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“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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2019 Women’s March – Maui

We were back at UHMC for the third time – for many of the same issues. Again, the spirit was mainly up-beat with the knowledge that there is much to be done – and we can unite – and we will not wait for others to speak and act for us.

The third Woman’s March – Jan. 19, 2019 at the UHMC campu

Women and men, old and young gathered for a few hours of music, inspiring speakers, socializing, learning about new issues, and just generally being re-inspired to keep working for the values we support.

Nursing professor Kathleen brought her daughter. Paddling sister Gail brought her 90-year-old mother and two sisters from the U.S. Mainland.
Flags and banners added color and declared interests

According to “The Maui News,” about 2,000 people participated in our Women’s March in Kahului. One participant expressed what many felt: “he came out to support women’s rights and to support the planet’s rights and to try to have solidarity with everyone who’s turning to the positive side instead of the negative side” (A 1).

One of our Maui event organizers, Robin Pilus, noted, “At the very beginning, we felt we could make a difference; it seemed like we could sprint, with all that energy. Now we realized it will be a long-distance run.” (A 3).

I thought this sign was from an environmental group – but no. Many signs were fun and funny!

The guy with the bullhorn from last year was back. As we marched off campus, he screamed at us, “You are going to hell!!” One of his signs noted, “Feminism makes women hate men!” Most of us just ignored him since he showed no interest in actually talking with anyone. He might actually want to check his sources. 🙂 Science is good.

Many groups came: Moms Demand Action – for sane gun laws; http://www.KeepYour Power.org – because of carcinogen components involved, this group is against 5G cell antennas and “Smart Meters”; Pro-Choice – for a woman’s rights over her body; LGBT groups for human rights; immigrants – for just treatment; people concerned about the U.S. Navy plans to have training missions in our beautiful waters and near shores; environmental groups – for protection of our marine life and shores. . . .

Other signs said, “Build Houses, Not Walls,” “Compassion for All”. . .

This was on my T-shirt – getting new voters to sign up is what I like to do.

I carried this sign. The back declared, “We Stand Against Oppression! Flo, who I know from water testing and the Humpback Whale Sanctuary, made my sign and others. Mahalo 🙂
Helping and supporting one another is what our community does.

Many people came to the march, and we know that many more were with us in spirit.

We have much hope for the future.

There is much for everyone to do. Let’s keep working. Blessings and hope to you wherever you are.

Aloha, Renée

U.S. Navy Plans for Special Operations Training in Maui County (and beyond)

The U.S. Navy in its practice for war has a history in Maui County. Among other actions, the Navy used our eighth largest Hawaiian island, Kaho’olawe, a place sacred to Hawaiians, for target practice. Starting in 1941. Kaho’olawe was transformed into a bombing range with ship-to-shore bombardment and later with American submarines testing torpedoes by firing them at shoreline cliffs.  They even simulated the blast effects of nuclear weapons on shipboard weapon systems.  Although Kaho’olawe is about six miles from Maui, our island windows shook at the bombing impacts.  During the Navy testing and practice, a few of the torpedoes missed  – and landed on Maui!  

Despite decades of protest, the Navy continued the bombings until 1990! The results: a dead island where although over 9 million tons of debris and un-exploded ordinances have been removed, no one can live, no one can even visit without getting special permission because it is still too dangerous to be there.  I can see Kaho’olawe from the deck of my house. The Navy spent millions to clean it up, but there are still un-exploded Navy bombs there; I’m not likely ever to go there.  

The U.S. Navy has a new plan. According to the January 4, 2019 edition of “The Maui News,” the Navy says, “[T]here will be no live-fire or amphibious assault craft and aircraft landings as part of their proposed exercises around Maui County . . .The Navy is proposing nearshore water training in the county, which will include naval special operation personnel diving and swimming and launching and recovering small vehicles designed to operate underwater” (A 1).

Also, the Navy had said they would accept public comment until today (January 7) – but before the deadline, they announced they had decided to go ahead with their proposals!

What the Navy says in its plan to go ahead with training exercises is much more limited than what it puts forth as possibilities in the four huge volumes of its Hawaii-Southern California plan.

