The United States has an alarming D-rating for social distancing
Just last week Hawaii received the highest possible score when Unicast published its rankings for social distancing compliance of all 50 of the United States. Hawaii was ranked number one in the nation and received the only solid A grade as determined by the Unacast Scoreboard:
Today the third person died in Hawaii on COVID-19
The scores and rankings were based on each state’s reactive social distancing activity, compared to relative activity prior to COVID-19.
This week no State or Territory in the U.S. received an A rating anymore, except for the District of Columbia (Washington DC) receiving an A-
Globally the United States has a D-rating for social distancing, which is absolutely alarming.
Hawaii together with Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, New Jersey, New York dropped to a softer B-
Within Hawaii, Kauai County remains to have a perfect A rating. Kauai is the only county with flight restrictions and a curfew.
Maui County has a B rating, Honolulu County B-, and Hawaii County a C rating
Thoughts by Dr. Anton Anderssen
I am a legal anthropologist. My doctorate is in law, and my post-doctorate graduate degree is in cultural anthropology. We study phenomena that have one foot in law and the other in culture – controversial subjects like same-sex marriage, political uprisings, and cultural compliance with governmental mandates. These are interesting times, especially in paradise. Hawaii is unique in the fact it was once a royal kingdom, experienced epidemics which nearly wiped out its native population, experienced multiple overthrows, then was annexed to a new country which has maintained its position as the world’s largest economy since 1871.
The first settlers in these islands were the Marquesans. They were overthrown by the Tahitians, who called their conquered population manahune (commoners) and turned most of them into their slaves. Two hundred years ago, an 1820 census by Kaumualiʻi, the “king” of Kauaʻi, reveals 65 manahune on the rolls. Also called Menehune, they were allegedly little people – but size is relative. The Tahitians were large in stature; they easily overthrew the aboriginal inhabitants.
Hawaii became a kingdom after Kamehameha, aikāne (sex parter and political envoy) for Chief Kalani’opu’u, rose in political power. Kamehameha was born to Kekuʻiapoiwa II, the niece of Alapainui. Alpainui overthrew Hawaii Island by killing the two legitimate heirs of Chief Keaweʻīkekahialiʻiokamoku. Kamehameha proceeded to overthrow Oʻahu, Maui, Molokaʻi, and Lānaʻi by 1795. In 1810, Kauaʻi and Niʻihau surrendered to him rather than having their population slaughtered in war. Kamehameha was known to kill all men, women and children who got in his way. He called the entire territory The Kingdom of Hawaii, stressing that the ruler of the Island of Hawaii (himself) now ruled everyone.
Kamehameha courted outsiders for weapons – he needed muskets and cannon to kill off his rivals. He allowed mercenaries to strip sandalwood forests in exchange for weapons. The outsiders brought all kinds of bacteria and viruses with them, to which the population had no immunity. There was epidemic after epidemic during the Kingdom of Hawaii, which lasted less than 100 years.
The Marquesans (native inhabitants) had already been killed off for the most part by the advent of The Kingdom. Kamehameha killed thousands in his quest for power, and thousands more died from starvation after his wars. Over the years, The Kingdom, in the name of economic growth, brought in even more outsiders to work the fields; and with them came epidemics. From possibly one million inhabitants at the time of Captain Cook’s arrival in 1778, the native Hawaiian (Tahitian) population dropped to fewer than 24,000 in 1920. Anthropologists disagree on the number of native Hawaiian (Tahitian) people who dwelled in the kingdom in 1778.
During the early Kingdom, a form of law existed called kapu. Social distancing was well-ingrained to the culture. If your commoner shadow touched one of the Aliʻi (nobility in the social caste) you were put to death. People kept their distance, because the consequences of getting too close to the wrong person was a capital offense. There were eleven classes of aliʻi. Aliʻi of the highest rank continued to rule the Hawaiian Islands until 1893, when, ironically, Queen Liliʻuokalani was overthrown by a coup d’état. No matter who you were, there was probably somebody you had to obey, who had greater authority than you did, and this way of life never totally disappeared from the culture. Today, it’s the people with the most money who occupy the highest social caste.
