Undecided in Paradise

Chelsea Clinton campaigning in Honolulu on Saturday
Chelsea Clinton campaigning in Honolulu on Saturday

After living here for two years, I've grown accustomed to life in Hawaii. My attorney is Japanese. The woman who rings up my eco-friendly Martha Stewart pans at K-Mart is Filipino. The baggers at Safeway are aging Hawaiian ladies, and the young woman who takes my order at Jamba Juice is "hapa haole," or half-white. Her other half is Mexican.

My friends? They identify as African-American, Korean-Jewish-American, French-Tahitian, and naturalized Swiss.

America, indeed.

Yesterday was a typical day in paradise. Costco was packed. Surfers lined renowned Ho'okipa bay. The island's biggest health food store was clogged with tourists from New York and LA. There was a notice on the local bulletin board calling for the reinstatement of the sovereign Hawaiian government.


But there were some anomalies, too. There was a huge "Vote Obama" sign in front of an old-style Hawaiian bakery. A beat-up VW van cruised the streets, showing off its painted stars and five bright red letters: OBAMA. And the front page of the Honolulu Star-Bulletin featured a picture of Barack Hussein Obama's glowing Indonesian born, half-sister Maya Soetoro-Ng.

Chelsea Clinton, covered almost to her eyeballs in leis and reportedly excited to try her hand at hula, was on page two, next to a photo of seniors behind a sign: "Older People for Obama."

There's excitement in the air. Hawaii's son may finally get his moment in the sun. But the race is tight. While it is true that we live in a land of many cultures, just like on the mainland, race, class, and gender are huge factors.

The governor of Hawaii, Linda Lingle, is a white, female, Jewish Republican credited with facilitating massive development in the face of strong opposition by Hawaiians and environmentalists. And seven-eighths of all privately-owned land here is in the hands of thirty-nine extremely powerful owners, not one of them native Hawaiian, or of color in any other way.


Plus, Hawaiians love the Clintons. Bill campaigned for democratic Congresswoman and local favorite Mazie Hirono. Hillary's website says that because of her work, over fifteen thousand Hawaiian children and five thousand Hawaiian veterans now have access to health care.

Who knows what's going to happen? I know that three weeks ago I visited the aforementioned naturalized Swiss friend at her Bamboo farm. We sat in her living room considering the candidates. We supported Hillary, but were moved by Obama. Who could beat the Republicans? Why couldn't they just be on the same ticket and heal this new divide in contemporary American politics?


I ran into her at Home Depot a few days ago. She'd figured it out, she told me. She's for Obama, all the way. "He represents change," she said as I struggled to lift a bag of sand intended for my son's play area. "He's the future," she said, as I plunked the gritty sack down on the cart. "I love Hillary," she said, walking down the aisle with me, "but Obama is what we need. He's the future."

"I'm still on the fence," I said as we stood at the cash register.

She shook her head in disbelief. "What's to figure out?"

There wasn't time to respond. She took her recycled pavers to her car and I wheeled my bag of sand to mine. Before we separated I kissed her on the cheek. Take care, sweetheart, I said. I promise I'll have it figured out by the nineteenth. She grinned. See you at the polls!


America, indeed.

Rebecca Walker is the author of "Baby Love: Choosing Motherhood After a Lifetime for Ambivalence." Her blog on The Root is called Seeds .

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