Two realizations in Hawaii
Nothing like a civil defense alert on your phone “Inbound ballistic missile. Take immediate shelter. This is not a test.” to stop you in your tracks and cause you to start thing very quickly about what’s really important. The sequence of thoughts as my wife and I were driving to our local shopping mall for our morning walk were very different than they would have been a year earlier. Then we would have automatically assumed that someone pushed the wrong button in our periodic civil alert tests used for hurricanes and tsunamis. But this was not then, with a very rational person in the White House, but now, with total fuck wit in that position under very questionable circumstances. Maybe this was the payoff? Some sort of horrible Putin manipulation of Trump against China and North Korea? Or some sort of Putin sucker punch using North Korea? Kim Jong-un finally driven over the edge by a crazy Trump insult? In the moments, at a stop light, having read the message on my phone and told my wife, wait, this is crazy, I felt the full realization that these crazy options were no longer actually crazy. They were very real and I could imagine the bright flash in the blue sky above Kauai.
The real and immediate problem was time. Knowing a Korean launch would give us at most twenty or thirty minutes based on information that we didn’t have. We were two blocks from Windward Mall in Kaneohe and were going there anyway so I said, let just go there. That is large, concrete with almost no windows and that’s the best we can do. If this was real and targeting Oahu there was not a lot of hope so we might as well go where we had intended to go anyway for completely different reasons.
Having read two other accounts, both of which were written by tourists staying in Waikiki as well as international news reports, the reactions were similar at first but then changed direction. This reinforced thoughts that we had. Tourism is, after all, our primary industry in Hawaii so we tend to worry about what happens to tourists here. Yes, we mostly don’t think about them as they tend to inhabit Waikiki or other tourist centers as well as those neighborhoods with fairly dense vacation rentals, but they are part of our island world. So we do tend to consider them when we have natural natural problems such as hurricanes and possible tsunamis and they are in very safe hotels and taken care of. But in this situation they are stuck with the rest of us. Not much you can do. Funny that both my wife and I thought of the tourists.
Governor Ige and the state administration has been working since November 2016 to deal with the proven abilities and threats from North Korea. And, despite the general bullshit in the national media, everyone with any political knowledge understood that Trump is a disaster and uncontrollable. And with Kim Jong-un working hard on both nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles that could be a very real problem for us in the middle of the Pacific. Our close relationship with Japan, China, Taiwan, and South Korea, all of which are literally family to us in the islands, meant that we were in touch with the worries in East Asia. In our case my wife’s family is in Hokkaido and that is on the track of the North Korean ballistic tests. They have gotten real alerts on their phones. Now it was our turn. Much realer with this history for us than for the folks sitting in North America’s flyover country who, we know, have little grasp of planetary geography or understanding of the idiots they elect.
All of this was going through my mind as I made the turn to the mall parking garage thinking I should park just inside in case the thing came down. My wife was having the same thought and said, it could fall on us. I told her that if we have a hit close enough to knock down a mall we aren’t going to make it anyway. And that led to another thought . . .
It is very obvious that Kim Jong-un is a spoiled kid who grew up to be an absolute dictator with no concern for anyone else. But he is not crazy. Not someone you would want to invite over or hang around in his country if you could help it, but the guy is not crazy. He is willing to play games with his people, have anyone who disagrees with him including family, shot, and make threats to protect his position, but he is not delusional or irrational. In fact quite the opposite. That suggests that if North Korea actually fired a missile with the range to make Hawaii and it appeared to be aimed for us, triggering such a warning, the odds were Trump had managed to do something incredibly stupid. That is totally possible. And that realization is the most brutal realization of this whole experience. But I would bet that Kim would not want to do anything but make a serious show. There would be no possible benefit to him to be an actual aggressor in the world’s eyes. Everything that I have read about this situation is that North Korea feels threatened and everything they do is an attempt to prevent an invasion sponsored by the US. Given this countries long military history that is a very real possibility. I would count on Kim to be, at least, that rational. The second punch in the one-two punch of reality on a bright Saturday morning. I had more trust in Kim Jong-un’s rationality than in Trump’s or anyone in our national leadership.
At that point we were parked under the concrete roof in the mall parking lot and had both realized that our sirens had not gone off. We have state wide emergency alert sirens that are tested every month and are used for tsunamis and hurricanes. If this were real the sirens would have gone off at the same time as the cellular alert. Ok, we had gotten where we were going and that was probably the best we could do in any case. So we were ready to take it as it came but feeling a little more confident.
The danger is we are part of the US. Like the rest of the US Hawaii was conquered and is occupied. Unlike the rest of North America Hawaii was an internationally the Kingdom of Hawaii with treaties and a government modeled on England and European standards. The government was overthrown in a coup in 1893 sponsored by Washington D.C. and capitalists in Honolulu. To protect the people Queen Liliuokalani accepted the overthrow. That was not that long ago. We are an international center for the Pacific Basin and have residents from all regions and have close international connections. Before 1893 all residents of Hawaii were Hawaiian. Since then only ethnic Hawaiian people are Hawaiian. The rest of us are not. We know that in the islands and have to explain it to people who come here. This makes this very different for us now in a way that is not true for North Korean threats to Washington D.C.
If the horror happens it will almost certainly be because the US caused the disaster. Trump and flailing idiots in Washington D.C. are our responsibility. Most of them would be horrified if such a thing happened but they have no problem enabling a seriously incompetent and deranged fool as president for their own selfish interests. Many people suspected this but the people of Hawaii now have had a very real taste of the fear and hopelessness that can result from that.
We parked under a nice concrete garage and walked into the mall as the notice came through that the alert was a mistake. We didn’t really talk much more about it on Saturday. We started to talk a little bit on Sunday as we connected with family and friends that we knew we would not have had time to do anything about. That is a realization that is with us now and settling in. Things have changed.