We live down the street from a rooster farm – no, make that two rooster farms. We didn’t know about one of them, which only came into being a week after we settled into this place. It wasn’t a conscious decision to be or not to be in company with such an annoyance, rather in order to secure a nice home with a modicum of privacy, this is what was available; this is what we got.
When the tradewinds are down as they are and have been for the past few days, the noise can be unbearable, never mind the agenda that presents itself when one considers the raising of these lovely birds, each tethered by its foot to a triangle of plywood just big enough for its body. To us animal lovers, it is a disturbing and pitiful sight. And let’s face facts – there is no earthly reason to raise these creatures except to fight them. They don’t lay eggs and their meat is too tough to be palatable. And though cockfighting is illegal in the great old US of A, it is largely overlooked in Hawaii due to the diverse cultural milieu.
Before you get all riled up as I was the first time I realized people actually engaged in this awful practice while living on the island of Moloka’i twenty years ago, I’d offer this caution: if righteous anger could alter an engrained cultural practice overnight, we would live in a very different human universe. Sadly, it does not and cannot. Changes of this caliber happen slowly, if they happen at all, through peaceful understanding and more patience than the gods ever granted folks like me, though I am learning. Changes such as this happen by impressing youngsters with knowledge and alternatives. In turn, they then may or may not affect the deeply rooted values of their parents.
If I’ve learned nothing else through confronting injustices such as this, it is to cultivate greater tolerance. Countless others have attempted through personal and litigious channels to eradicate rooster fighting from the islands without success. And I realize that, just like personal transformation, change happens from inside the culture. It’s highly unlikely that another white person (who, like it or not, remains a symbol for the coopting of indigenous people through imminent domain) is going to ingratiate himself into the native community while insisting that people sweep away even more vestiges of their familiar. It’s a conundrum and a balancing act in this evolving world where many of us envision a more level playing field for all sentient beings.