Amanda Gorman – youth poet laureate of Los Angeles, first national youth poet laureate, Harvard graduate and inaugural poet for Joe Biden & Kamala Harris – on January 20, 2021 in Washington, D.C. Photo by Patrick Semansky/Pool via REUTERS
When day comes, we ask ourselves, where can we find light in this never-ending shade?
The loss we carry. A sea we must wade.
We braved the belly of the beast.
We’ve learned that quiet isn’t always peace, and the norms and notions of what “just” is isn’t always justice.
And yet the dawn is ours before we knew it.
Somehow we do it.
Somehow we weathered and witnessed a nation that isn’t broken, but simply unfinished.
We, the successors of a country and a time where a skinny Black girl descended from slaves and raised by a single mother can dream of becoming president, only to find herself reciting for one.
And, yes, we are far from polished, far from pristine, but that doesn’t mean we are striving to form a union that is perfect.
We are striving to forge our union with purpose.
To compose a country committed to all cultures, colors, characters and conditions of man.
And so we lift our gaze, not to what stands between us, but what stands before us.
We close the divide because we know to put our future first, we must first put our differences aside.
We lay down our arms so we can reach out our arms to one another.
We seek harm to none and harmony for all.
Let the globe, if nothing else, say this is true.
That even as we grieved, we grew.
That even as we hurt, we hoped.
That even as we tired, we tried.
That we’ll forever be tied together, victorious.
Not because we will never again know defeat, but because we will never again sow division.
Scripture tells us to envision that everyone shall sit under their own vine and fig tree, and no one shall make them afraid.
If we’re to live up to our own time, then victory won’t lie in the blade, but in all the bridges we’ve made.
That is the promise to glade, the hill we climb, if only we dare.
It’s because being American is more than a pride we inherit.
It’s the past we step into and how we repair it.
We’ve seen a force that would shatter our nation, rather than share it.
Would destroy our country if it meant delaying democracy.
And this effort very nearly succeeded.
But while democracy can be periodically delayed, it can never be permanently defeated.
In this truth, in this faith we trust, for while we have our eyes on the future, history has its eyes on us.
This is the era of just redemption.
We feared at its inception.
We did not feel prepared to be the heirs of such a terrifying hour.
But within it we found the power to author a new chapter, to offer hope and laughter to ourselves.
So, while once we asked, how could we possibly prevail over catastrophe, now we assert, how could catastrophe possibly prevail over us?
We will not march back to what was, but move to what shall be: a country that is bruised but whole, benevolent but bold, fierce and free.
We will not be turned around or interrupted by intimidation because we know our inaction and inertia will be the inheritance of the next generation, become the future.
Our blunders become their burdens.
But one thing is certain.
If we merge mercy with might, and might with right, then love becomes our legacy and change our children’s birthright.
So let us leave behind a country better than the one we were left.
Every breath from my bronze-pounded chest, we will raise this wounded world into a wondrous one.
We will rise from the golden hills of the West.
We will rise from the windswept Northeast where our forefathers first realized revolution.
We will rise from the lake-rimmed cities of the Midwestern states.
We will rise from the sun-baked South.
We will rebuild, reconcile, and recover.
And every known nook of our nation and every corner called our country, our people diverse and beautiful, will emerge battered and beautiful.
When day comes, we step out of the shade of flame and unafraid.
The new dawn balloons as we free it.
For there is always light, if only we’re brave enough to see it.
If only we’re brave enough to be it.
Jennifer Liu writes of Amanda and her poem:
The 22-year-old Los Angeles resident, . . .was invited to speak at the event by First Lady Jill Biden, who had previously seen the poet do a reading at the Library of Congress.
Gorman told The New York Times she wasn’t given any direction in what to write, but that she would be contributing to the event’s theme of “America United.” She was about halfway finished with the piece when, on Jan. 6, pro-Trump rioters stormed the Capitol Building.
Gorman ended up staying up late following the unprecedented attack and finished her piece, “The Hill We Climb,” that night. The poet, whose work examines themes of race and racial justice in America, felt she couldn’t “gloss over” the events of the attack, nor of the previous few years, in her work.
“We have to confront these realities if we’re going to move forward, so that’s also an important touchstone of the poem,” she told the Times. “There is space for grief and horror and hope and unity, and I also hope that there is a breath for joy in the poem, because I do think we have a lot to celebrate at this inauguration.”
Gorman drew inspiration from the speeches of American leaders during other historic times of division, including Abraham Lincoln and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.”
May we together take hope in the inauguration of U.S. President Joe Biden and Vice-President Kamala Harris as “We are striving to forge our union with purpose./To compose a country committed to all cultures, colors, characters and conditions of man. . . [O]ne thing is certain./If we merge mercy with might, and might with right, then love becomes our legacy and change our children’s birthright” [my emphasis].
Aloha & blessings to all, Renée
Banner photo: Fireworks are seen above the White House after the inauguration of Joe Biden as the 46th President of the United States in Washington, U.S., January 20, 2021.REUTERS/Andrew Kelly TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
I know my country is in big trouble right now, but I have faith that our Democracy will hold. President Elect Joe Biden has integrity, is experienced, and is appointing well-qualified, experienced, and passionate people to get us beyond the reality we find ourselves in right now. I have contacted my representatives and am paying attention.
