“Radical Travel” by Bani Amor

Although I’m not likely to stop traveling, this perspective is certainly something to consider – and make changes:

Radical Travel

Are we doing vacations wrong? How to be a better guest in someone else’s homeland.

Iolani Palace, the former seat of the Kingdom of Hawai‘i

It’s not unusual for Honolulu tourists to visit ‘Iolani Palace, the former seat of the Kingdom of Hawai‘i. But DeTour guide Terri Keko‘olani uses the visit to discuss the U.S.-backed coup in support of military and business interests after the death of King Kalākaua. YES! PHOTO BY AARON K. YOSHINO

 

IF YOU’RE ONE OF THE MORE THAN 1.4 BILLION INTERNATIONAL LEISURE TRAVELERS who left your home for someone else’s in 2018, then chances are you’re familiar with the quote “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts.” First written in 1869 by Mark Twain in The Innocents Abroad, or The New Pilgrims’ Progress, this quote is so hyped you can find it copied and pasted into Instagram captions, travel blogs, and memes, on posters, mugs, and luggage tags. It continues: “Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”

Too bad it’s such a lie.

The flawed core in this thinking, that those who have the privilege and access to travel are more enlightened than those who haven’t — especially considering the world’s most well-traveled people brought smallpox and small-mindedness everywhere they went — can be found in Twain’s usage of “our people.” We can assume he wasn’t accounting for the vast majority of this world’s people of color who cannot travel for leisure but are rather unwilling hosts to foreign occupations or peoples being displaced by extractivism and war. We know for sure he wasn’t referring to the Indigenous people of Turtle Island, whom he disparages as fit subjects for extermination in The Noble Red Man, his 1870 takedown of author James Fenimore Cooper’s romanticism. And he wasn’t referring to the stolen Africans and their descendants who were forced into chattel slavery and who were “vegetating” in their respective little corners of the Earth before those innocents ventured abroad and stepped foot on their lands.

So, what is the truth about travel? Are we doing our vacations wrong?

The truth is that tourism, like any other capitalistic project, is about consumption for profit. But “place” isn’t an endlessly renewable commodity — it is someone’s home, and the communities who call it so rarely factor in fairly to our conceptions of travel as an enlightening project.

From the economic instability that tourist cultures bring to their overuse of natural resources that exacerbate climate disasters, to glaring labor exploitation and gendered oppression that keep poor women of color living under the boot of White supremacist patriarchy, participating in the mass tourism industry is more likely to spread social inequality than staying home would.

Today, U.S. travelers are heading to the Global South more than ever. While Europe remains the number-one global tourist destination, and wealthy Global North nations top international tourist arrivals lists, U.S. Americans in particular prefer to vacation in the Global South and East, with 37 million headed to Mexico, 8 million to the Caribbean, 6 million to Asia, and 3 million in Central America.

From 1950 to 2018, international tourism arrivals grew from 25 million to 1.4 billion. The turn of the century marked a global shift in tourism caused by the mainstreaming of Western backpacking culture and the realization of U.S. travelers that they could fund lavish stays in “exotic” developing countries on the cheap. Poor regions became in-demand tourist destinations.

The truth is that travel isn’t “fatal to prejudice,” but tourism — and its not-so-distant ancestor colonization — can often be fatal to culture. Wielding this privilege only afforded to a minority to prop ourselves up as global citizens of a superior republic kind of defeats the purpose.

It’s time to retire the narrow implications of the Twain quote and pivot from a politically neutral consideration of travel to a systemic understanding of tourism and travel culture through a lens of social justice. If we center host cultures and follow their leads in how to — and how not to — engage with their lands as guests, if we complicate the idea of who travels and why and truthfully map the colonial legacy of the travel genre, we just may be able to tap into travel’s storied revolutionary potential.

Not-So-Innocent Abroad

“Tourists flock to my Native land for escape, but they are escaping into a state of mind while participating in the destruction of a host people in a Native place.”

Haunani-Kay Trask, essay “Lovely Hula Lands”

The impression that travel is an inherently enlightening experience that can lead to a greater good is evident in tourism where travelers participate in volunteer work — “voluntourism,” eco-travel, sustainable/ethical travel, and spiritual tourist cultures. The market for traveling supposedly to help disenfranchised communities in the Global South is booming, with little regulation for what constitutes “help” or who actually benefits from it.

While it’s possible that there’s effective work being done in these spaces, most initiatives are grounded in ideas of the White savior industrial complex, the concept that Black, Indigenous, and other people of color (BIPOC) need to be saved by White folks who know better. In this way, even goodwill manifestations of tourism are still mired in layers of harm.

Consider the recent trend of “conscientious” cruising, in which companies like Carnival Cruise Line and Crystal Cruises offer extended programming presumably to aid local communities. Passengers can choose to teach English to Dominican kids for a day or help lay bricks for school buildings. These activities go far to assuage the guilt of privilege and tug at the heartstrings and pocketbooks of charitable-minded tourists, but good intentions do not compensate for the overwhelming harm caused by the cruise industry. Cruises are an all-inclusive experience that attract travelers looking for deals and ease, but they are wasteful of resources, create unnatural amounts of trash, shred coastlines and reefs, and contribute little to local economies. Just a few hours during a day stop at a port of entry is an insufficient amount of time to positively impact the lives of Jamaican orphans.

