One moment, waves crash along the iconic sand beaches. Tourists and natives crowd along the ocean’s edge. The hustle of the nearby city echoes in the distance. In the next, everything stands still. The familiar sounds of the Aloha State come to a halt, and in their place a piercing screech envelops the area.
On Friday, December 1, Hawaii turned on it’s nuclear sirens for the first time since the Cold War. Due to increasing hostility from North Korea, the famous vacation destination decided to revive nuclear warnings via their disturbingly thunderous alarms. They will continue these tests indefinitely on the first workday of each month.
As my mom and I sat in silence — listening to the television boom in our house as it did in Hawaii — I was shocked to watch the topic quickly change back to the president.
Putting things in perspective, North Korea would’ve been breaking news for weeks at any other time. But instead, we’re bombarded with headlines about Donald Trump and Russia. Somehow, as Hawaiian children ask their parents why a siren is blaring in their homes, the news prioritizes covering another insensitive tweet or ridiculous lie.
As a journalist, I realize the importance of holding those in power accountable, regardless of party or affiliation. But I think I speak for a majority of people when I say I’m sick of it. There used to be a time — however long ago it may have been — when the news was not a daily dose of depression. Now, you’d be lucky to even hear about the Cold War nuclear sirens blasting in Hawaii.
This adjustment is one of the first to come in response to North Korea, and it surely won’t be the last. In March, Japan implemented similar systems for warning of an attack after four North Korean missiles landed off the coast of Oga.
Tensions with North Korea have only gotten worse, and it does not appear that anything will change soon. Yet on the verge of a potential nuclear war, we as a nation seem to be focused elsewhere.
There are 1.4 million people in Hawaii, all of whom are living with the real possibility of hearing those sirens and knowing, this time, it’s not a drill. I know just how distracting the news cycle can be — it feels like something “unprecedented” is happening all the time. But we’re so focused on what’s going in Washington D.C. that we aren’t even considering the consequences — consequences that those in Hawaii have to live with every day.
It’s not just in Hawaii; people are suffering all around the world. No matter how entertaining it is to obsess over our crazy politics, we cannot discount or ignore the people politicians are supposed to represent. Their stories — the ones that truly matter — are becoming less and less prominent in the news.
It’s easier to look away or distract ourselves when North Korea becomes more hostile, but that only makes things worse. I do realize there’s not much we can really do, but we have the power to tell our governments and media outlets that we do care, despite ratings saying otherwise. Watch. Share. Like. Read. Do whatever it is you can to support those reporting the experiences we rarely get exposed to.
We take our privilege for granted. Living in the U.S., and especially in California, what happens here often makes the news. That is not the case everywhere. But if we can broaden our perspective by embracing the things we don’t like to hear, we can help those who are not so fortunate, like the people of Hawaii. If we don’t, eventually, there will be no one left to tell our story.