So as not to obsess over things I have no direct influence on, I’m in my kitchen trying a recipe I’ve wanted to do when I got my next ripe breadfruit/’ulu. Great neighbor Kate has supplied the ‘ulu. A breadfruit/’ulu cooking contest gives us the recipe.
I know this is January and cold in many places, but popsicles can be a good treat any time. When I was small, my mom would send my sister and me out to collect newly fallen snow. Mom would mix the snow with a little vanilla extract, put it in our freezer, and we’d soon have snow ice cream! I’m sure that snow now is not as unpolluted as it was then – but cleaning up the air quality is something we can work on too.
This recipe fits my quarantine kitchen qualifications: easy, with items on hand so I don’t have to shop, easily substituted ingredients, and hopefully, delicious.
Breadfruit Cooking Contest – Dessert Recipes
SOURCE: The students of Kua O Ka La New Century Public Charter School and their culinary kumu Mariposa Blanco of Pahoa, Puna.
2 very ripe ‘ulu
1 cup fresh coconut milk [I have boxed coconut milk from Costco]
2 ounces sugarcane juice [I have Maui honey]
Homemade liliko’i (passionfruit) extract [I used my homemade pomegranate kombucha]
When the core of the ‘ulu comes easily out, your ‘ulu is ready to use.
Scoop the creamy insides into a blender and add the coconut milk and sugar cane juice. Blend.
If mixture is to your liking [I needed to add more coconut milk for a good consistency], pour into the popsicle molds or ice cube trays.
In a squeeze bottle, mix liliko’i extract and add a touch of honey for consistency [I had my pomegranate kombucha]. Squeeze a couple of squirts into each mold to add a nice look and good accent to the ‘ulu.
Freeze and enjoy!
NOTES: Only use the creamiest part of the ripe ‘ulu, not any stringy parts. If you don’t tell people who dislike ‘ulu what they are eating they very often like it. For ripe ‘ulu lovers this is so ono (delicious). You can always use more coconut milk, as they (‘ulu and coconut) are such sisters in taste.
YIELD: 2 popsicles
Part of the challenge of a quarantine kitchen is to try new recipes – and change those ingredients to what you have. Be creative.
May we all have a happy & healthy 2021 and beyond (with stable, sane governments).
Enjoy – This idea wouldn’t solve everything, but it would help in many, many situations. Aloha, Renée
JAN 8, 2021 “The State of Aloha” by BEN LOWENTHAL for The Maui News. (email@example.com)
Near St. Paul’s Cathedral near the center of London stands a grand and majestic courthouse. The Old Bailey is considered the symbolic home of the British criminal justice system. It’s part of our shared legal heritage. The common law tradition — a legal system based on the precedent of the cases before it — was brought to the American colonies and independently planted here in the Hawaiian Kingdom.
Unlike many historic courthouses, the one on Central Criminal Court is fully functional. And it began the year with a bombshell.
The case began in 2018 when the United States charged Julian Assange, the co-founder of WikiLeaks — a website disseminating classified documents and diplomatic cables revealing intelligence secrets — with violating the Espionage Act. The problem was that Assange was in London.
Before the United States could pluck Assange out of England and prosecute him, Assange challenged his removal in the British courts. His lawyers argued that this is a politically motivated prosecution and that he had a right to shed light on government misconduct.
He might be right. The Espionage Act has been used for going after those with unpopular views for more than a century. Assange has joined the likes of avowed socialist Eugene Debs, who ran for president from a jail cell; anarchist Emma Goldman, who was deported to the Soviet Union; Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, spies who were executed in the 1950s; and more recent defendants like Daniel Ellsberg, the whistleblower behind the Pentagon Papers during the Vietnam War; and Edward Snowden, the disillusioned security analyst who worked in Hawaii.
This week, after hearing evidence in the Old Bailey for months, Judge Vanessa Baraitser issued her decision. Her ruling disappointed just about everyone. Assange’s supporters were dismayed by her rejection of the claim that Assange would not receive a fair trial in America. Civil libertarians also lamented at her dismantling of the argument that Assange was a freedom-fighting journalist who enjoyed the right to bring readers the truth.
But their disappointment paled in comparison to the dismay of the United States government. It came down to our country’s carceral state. According to Judge Baraitser, Assange risks the very real possibility of being held in a concrete cell 23 hours a day without access to reading and writing materials. The one hour of exercise takes place in the middle of the night, when other inmates are asleep.
“Mr. Assange faces the bleak prospect of severely restrictive detention conditions designed to remove physical contact and reduce social interaction and contact with the outside world to a bare minimum,” she wrote in her decision. “He faces these prospects as someone with a diagnosis of clinical depression and persistent thoughts of suicide.”
The judge was convinced that these atrocious conditions and his fragile mental state may drive him to suicide. She blocked extradition to the United States.
That our country’s treatment of prisoners is so oppressive that an English jurist refused our government’s request to fetch Assange is astonishing. Our penchant to lock people up for decades and confine those whom we dislike in suicide-inducing conditions has prompted a judge steeped in the common law tradition, which we have proudly inherited, at one of the most enduring symbols of the criminal justice system, to prevent our government from bringing an accused to court.
It exposes to the world how we treat our prisoners. Our country has the highest incarceration rate in the world. Hawaii keeps approximately 3,500 souls behind bars. One thousand are held in a private prison on the Mainland. The rest are in facilities scattered across the islands.
