Go See George Clooney’s The Descendants and Why We Need to Preserve Hawaii
Hope everyone knows by now that my memoir Wrong Side of the Tracks is about a Hawaiian kid (me) who survives poverty and discrimination to fulfill the real American dream. Now I want to give back and help my family and other indigenous Hawaiians get jobs and control over their part of the islands. I love to write but appreciate that good movies can also be really powerful and even help change the world.
That’s why I want to recommend a movie: The Descendants with George Clooney. It came out a while back and was a big hit, so now you can get it on Netflicks or however you like to do that. It’s one of the first movies on Hawaii that grapples with that question of exploitation versus preservation. Even though it wasn’t from a native Hawaiian perspective it still demonstrates the meaning of what it’s like to hold on to something dear and genuine. While not always the popular decision, taking a stand in front of ridicule and outright threats from family and friends is sometimes very hard to maintain even with the most ardent conviction. My family and friends on Molokai’s effort to preserve their Island as just that…something you can’t get back once you let it go, and their efforts are nothing short of heroic.
I’ve met with officials in the local government throughout the islands recently, some who get it and some who clearly have no clue as to why it’s so important to preserve this national treasure. My hope is that the voices are many and loud enough to make the ones who don’t get it to finally understand. You can never get it back once it’s gone!
Here’s a kind of free-association creative caption my son Brett wrote to go with the photographs he took when he and his cousin Dicky snuck into one of the greatest places in Molokai to surf. They had to climb down highest and steepest vertical incline in the world in the middle of the night with their surf boards strapped to their backs so the federal officers wouldn’t see them. Can you believe it? Your tax dollars at work.
Nothing could keep them from this super surf spot, though, and as soon as the sun came up, they had the greatest time and I wish I’d been with them.
Here’s how Brett tells it.
Dicky and I woke up at 12am at his uncle Kama’s house. made some coffee, ate some leftovers and got ready. parked the truck near all the other vehicles that belonged to the kalaupapa workers. We saw some headlights so we put our heads down and hid out till they passed. Then we got our boards and bags and lamps and started down the trail. After about an hour an a half, we hit flat ground and turned off our lights– we had to use moonlight to make our way through town and shadows to hide in.
Must be no hunting allowed either because there are deer everywhere. Walking through a couple of small cemeteries to avoid streetlights, it was hard not to think about ghosts, since this whole area had once been a famous leprosy colony. we get to a small cluster of pine trees along the beach and put our stuff down, exhausted but too fired up to sleep, staring up at the stars through the pine trees. I drift off. Dicky has a hard time sleeping because he’s freezing. Kama said it would be cold down here. I wake up and we eat our army rations that Dicky brought — strangest tasting cardboard food, but good enough.
The sun is coming up and waves are starting to shape up. At first its perfectly glassy and we’re seeing spitting barrels. Its time to surf. But all of a sudden Dicky ducks down and freezes, his eyes locked on something. I look and see some dude down on the beach staring at us. Dicky walks up to him while maintaining pine tree cover. It’s all good– visitor from Oahu, wildlife researcher of some sort. Dicky assures him he didn’t see us. We hide our stuff under some branches, walk up the beach through the trees and then cross the sand—don’t need our footprints giving away our camp.
Finally, we start paddling and the real mission begins– we are clearly here and surfing– 2 strange laws being broken, but as we get closer to the lineup, those thoughts fade immediately. The waves are big, fast, hollow and shallow. I go deep because that’s where the better ones seem to be. Dicky is hangin out wide. I get a few good ones and notice how quick you have to get in them. They scoop quick and almost double up. Inside paddling back out, I see a real set. luckily I’m inside, far from the impact zone. I get back out and sit a little wider to get a big one. its nice having Dicky on a stand up paddle, he spots everything before I do.
“HO!” Dicky yells. “this one’s for you Brett!”
I start paddling out and deep and then turn around. Kind of gnarly looking, but Dicky said go, so I go, paddling as hard as a I can to get in front. I can see the reef right under me and the water sucking out. I stand up, and see I’ve only made it down the first face. I airdrop down the second, but eat it hard. Pushed off the bottom and came up a much cleaner person.