A Navy training area site on Maui looks close to the Kihei Canoe Club, Maui Canoe Club, the Pinks, the Kihei Youth Center, many homes, townhouses, vacation condos, and the longest uninterrupted white sand beach in our state.  Also nearby are Keālia Pond National Wildlife Refuge and the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary (the only U.S. sanctuary dedicated to the protection of humpback whales and their marine environment); the critically endangered hawksbill turtles nest along these beaches.

Images below are from the Navy’s proposal on display at our Kahului Public Library:



Report and images from <http://go.usa.gov/xUnDC>

Please join me and many others in Hawaii (and beyond); say NO to U.S. Navy practice for war — above, on, and below our beautiful ocean waters, off shore, near shore, and on land! 

Instead, the U.S. Navy could practice peace.  Because of the changing climate and the resulting weather related impacts, the Navy could be sending out forces for training and rescue and rebuilding.  They could do more missions of real search and rescue:  people need help in Indonesia, Saipan . . . California.  Flint, Michigan could have all its corroded water pipes replaced.  The infrastructure needs in the U.S. are endless.  Our military personnel could be learning useful and welcomed skills. 

If you live on Maui, have visited here, or want to come some day, let your voice be heard. If you care about humpback whales, Hawaiian monk seals, endangered marine life, coral, let your voice be heard. Our U.S. military could be instruments of peace.

If it is still January 7, 2019, where you are, please let the U.S. Navy know how you feel by sending an email to <NFPAC-RECEIVE@navy.mil>.

Then, any time, please email Hawaii Governor David Y. Ige at <https://governor.hawaii.gov/>. Whether you live here or not, he needs to know what you think.

We live in a very special place of Hawaiian aloha and beauty. We hope you find it that way when you come to visit.

In Peace & Aloha, Renée

The New Poor Peoples’ Campaign

America’s Moral Malady

The nation’s problem isn’t that we don’t have enough money. It’s that we don’t have the moral capacity to face what ails society.

Jill Freedman / Getty

Image above: Americans, young and old, dwell in Resurrection City, made of tents and wooden shanties, during the 1968 Poor People’s Campaign, in Washington, D.C.

In the summer of 1966, Martin Luther King Jr. visited homes in the hamlet of Marks, Mississippi. Later he remembered the hundreds of children who lacked shoes. A mother told King that her children had no clothes for school. The Nobel laureate wept openly. “They didn’t even have any blankets to cover their children up on a cold night,” he recalled. “And I said to myself, God does not like this.” Then he vowed, “We are going to say in no uncertain terms that we aren’t going to accept it any longer. We’ve got to go to Washington in big numbers.”

In March 1968, King brought together a group of more than 50 leaders representing Black Belt sharecroppers, Appalachian coal miners, Chicano farmworkers, and American Indians, among others, to join the Poor People’s Campaign. The poor, “both white and Negro, live in a cruelly unjust society,” he said. “If they can be helped to take action together, they will do so with a freedom and a power that will be a new and unsettling force in our complacent national life.”

America’s sickness was spiritual—and would be terminal, King insisted, unless we experienced a “radical revolution of values.” A shift to the left or the right could not save us; only a movement that changed the moral narrative could refocus our priorities on building a society that honored the dignity of every person. This country had to be born again—not only in budgets and policy decisions, but in spirit.

The preacher in King knew that such a moral revival could not simply be spoken into existence. Poor people, who are so often pitted against one another, needed to unite in a national campaign of direct action to save America’s soul, King told the staff of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

Today we face a national crisis that is in many ways an intensifying of the storm that rocked America in 1968. But too often, our attempts to diagnose what ails us cannot get past the tired debates of left-versus-right politics. King’s analysis was that interlocking systems of violence, literal and metaphorical—which he called racism, poverty, and militarism—blinded most Americans to the lives of people in places like Marks. Until a Poor People’s Campaign compelled Americans to see “them” as “us,” the ideal of America would remain beyond reach.In the richest society in human history, nearly half of the population lives in poverty or is struggling to make ends meet.