And while most inmates are not subjected to the stark isolation described by Judge Baraitser, Hawaii’s inmates are part of the nationwide problem of mass incarceration. Overcrowding is the norm here. Unlike Assange, the vast majority of our inmates are people of color; particularly Native Hawaiians.
And what about the way we treat our own incarcerated here in Hawaii? In the midst of this pandemic, the largest concentration of infections in our state is not a hotel, condominium complex or a veteran’s home. It’s at our largest prison, the Halawa Correctional Facility. The response has been underwhelming. In fact, former Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell has suggested that the incarcerated inmates who contracted the coronavirus be excluded from the daily count. Critics denounced the suggestion that inmates would be ignored.
As for Assange, the United States plans to appeal the ruling that came out of the Old Bailey this week. Perhaps it will prevail and perhaps Assange will eventually be shipped here to face charges. He might even be held in custody in a bleak and barren concrete cell. But the ruling, even if it is overturned, should remind us Americans that when it comes to the way we treat inmates, the whole world is watching [my emphases].
* Ben Lowenthal is a trial and appellate lawyer, currently with the Office of the Public Defender, who grew up on Maui. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
The U.S. has many ideals, but the reality is they are in many ways not being met.
It’s obvious that much needs to change. Our prison system that puts the poorest and must vulnerable (while dismissing the actions of others) in a pipeline that thwarts their opportunities and ambitions must change.
E Pluribus Unum by Glenn Shockley – gh note – a good and thoughtful read. I encourage all to take the time to do so.
This was sent to me recently by an acquaintance who encouraged me to read it and kept encouraging me to read it until I did. And when I did, I was glad that I did. Please take some quiet time to read and think about this…the historical context is important. I thought it well worth the read…which is why I post it here.
E Pluribus Unum by Glenn Shockley
Disagreements and the ability to express them lie at the heart of Democracy. Because this is the case, it is difficult to imagine a system of government that espouses disagreement to be able to exist. The eternal question regarding the development of governments is why do they exist at all? Why do people get together to live when it would be so much easier to live alone and make their own decisions without the bothersome process of consulting with others for their approval?
There are a thousand books that are written on this subject so this document will not bore the reader with the complexities of the answer to this query. Suffice it to say that people through the ages have found it convenient to get together to form societies because they have found that there is safety in numbers and that, with the establishment of rules, the possibility of societies to exist comes to be. The safety that society provides is not from wild animals or other natural disaster, but from the many oppressing the individual either physically or in any other imaginable manner. Numbers of people have always made the difference in the establishment of society. In the past, the larger the number, the more likely one group could overcome another group. Wars have been a constant throughout history. In ancient history, the larger number of a group fighting a smaller group would always prevail. (Thermopoli) It is only in recent history that the smaller group could prevail because of the development of technology.
What are the hindrances that confront society that prevent it from advancing to its highest achievable level? When the founders of the United States first contemplated forming our union they constructed a document called the Articles of Confederation.
That document emphasized individualism and decried federalism. The emphasis on individual power was evident throughout the document and exemplified the rugged individualism it sought as its highest goal. This concept did not only apply to the individual citizen but was elevated to the individual states decrying federalism making individual states the source of power in the union of the states. The concept of individual power and authority was huge in the construct of this nation. Individualism and the strength of individual rights superseded the concept of union and the values that society could bring. The concept of the “commons” and the “common good” was overshadowed by the concerns for self and individual liberties. The feeling of self and concern for self-preservation dissuaded many from considering the impact that such considerations would have on the social state that this country was striving to be.
Concentration on the individual and individual rights seemed to work prior to the American Revolution. It also seemed to work during the American Revolution but after the war, a huge problem arose when it became obvious that the union could not pay its bills. The union tried going around to the individual states to ask them for help in paying the bills that the union incurred during the war. Naturally none of the states in the union volunteered to help. During the war, the individual states continued to tax their citizens during the four years of the war so when the patriots who fought the war returned home, they found themselves in a financial bind. The federal government, which promised them pay for fighting those four years in the war, thought it was only proper to supplant the money lost by those patriots through farming and the like, found that they could not do so. Because of the principle of individual states being sovereign, the federal government could not raise the funds to pay its debts which included the salaries for the American patriots who sacrificed their time, blood and in some cases their lives for the country. They did not possess the taxing authority to do so because the several states saw this authority as an infringement on their individual state powers. Because of a man named Daniel Shays, a man who led four thousand other patriots in a rebellion after the Revolutionary war against the United States because the United States reneged on their promise to pay their salaries for their service to this country, George Washington and the other founding fathers recognized that the non-payment of those salaries to those patriots was an egregious wrong, yet they were unable to correct that wrong because the Federal Government did not have the capacity to tax, therefore, did not have the revenues to satisfy the debt that they owed to those men.
It must have been fresh in the minds of the founding fathers that these men were not merely flag saluters, or men who brazenly wrap themselves in the flag feigning patriotism or that stood at attention when the flag was in view again feigning patriotism. These men who were actual patriots who pledged their lives, fortunes and sacred honor to this country. That is the definition of a patriot direct from the Declaration of Independence. Those men went to war and many of them died or were wounded in the war. They shed their life’s blood for this country. They gave up the livelihood that their farms produced for four years, so that this country could exist.