When our current Hawaiian leaders told people to distance, the citizenry did as they were told. Hawaiians knew there was a deathly pestilence lurking in the midst. They had centuries of experience to know not to play games with epidemics. Law and culture combined to form a behavior which resulted in Hawaii ranking number one for adherence to social distancing. When it comes to epidemics, Hawaiians have a memory which is very, very long.
Hawaii has five counties. There are no cases of Coronavirus in Kalawao County. Few people have ever heard of this county, nor been there. I was invited to visit Kalaupapa in Kalawao County to meet survivors of the former leprosy colony, which is still home to several of the people who were exiled there through the 1960s. At least 8,000 individuals were forcibly removed from their families and relocated to Kalaupapa over the years. In 1865, the Legislative Assembly passed, and King Kamehameha V approved, “An Act to Prevent the Spread of Leprosy”, which set apart land to isolate people believed capable of spreading Hansen’s Disease. Boatloads of people were transported to the colony, then shoved off the planks before the seagoing vessel reached land. The afflicted were told to sink or swim. Many of the present-day residents of Kalawao County have first-hand experience about being medically quarantined, and they follow immaculate hygienic practices as part of that legacy.
Today, the Hawaiian government has television broadcasts where people are kindly asked to “self-isolate.” It works. The people respond in various uplifting ways – such as placing white ribbons on their windows to show support for the medical profession. They place Christmas lights on their balconies to represent hope during a dark time. I have 200 Christmas lights on my balcony, and they can be seen from a mile away. The fabric section at Walmart is wiped out because people are sewing masks and donating them to the elderly and vulnerable. Self-discipline is amazing here.
Unfortunately many parts of the United States don’t have the discipline it takes to weather an epidemic. Florida allowed thousands of spring breakers crowd their beaches in March, and the repercussions are devastating. In the Grant-Valkaria region of Brevard County, Florida, a group of gender-reveal partiers not only assembled illegally, but blasted off Tannerite, which resulted in a 10-acre fire. That’s the epitome of a dumpster fire.
My husband, a citizen of Italy, fled Italy one day before flights were banned from his country. Italy was especially hard-hit. Our friends and relatives say “Italians don’t have discipline. When the government quarantined certain areas, many of the people went skiing since they were off work.” Spain was hit hard too. My Italian husband noted, “You can tell a huge difference between the Germanic/Northern countries in Western Europe versus the Latin/Southern countries. The people who refused to behave are the ones paying the worst price.”
The worst behavior I have seen was caught on video. On March 28, a birthday party for a one-year old resulted in police having to disperse the illegal gathering. The ignorance and irresponsibility shown by these “adults” was appalling. It has to be seen to be believed: https://youtu.be/jRVvMoEoItU . These partiers hurled profane insults at the police – their language was so vile it cannot even be printed.
During the Spanish influenza epidemic, officials didn’t put up with that kind of defiant behavior. On October 27, 1918, a special officer for the San Francisco board of health named Henry D. Miller shot and severely wounded James Wisser in front of a downtown drug store at Powell and Market street, following Wisser’s refusal to don an influenza mask. I doubt we will ever see that kind of enforcement during this epidemic, at least from government officials, but I predict private citizens will use deadly force to prevent recalcitrant rogues from infecting family members on private property. Gun and ammunition sales have skyrocketed in the past month, and there are certainly cultural reasons for that. More than 3.7 million total firearm background checks were conducted through the FBI’s background check system in March, the highest number on record in more than 20 years.
Self-isolation isn’t as bad as many people make it out to be. Between 1603 and 1613, when Shakespeare’s powers as a writer was at his zenith, the Globe and other London playhouses were closed for an amazing total of 78 months due to Bubonic Plague – that is more than 60% of the time. So what did Shakespeare do while self-isolating? He wrote King Lear, with Macbeth and Antony and Cleopatra to boot. Issac Newton did some of his most important work while self-isolating, that’s what led to him to become SIR Isaac Newton. My nephew told my sister, “See mom, all those years when you told me sitting around all day on the sofa playing video games in my pajamas would never prepare me for the real world. Woe betide the bored mother.”
Well, I’ve never played a video game. But I am thankful that I live in Hawaii, where respect for social distancing is the highest in the nation. Now, I think I’ll write something in iambic pentameter.
Follow the author Dr. Anton Anderssen on Twitter @hartforth and at