Four diseases, all connected, now threaten the nation’s social and moral health: racism, poverty, environmental devastation, and the war economy—sanctified by the heresy of Christian nationalism. Since the 2016 presidential election, when white rage propelled a candidate endorsed by the Ku Klux Klan into the White House, racism has been more prominent in public life. Nearly every politician in the United States condemned “hate” after the violence by anti-black, anti-Semitic, and anti-gay white nationalists in Charlottesville, Virginia, last summer. Racism and white supremacy, however, are not about hate. They are about power.

The question is not whether politicians condemn hate, but whether they promote the policy agenda of white supremacy. Since 2010, we have seen an assault on voting rights in numerous state legislatures, which the Supreme Court exacerbated in 2013 by gutting a crucial provision of the Voting Rights Act. The states that attack voting rights by using partisan gerrymandering, discriminatory voter-identification requirements, or a rollback of early voting and same-day registration are also home to the lowest wages, the severest poverty, the greatest hostility toward immigrants and the LGBT community, and the deepest cuts in education funding. Politicians who try to suppress voting are using their power to hurt the poor and the working class—white, brown, and black.

In the richest society in human history, nearly half of the population lives in poverty or is struggling to make ends meet. More than half of African American workers and nearly 60 percent of Latino workers are paid less than $15 an hour. In the South, half of all jobs pay less than $15 an hour. During the past five years, state legislatures have stepped in to override many of the municipalities where the “Fight for $15” has succeeded.

Meanwhile, the nation’s economic growth, especially since the Great Recession, has overwhelmingly benefited the wealthiest among us. Wall Street got bailouts while working Americans saw their jobs shipped overseas or outsourced to contractors. The top 400 taxpayers earn an average of $97,000 an hour, while people are arrested for protesting because they can’t survive on $7.25 an hour, the minimum that Washington requires.

Environmental dangers also disproportionately hurt the poor. In Flint, Michigan, poor people can buy unleaded gasoline but can’t get unleaded water from the tap. Oil companies are drilling for natural gas on Apache lands, penetrating the aquifers. Coal ash has spilled into rivers, and pipelines are being built through sacred territory. Federal deregulation is opening the door to new fossil-fuel exploration and mining in Alaska, contributing to climate change and scarring native lands.There’s only one way out: for people directly harmed by the economic and political system to fight as one against the few who benefit from it.

The unending war economy has made everything worse. Out of each discretionary federal dollar spent, 54 cents goes to the military. This is money that is not spent on health care, education, affordable housing, or infrastructure. We’ve paid more than $4 trillion since 2001 to fight the War on Terror while claiming that we lack the resources to furnish decent medical care for every American.

Our problem isn’t that we don’t have enough money. It’s that we don’t have the moral capacity to face what ails our society.

While a thorough analysis of America’s moral malady may tempt us to despair, it also brings us face-to-face with the ethical challenge that inspired the first Poor People’s Campaign. The children in Marks made King weep, just as pictures of children burned by napalm in Vietnam had brought him to tears, because he knew that their cruel reality wasn’t inevitable. As James Baldwin wrote: “We made the world we’re living in and we have to make it over.” To King, the Poor People’s Campaign was about America’s need for another Reconstruction—for an acknowledgment that a system of race-based slavery had created the inequality that had been passed down to the present day.

This confluence of troubles may seem overwhelming. It suggests, however, that the only way out is for people directly harmed by the economic and political system to fight as one against the few who benefit from it.

In 1968, the idea—a Poor People’s Campaign to unite activists from across the nation and bring them to Washington to shut down the government, to bring the issue of poverty compellingly to the fore—looked impossible. Except there was no other way. The tent city in Washington was snuffed out after six weeks by riot police and tear gas. Even so, the campaign had a lasting influence on national policies, as seen in the additional spending for Head Start, subsidized school lunches and food programs in poverty-stricken counties, and the creation of the Children’s Defense Fund, which has pushed legislation to help poor children and families for the past half century.

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Still, we have never completed the Reconstruction that our federal government admitted was necessary after the Civil War. Just as the Poor People’s Campaign proposed, the Reconstruction we need now must arise from the efforts of people harmed directly by racism, poverty, environmental degradation, and the war economy. That is the inspiration for the new Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival, which is coordinating direct actions across the country that will begin in May. Activists in at least 32 states and Washington, D.C., will join in 40 days of civil disobedience, including an encampment in the nation’s capital, in hopes of building the power of the poor and the working class to reset the national agenda.