Their solemn oaths to this country could not be cast off as though they were nothing. They risked all of their personal well-being for the good of the commons. Our founding fathers could not ignore their sacrifice nor slough off those men’s contribution to this country. The result of the Shay’s rebellion was the construction of the Constitution of the United States and the discarding of the Articles of Confederation that ruled this country at its inception. There was no more individualism. There was no more individual state autonomy. It cannot be overstated how difficult this change was. The Federalist papers took 6 chapters (16 – 22) to convince the American people to accept the concept of a “more perfect union”. Most Americans did not want their individualism challenged.
They could only understand that their individual selves were being threatened by the concept of the commons or the common good. It is understandable that they could not see beyond themselves. The eternal question, “Am I my brothers’ keeper?” was difficult to explain in the face of individualism. The concept of the “commons” and union was foreign. The explanation “union” was an admirable goal of social society that needed to be brought to the attention of the American psyche and needed an educational program for the American people to understand how the application of the concept of “union” would be of major benefit to Americans. That is why the Federalist papers were written. “We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.” Each and every reason for the establishment of the Constitution is a social reason and a recognition that the commons as a concept lies at the foundation of any country or society. There is no promotion of the individual and individual causes because it was recognized that the individual has a natural inclination to take care of himself. Greed and selfishness are natural to man. The individual does not have an inclination to take care of the commons. Therein lies the problem that the founders recognized that needed solution. Citizens of the United States had to understand that the country needed to actually unite if there was to be a country. They needed to focus on the commons, not the individual. The result of the construction of the Constitution has led to over 200 years of prosperity for the United States. That miracle remains today only because the understanding of the citizens, that social goals need more attention than individual ones. Taking care of the commons has provided the stability that this country needs to progress towards the preservation of the “blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity” and to continue the experiment in democracy that the United States represents to the world.
This country cannot be taken by any external enemy. That notion has been tested repeatedly throughout the history of this country. World wars have threatened this nation, economic catastrophes have done the same, but through it all, this country has persevered and in each instance come out stronger than when the threat initiated. However, when internal divisions arise, our country has suffered its greatest test of unity. In 1860, a war ensued when United States citizens could not overcome their differences. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal…” was challenged as a principle construct upon which this nation was established. A segment of our population had built an economic engine that required slavery for its existence. Without slavery, that engine could not exist. Slavery violated one of our precious founding principles. Because we could not all agree to that founding principle in 1860, this nation went through a civil war that took over 600,000 lives of its citizens. The residue of hate of that war remains to this day. From 1865 to 1896, this country went through a period euphemistically called “reconstruction”, where there was supposed to be “malice towards none”. The section of the country that was vanquished in that war never felt that “malice towards none” was ever achieved as a goal of the conquering side. Too many profiteers of that war made it impossible for the winning side to secure from the vanquished a requisite reconciliation that would heal the wounds of the nation that the war had inflicted upon the body politic. Monetary collapses worsened the prospects for reconciliation in the 1870’s and the worsening situation came to a head in 1896. A blond blue eyed man named Homer Plessy bought a first class rail road ticket to travel in Louisiana. His problem was that despite his Caucasian appearance, the black porter on that train perceived that he was partially black and refused to permit him to take a seat in the first class section of the train. In fact, he was sent back to the cattle car where all black people traveled in those days.
Homer took his case to the Supreme Court of the United States. That court attempted to reconcile the matter by trying to avoid a confrontation of either side in Plessey v Ferguson. That case established the doctrine of “separate but equal”, a legal position that certified segregation. No citizen of the United States could be denied accommodations for which he has paid for so if first class seating were available to whites, then there had to be first class accommodations available to blacks. This blatant disregard of the “equality” founding principle lasted for 58 years. Via judicial review, a process requiring a unanimous decision, Plessey was overturned in 1954 in a case called Brown v the Board of Education of Topeka Kansas. In that case, the Supreme Court ruled the obvious, in that during the 58 years that Plessey was the law of the land, the principle of “separate but equal” was never implemented outside of the court house. White society never provided separate but equal facilities in any of its daily living standards. Not only was that the case, but, the concept of segregation of the races violated the principle of equality of men, another founding principle that this country was built on, making whites superior to blacks and all other races.
Judicial review was conceived in the 1803 case called Marbury v Madison which gave the Supreme Court the power to determine what is and what is not, Constitutional. It was predicated on the finding that any law that violated any of the founding principles of this country egregiously, or otherwise, would be so very easily recognized that any Supreme Court would find that matter unconstitutional and do so unanimously. That is what happened to Plessy. It violated the principle of equality, egregiously, and was struck down via a unanimous vote. There was a problem with the rendering of that decision. It did not change the minds of those who supported segregation, despite the fact that it violated that founding principle. The question then was, how does the Supreme Court get citizens to comply in sprit to its rulings despite the disagreement that they may have with that decision? That problem remains to this day. It is the source of all of the discontent among our populace today. The simple answer to this problem is that there must be an agreement among all citizens that those founding principles must be taken to heart by all. It must be recognized by all that those principles protect us both individually and collectively from the tyranny that would result if we ignored those principles. Without respect for those principles, we do not have a society. Without society, there will be no domestic tranquility and without domestic tranquility each and every life in this country is threatened. The rule of the mob becomes the order of the day. We, then, will have no country and society is destroyed. There is no current remedy for the defiance of our founding principles among our people. The destruction of this country and the waste of the sacrifices that those who came before us, those who sacrificed their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor to preserve this nation for us to enjoy, cannot be tolerated merely because we cannot learn to get along and learn to respect the politics of others. Is the destruction of this country such a wonderful goal that getting our own way must be the preeminent exercise of what we consider to be an individual’s inalienable right to express his opinion and coerce others to follow that opinion? Hopefully not. The patriotic society disdains that notion. We join together in society to work together in this country to achieve societal goals, not kowtow to those who want to destroy the will of the majority to impose their monarchy upon the rest of us. We know that majorities are fleeting; I hope, and that one election may elevate one candidate to victory but that elevation is temporary. The natural reaction of the loser in that race should be to reach out to the electorate with a platform that appeals to the majority in the next election. That is not happening in our present electoral process. The loser in that election is trying to impose his monarchical desire to rule forever, as a divine right, never mind the fact that he not only lost the popular vote by 7 million but he lost the electoral vote by double digits. Is not this country predicated on majority rule? Does this country now tolerate a monarchy?
