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Hawaii News | Lee Cataluna

Lee Cataluna: Now is not the time for political opportunity

  • CINDY ELLEN RUSSELL / MARCH 21, 2020
                                Gov. David Ige held a press conference at the state Capitol rotunda to announce a mandatory 14-day quarantine for all incoming visitors and returning residents to Hawaii beginning Thursday.

    CINDY ELLEN RUSSELL / MARCH 21, 2020

    Gov. David Ige held a press conference at the state Capitol rotunda to announce a mandatory 14-day quarantine for all incoming visitors and returning residents to Hawaii beginning Thursday.

That overused (and often disputed) TED Talk line about how the Chinese word for “crisis” is connected to the word for “opportunity” has clearly taken root in the minds of too many people who make a living in elected positions.

While believing that something good can come out of bad circumstances is a positive way to deal with misfortune, that approach can too easily become conveniently self-serving.

This crisis that we’re in right now is not an opportunity to build a public image. It’s not an opportunity to campaign. It is not a time for self-promotion or for trying to outdo rivals.

Not pointing fingers at David Ige, Kirk Caldwell, Josh Green, any mayoral candidate, any neighbor island mayor, either of the Gabbards or any politician in particular, but generally nodding in the direction of all public servants: Just do the job. Serve the public. Serve the medical community and the first responders. Don’t waste a minute worrying about who gets the credit.

Politics will not save lives during this crisis. Leadership is needed, but if there are too many leaders — or too many wanna-be leaders trying to prove what great leaders they could be — then the message falls apart, people don’t know who to follow and there’s confusion on top of confusion in an unprecedented crisis.

What we need right now is service, top to bottom, from everyone. Selfless service. Service that doesn’t keep score.

We are going to get through this not with a spate of campaign rallies disguised as news conferences, but with clear communication from experts. And, sometimes, some encouragement. We are going to get through this the way generations before us got through war and polio and the devastation of natural disasters: one day at a time, everyone working together, eyes toward the greater good.

Josh Green is going to be Josh Green whether David Ige likes it or not. David Ige is going to be David Ige no matter what. Same with Kirk Caldwell. In fact, we can probably count on David Ige to be even more Ige-ish than ever during these times, and for Kirk Caldwell to be Caldwellian every chance he gets, holding news conferences for the most manini things and going off-script more often (his March 21 quote about the kingdom of Hawaii still needs to be unpacked at some point, but we’ll save that for later).

Whatever. We’re dealing with known quantities.

What matters is not what they say, but what they do.

What matters even more is what we do.

At the end of all this, at the other side of this period of fear and confusion and sickness and helplessness, there will indeed be those who will be remembered in the community for the great things they did during this time, and their laudable deeds will be selfless deeds and those heroes will be reluctant heroes. The bravest among us are the ones who don’t care whether anyone ever knows what they did.

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