This gets to the heart of what’s wrong with voluntourism, and even tourism economies in general: They are intended for the benefit of the tourist, not centered on the needs of underprivileged destination communities. The day-to-day realities of these places will not be radically changed by token donations from multinational cruise ship corporations. And when they do have an impact, they tend to recreate a dependency on a foreign power and thwart progress toward self-determination. Who needs decolonization when a rotating class of White college kids can teach English in your village?

Few travelers seek out and center host cultures, voices, and struggles as part of their travel plans. The chasm of inequality between visitor and visited makes a truly fair exchange between them difficult to measure and nearly impossible to attain. There is no one-size-fits-all exchange — service rendered, money paid — that can balance this power dynamic. But we can strive for an understanding that host communities — especially those that include Black and Indigenous people — should be in charge of how they want their cultures, economies, and environments engaged with.

What does a more balanced exchange look like? Native notions of hospitality are driving new tourism frameworks, as Kānaka Maoli (Native Hawaiians) are doing in Hawai‘i. Solidarity delegations like those between Palestinians and Black Lives Matter activists are choosing who they’d like to open their doors to for mutual benefit. Voluntourism can work when specific expertise is requested by a host community, such as technology or medical help in a crisis.

With colonial mindsets lulling us into guilt-free, do-good travel, and Airbnb tourist dollars elbowing out residents of major travel destinations, are there equitable ways to engage in an industry that thrives off inequality? Well, there are a few rules of thumb.

YES! Photo by Federica Armstrong
Kyle Kajihiro and Terri Keko‘olani

Kyle Kajihiro and Terri Keko‘olani design their tours to expose the everyday militarism that oppresses Hawaiians. Tours like these challenge neocolonial conceptions of places as for the taking, instead framing them for the purpose of Native communities’ self-determination. YES! PHOTOS BY AARON K. YOSHINO

All-Inclusive

“People of color are the most traveled people on the planet; every time we leave our houses, we travel.”

Faith Adiele, June 2017

If you’re a social justice-minded visitor, think less about deals while traveling and more about what to avoid, starting with all-inclusive resorts. Here’s why:

Of travelers’ expenditures spent on all-inclusive package tours as a whole, 80 percent goes to airlines, hotels, and other international companies whose headquarters are located in the Global North, and not to local businesses, estimates the United Nations Environment Programme. In a tourism-dependent country like Thailand, 70 percent of all money spent by tourists leaves the country, and that figure is 80 percent for the Caribbean, perhaps the all-inclusive capital of the world. Avoid cruises — the water-borne version of the all-inclusive resort — as they additionally destroy reefs and pollute local waters.

Stay in hotels owned by locals. Eat in restaurants owned by locals. Shop at stores owned by locals.

Some do’s and don’ts require self-awareness: Practices like excessive haggling, refusing to adapt to local customary dress, taking pictures of people without their consent, or not bothering to learn the local language all signal that you lack empathy regarding your power and privilege abroad.

These are adjustments that individuals can do to ameliorate the direct harm that mass tourism causes. But what can be done about the biggest problem of travel culture: lack of inclusion?

To say that travel media has a race issue would be a meta-joke; travel media is a race issue. Not only are the editors of the magazines, the travel show hosts, the commercials, brochures, blogs, YouTubers, and Instagram accounts overwhelmingly White, they too-often depict White folks self-actualizing in lands colonized by their settler ancestors. And if they are depicted hugging Black kids, the caption will definitely quote Mark Twain.

It’s true that most BIPOC, disabled people, LGBTQIA+ people, and lower-income folks contend with barriers that keep them from enjoying leisure travel as much as wealthy White people do, but to purport they’re not doing it at all is erasure. A survey conducted by Mandala Research concluded that Black Americans spent $63 billion on travel in 2018, for example.

As a queer Latinx kid from Brooklyn who left home as a teen to hitchhike around the continent and later chose to write about travel, I found belonging in the excursions of Langston Hughes in I Wonder as I Wander, jumping into the backseat as he drove through Havana in 1931. I found it in bell hooks’ Belonging: A Culture of Place, running alongside her over Kentucky hills decades before I was born, and in coughing up exhaust with Andrew X. Pham as he biked along the roads of Vietnam in Catfish and Mandala in the 1990s. As Faith Adiele, author of Meeting Faith: The Forest Journals of a Black Buddhist Nun, often says, no one travels more than people of color. Whether for work or via displacement or through forced migration, BIPOC must go the distance to navigate a global White supremacist culture, often without even having to leave our countries. Read them.

In response to travel’s race gap and thanks to social media, people of color, specifically Black women, are creating their own lanes.

Founded by Dash Harris Machado in 2010, AfroLatino Travel connects people across the African diaspora to places the travel guides usually tell us to avoid, inspiring a variety of similar brands in its wake. Evie Robinson and Zim Ugochukwu started their businesses on social networks in the past decade (Nomadness Travel Tribe and Travel Noire, respectively), spawning what has since been dubbed the New Black Travel Movement, and Noirbnb was started after too many alarming #AirbnbingWhileBlack stories went viral.

A rock formation at He‘eia State Park

A rock formation at He‘eia State Park is where locals leave leis and other small gifts of thanks to Kāne‘ohe Bay. The Marine Corps Air Station dominates the far view, though local fishing boats and tourist boats share the bay with the military. YES! PHOTO BY AARON K. YOSHINO

Decolonizing Travel

“For even if history is most often recounted by victors, it’s not always easy to tell who the rightful narrators should be, unless we keep redefining with each page what it means to conquer and be conquered.”