At the core of the problem that we are experiencing today is the age old question of “Are we our brother’s keeper?” The short answer is that in a society, we are all our brothers’ keepers. The major problem that we are experiencing today is that no one wants to be his brothers’ keeper. At present, we are totally engulfed in selfishness, greed, and self-aggrandizement. Our economic system; capitalism, tears us away from the tie that binds society together. One of the major posits of that economic system is that each person is responsible for himself, ie. Personal responsibility. The problem that faces us is that we have carried the concept of personal responsibility beyond the intent of its original meaning. Personal responsibility is not intended to tear society apart. Personal responsibility is ascribed to the notion that each member of a society has an obligation to care for himself, provide for himself, and pursue the work ethic.
Raw individualism, a notion of the wild, living in the wild without society, seems to have taken over the psyche of those that are living in polite society today. It is an anachronism. Society demands that concern for others be the norm of the day. This concept is identified in the Constitution of the United States where, in the entirety of the Preamble, it speaks of unity, the commons such as the common defense, social welfare, justice, which is a social concept, insuring domestic tranquility, which in and of itself projects social discourse because there must be more than one party to have tranquility between parties, and looks forward to the future in terms of our posterity which eschews individualism, and promotes socialism and the concept of the commons.
Our Declaration of Independence, our only founding document, tells us what the purpose of government is. Besides taking care of the needs of the commons, the primary purpose of government is to protect and guarantee the civil rights of its citizens. While the Declaration of Independence does not posit the existence of society, it assumes that society is the basic structure that humans have constructed to use to provide the benefits that we find convenient to live together with remembering that the previous governing structure was a monarchy and that document notes how the previous societal structure; monarchy, oppressed the people that existed in that political structure. Of course there is the question of whether man is social or not. It is indisputable that he is. The very fact that the Constitution speaks of “posterity” tells us that man is a sexual being, making him a social construct. The fact that man has developed language to communicate with others supports the social character of man. Additionally, man longs for human contact and that contact extends beyond his family. There is no other option than to acknowledge that man is indeed social. Because that is the case, any notion that man is to return to the wild to exercise his natural rights; that of murder, robbery, rape, greed, and pillage, must be discarded. We are constrained by the interests of others in society for safety, peace, and tolerance. There is no such thing as opting out of society and pursuing one’s own natural dictates as a result. Man is social because he wants to be social. There is not another option.
As man finds himself in the predicament of having to get along with his fellow man, skills in toleration, negotiation, compromise and understanding become the governing characteristics in social discourse. There can be no “my way or the highway” position on any issue. There must be a respect for the rights of others in our society. The definition of what is a “right” was not left to the imagination of the different factions in our government nor from the different perspectives or different points of view that are the trademark of societies. The rights of man were defined by Thomas Paine, one of our founding fathers, and he explained that the rights of man must conform to two components: 1). Rights, to be legitimate, must be able to be claimed by all of the citizens of a state universally, and 2). The rights of one person cannot infringe upon the rights of others in the society. If a claimed right does infringe upon the rights of others, then it is not a legal right in this country. These conditions were outlined in his work entitled “The Rights of Man”, a work that needs to be read by every American citizen. This work is as important to understand as is the Constitution of the United States for every American. In the United States today, certain religious groups claim that their freedoms are infringed upon by the behavior of non-believers. They claim that their freedom of religion is compromised and infringed upon because non-believers practice homosexuality, engage in homo-sexual marriage, have abortions and practice birth control. According to Thomas Paine and his definition of what a right is, these religious groups are wrong because a right cannot exist if it infringes upon the rights of others. In our legal system, sexual preference, the practice of birth control, and the acquisition of an abortion are civil rights that cannot be suppressed or oppressed by another’s religious beliefs. If a religion can dictate to non-believers how they are to live their lives, then that religious group must understand that other religions (or those that do not believe in any religion, may demand that they follow other dictates and those religious individuals may not like the dictates of those other opinions. It is dangerous, then, to coerce one’s religious beliefs on another.