Only by joining together and asserting our authority as children of God can we shift the moral narrative in this nation and create a movement that will challenge those in power to form the “more perfect union” to which we aspire. Now as in 1968, this notion looks impossible. Except, again, there is no other way.


This article appears in the special MLK issue print edition with the headline “A New Poor People’s Campaign.”  Atlantic Monthly

Let’s support what needs – and must – be done.  Aloha,
Renée

Quotation: “People can debate . . .”

“People can debate how big a factor straight-up racism was in Trump’s victory.  But his yearlong drumbeat of remarks and tweets and retweets, [up to the 2016 U.S. Presidential election – and beyond] giving voice to white resentment toward people of color and religious minorities, offending millions and pulling scabs off old American wounds–all of that was not too much for the 62,984,825 people who colored in the bubble next to Trump’s name” 

– John Biewen (from the audio program at the Center for Documentary Studies.  Biewen teaches and produces/hosts the podcast Scene on Radio).

From: “Sunbeams,” The Sun, September 2018, issue 513, p. 48.

In stark contrast,  Jan Markell of Olive Tree Ministries says in wonder of God’s ways that President Trump, although a flawed man, promotes Biblical values.  She notes the Bible says that when the righteous rule, the evil moan.  

From: https://olivetreeviews.org/

Jan Markell  – Image from https://i2.wp.com/soaringeagleradio.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/Jan-Markell.png

Since Donald Trump and his friends have been in control, I’ve been moaning every day about the undermining of basic human decency and our democracy.   And I certainly don’t consider myself evil. 

How can we listen to each other and move forward together if each position feels the other is evil?  

Gandhi said, “It is no nonviolence if we merely love those that love us.  It is nonviolence only when we love those that hate us.  I know how difficult it is to follow this grand law of love.  But are not all great and good things difficult to do?  Love of the hater is the most difficult of all.  But by the grace of God even this most difficult thing becomes easy to accomplish if we want to do it” (Gandhi the Man, Eknath Easwaran, p. 108). 

http://Photo by Ishant Mishra on Unsplash

Although a struggle, we must find ways to listen and talk and work – together. 

Photo by Daria Shevtsova on Unsplash

Let’s talk, even – perhaps especially – to people we don’t understand – yet.

Aloha, Renee 

Banner photo: http://Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

Quotation: “What we need in the United States . . .”

“What we need in the United States is not division; what we need in the United States is not hatred; what we need in the United States is not violence and lawlessness, but is love and wisdom, and compassion toward one another, and a feeling of justice toward those who still suffer within our country, whether they be white or whether they be black ” [or Latino, or LGBTQ, or old, or disabled . . .]. – Robert F. Kennedy

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Aloha, Renee

Thought for the Day: Racism

“[I]n 1860  only around ‘5 percent of the Southern population owned even one slave, and a significantly smaller percentage owned more than twenty.’ . . .

Millions of human beings were held in bondage.  It’s mind-boggling to me [says author Camille T. Dungy]  that such a small number of people controlled so much of the wealth back then — and much of that wealth was accrued through the bodies of other human beings.  A black human being was a commodity, an object, not particularly different in value from a piece of jewelry, a few head of livestock, or several bolts of fabric.  My point is that most white people didn’t have the kind of wealth that the institution of slavery was protecting, just like most people today don’t have the kind of wealth protected by tax codes that allow a billionaire to write off a private jet but don’t allow schoolteachers to write off $250 worth of school supplies. . . .

America would not be the wealthy country it is without slave labor.  We would not have our power or wealth if we had not, for a very long time, depended on the unpaid labor of millions  of human beings . . . Cotton wasn’t king just in the South.  Many of the most productive cotton mills were in the North, as were the insurance companies and other industries that profited off those mills.  Without a lot of unpaid labor, those profits would have been significantly less.  And we are still depending on the unpaid or underpaid labor of millions of human beings — from prison workers to immigrants to foreign labor.  The question of slavery is still with us [my emphasis].  America has a legacy of harming other human beings and justifying that harm by glorifying the wealth it brings to a few.  Thankfully America also has a legacy of resisting that impulse. . . .

