Books: “Travel as a Political Act”

Today as I was volunteering and getting to share the latest in humpback whale information at the Maui Ocean Center, one group – a mom and her four daughters – seemed particularly interested.  Most people  at the Ocean Center come to see the many beautiful fish and other sea creatures, and I  get to say a few facts as they pass by.  But for this particular group, I got to tell about why the humpbacks don’t eat while they are in Hawaii, how the male humpback whales have the most complex acoustical display of any in the animal kingdom, and more.  Since I could hear a slight accent, I asked the mom and girls where they were from — Saudi Arabia!  Uncovered, unescorted, all speaking English well (and of course, Arabic, and they are learning French); the mom says that the women drive; the girls are learning guitar too, and tomorrow, they are taking hula lessons at their hotel.  The mom said that life in Saudi Arabia isn’t really as it is portrayed in the news.  I asked if they were afraid of traveling in the U.S.  They said, “No.”  They are having a wonderful time and find everyone friendly.  They see the sensational news as just the news.  I would have loved getting to know them.

That seeking out of people, especially ones from cultures much different than his own is what Rick Steves shares in his book Travel as a Political Act, which offers many significant insights.  For instance, in describing his time in Iran, Rick Steves notes,

“It’s not easy finding a middle ground between the ‘Great Satan’ and the ‘Axis of Evil.’  Some positions (such as President Ahmadinejad denying the Holocaust) are just plain wrong.  But I don’t entirely agree with many in my own government, either.  Yes, there are evil people in Iran.  Yes, the rhetoric and policies of Iran’s leaders can be objectionable.  But there is so much more to Iran than the negative image drummed into us by our media and our government.

I left Iran impressed more by what we have in common than by our differences.  Most Iranians, like most Americans, simply want a good life and a safe homeland for their loved ones.  Just like my country, Iran has one dominant ethnic group and religion that’s struggling with issues of diversity and change–liberal versus conservative, modern versus traditional, secular versus religious.  As in my own hometown, people of great faith are suspicious of people of no faith or a different faith.  Both societies seek a defense against the onslaught of modern materialism that threatens their traditional ‘family values.’  Both society are suspicious of each other, and both are especially suspicious of each other’s government.

When we travel–whether to the ‘Axis of Evil’ or just to a place where people yodel when they’re happy, or fight bulls to impress the girls, or can’t serve breakfast until today’s croissants arrive — we enrich our lives and better understand our place on the planet.  We undercut groups that sow fear, hated, and mistrust.  People-to-people connections help us learn that we can disagree and still coexist peacefully.

Granted, there’s no easy solution, but surely getting to know Iranian culture is a step in the right direction.  Hopefully, even the most skeptical will appreciate the humanity of 70 million Iranian people.  Our political leaders sometimes make us forget that all of us on this small planet are equally precious children of God.  Having been to Iran and meeting its people face-to-face, I feel this more strongly than ever” (p. 192-193).

Wherever you are, find someone of a different culture–listen, reflect, and learn.  Talk to people with accents; you are likely to be glad when they share something of their lives.

If you can’t go traveling tomorrow, get Rick Steves’ Travel as a Political Act.  

Happy traveling; happy reading.  Aloha, Renée


What’s important to this young man? What brings him joy & sorrow? What do we have in common? It would be interesting to find out   Photo by POOYAN ESHTIAGHI on Unsplash

Banner photo:  Rick Steves with schoolgirls in Iran.




Thought for the Day: Pacifism Revisited

“A child of an Evangelical Friends Sunday school, at an early age I was both born again and schooled in pacifism. While I don’t rightly know how it all fit together theologically, I know that the World War II veterans and their wives grieved what they understood as their necessary service as they loved us into loving Jesus.