Tolerance is the primary lesson that Thomas Paine is trying to teach the America people. The right to religious exercise is enshrined in the first amendment to our Constitution because many of our founders started this country to escape religious persecution, religious bigotry and religious oppression. Therefore, if a religious dogma states that abortion is a sin, then those that adhere to that dogma have a religious right never to get an abortion. No one can coerce them to get an abortion. That is religious freedom. If a religious dogma states that homosexual sex and homosexual sexual unions are a sin, then those that adhere to that dogma cannot be forced into homosexual acts. That is religious freedom. If a religious dogma states that birth control is a sin, then those that adhere to that dogma cannot be coerced into using birth control. That is religious freedom. What is not religious freedom is the forcing of non-believers to stop their right to abortion, to stop their right to homosexual relationships, and to stop their exercise of birth control. That is the definition of religious suppression and oppression; the exact acts that our founders sought to prevent in the establishment of the first amendment to the Bill of Rights in the Constitution.
In times past, there have been discussions in this country as to what civil rights actually exist. These discussions arise precisely because of the adversarial nature of the law. When trying to establish a social entity, there will always be disputes about who has the right to exercise a right and who must yield to that exercise. The previous discussion about religion is an example of the adversarial nature of the law.
There are those who insist that the only rights that do exist for the citizens in this country are those that are enumerated in the Bill of Rights. During the famous confirmation hearings for the appointment of Judge Robert Bork to the Supreme Court of the United States, the question arose about other rights that may exist beyond those that are enumerated. Judge Bork insisted that no other rights exist outside of those that are enumerated. James Madison, the author of the Bill of Rights, understood that every right that can be possible for our citizens to exercise could not possibly be recorded in a finite document. He felt those rights are infinite. As a result he included the ninth amendment to the Bill of Rights that made sure that non enumerated rights were all reserved to the citizens of this country. Judge Bork said that he could not read and interpret the ninth amendment because it was like an inkblot that over shadowed the meaning of the text. He made the famous statement that reading the ninth amendment is therefore impossible. What Judge Bork failed to realize, was that the Constitution was not an academic exercise to be pored over by lawyers and college law professors. The Constitution was intended to be read and understood by the everyday American citizens to guide them through everyday life. There is no question that all of the rights of our citizens were not included in the Bill of Rights. The unalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness declared in the Declaration of Independence are not in the Bill of Rights. The right to marry is not in that document.
The right to form families, establish homes and raise children are not included in that document. The right to travel is not included. The right to vote is not included. The right to run for office is not included. These are among a myriad of rights that are obvious to the common citizen but seem to be incomprehensible to an academic like Judge Bork, hence, the statement that the common citizen is more cognizant of the meaning of the Constitution, and that is the way it should be.
At issue, then, is, “what is glue that binds our country together?” The answer to that question is the sole key to how we are to proceed if we wish to remain the United States of America. Our pledge of Allegiance speaks to liberty and justice for all. Other sources identify truth, justice and the American cause as the glue that holds us together. One of the great conservative minds in American history, Russell Kirk, who was confounded by the news that American soldiers did not know what they were fighting for in the Korean War, took it upon himself to try to explain what it was to those soldiers that they were fighting for. He wrote a small book called “The American Cause.” That book focused on the founding ideals and principles that made America the preeminent democracy in the world. Those principles include equality, the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, government instituted at the consent of the governed, and that a government that is long established not be changed upon the whim of a few. All of these principles emanate from our founding document, The Declaration of Independence. While there are a myriad of problems that we acknowledge do exist that tend to rend us from each other, our founding principles have always bound us together as a people because we know that other forms of government have failed in protecting our rights as men. The last pronouncement in our founding document is that we all have a duty to throw off government that devolves into despotism and fails to protect our civil rights. The question that all Americans need to answer today is “Have we arrived at that position now?” The distrust that pervades our politics; the political discourse between Democrats and Republicans, has tended to treat the other political party as an enemy of the United States rather than just those that hold differing opinions about how to govern. Americans need to be reminded about the value of the government that we have used for over 200 years. We no longer think in terms of negotiation to arrive at an amenable compromise, we have devolved to calling the other side “stupid” when they do not accede to our political decisions. We have come to the fork in the road that says “my way or the highway” and refuse to accept the possibility that the other perspectives on any issue may have legitimacy in the solution of our perceived political problems.
It needs to be noted at this point that our government has not failed to protect our civil rights. It is illegitimate, as a result, to over throw that government. Too many patriots have sacrificed too much blood to give us the government we currently enjoy. Americans need to recognize and appreciate what they have. It must be remembered that majority rule is one of the enigmatic features of our governing process and that majorities are not permanent. Losers in any election must work to change their platforms to attract the majority to their perspective. The solution for the rending of our nation is to reinforce and reinstate the skills of tolerance, the skills of negotiation, the skills of compromise and the skills of understanding the other point of view. There must be a revival of mind, soul, and spirit to the founding principles that we all hold and for which there is no substitute. We need to understand that there are many perspectives on each issue. We need to forge those perspectives together. From many, one. E Pluribus Unum” [the bold print is my emphasis].
Banner image – I don’t know the source, but I love this image of what the U.S. can be.
Wishing you and all you love peace, happiness, & health as we move forward together in 2021.
On this Christmas Day, when our thoughts focus on love and peace – in each family and community, this poem by Elizabeth Alexander seems particularly meaningful. Many blessings to you and to all. May we move forward in peace and love for everyone wherever we are.
