The nail that stands up gets hammered down. ~Japanese proverb
When I uttered that for the first time on the mainland, jaws dropped; raucous laughter followed, as though I had just invented a new proverb.
Yet most of us here in Hawaii know this one by heart. “Don’t do anything to embarrass me,” you can hear your parents silently conveying to you. “Do as you are told, don’t question my aged wisdom,” you hear them — sometimes outright — speaking.
This proverb is not an absolute call for obedience. Hawaii people are the first to mind your — and everyone else’s — business when it comes to a just and fair society. That’s not a nail standing up. That’s what nails do in Hawaii.
Standing out for the sake of standing out may be American, but it is less of a concept here. By and large, most of us who grew up or adopted local customs understand this. This is why we love living here.
Case in point, the moment we were told to stay home, we did. We were told to care for our kupuna, we did. We were told to wear masks, we did it with style and flair. Some of us understood the reason, others trusted that those in charge did. Either way, we understood that any protest we might have would follow in an orderly fashion while complying.
(Granted, we still couldn’t stay home when we heard Costco had toilet paper, but that was engrained in us from small kid time, like psychologist Lorenz and his imprinted ducks. As we say here, “no can help.”)
As uncertain as our future may be, I am so relieved to see most of us returning to familiar patterns of a tightly knit community. We can’t smile through our masks, but we smile with our eyes, shoot a shaka to our neighbors and live within the confines of new rules. In fact, you can almost tell who isn’t truly local — a phrase meant to convey a culture, not one’s original hometown.
To those of you who cut grandma off in the parking lot, have parties in their garage, or openly flaunt their disdain of masks in the name of individuality, shame on you. You ARE being judged in the name of what is best for our fragile island home. Do as you are told now — we can talk about why and make adjustments as needed. This is how our state came to be: a true melting pot of people needing a common culture for societal survival. Keeping coronavirus in check is about finding our common goals and working together to meet them.
Keep it up Hawaii. Mind your business and everyone else’s. We’ll get through this because we know how closely our fates are tied to one another’s.