Edwidge Danticat, “Create Dangerously”

Critical analyses that offer solutions to the ills of mass tourism seem to be propagating in disparate spaces, from Anu Taranath’s Beyond Guilt Trips: Mindful Travel in an Unequal World to A People’s Guide to Los Angeles by Laura Pulido, Laura Barraclough, and Wendy Cheng to Detours: A Decolonial Travel Guide to Hawai‘i, edited by Vernadette Vicuña Gonzalez and Hōkūlani Aikau.

Rather than telling tourists where to go, Detours tells them how to act. For one, “no” is a word that guests need to get more comfortable with.

Detours was inspired by A People’s Guide to Los Angeles, which seeks to “uncover the rich and vibrant stories of political struggle, oppression, and resistance in the everyday landscapes of major cities,” according to its summary. Detours writers met with the People’s Guide writers, and “we all agreed that our project is slightly different,” Aikau told me in an email. “Their project is about unearthing alternative, radical stories of places, and the conventions of the travel guide genre support their aims. Our project is about decolonization, not touring — even if differently and more radically.”

Out this November from Duke University Press, Detours flips the traditional Hawai‘i travel guide narrative by reclaiming tourism using an Indigenous perspective. “The essays, stories, artworks, maps, and tour itineraries in Detours create decolonial narratives in ways that will forever change how readers think about and move throughout Hawai‘i,” the book’s summary promises.

Aikau said Detours “is more than just critique — it is also a series of instructions for how to contribute to decolonization.” She continued, “We make the case that Detours is not just a redirection; it is a redirection with a very specific purpose — the restoration of ea,” referring to the concept of the breath and sovereignty of the Hawaiian nation, land, and its people.

Included in the guide is a section of specific tours created by local scholars and activists, from a decolonial tour of downtown Honolulu to an environmental justice bus tour of Lualualei Valley and its naval facilities. The book actually borrows its title from one of these. Hawai‘i’s DeTour guides Kyle Kajihiro and Terri Keko‘olani lead visitors to often-overlooked sites of U.S. military occupation on the island of O‘ahu, educating them on the disturbing link between settler colonialism and tourism in the Pacific. Taking part in one of these tours inspired doctoral candidate Tina Grandinetti to become a demilitarization activist. She ended up creating a critical walking tour of the rapidly gentrifying Kaka‘ako neighborhood for the Detoursguidebook.

“The U.S. military occupies about a quarter of the landmass of both Okinawa Island and O‘ahu, and our Indigenous communities pay the price for this,” said Grandinetti, who grew up on O‘ahu in the shadow of the Schofield Barracks Army base near the small town of Wahiawā.

“I grew up feeling a lot of anger and resentment toward the U.S. military, but it felt hard to communicate those feelings in a productive way. The DeTour showed me how the everyday violence of militarism can be made visible, and taught me that there are so many ways we can work to challenge it.” The average tourist who is unaware of Kānaka resistance or perspectives on the mass tourist presence on their land could receive a real education by taking part in a DeTour.

“Every time I went on base as a kid,” Grandinetti continued, “I felt like I was entering a world where I didn’t belong: a hypermilitarized, Americanized, White space. [DeTour] showed me that we can reclaim spaces for community even as they remain under occupation.”

Traveling and taking part in these real-time tours connects the tourist’s body to the land’s history and people in a way that staying at home and reading about it might not. “I remember feeling this most strongly when [activist guides Kajihiro and Keko‘olani] took us to a huge sculpted map of O‘ahu. We circled around the map and repeated Pearl Harbor’s true name over and over again: Ke Awalao o Pu‘uloa. Our voices got louder and more confident each time we repeated it. It was such a powerful moment.”

Tours like these challenge neocolonial conceptions of places as for the taking, instead framing them for the purpose of Native communities’ self-determination.

Aikau told me that she and her co-editor hope their book will inspire others to write decolonial guides to their own places. “What are the Indigenous place names where they live? What are the layers of stories that lie beneath concrete, asphalt, and street names? What are the protocols for asking permission to come onto territory in the place where you live?”

Think Globally, Travel Locally

“Once you commit yourself to a place, you begin to share responsibility for what happens there.”

Scott Russell Sanders, essay “Local ­Matters”

It’s easy to look to marginalized people for the answers to problems they didn’t create. It’s harder to look within and to question our own behaviors that enable that marginalization. As a traveler myself and in studying and writing about decolonizing travel culture, I’ve come to understand that the impulse to travel stems from an entitlement that is inextricable from colonialism.

Wanderlust is often a condition of lacking roots. White supremacy has created a crisis of identity for settlers who have little connection to the lands they are on or the communities they are a part of. And for this reason, they are always trying to escape, move on to the next place, consume, and repeat.

I get what Mark Twain was saying — I do, and to an extent, I agree. Settler colonialism and capitalism tell us to fear our neighbor, to chase excess by laboring in individualism. And when that gets too stressful, to escape “to Timbuktu” (as if it’s not an actual place in Mali). But taking colonial mindsets on the road is what has led to the majority of human suffering on the planet, from slavery to genocide and domination. If modern-day travel culture isn’t based on the goal of working against these ills, then it is only furthering that agenda. And that is the truth about travel.

So to decolonize travel as we move about the world, we need to dismantle White supremacy at home.

