KTTH OPINION

Rantz: Seattle Times column blames Maui fires on ‘colonization’, ‘Europeans’

Aug 23, 2023, 11:32 PM | Updated: Aug 24, 2023, 12:29 pm

Maui fire seattle times...

(MyNorthwest file photo)

(MyNorthwest file photo)

Left-wing Seattle Times columnist Naomi Ishisaka blames the Maui fires on “colonization” and the “arrival of Europeans” hundreds of years ago. It’s a tone-deaf, careless and grotesque attempt to politicize a fire where scores of locals, including children, are still missing.

Ishisaka, who twists every story she covers into a social justice cause, sought to shame would-be tourists thinking vacations are an easy way to give back to the struggling community. It’s certainly fair to question anyone, however well-intentioned, visiting the area for a vacation when people are still dealing with the devastation (though it’s worth noting that she offers her criticisms from Seattle, whereas media members actually talking to residents in Maui “are practically pleading” for tourists to come). But she’s not self-aware enough to realize her disgusting and bizarre politicization of the tragedy is worse. 

The far-left columnist argues that for us “[t]o understand the roots of the tragedy on Maui, you have to take a long look back.” But she wants us to go way back into history to make a lazy anti-colonialism argument. 

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Maui fires blamed on ‘settler colonialism’

Ishisaka seems disinterested in a deadly decision to appoint an activist to the Hawaii Commission on Water Resource Management. He reportedly delayed releasing water to help stymie the fires until “equity” concerns were addressed. She didn’t want us to look back to emergency management decisions that inexplicably chose not to de-energize powerlines during a windstorm.

With the help of Michael Spencer, dean of the University of Washington’s School of Social Work, Ishisaka wants us to go back “hundreds of years” to understand how the wildfires impacted the community.

“But to see how we got here, you need to go back hundreds of years to the arrival of Europeans, who brought their deadly cocktail of disease and destruction, and to the U.S.-backed overthrow of Queen Liliʻuokalani — the leader of the independent kingdom of Hawaiʻi — and the land’s subsequent colonization,” she wrote. 

What’s especially distasteful about her left-wing agenda is that it’s so disingenuous. She criticizes why the fire spread, but not with an eye towards a solution. She merely wants to bash colonizing whites.

For example, she uses Spencer to note, correctly, that the grass in the area is nonnative and flammable. Someone interested in threat mitigation might argue for de-energizing the powerlines during a windstorm, which is common practice elsewhere. But she’s not interested in threat mitigation. She points this out to blame “settler colonialism” for transforming “the land from one of interdependence and sustainability to one of resource extraction and fragility.”

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Get off my ‘stolen land’

Ishisaka then uses a local left-wing activist journalist to complain that some locals are being forced to “go on the defensive to protect their homes from predatory buyers and developers before they even had a chance to grieve or process their losses.”

Again, the criticism is fair. But she doesn’t offer any meaningful ways to protect against this because she seems only interested in making a political point. She immediately quotes an activist journalist who complains about stolen land, which is a common faux-outrage made by locals in Seattle who are looking for an easy way to signal their virtue. These are the people who list on their X profiles that their location is “Occupied Duwamish.”

“It really comes down to making sure the folks who have been able to secure land on Maui, land that they’re entitled to as Native Hawaiians — but have been stolen over generations — that that can continue to be preserved,” he said.

It’s worth noting that Ishisaka wrote her column on land she and other activists believe to be “stolen.” Just don’t count on them to effort a return of the “stolen” land; you might get a “land acknowledgment” every so often, though.

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Let’s just end tourism, I guess

The basic summary from the column is that Europeans stole land, and white people turned Hawaii into a tourist spot.

Ishisaka didn’t need to exploit a tragic fire to make her point. She almost certainly did not suddenly develop this belief. I know that a left-wing motto is to “never let a serious crisis go to waste,” but this column was just so distasteful, made worse by the fact that she likely thinks she’s heroic or brave for having published it. Ishisaka even presents the fire, via a quote from Spencer, almost as if it was intentional.

“The common thread is when you remove people’s land, culture, language, food, water, you’re actually trying to kill them,” Spencer said in the column. 

“The long-term destruction that you’ve placed upon the land and its people … there’s a reason why we’re in the predicament we’re in, there’s a reason why we’re speaking out, there’s a reason why we continue to want sovereignty,” Spencer continued. 

I’m sure her white, progressive reporter friends patted her on the back to say, “I’m glad someone said it!” before self-flagellating in the break room to atone for their racist sins. But the actual reason residents are in a predicament is poor crisis management and poor decision making by incompetent local officials who either put left-wing “equity” concerns over people or couldn’t foresee obvious threats that could have been mitigated. That point seems less important than complaining about colonialism. 

Listen to The Jason Rantz Show on weekday afternoons from 3:00 p.m.–7:00 p.m. on KTTH 770 AM (HD Radio 97.3 FM HD-Channel 3). He is the author of the book “What’s Killing America: Inside the Radical Left’s Tragic Destruction of Our Cities.” Subscribe to the podcast. Follow @JasonRantz on TwitterInstagram, and Facebook. Check back frequently for more news and analysis.

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