As I was coming of age and studying theology, I found myself seeing the ways that war (even “just war”) becomes necessary when we neglect the things that make for peace. I was stunned to learn about the voyage of the MS St. Louis, a ship filled with Jewish Germans seeking asylum in the United States; it was turned away, leaving its refugees to return to Europe and Nazis’ terror (ultimately several European countries received the passengers that we denied). There were things we coulda‐woulda‐shoulda done that would have prevented the Holocaust, things that would have prevented the need for what I’d been taught was a necessary war. Pacifism, I learned, must be proactive and intensely active.

In more recent years I’ve spent many nights praying with my feet in Ferguson, Mo., and beyond. I’ve seen the police state wage war on the people; tasted tear gas; heard the beat of the batons; watched the entrenched, systemic racism up close and personal. As we call for nonviolent resistance, we too often fail to recognize that violence is already present.

In this light, platitudes for peacemaking sound more like acquiescence with evil and have no rightful place. Pacifism, it seems, is a position of privilege more so than justice. And yet as we watch the rise of the alt‐right (essentially Nazi 2.0), I’m finding myself rethinking it all yet again.

Back in the “righteous war” of the European theatre, we defeated one man and his regime with the best of American war‐making tools (or so the story is told). Success was declared, and decades of relative prosperity awaited those heralded as victors. Because our victory was militaristic and focused on one man’s empire, we never addressed what propelled the mass of people to support the madness. Make no mistake, most German folk went along (“it’s a job,” “it’s the law,” “I have to feed my family”), and many actually supported the regime. We never addressed the white supremacist ideology that undergirded the Nazi agenda, the same ideology upon which our nation was founded.

Likely we didn’t address it because it was too close to our own. In the midst of our warring, Jim Crow was having a field day back here at home. After the war, in the era of relative prosperity, the question was raised as to whether the prosperity belonged to everyone or just white folk. Slowly (with hugh sacrifice by Black leaders) some doors opened. But even then white folk never really talked about race and ethnicity. We shared metaphors that allowed us to pretend that everyone is white (melting pot, salad bowl, color‐blind) while maintaining a system of goods and services that were never shared.

Refusing to address the underlying values of the Third Reich (white capitalist patriarchy), we have been destined to relive them. We have a president who recently called a Black woman (his former aide) a “dog,” welcomed the white nationalist folk to the White House Lawn, and continued refusal to return hundreds of Brown‐skinned children to their parents. All the while his base cheers widely and his party stands behind him. In vivid and horrifying detail we are seeing the fruit of the poisonous taproot that we failed to address when we laid the blame for the Holocaust at the feet of a single contorted human. The blame then, and now, belongs with an underlying value system that elevates and dehumanizes in binary categories.

Pacifism is not passive: it is that active work of looking at the deepest causes of violence. Pacifism is a call to address violently oppressive power structures, not a judgment of the response by the oppressed. Pacifism is proactive and militant and actively disrupting [my emphasis].

Had we (white folk) embraced pacifism, we might have engaged the work necessary to identify and unlearn the racism that is suffocating us all. We might have found the courage to atone for our nation’s most original sins.

Instead we are reviving them.” – Katherine HawkerSelf, St. Louis, MO,  April 1, 2019


It isn’t too late — yet.  Aloha, Renée

Thought for the Day: Goodwill

“On an individual level, the human condition changed day by day, even hour by hour, and while you were soaking in self-pity over a misfortune, you might miss an opportunity for a redeeming triumph.

And for every act of inhumanity, the species managed to commit a hundred acts of kindness; so if you were the type to brood, you would be more sensible if you dwelt on the remarkable goodwill with which most people treated others”

— Dean Koontz By the Light of the Moon quoted in The Sun, August 2018, p. 48.


Happy guys – Photo by Zachary Nelson on Unsplash

Aloha, Renée

Banner  Photo by Nina Strehl on Unsplash


Thought for the Day: Education

Parker J. Palmer,  American author, educator, and activist who focuses on issues in education, community, leadership, spirituality and social change, notes:

“I have thought often and painfully of the education I received — in some of the best colleges in this country — about the history of the Third Reich.  I was taught by good historians, some of them award-winning.  But I was taught the history of Nazi Germany in such a way that I felt as if all of that murderousness had happened to another species on another planet.