In Belonging, cultural critic bell hooks connects this lack of a relationship with home and race: “Again and again as I travel around I am stunned by how many citizens in our nation feel lost, feel bereft of a sense of direction, feel as though they cannot see where our journeys lead, that they cannot know where they are going.” What she calls “a wilderness of spirit” can be linked to much of the White supremacist terrorism that only seems to be on the rise. “Many folks feel no sense of place.”

Scott Russell Sanders has echoed this in much of his writing, most notably in Staying Put: Making a Home in a Restless World: “My nation’s history does not encourage me, or anyone, to belong somewhere with a full heart. A vagabond wind has been blowing here for a long while … I feel the force of it.” The lure of tourism to leave it all and disappear, as it were, seems to be strongest in the people with the most power. Looking at the consequences of mass tourism, we can conclude that the opposite of Twain’s remarks may be true — that “vegetating in one’s corner of the globe” may be what we need more of. As Sanders concludes, “I wish to consider the virtue and discipline of staying put.”

I always find it fascinating that so many international U.S. travelers are so unacquainted with the states in their country, or even neighboring districts, or, for that matter, their actual neighbors. Segregation seems to see no end in our nation’s story. These travelers would rather help build schools for kids in Africa than let their kids attend schools with Black kids in Brooklyn. The adage “you don’t know where you’re going until you know where you come from” can apply to our nation’s memory as a whole.

Perhaps we need to think about home and belonging more intentionally and invest in our local communities to recognize our important roles in them — before we plan our next big vacation. Escape is easy. Long-term commitment takes care and work. Many of the people shouldering that responsibility are the ones who can’t escape, and they deserve a break, too.

With a combination of staying put, learning our histories, and getting to know our neighbors, we can become better global neighbors — and then better global guests.

Decolonization is both the journey and the destination. And to Mark Twain: All of our people need it sorely on these accounts.

By Bani Amor

Bani Amor is a queer travel writer who explores the relationships between race, place, and power. Instagram: @baniamor, Twitter: @bani_amor

In YES! Summer 2019, p. 14-20.

So travel – at home or away.  Let’s be conscious and act in inclusive, healing ways.

Aloha, Renée

 

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Poetry: “Charity”

She is like a squat old machine,
Off-kilter but still chugging along
The uphill stretch of sidewalk
On Harrison Street, handbag slung
Crosswise and, I’m guessing, heavy.
And oh, the set of her face, her brow’s
Profound tracks, her mouth cinched,
Lips pressed flat. Watching her
Bend forward to tussle with gravity,
Watching the berth she allows each
Foot (as if one is not on civil
Terms with the other), watching
Her shoulders braced as if lashed
By step after step after step, and
Her eyes’ determination not to
Shift, or blink, or rise, I think:
I am you, one day out of five,
Tired, empty, hating what I carry
But afraid to lay it down, stingy,
Angry, doing violence to others
By the sheer freight of my gloom,
Halfway home, wanting to stop, to quit
But keeping going mostly out of spite.
By – Tracy K. Smith –  the 22nd Poet Laureate of the United States
tkscrachel-eliza-griffiths
Banner photo by Aris Sfakianakis on unsplash.com https://unsplash.com/@katergaris
Aloha, Renée

“The King We [but not most of us now] Would Rather Forget”

     On Nov. 9, 1967, Dr. King gave the
Annual Convocation address of the
Graduate Student Association (GSA) at
SUNY Buffalo. On behalf of the GSA, I [John Marciano]
was co-organizer of the event and his driver
that evening. This speech was seven months
after his historic “Beyond Vietnam” oration
at New York’s Riverside Church in which
he condemned that war. That evening, we
discussed the harsh attacks he received for
his opposition. King calmly and patiently
explained that he opposed the Vietnam
conflict because conscience demanded it;
he resolutely stayed the course until his
assassination five months later.
     “Beyond Vietnam” is perhaps his
greatest speech, although unknown
to most Americans compared with
his “I Have a Dream” oration at the
August 1963 March for Freedom and
Jobs in Washington. Those who have
heard or watched King’s magnificent
oration that day are deeply moved, but
to this day little is known about the
pre-march “apprehension [and] dread”
of the corporate media and political
establishment. President Kennedy ordered
4,000 troops to be “assembled in the
suburbs, backed by 15,000 paratroopers”
of the 82nd Airborne Division in North
Carolina; his aide was ready “to cut
the power to the public-address system
if rally speeches proved incendiary”;
Washington banned all alcohol sales
for the first time since Prohibition; and
hospitals prepared “for riot casualties.”
The event was a huge success: it drew a
record crowd of some 250,000 people in a
marvelous and peaceful show of support
for justice (Taylor Branch, “Pillar of Fire:
America in the King Years 1954-63”).
     Four years later, King articulated
powerful truths about the War in Vietnam
and this nation. He laid his firm opposition
to the war squarely on the shoulders of the
U.S. government—which had denied the
Vietnamese their right to independence,
aided brutal French colonialism there,
created and supported Diem’s dictatorship
in South Vietnam, and violated the 1954
Geneva Agreement.
     King denounced the United States as
“the greatest purveyor of violence in the
world today,” and saw the war was “a
symptom of a far deeper malady within
the American spirit.” Later that spring, he
asserted that “the evils of racism, economic
exploitation and militarism are all tied
together”: We could not “get rid of one
without getting rid of the others [and] the
whole structure of American life must be
changed.” He stated that the injustice of
the conflict was inextricably linked to the
African-American struggle for civil rights.
The war was an enemy of poor people
because it diverted money that could be
used to mitigate the effects of poverty. And
the poor, especially the African-American
poor, were being killed or maimed in higher
proportions than their representation in
the U.S. population (Southern Christian
Leadership Conference Report, 1967).
     King’s speech elicited vicious attacks
by the political and corporate media
establishment and civil rights leaders.
Life Magazine stated, “Much of his speech was
a demagogic slander that sounded like a
script for Radio Hanoi.” The New York
Times called his effort to link civil rights
and opposition to the war a “disservice to
both. The moral issues in Vietnam are less
clear-cut than he suggests.” It concluded
that there were “no simple or easy
answers to the war in Vietnam or to racial
injustice in this country.” The Washington
Post claimed that some of his assertions
were “sheer inventions of unsupported
fantasy”; that King had “diminished his
usefulness to his cause, to his country
and to his people.” The corporate media
and political condemnation of King
accurately reflected public sentiment; a
Harris poll taken in May 1967 revealed
that 73 percent of Americans opposed his
antiwar position, including 50 percent of
African-Americans.
     If we wish to pay tribute to Dr. King,
we should read (or reread) his “Beyond
Vietnam” speech, and abandon the myths
about him and the movement for justice
and peace to which he dedicated his life.
We do a grave injustice to his legacy
and that struggle by revising the actual
history of the era, and by failing to fully
understand and confront the economic
exploitation, militarism, and racism that he
condemned—which continue to poison this
nation.”
– Author John Marciano also  wrote  American War in Vietnam:
Crime or Commemoration and co-wroteLessons of the Vietnam War
with William Griffen. He is professor emeritus at SUNY Cortland.
Photo: King delivering his speech “Beyond Vietnam” at New York City’s Riverside Church in 1967. Photo: John C. Goodwin, TIME Magazine.