It’s sometimes difficult to accept the fact that whole portions of our society were built up–are still built up– to support the wealth of just a few.  Why don’t more people object to that?  Perhaps because so many Americans think maybe one day they will be the billionaire with access to the unchecked power to acquire wealth at the expense of other human beings.  When the focus is on the glorification of wealth rather than on an honest examination of how that wealth might have been accrued, we routinely ignore brutalities visited upon our fellow human beings (7). . . .

“Racism – and resistance to racism – is part of the fabric of this country.  When our twenty-dollar bill celebrates a man who is connected to the genocide of Native Americans and the enslavement of black people, I can’t see how I can say, ‘Let’s just focus on this one area.’ We are part of an ecosystem.  We can’t just worry about the whales, so to speak.  We need to address what’s happening to our oceans.

But, as individuals, I know we sometimes have to choose the battles that matter most to us” (9).

There is much to do to make our world more just and equitable for all. Let’s get working.

Aloha, Renee

From:  “Poetic Justice: Camille T. Dungy on Racism, Writing, and Radical Empathy” by Airica Parker – The Sun, June 2018, p. 4-12.

Banner photo:  Andrew Jackson – Popular General in the United States Army and from 1829 to 1837, seventh President of the United States.

Quotation: Thank you, President Trump

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Mekasi Camp Horinek and Pipeline Fighters

On March 23, 2017,  President Trump signed the permit approving the Keystone XL oil pipeline – where Native American led protests, says Wikipedia, have united environmental groups, citizens, and politicians over the potential negative impacts of the Keystone XL project.[92] The main issues are the risk of oil spills along the pipeline, which would traverse highly sensitive terrain, and 17% higher greenhouse gas emissions from the extraction of oil sands compared to extraction of conventional oil.[93][94]

On that day, Mekasi Camp Horinek, a member of the Ponca Nation, told reporter Alleen Brown:

“I want to say thank you to the president for all the bad decisions that he’s making — for the bad cabinet appointments that he’s made and for awakening a sleeping giant.  People that have never stood up for themselves, people that have never had their voices heard, that have never put their bodies on the line are now outraged.  I would like to say thank you to President Trump for his bigotry, for his sexism,

[for his attacks on our environment, for his support of gun rights over the rights of our children to be safe in schools, for his attacks on immigrants – in this country that is filled with people whose ancestors came as immigrants, for snubbing our Allies and becoming cozy with ruthless dictators, for celebrating hate and disrespect, for filling the pockets of the richest from the suffering of the poorest,  . . .]

for bringing all of us in this nation together to stand up and unite

From: Naomi Klein’s NO IS NOT ENOUGH: Resisting Trump’s Shock Politics and Winning the World We Need, p. 190-191.

Let’s stand together and VOTE on November 6th.

Aloha, in light and action, Renée

 

Banner source: https://bsnorrell.blogspot.com/2016/08/listen-mekasi-camp-horinek-on-standing.html

Stand Up! Speak Up! Listen! And Act!

Stand UP

I don’t know Dr. Christine Blasey Ford who has accused U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault, but I do know that even before I’d started school,  I knew to my bones that good girls were quiet, didn’t complain, shouldn’t tattle, and that if something bad happened, it was probably my own fault.

In my Decatur, Illinois, kindergarten class, I was the youngest and smallest student.  My classmate Jeffery was the biggest.  He liked to come running and jump on my back. It hurt. A good girl, I didn’t tattle.   Finally when my teacher, an otherwise nice woman, saw Jeffery in action, she just laughed and said that he probably liked me.   I tried to stay away from Jeffery.  One recess  as I was waiting in line for the slide, Jeffery ran over and kicked my shin, hard.  Of course, I didn’t tell, but a very colorful, huge bruise grew on my leg.   When my mother saw it, she asked me what had happened, and I told her about Jeffery.  Mom went to see my teacher, and I don’t remember Jeffery picking on me much after that.