Dicky gets a good one. When we’re both paddling back out, he says to me,” Good, now you got those butterflies out” He was right, I felt more comfortable after that. went for another big one, same thing– scooped up faster then I could paddle, made the airdrop, but got axed trying to bottom turn with too little speed.
Damn! never been so clean! Then a massive wall comes in. I see Dicky paddling his ass off. He’s half way up the face and it starts breaking. He bails, but some how everything made it over. The next one is bigger and starting to break farther out. Dicky is paddling faster, a little to late, he bails. I come up and see him swimming. His leash must have busted, so I turn around to go find his board. I paddle back out on his and he says he’s just gonna hang out on the shoulder to watch me. The tide is going out and the swell is building. Here comes a set, this one looks more makeable. I paddle as hard as I can, make the drop and bottom turn right into the tube and ride till it pinches, get thrown around and feel my leash snap. That declared the end of our session. probably good timing because watching it from the beach, it just got bigger and bigger. Walking back, Dicky was pretty casual. Sneaking through town in the middle of the night made sense… but how do we get back to the trail without being seen? Dicky never answered me. We just start walking. Some lady stops us.
“Who’s your sponsor family? You can’t surf here.”
“Its okay, aunty, we’re on our way home, goin back up, thanks aunty” Dicky says, as we keep walking. almost to the bridge and some red truck pulls up next to us, some old white guy driving “Hey, who’s your sponsor? It’s against the law to surf here!”
“Well we’re an exception to the rule,” Dickey shoots right back.
So the guy turns around and starts honking to get the park ranger’s attention.
We head for the shoreline which is a 30 foot ledge and hike down about 5 feet and hide out. we see the red truck and park ranger driving around looking for us. We have a good view of the wave and the harbor. After about 45 min of watching rifling barrel after barrel, we see the ranger and the harbor. its about a half mile away but it looks like they’re looking right at us. Then they get in the truck, back up and go, quickly.
“They saw us.”
We run for awhile, but Dicky is lagging because he’s lugging an SUP board. We get to an abandoned house and decide to hide there for a moment. Seems pretty quiet… then some lady pulls up with a camera around her neck and starts walking towards the house we’re in. I’m looking out the window as she gets closer. Dicky’s in the back room lookin out that window. I can see her shadow as she looks in and sees Dicky’s giant board in plain site.
“DAMN! Dicky they’ve found us.” I look out again and the lady is waving someone over I cant see. Dicky grips his stuff “we go”, thinking we’re gonna make another break for the trail, but we see the ranger with one hand hovering over his tazer and the other over his gun.
“Aww Dicky c’mon!!”, he shouts at us. “I thought we’ve been through this already.!”
He knew Dicky from many times before and must have sensed we still might make a run for it.
“Just drop your stuff and sit down,” he said. “I have to cite you because the whole town saw and the pissed off dude in the red truck was the state administrator, the one who signs my paycheck.
Dicky took it like a man, even though he was well aware the whole situation is backwards. Meanwhile, I was mad. Who is violating who? A haole guy threatening to forever ban Dicky, a Hawaiian born and raised in Molokai, indigenous Hawaiian, from stepping foot here, from practicing his cultural right to surf. But Dicky is too in love with that wave for any of this to stop him.
“Anyone else come down here to surf?” he asks the Ranger “No Dicky,” he says writing out the required citation, “you the only one who come down here.”
Dicky smiled. On the way up, looking down at the peninsula, I told him we should go around the town coming back next time so no one would spot us like they did.
“Deya go!” he said.
Apart from the 3 miles straight up the cliff, the walk back was pretty casual and relaxed now that we were no longer on the run. At the top, our bodies and our minds were done. Some kind of natural opiates were pumping through our veins and our brains. drove back down to Dicky’s on the water with stony perma-grins on our face. We built a fire right on the beach and sat like zombies, drinking some victory beers.