From:  V5N2—Spring 2019 p. 7 in Peace in Our Times • <peaceinourtimes.org> by John Marciano

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Poetry: “Wait”

Wait

Wait, for now.
Distrust everything if you have to.
But trust the hours. Haven’t they
carried you everywhere, up to now?
Personal events will become interesting again.
Hair will become interesting.
Pain will become interesting.
Buds that open out of season will become interesting.
Second-hand gloves will become lovely again;
their memories are what give them
the need for other hands. The desolation
of lovers is the same: that enormous emptiness
carved out of such tiny beings as we are
asks to be filled; the need
for the new love is faithfulness to the old.

Wait.
Don’t go too early.
You’re tired. But everyone’s tired.
But no one is tired enough.
Only wait a little and listen:
music of hair,
music of pain,
music of looms weaving our loves again.
Be there to hear it, it will be the only time,
most of all to hear your whole existence,
rehearsed by the sorrows, play itself into total exhaustion.

by – Galway Kinnell

 

gkinnell

Galway Kinnell – 1927-2014

Aloha, Renée

From: https://poets.org/poem/wait

Banner photo by Simon Migaj on Unsplash

“Leaking Jet Fuel Threatens Hawaii . . .” by Ann Wright

It’s time for the U.S. military to retire the leaking Red Hill
Storage tanks—and protect our precious water supply
By Ann Wright
    After the big North Korean missile scare in Hawaii a
year ago, one would think that missiles are the greatest
threat to the island of Oahu. Yet, it’s not missiles that are
the threat, it’s our own U.S. military and its massive jet
fuel storage tanks that are leaking into Oahu’s drinking
water aquifer.
    A complex of mammoth 20-story military jet fuel
storage tanks buried 20 stories down in a bluff called
Red Hill is perched only 100 feet above Honolulu’s water
supply. The walls on the 75-year-old jet fuel tanks are
now so thin that the edge of a dime is thicker. Each of the
20 tanks holds 12.5 million gallons of jet fuel, although
18 are in operation now. Two-hundred and twenty-five
million gallons of jet fuel are a mere 100 feet from
causing a catastrophic disaster for the island of Oahu.
    Disaster struck in 2014, when 27,000 gallons of jet fuel
leaked from a tank that had been repaired with a welded
patch. The welding gave way and tens of thousands of
gallons of fuel leaked into the water supply. Studies have
documented leaks dating back to 1947, the continued
corrosion of the tank liners, and the risk of a catastrophic
fuel release.
    Concerned citizens on the island have been trying
for decades to get the U.S. Navy remove the dangerous
tanks. The military states that the underground fuel tanks
are of strategic importance to national security and they
are being maintained as well as 75-year old tanks can
be. Yet those who live on Oahu say: “That’s not good
enough! You can’t have national security by jeopardizing
the health security of your citizens.”
    It is not surprising that the Navy has made little effort
to remove the tanks and put replacements in a less
dangerous place. The military’s hold on the island of
Oahu and its politicians is strong both psychologically
and economically. Oahu is filled with military bases and
accompanying corporations that supply the military with
equipment and services.
    Hawaii is one of the most militarized states in the
nation and Oahu is one of the most militarized islands
with seven major bases and a total of 36,620 military
personnel.
    When the 64,000 military family members and military
contractors are added to the active-duty military, the
military-industrial complex on Oahu numbers about
100,000, 10 percent of Oahu’s total population of 988,000.
The state of Hawaii has only 1.4 million citizens.
    Construction of the military installations on the island
of Oahu began soon after the overthrow of the sovereign
nation of Hawaii by U.S. businessmen and a small
contingent of U.S. Marines:
• Pearl Harbor Naval Base, headquarters of the U.S.
Pacific Fleet Navy and homeport for 25 warships, 15
attack submarines, nine guided-missile destroyers, and
a guided-missile cruiser;
• Hickam Air Force Base, headquarters of the U.S.
Pacific Air Forces, with squadrons of F-15s, F22, C-17
and B-2 bombers;
• Kaneohe Marine Base, with a Marine Air Station
and three Marine regiments;
• Schofield Barracks, home to the 25th Infantry
Division;
• The Tropic Regions Test Center (TRTC);
• Camp Smith, headquarters of the United Indo-Pacific
Command (responsible for all U.S. military activity in
the greater Asia and Pacific region including India) and
headquarters of the U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Pacific;
• Fort Shafter, headquarters for the U.S. Army Pacific;
• Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies, a military
educational facility for military and civilian officials
from Asia and the Pacific;
• Tripler Army Medical Center and Veterans
Administration Medical Center;