Parker J. Palmer image from Wikipedia

My teachers were not Holocaust revisionists.  They weren’t saying it didn’t happen.  They taught the statistics and the facts and the theories behind the facts, but they presented them at such objective arm’s length that the inwardness of the events was never revealed to me. All was objectified and externalized,  and I ended up orally and spiritually deformed as a consequence.

There are two things that I failed to learn from my history courses on Nazi Germany — things that I should have learned, and did learn painfully in later years.  One was that the very community I grew up in, on the North Shore of Chicago, had its own fascist anti-Semitic tendencies.  I grew up in Wilmette, Illinois, and if you were a Jew in the Chicago area, you didn’t live in Wilmette.  You didn’t live in Evanston or Kenilworth, either, because there was fascism at work.  I should have been taught that.  Had my life been connected with history in that way, it would have helped me understand my own time and place, and my own involvement in the same evil.  Without that knowledge, there was no way for me to grow morally.

The second, even more deeply inward thing I didn’t learn is that there is within me, in the shadow of my soul, a little Hitler, a force of evil that, when the difference between you and me gets too great, will order me to kill you off.  I won’t do it with a bullet or a gas chamber but with a category, a word that renders you irrelevant to my universe: ‘Oh, you’re just a [fill in the blank].”

(“The Grace of Great Things,” September 1998, quoted in The Sun, June 2019, p.46).

Palmer doesn’t even mention the separation of  Poles, Italians, Chinese . . . , but especially the Blacks and Whites in Chicago, where I was born and lived until when I was four years old, when my family moved down state.  I returned after I had earned my Bachelor’s degree – at Southeast Missouri State College in Cape Girardeau, birth place of Russ Limbaugh.  I don’t remember any Blacks or Latinos in any of my classes in the late 1960s – although that has changed now.

After graduation, my first teaching job was in an inner-city Chicago public high school.  The students were smart enough; the education opportunity not so great. My ninth grade students could read 1st to 10th grade level – all in the same classroom.  In that first year  with minimal training and no experience, I taught classes for English, history, geography, and EMH (Emotionally & Mentally Handicapped – not a really good label for anyone).  The administrators thought I was a good teacher because my students stayed in my classroom.  I probably worked harder than I had ever done before or since; I loved my students, but I wasn’t well qualified, and many of the students had  huge challenges. Several of my girls were pregnant or already had babies; at 14, they said they wanted someone finally to love them.

One of my biggest shocks as a teacher was when we were covering WWII in my history class; several of the students said they had never heard of our U.S. bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki!!!   They didn’t know about the U.S. use of atomic bombs that struck mainly civilians and had medical ramifications for generations after the attacks.  Of course, they learned about it in my class.

If we, in the U.S., can not admit to how things have been, how can we prevent them from happening again?  If we can see only positive aspects of the U.S., how can we change the bad aspects?  In Michael Moore’s movie, Where to Invade Next,  he looks at great practices in other countries: Italians get lots of vacation time; the French public school children serve each other at small round tables and practice conversations as they eat healthy, several course lunches; in Germany,  students are taught the bitter truth about the Holocaust and the Third Reich.

The rise of hateful voices in the U.S. would not come as such a surprise if we had really been paying attention to fringe groups and learning why they believe and act as they do.

One group working to provide accurate history and insights that will help us make good choices is –

Facing History and Ourselves, a non-profit empowering teachers and students to think critically about history and to understand the impact of their choices. <>.


Facing History curriculum transform schools (and people)

“There are acts that oppose the flow of life and growth and human dignity.  They must be dealt with courageously,” said Stephen R. Schwartz in “The Prayer of the Body III.”

Much is good about our world, but much needs to change.

Moral growth is essential: for ourselves and our nation.

Aloha, Renée

Banner photo from Facing History website.







Thought for the Day: What will survive . .

