NOV. 4, 2017

Celebrating Waiphu Town’s Anniversary Should Include Knowing the Place’s History

Remembering the history of a place is an integral part of cultivating a sense of community. In a larger scale, that’s why we teach and study U.S. and world history in schools. It reminds us of what we are a part of, a community as a nation, and a world community or simply humanity.

This year marks the 120th year anniversary of Waipahu town, one of Oahu’s neighborhoods most rich in history. Even before the sugar plantation era from which the 120th year anniversary timeline starts, Waipahu was a well-known area where Hawaiians lived and were attracted to for the numerous fresh water artesian wells, fertile soil for taro fields, and large fishponds. Some historians believe Waipahu was even considered the capital of Oahu during the days of Hawaiian chieftains.

When the Oahu Sugar Plantation opened for business in 1897, that marked the start of Waipahu’s “second era of community.” It was a time when diversity expanded; and Waipahu became a place that more resembles what it is today, at least racially and culturally. The telling of history is often oddly centrist -- the part of history we choose to emphasize begins at a time our direct ancestors were most a part of. In this case, the time when immigrants from parts of Asia and Europe were brought in to work on the sugar plantations. But for the sake of authenticity to history, as we celebrate Waipahu’s 120th anniversary, it should also be recognized that a rich Hawaiian history already had existed there before the sugar plantation era.

This more inclusive telling of history further bolsters the importance of Waipahu as a special place in Hawaii’s history. It was a core of Oahu prior to Asian and western settlers; and it was a center of community on Oahu, outside of Honolulu, for generations upon generations.

We owe a debt of gratitude to each generation for their contributions to Waipahu -- our Hawaiian community, our immigrant ancestors from the Philippines, China, Japan, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Korea, Spain, Germany, and Norway who toiled the fields; the Oahu Sugar Plantation and pioneering mom-and-pop business owners. In the future, those of us in Waipahu who now run our churches, small businesses, large corporations, civic associations, community centers, schools, clinics, restaurants, public transportation, and local government will be thanked as well.

Special thanks go out to the Waipahu Community Association and its collaborating partners Leeward YMCA, the FilCom Center and Hawaii’s Plantation Village for coordinating the series of events celebrating Waipahu’s 120th year anniversary.

We encourage all our readers to treat yourselves to a day of great food, company, and entertainment at the extravaganza anniversary celebration of Waipahu town on November 18, 3:30 pm to 10 pm at the August Ahrens Elementary School, Tucker Field.


Arpaio Pardon Is a Dangerous Precedent and Signals Change Must Be Made to Presidential Pardons

While President Donald Trump’s pardon of former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio happened on August 25, that controversial pardon was not a simple pardon, but still matters and has potentially long-term legal ramifications. For one, that pardon is unique and pulled our nation into uncharted waters. Arpaio was convicted of contempt of court, meaning that his crime was ignoring a judge’s order. Trump’s pardon of Arpaio directly undermines the authority of judges and the rule of law. It diminishes the judiciary branch of government.

Steven Schwinn, professor at the John Marshall Law School in Chicago puts it this way: “I worry that a pardon for this kind of action really says to law enforcement officials that they don’t have to worry about being prosecuted for violating the Constitution, or even a judge’s order not to violate the Constitution, so long as they’re doing President Trump’s bidding.”

A concrete example where defying a court order could have changed the history of our nation is in segregation. In 1962, a federal court ordered the all-white University of Mississippi to admit African American James Meredith. Then governor of Mississippi Ross Barnett originally refused to comply with the court order, declaring, “no school will be integrated in Mississippi while I am your governor." Meredith eventually was admitted to the school and governor Ross had no choice but to comply with the court order.

Now, imagine if there was a pro-segregationist president in power at the time, not John F. Kennedy. If then Governor Barnett believed the President would clear him of contempt of court because the President shared his segregationist viewpoint, the governor could have easily ignored the federal court’s order to allow Meredith into the University of Mississippi. The civil rights movement and segregation could have been set back for years. It’s clear that segregation relied on the power of court orders. President Trump’s Arpaio’s pardon dangerously undermines this process. The potential for public officials to disregard a court order knowing that they could be pardoned for political reasons is a dangerous precedent. It sends the message that so long as public officials are allies of the president, they need not execute the law. This is why Arpaio’s pardon must spark new dialogue to restructure and limit the president’s right to pardon.

There are other disturbing messages the Arpaio pardon sends. The former sheriff’s court order was specifically to stop his officers from racial profiling. Is Trump’s pardon of Arpaio sending a message that racial profiling is ok? How are immigrant communities -- who were racially profiled in this case -- are to feel safe or feel like they are equal citizens knowing that a government official was pardoned for illegal racial profiling? And what of Arpaio’s shockingly cruel treatment of prisoners at his jail which he once called his “concentration camp.” They were subjected to unusually dehumanizing conditions -- forced to live in tents open to intolerably hot and cold weather conditions, underfed, gave birth in leg cuffs. Sexual assault cases were unresolved. Inmates mysteriously died. Are “concentration camp” style conditions condoned in the U.S.?

Instead of serving jail time, Arpaio is now free, campaigning against political opponents of Trump. The irony:  Arpaio is scheduled to speak at Trump’s National Golf Course in Los Angeles in support of Omar Navarro who is challenging harsh-Trump critic Rep. Maxine Waters.

Lastly, given the timing of Arpaio’s pardon in the midst of Trump, his family, and associates being investigated by special prosecutors -- it’s clear his unusually early pardon (just months into his administration) is a test run. Presidential pardons are usually granted during the end of a president’s term.

 Josh Blackman, professor at the South Texas College of Law in Houston remarked, “I have no reasons to think he (Trump) wouldn’t choose a similar path with the Russian investigation.” The Washington Post reported in July that Trump asked his legal team whether his pardon powers extend to White House aides, family members or even himself. Should Trump extend pardons relating to potential crimes in the Russian investigation, the result would be an executive branch freed from judicial scrutiny where compliance of the law and enforcement of the constitution could be easily suspended as a matter of option. In a case where a president lacks a moral compass or happen to have autocratic tendencies, it is clear to see the potential of unspeakable abuse. All the president, or his successor, needs to do is waive that magic wand or presidential power to pardon and everything simply goes away. Is that something Americans feel comfortable with?

The current law says the president retains the right to issue pardons to any person, at any time, for any cause, and without any guarantee that all pardons will be made public. This law is far too sweeping in scope and power. It must be revised and limited. The Arpaio pardon, a pardon unlike any other made because of its blatant disregard of the judiciary -- is evident of a need for limiting presidential pardons.

© 2008-2017 Hawaii Filipino Chronicle Inc.