• U.S. Coast Guard 14th District for the Pacific (while
not part of the Department of Defense, during wartime,
the Coast Guard can go under command of DOD), which
includes three 225-foot buoy tenders, four 110-foot
patrol boats, two 87-foot coastal patrol boats, four small
boat stations, two sector commands, an air station, a Far
East command, five detachments, and over 400 aids to
navigation.
    Major military installations have been built on other
islands of Hawaii. The Puhakaloa Training Area, the
largest U.S. military training area in the world with
133,000 acres for artillery, mortar, small arms and crew-
served weapons firing, is located on the Big Island of
Hawaii. Air Force bombers flying from the continental
United States drop ordnance on the area between the two
volcanoes of the island of Hawaii.
    On the island of Kauai, the Pacific Missile Range
Facility Barking Sands (PMRF) is the world’s largest
range capable of supporting surface, submarines, aircraft,
and space operations simultaneously. PMRF has over
1,100 square miles of instrumented underwater range
and over 42,000 square miles of controlled airspace.
The Navy is currently using PMRF to test “hit to kill”
technology in which anti-ballistic missiles destroy their
targets by using only the kinetic energy from the force
of the collision. The Navy’s Aegis Ballistic Missile
Defense System and the Army’s Terminal High Altitude
Area Defense System, or THAAD, are tested on Kauai
at PMRF.
    On the island of Maui, the Maui High Performance
Computing Center, a Department of Defense Super
-computing Resource Center managed by the Air Force
Research Laboratory, provides DoD scientists and
engineers with one of the world’s largest computers to
solve war-making computational problems.
    [And recently, the U.S. Navy announced plans to expand its ship-to-ship,
ship-to-shore, above water, below water, and on-shore trainings
throughout Hawaii state and Southern California.  See my earlier blog
with excerpts from the published Navy plans].
    According to the Hawaii Chamber of Commerce,
the direct and indirect economic impacts of military
expenditures in Hawaii bring $14.7 billion into
Hawaii’s economy, creating more than 102,000 jobs.
The military’s investments in Hawaii total $8.8 billion.
Military procurement contracts amount to about $2.3
billion annually, making it a prime source of contracting
opportunities for hundreds of Hawaii’s small businesses,
including significant military construction projects.
    The influence of the military in the Hawaiian islands and
on its politicians at all levels cannot be underestimated,
nor can the protection the military is given by its retirees
and the citizens who benefit from it. The pressure on city
and state officials to accept the status quo is very strong.
    Finally, the U.S. government has acknowledged the
medical problems the contamination of the drinking
supply caused in another community—the huge U.S.
Marine Base at Camp Lejeune and Marine Corps Air
Station (MCAS) New River in North Carolina. From
1953 through 1987, tens of thousands of Marines and
their families were contaminated by two on-base water
wells that were contaminated with trichloroethylene
(TCE), perchloroethylene (PCE), benzene, and vinyl
chloride, among other compounds from leaking storage
tanks on the base and and an off-base dry cleaner.
    The Veterans Administration has acknowledged the
dangerous situation on the bases in North Carolina that
was ignored for decades. The VA has declared that a large
number of diseases are caused by the chemicals and that
military personnel and their family members who have
contracted these diseases and who are still living will be
compensated. We can expect the same type of diseases
with the continuing leaks at Red Hill.
    On the other side of the country from North Carolina,
the Navy has already closed down one complex of
underground jet fuel storage tanks at Point Loma, Calif.,
which had 54 storage tanks. The riveted seams on the
underground tanks began leaking as they aged. When
1.5 million gallons of fuel spilled from the site in 2006,
the U.S. Navy decided to replace the tanks.
    For us on Oahu, the bottom line is that when, not if,
the massive jet fuel storage tanks leak into the aquifer
of Honolulu, city, state, and federal officials must be
held accountable—the public has given them plenty of
warning of their concerns. As with lead in the water
supply in Flint, Mich., officials knew that the drinking
water was contaminated but didn’t do anything to stop
the community from using it. Remarkably, no Flint
officials have gone to jail yet, but the community is
demanding accountability for malfeasance in office—
which will also happen in Honolulu when the jet fuel
storage tank disaster strikes.
    Why, we citizens ask our elected leaders, do they allow
such a disaster to continue to threaten our water supply
in Honolulu when we know that 75-year-old tanks with
corroding walls are continuing to leak . . . “
vfplogo-high-res
Please speak up.