“Someplace in the world, somebody is making love and another a poem.  Elsewhere in the universe, a star manyfold the mass of our third-rate sun is living out its final moments in a wild spin before collapsing into a black hole, its exhale bending spacetime itself into a well of nothingness that can swallow every atom that ever touched us and every datum we ever produced, every poem and statue and symphony we’ve ever known–an entropic spectacle insentient to questions of blame and mercy, devoid of why.

In four billion years, our own star will follow its fate, collapsing into a white dwarf.  . . .

But until that day comes, nothing once created ever fully leaves us.  Seeds are planted and come abloom generations, centuries, civilizations later, migrating across coteries [communities] and countries and continents.  Meanwhile, people live and people die–in peace as war rages on, in poverty and disrepute as latent fame awaits, with much that never meets its more, in shipwrecked love.

I will die.

You will die.

The atoms that huddled for a cosmic blink around the shadow of a self will return to the seas that made us.

What will survive of us are shoreless seeds and stardust.”

From:  Figuring by Maria Popova, p. 545.

Aloha, Renée

Banner photo by Jeremy Thomas on Unsplash

Thought for the Day: “Build a Wall to Keep Them In”

From Froma Harrop in The Maui News:

“Last winter, I found myself in a hospital intensive care unit for three days. I was hooked onto all kinds of boxes, bags and bleeping machines. Stuck in the bed, I watched a lot of bad TV. The people who came into my room became my only contact with the human world. At least half were immigrants in jobs ranging from menial to super-duper specialist. Nearly all the hospital staff was caring, but somehow the foreign-born workers tended to form a more intimate connection.

What was it? The answer, perhaps, is that most came from less prosperous parts of the world where physically helping one another — as opposed to clicking an app for a service — is an expected part of life. They didn’t just drop the lunch tray for the woman in room 402 but rather interacted on a personal level. Enjoy your lunch. Is there anything else you need? Is the tray where you want it? I know they kept it up even though many of the patients they dealt with were selfish and dismissive of foreigners as important.

Before going on, let me make clear that I support an orderly immigration system and respect for our laws. And I generally support reforms that give heavier weight to skilled immigrants.

However, we must not undervalue qualities not necessarily associated with “skills.” I refer to poor people brimming with energy and kindness.

Americans will increasingly depend on such immigrants as an aging population requires more medical attention. The Institute of Medicine projects we will need 3.5 million additional health care workers by 2030.

Demand will rise for 650,000 additional workers to do “direct care,” according to the Health Resources and Services Administration. These are the home health and personal care aides and nurses who will enable more older Americans to live at home, where most of them say they prefer to be.

A visit to any sizable hospital shows how reliant today’s health care system is on a mixture of native and foreign-born. I recall two female nurses, really nice natives of Indiana and North Carolina, and a male nurse from Brooklyn. Another was an American-born Latina whose parents had immigrated to Florida. Those were the native-born Americans.

The head doctor at the ICU was from Russia. He would come by to explain my interesting case, critically low sodium, to residents hailing from all over. (By the way, sodium deficiency becomes a serious and common problem during heat waves. Be sure to hydrate.)

The doctor never treated me with detachment. I was more than a body with bad numbers that needed fixing. He would squeeze my hands as reassurance.

Other workers cleaning rooms or wheeling oxygen tanks out of elevators had voices from the Caribbean. The woman from food services came from Ecuador. She took my meal orders with four-fork professionalism. As we got to know each other, she became especially attentive. It took her a while to warm up, perhaps because — as I’ve noted — many patients treat workers, especially foreign ones, as unimportant servants.

I’ll never forget the man with one of the least glamorous jobs in the place — collecting plastic bags of garbage at night. It was 10 p.m. on a Saturday, and I was feeling a bit lonely reading on my lighted Kindle. The man silently emptied my trash can and, upon seeking me sitting in the dark, said in an African accent, “I hope you feel better very soon.” I almost cried.

America needs people with technical skills, that’s true. But some virtues cannot be measured by standardized tests. In reforming our immigration program, let’s recognize that humanity is another quality that often seems in short supply.”