Praise Song for the Day
In what is an important holiday season, I’ve come across a telling of the Hannukah story that expands the Jewish “The Festival of Lights” that many of us know. What Dr. Remen’s Grandfather says at the end of the holiday story he tells is important to us especially now that so many challenges face the world and all its beings:
In My Grandfather’s Blessings, Rachel Naomi Remen says, “When I was six and in the first grade, our school became ecumenical. Besides decorating a little Christmas tree in every classroom, each class participated in the lighting of the Hannukah candles, which our teacher told us is what Jewish people did instead of celebrating Christmas.
On the first day of Hannukah, she showed us a Hannukah menorah, a special candlestick with a place for eight candles, and explained how each day at sunset another candle would be lit until there was a candle burning in each of the eight places. Then she told us the Hannukah story about the Maccabees, fierce Jewish warriors who had long ago fought a great battle to defend the Jewish people, fighting on until all provisions had run out, even the oil for the eternal lamp over the altar in the synagogue. This lamp, lit when the synagogue was first consecrated as a house of God, was never allowed to go out. Its burning presence meant that God’s spirit lived among the Jewish people.
Everyone had believed that the end was near; once the lamp went out, God would abandon them and they would be lost. But the lamp had continued to burn for eight days without oil to feed it, and the Maccabees had triumphed over their enemies. ‘Hannukah is about the Miracle of the Light,’ our teacher told us.
While I liked lighting the candles a lot, I found the story rather boring. I especially did not like the part about the war. Despite what my teacher said, my grandfather, who was a rabbi, had told me that the spirit of God is within all people, and I did not really believe this story about God playing favorites.
Every afternoon I stayed with my grandfather for an hour or so after school drinking tea and eating cookies until my mother could come from her work to take me home. That afternoon, I told my grandfather what our teacher had said about Hannukah and asked him if he knew the story about the war, too. He smiled and said that he did. ‘War is a time of darkness, Neshme-le. The Hannukah story is one of many stories about darkness and light that people have told each other at this time of the year.’ I looked out his kitchen window. It had begun to snow.
‘But why, Grandpa?’ I asked him.
‘Winter is a time of darkness also, Neshme-le.’ he told me. ‘The nights start earlier and last longer. So in the dark, people tell each other stories about the light to strengthen their hope. . . .
‘Life and all of its blessings begin with God’s gift of light. . . We will see what it is like to receive this gift.’ , , ,
The old study was a room without windows, lined floor to ceiling with books. It was very dark indeed. After a minute or so, my grandfather struck a match and lit the candle I was holding. It did not give much light, and I could barely make out the menorah on the table. The rest of the room was filled with shadow. I held on to my candle tightly. Pointing to the single candle in the menorah, he told me to light it with my candle. Then he took my candle from me and placed it in the menorah, too. I looked at the two candles burning together and felt a little better. ‘Tomorrow,’ said my grandfather,’we will light another one.’ . . .
We did this every day for a week. As the days went by I lit three and then four candles until, on the final day, I lit all seven candles with my candle and the room was filled with light. I sat back and looked at the menorah with all its candles burning. It was so beautiful that my heart ached and tears filled my eyes. ‘It’s beautiful, Grandpa,’ I told him.
‘Ah yes,’ said my grandfather. ‘But God’s menorah is even more beautiful, Neshume-le. God’s menorah is made of people, not of candles.’
Puzzled, I turned to look at him. ‘The story of Hannukah says that God’s light burns in the darkness even without oil, and it is so,’ said my grandfather. ‘That is one of the miracles of the light. But there is more. There is a place in everyone that can carry the light. God has made us this way. When God says ‘LET THERE BE LIGHT,’ he is speaking to us personally, Neshume-le. He is telling us what is possible, how we might choose to live. But one candle does not do much in the darkness. God has not only given us the chance to carry the light, he has made it possible for us to kindle and strengthen the light in one another, passing the light along. This is the way that God’s light will shine forever in this world.’
After many years I have found that often we discover the place in us that carries the light only after it has become dark. Sometimes it is only in the dark that we know the value of this place. But there is a place in everyone that can carry the light. This is true. My grandfather said so” (p. 127-130).
May we all strengthen our own lights and the lights of others. This year, 2020, has particularly shown us the suffering and unwarranted challenges of many people in the U.S. – and the world. May we join together to shine light on the suffering in the world and then work together truly to become an Earth of peace and hope for everyone.
Happy Holidays & Aloha,
We are still in quarantine, and so, when our neighbor Kate dropped off two ulus, a soft ripe one and a still hard one, I was happy to use them. I knew what I’d do for the firm one (bake or boil like white potatoes, mash in butter, milk, and garlic – yum).
But for the soft, very ripe ulu/breadfruit – since I’m out of my stashed chocolate chips for my normal ulu dessert – I looked up recipes for ripe breadfruit.
I found “Papaiee” – which I’d never heard of, but can now highly recommend. It’s easy to make, low in sugar, high in nutrients, and delicious (John had three helpings)!