Aloha, Renée

Reprinted from:  Peace in Our Times  – <peaceinourtimes.org> V5N2—Spring 2019, p. 17.

Banner photo: https://www.commondreams.org/views/2019/02/08/north-korean-missiles-are-not-threat-hawaii-its-our-own-us-militarys-leaking-jet

From:  https://ufdc.ufl.edu/AA00048021/00019

Poetry: “Mornings at Blackwater”

For years, every morning, I drank
from Blackwater Pond.
it was flavored with oak leaves and also, no doubt,
the feet of ducks.

And always it assuaged me
from the dry bowl of the very far past.

What I want to say is
that the past is the past,
and the present is what your life is,
and you are capable
of choosing what will be,
darling citizen.

So come to the pond,
or the river of your imagination,
or the harbor of your longing,

and put your lips to the world.
And live
your life.

  • by Mary Oliver

Aloha, Renée

From: https://davidherbert.me/2019/01/18/mornings-at-blackwater/

 

“Worlds Apart” by T.M. Luhrmannn

“‘Progress is impossible without change,’ George Bernard Shaw wrote in 1944, ‘and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.’ But progress through persuasion has never seemed harder to achieve.  Political segregation has made many Americans inaccessible, even unimaginable, to those on the other side of the partisan divide.  On the rare occasions when we do come face-to-face, it is not clear what we could say to change each other’s minds or reach a worthwhile compromise.  Psychological research has shown that humans often fail to process facts that conflict with our preexisting worldviews.  The stakes are simply too high: our self-worth and identity are entangled with our beliefs—and with those who share them.  The weakness of logic as a tool of persuasion, combined with the urgency of the political moment, can be paralyzing.
Yet we know that people do change their minds.  We are constantly molded by our environment and our culture, by the events of the world, by the gossip we hear and the books we read. . . .” (Forum, February 2018, 27-29).  This Harper’s Magazine issue focuses on persuasion; it features seven writers, each with a different perspective.  The first essay follows.

The Minds of Others

The art of persuasion in the age of Trump

Worlds Apart

By T. M. Luhrmann

In March 1997, the bodies of thirty-nine people were discovered in a mansion outside San Diego. They were found lying in bunk beds, wearing identical black shirts and sweatpants. Their faces were covered with squares of purple cloth, and each of their pockets held exactly five dollars and seventy-five cents.

The police determined that the deceased were members of Heaven’s Gate, a local cult, and that they had intentionally overdosed on barbiturates. Marshall Applewhite, the group’s leader, had believed that there was a UFO trailing in the wake of Comet Hale-Bopp, which was visible in the sky over California that year. He and his followers took the pills, mixing them with applesauce and washing them down with vodka, in order to beam up to the spacecraft and enter the “evolutionary level above human.”

In the aftermath of the mass suicide, one question was asked again and again: How could so many people have believed something so obviously wrong? [my emphasis]

I am an anthropologist of religion. I did my first stint of fieldwork with middle-class Londoners who identified as witches, druids, and initiates of the Western Mysteries. My next project was in Mumbai, India, where Zoroastrianism was experiencing a resurgence. Later, I spent four years with charismatic evangelical Christians in Chicago and San Francisco, observing how they developed an “intimate relationship” with an invisible God. Along the way, I studied newly Orthodox Jews, social-justice Catholics, Anglo-Cuban Santeria devotees, and, briefly, a group in southern California that worshipped a US-born guru named Kalindi.

Most of these people would describe themselves as believers. Many of the evangelicals would say that they believe in God without doubt. But even the most devout do not behave as if God’s reality is the same as the obdurate thereness of rocks and trees. They will tell you that God is capable of anything, aware of everything, and always on their side. But no one prays that God will write their term paper or replace a leaky pipe.

Instead, what their actions suggest is that maintaining a sense of God’s realness is hard. Evangelicals talk constantly about what bad Christians they are. They say that they go to church and resolve to be Christlike and then yell at their kids on the way home. The Bible may assert vigorously the reality of a mighty God, but psalm after psalm laments his absence. “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”

Beliefs are not passively held; they are actively constructed. Even when people believe in God, he must be made real for them again and again. They must be convinced that there is an invisible other who cares for them and whose actions affect their lives.

This is more likely to happen for someone who can vividly imagine that invisible other. In the late 1970s, Robert Silvey, an audience researcher at the BBC, started using the word “paracosm” to describe the private worlds that children create, like the North Pacific island of Gondal that Emily and Anne Brontë dreamed up when they were girls. But paracosms are not unique to children. Besotted J.R.R. Tolkien fans, for example, have a similar relationship with Middle-earth. What defines a paracosm is its specificity of detail: it is the smell of the rabbit cooked in the shadow of the dark tower or the unease the hobbits feel on the high platforms at Lothlórien. In returning again and again to the books, a reader creates a history with this enchanted world that can become as layered as her memory of middle school.

God becomes more real for people who turn their faith into a paracosm. The institution provides the stories — the wounds of Christ on the cross, the serpent in the Garden of Eden — and some followers begin to live within them. These narratives can grip the imagination so fiercely that the world just seems less good without them.