* Froma Harrop is a syndicated columnist. She can be reached at fharrop@gmail .com or follow her on Twitter @FromaHarrop.

We need good people.  Let’s work toward including – not excluding – in legal, clear ways.

Aloha, Renée


Froma Harrop

Banner photo:

A US border patrol vehicle drives past French artist JR’s installation in Tecate, about a 40-mile drive southeast of downtown San Diego on Sept. 9, 2017.

Credit:  Sonia Narang/PRI

Thought for the Day: Splash

“When [my father] was old, I tried to introduce him to the Buddhist doctrine of emptiness; I thought it would ease any anxiety he might be having about the imminence of death. ‘Ultimately,’ I began, ‘you never were.’

‘Maybe not,’ he said, . . . ‘but I made a hell of a splash where I should have been.'”

– Stephen Butterfield

Hope you are doing some splashing today.

Aloha, Renée

Kiawe – The pods are back!

On the way home from the beach this afternoon, I saw kiawe beans spilling out onto a  sidewalk.  Grabbing a bag from my car, my friend Jeany and I scooped up the plumpest, freshest ones.  This is a harvest that picks itself by dropping to the ground when ripe.  It’s an unloved plant (mainly because people don’t realize how wonderful it is — and it has big, sharp thorns).  It was introduced in Hawaii in 1826 by a French priest.  On his way to Hawaii, he had traveled through Peru, where he saw the indigenous women using the pods to make flour; “mesquite,” they called it.  My son, John, and I learned about kiawe in a workshop a couple of years ago given by Vince Dodge and Sunny Savage.
Recently, Sunny sent an e-mail reminding us about the wonderful yellow bean:

KIAWE Season is HERE NOW!!!

Which one is kiawe, A or B?
To find out the answer, go to our Instagram or Facebook pages!
Jumping up and down over here! Yup, me along with all of those in the know. Have you had a kiawe craving? On a magical night in Wailea, 5 days ago to be exact, while preparing wild salad for 70 in an epic outdoor farm to table experience, I found my first ripe kiawe (Prosopis pallida) of 2019. Did I mention jumping up and down! Allelujah! Since this blessing happened I have driven around half of Maui scouting kiawe beans. Lanai tomorrow and Molokai next week. There is food going to waste on the ground out there. It is time to activate on this harvest NOW. Why?
Hot dry sunny days make for great kiawe beans. Although the trees will continue to produce beans, if we have heavy moisture from tropical storms or hurricanes, the beans become moldy. This is the time to store this amazing food, before the hurricanes come! Free food, stored just in time for hurricane season. Get them now!
Want to learn more? Kiawe is the perfect food for a community cooperative…let’s get organizing. We need kiawe dryers in Lahaina and Kihei. And remember, Hawaiian harvesting rights are protected under law, so respect the host culture. We have a window of beautiful weather right now, let’s activate and bring in this blessing of sweet abundance.
Get involved —>>> c
Copyright © *2019 Savage Kitchen, All rights reserved.

Thanks, Sunny.


If you live in Hawaii (or South America)  get out and gather. The forecast for our first hurricane, Barbara, is for Monday.  Get those drying beans.


I have a pot of kiawe tea steeping right now.  [Take two big handfuls of kiawe beans, wash, break into two-three inch pieces, throw into a pot of boiling water, steep]

Kiawe makes a sweet tea, with a very low glycemic level.
Aloha, Renée
Banner photo by RR

Thought for the Day: Light

“Spread the light; be the lighthouse.”

Aloha, Renée

Saying from:  a Yogi tea bag

Photo by Guillaume Issaly on Unsplash

P.S. My friend Beckee M. writes, “I used to love getting off the bus in front of the Yogi Tea facility in Oregon. It always smelled so good. And they were very supportive of the Food Bank and the Interfaith Service.”  – good quotation, good work!  Thanks, Beckee

Thought for the Day: Seeds

It is easy to compute the number of seeds in an apple, but who can count the number of apples in a seed?

Aloha, Renée
Quotation attributed to Robert H. Schuller
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