“Papaiee” I found in a Google search is 1) a ski slope in Iran, having a perfect pitch of 35 degrees 2) an island of the Sandwich Islands, and 3) listed in (Hawaii) Members of Harmony Chapter 4. Harmony’s Cook Book: A Compilation of Choice Recipes:
“[The book, first printed in Honolulu in 1940 by the Order of the Eastern Star, is ] A compilation of recipes from women who were likely about to be widowed by the attack at Pearl Harbor. A mix of international recipes, including a chapter of traditional Hawaiian recipes like lau lau, kaileho or fish sauce, roast kukui nuts, baked hee or squid, wana or sea eggs, papaiee, etc. ”
I got this papaiee recipe from HoneyfromRock. Claudia, the blogger, adapted the recipe from the 1967 Euell Gibbons Handbook; he was a survivor, who made money from his adventures, much before the reality T.V. show. But Hawaiians were making papaiee much before these other sources. Here it is –
1 dead-ripe breadfruit
1/4 cup honey
2 cups rich coconut milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
If you bring in a green breadfruit, let it sit on your counter a few days until it is brown and crusty outside. Cut open and scrape out the soft flesh into a bowl. Mix in the remaining ingredients and stir together well. Pour into a buttered casserole dish and bake at 350 F for one hour.”
This recipe is so simple (and/or I wasn’t paying attention) that I realized a half-hour into the baking that I hadn’t included the honey. So I just brought the dish out of the oven and drizzled honey on the top, which resulted in a nice brownish top.
That’s it – delicious – and healthy – and rather foolproof.
Ulu not only makes tasty dishes, but it is also good for you.
The Hawaii Department of Agriculture notes, “Breadfruit is high in complex carbohydrates, low in fat, and cholesterol and gluten free. It has a moderate glycemic index (blood sugar shock) compared to white potato, white rice, white bread, and taro. Just 100 g of breadfruit (approximately ½ cup) provides 25% of the RDA for fiber, and 5–10% of the RDA for protein, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, thiamine (B1), and niacin (B3). Breadfruit also provides some carotenoids, such as β-carotene and lutein, which are not present in white rice or white potato.”
Be safe. Stay home. Enjoy cooking whatever you find near you. Aloha, Renée
BY RICHARD BLANCO
Although Tía Miriam boasted she discovered
at least half a dozen uses for peanut butter—
topping for guava shells in syrup,
butter substitute for Cuban toast,
hair conditioner and relaxer—
Mamá never knew what to make
of the monthly five-pound jars
handed out by the immigration department
until my friend, Jeff, mentioned jelly.
There was always pork though,
for every birthday and wedding,
whole ones on Christmas and New Year’s Eve,
even on Thanksgiving day—pork,
fried, broiled, or crispy skin roasted—
as well as cauldrons of black beans,
fried plantain chips, and yuca con mojito.
These items required a special visit
to Antonio’s Mercado on the corner of Eighth Street
where men in guayaberas stood in senate
blaming Kennedy for everything—“Ese hijo de puta!”
the bile of Cuban coffee and cigar residue
filling the creases of their wrinkled lips;
clinging to one another’s lies of lost wealth,
ashamed and empty as hollow trees.
By seven I had grown suspicious—we were still here.
Overheard conversations about returning
had grown wistful and less frequent.
I spoke English; my parents didn’t.
We didn’t live in a two-story house
with a maid or a wood-panel station wagon
nor vacation camping in Colorado.
None of the girls had hair of gold;
none of my brothers or cousins
were named Greg, Peter, or Marcia;
we were not the Brady Bunch.
None of the black and white characters
on Donna Reed or on the Dick Van Dyke Show
were named Guadalupe, Lázaro, or Mercedes.
Patty Duke’s family wasn’t like us either—
they didn’t have pork on Thanksgiving,
they ate turkey with cranberry sauce;
they didn’t have yuca, they had yams
like the dittos of Pilgrims I colored in class.
A week before Thanksgiving
I explained to my abuelita
about the Indians and the Mayflower,
how Lincoln set the slaves free;
I explained to my parents about
the purple mountain’s majesty,
“one if by land, two if by sea,”
the cherry tree, the tea party,
the amber waves of grain,
the “masses yearning to be free,”
liberty and justice for all, until
finally they agreed:
this Thanksgiving we would have turkey,
as well as pork.
Abuelita prepared the poor fowl
as if committing an act of treason,
faking her enthusiasm for my sake.
Mamá set a frozen pumpkin pie in the oven
and prepared candied yams following instructions
I translated from the marshmallow bag.
The table was arrayed with gladiolas,
the plattered turkey loomed at the center
on plastic silver from Woolworth’s.
Everyone sat in green velvet chairs
we had upholstered with clear vinyl,
except Tío Carlos and Toti, seated
in the folding chairs from the Salvation Army.
I uttered a bilingual blessing
and the turkey was passed around
like a game of Russian Roulette.
“DRY,” Tío Berto complained, and proceeded
to drown the lean slices with pork fat drippings
and cranberry jelly—“esa mierda roja,” he called it.
Faces fell when Mamá presented her ochre pie—
pumpkin was a home remedy for ulcers, not a dessert.
Tía María made three rounds of Cuban coffee
then Abuelo and Pepe cleared the living room furniture,
put on a Celia Cruz LP and the entire family
began to merengue over the linoleum of our apartment,
sweating rum and coffee until they remembered—
it was 1970 and 46 degrees—
After repositioning the furniture,
an appropriate darkness filled the room.
Tío Berto was the last to leave.
“America” from City of a Hundred Fires, by Richard Blanco, © 1998.
Unless we come from Indigenous peoples, we too were once immigrants in the United States. Let’s celebrate our diversity and bravery of those who came before us. Belated Happy Thanksgiving. Many blessings to you and those you love wherever you are. Aloha, Renee