During my fieldwork, I saw that people could train themselves to feel God’s presence. They anchored God to their minds and bodies so that everyday experiences became evidence of his realness. They got goose bumps in the presence of the Holy Spirit, or sensed Demeter when a chill ran up their spine. When an idea popped into their minds, it was God speaking, not a stray thought of their own. Some people told me that they came to recognize God’s voice the way they recognized their mother’s voice on the phone. As God became more responsive, the biblical narratives seemed less like fairy tales and more like stories they’d heard from a friend, or even memories of their own.

Faith is the process of creating an inner world and making it real through constant effort. But most believers are able to hold the faith world — the world as it should be — in tension with the world as it is. When the engine fails, Christians might pray to God for a miracle, but most also call a mechanic.

Being socially isolated can compromise one’s ability to distinguish his or her paracosm from the everyday world. Members of Heaven’s Gate never left their houses alone. They wore uniforms and rejected signs of individuality. Some of them even underwent castration in order to avoid romantic attachments. When group members cannot interact with outsiders, they are less likely to think independently. Especially if there is an autocratic leader, there is less opportunity for dissent, and the group becomes dependent on his or her moral authority. Slowly, a view of the world that seems askew to others can settle into place.

When we argue about politics, we may think we are arguing over facts and propositions. But in many ways we argue because we live in different paracosmic worlds, facilitated these days by the intensely detailed imaginings of talk radio and cable news [my emphisis].  For some of us, that world is the desperate future of the near at hand. If abortion is made illegal, abortions will happen anyway, and women will die because they used clothes hangers to scrape out their insides. Others live in a paracosm of a distant future of the world as it should be, where affirmative action is unnecessary because people who work hard can succeed regardless of where they started.

Recently, the dominant political narratives in America have moved so far apart that each is unreadable to the other side. But we know that the first step in loosening the grip of an extreme culture is developing a relationship with someone who interprets the world differently [my emphasis].  In 2012, for example, a woman named Megan Phelps-Roper left the Westboro Baptist Church, a hard-line Christian group that pickets the funerals of queer people, after she became friendly with a few of her critics on Twitter. If the presence of people with whom we disagree helps us to maintain common sense, then perhaps the first step to easing the polarization that grips this country is to seek those people out[my emphasis].  That’s the anthropological way.”

 

If those Heaven’s Gate cult members had not been so isolated and had been able to talk with those outside their group,  perhaps they would have realized that killing themselves as a way to beam themselves up to a passing spacecraft was really not a rational idea.

Find someone you just can’t understand.  Talk and listen.  It’s likely to be good for both of you.

From: https://harpers.org/archive/2018/02/the-minds-of-others/2/

Sally

Sally, a 70+ year-old student in one of my Maui College English classes years ago, took my class for fun and then left in the middle of the semester to go backpacking by herself in Arizona – neither (leaving in the middle of the semester nor backpacking by herself) probably a good idea. Taking the English class, of course, was an excellent choice. Coming back in time to save her good grade, she was an inspiration then, and is a great model for us now.

In a recent FB message, Sally said:

“I am having more fun each day than in any previous time of my life. No worries, no obligations. Lots of music, lots of friends and family. Free to have whims. I try new things at restaurants. I reach out to people more than I did before. Objective reality says I am old, sick, and feeble, but I claim the identity of “I am young, strong, and healthy”. I don’t want to celebrate my 90th birthday next January because I am really only 21. 😀

Go Sally, go.

And we don’t have to wait until we are 89 to act this way.

Go have some fun today whatever your age.

Aloha, Renée

Hawaiian Legend: “A Bowl of Perfect Light”

Ka Po’e Kahiko – The Ancient People – from an oral history of Hawaii predating the invasion of the Tahitians

“Each child born has at birth, a Bowl of Perfect Light.  If he tends his Light, it will grow in strength, and he can do all things — swim with the shark, fly with the birds, know and understand all things.

If, however, he become envious or jealous, he drops a stone into his Bowl of Light and some of the Light goes out.  Light and the stone cannot hold the same space.  If he continues to put stones in the Bowl of Light, the Light will go out, and he will become a stone.  A stone does not grow, nor does it move.

If at anytime he tires of being a stone, all he needs to do is turn the bowl upside down and the stones will fall away, and the Light will grow once more.”

From: Tales of the Night Rainbow, as told by Tutu Kaeli’ohe ne’ekoa of Molokai’i – by Koko Willis and Pali Jae Lee

Tales-of-the-Night-Rainbow

May your light shine brightly.  Aloha, Renee

Banner photo by Casey Horner on Unsplash

Happy Mother’s Day

Happy Mother’s Day to all who nurture others.  For those of us who have had caring mothers, grandmothers – or any adult, male or female, to pay attention and guide us, we are blessed – even if our time together is short.

Often the importance of a caring person in our lives involves passing on life lessons.  One woman I admire who is a mother says, “Life is practice, and I tell my girts this every day.  You are practicing who you are going to be.  Do you want to be dependable?  Then you have to be dependable.  If you want people to trust you, then you have to be trustworthy”  – Michelle Obama.

May you have such a wise person in your life — and be such a person too.

 

Who are you practicing to be?

Happy Mother’s Day.

Aloha, Renée

photo-Mother's-Day

My dear Mom and Dad – my pesky sister, Patty (who turned out great on the left) and me on the right.  We were probably about 6 & 8 years old.   Essential people in my life.

 

Banner photo by guille pozzi on Unsplash

 

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