anyone else’s.

Moloka‘i residents—the people that Bob Jones has chosen to belittle—have made other choices. In his column, Jones criticizes the lack of fresh produce at the local market. He misses the vital fact that on Moloka‘i, home gardens are as common as two-car garages in Honolulu; fresh produce is still warm from the sun, with dirt clinging to its roots. When Moloka‘i talks about fresh fish, it is the fish we caught ourselves earlier that day.

Yes, life on Moloka‘i has its own unique challenges. Nobody wants to pay five dollars for a gallon of gas. More jobs would strengthen the local economy. We could use more medical care.

At the same time, living on Moloka‘i brings gifts you would not find if we became another suburb of Wailuku. The community has a bond and a sense of mutual support that has become too rare in modern society. Moloka‘i lives close to the land, and close to the heart.

Most importantly, Moloka‘i has stepped up to take control of its own destiny; Moloka‘i belongs to Moloka‘i. Large hotels and upscale housing developments do not fit into the vision that has grown naturally from what the island’s residents envision for themselves. Tourism may be part of that, along with responsible agriculture and appropriate energy industries. But it will be on the community’s own terms.

There are things in life that you can only sell once, because as soon as you do, you know you’ll never get it back. Moloka‘i’s heart, future, and destiny are among those things. If Bob Jones can’t see that, he should think about staying on his own lanai, enjoying the sounds of traffic going by.

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