Several times in my life, there have been reasons for me to speak up.  But as a good girl who didn’t want to get anyone in trouble,  I usually haven’t said anything.  Even when I have protested, usually nothing changes.

When I first moved to Hawaii, for instance, I went to a doctor on Oahu. When his nurse was outside the examining room, the doctor’s language to me and his physically touching me were really inappropriate! I wasn’t some young thing. I was almost 40 years old, a well-educated professional.   I was shocked. I wrote a letter to the head of the Hawaii Medical Association describing in detail what had happened. That association head, another male doctor, thanked me for my letter, said he was glad that I had sent a copy to the offending doctor, and noted that Hawaii has many fine doctors. I should just choose another one.  Nothing came of my complaint  –  and I just gave up.

Several years ago, five female students came to me as their English teacher and the advisor to Phi Theta Kappa, the honor society at the college where I taught. The students complained about one male student who had been stalking some, behaving very inappropriately to others. These young women were all excellent students, one a returning adult; I knew them. And I knew the guy. So, I called the Dean of Students, told him the problem, and made an appointment so the young women could tell the Dean what the male student had been doing to them and ask that the student be given consequences by our college. I went to the meeting with the students. The Dean had invited the male student too, which was okay, but a bit of a surprise. The Dean listened to each of the young women and then heard out the male who basically said that they had all misunderstood his actions (like forcibly entering one girl’s apartment).   The Dean asked if any of the five young women had filed a police report. None had. So the Dean dismissed the women’s complaints.  Nothing came of the complaints – and I gave up.

My pattern has continued: don’t complain, be quiet, be nice— just stay away from those people. It’s my fault somehow if something bad happens to me.  And the offending person gets away with bad behavior.

It’s not just guys in our society that often get away with bad behavior.   Institutions can too.

On August 14, 2016, my husband and I showed up a few minutes late–perhaps the second time in about 10 years–to volunteer as ushers at the Maui Arts and Cultural Center’s production of “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.” As we reached the glass doors to the Castle Theater with all the “good” MACC volunteers watching, we were informed for the first time that now the MACC had a zero tolerance policy for tardiness. Barry and I were ordered to leave!  At the time, we thought we were the first ever MACC volunteers to be treated in such a way. That turns out not to be quite true, but it didn’t reduce the shock at the time.   We are both well-educated professionals, white, relatively affluent — (I know I live in a protected bubble); we had volunteered hundreds of hours to the MACC  and without any warning, we were publicly humiliated!  I was hurt and angry.

Loving the MACC for its varied events and experiences and with our teaching and counseling backgrounds, I thought we could help the MACC staff develop positive ways to encourage prompt arrival, good training, and improved treatment of  volunteers and event attendees.   Barry, as the supportive husband and good idea man that he is, came with me as I asked for one and then after no results , a second meeting,  as we went up through the MACC hierarchy.

The MACC Administrators said that they weren’t interested in our ideas, weren’t responsible for other specific incidents I considered  unprofessional and unnecessary – including an event manager ramming from behind a man who was walking out the front MACC gates.   MACC administrators said that publicly humiliating us had worked. The habitually late volunteers hadn’t been late a single time since our dismissal.  Besides the MACC had plenty of other volunteers.  The event manager had just done as she had been instructed. The MACC Administration supported her.  One woman from the MACC executive office did say she was sorry for the way I felt, but neither she nor the event manager knew why I had been eliminated from the approved MACC volunteer notices.

Not wanting to be shamed by telling other people or somehow hurting the MACC’s reputation and blaming myself for being those few minutes late, I gave up – still humiliated, hurt and angry.  I told only a few really close friends and my sister about what had happened.  Nothing changed.   Barry moved on; I’m still angry.

But I’m telling now what happened to us at the MACC.  Some people get kicked out of bars; Barry and I got kicked out of being volunteers at the MACC – the institution in our community that brings art and culture to our lives.  The whole thing was ridiculous really.  Behind the scenes, the MACC isn’t so wonderful to some people.

Do you believe me?  If you don’t, I don’t really care.  It’s the truth.

And if you’ve read this far, I thank you for listening.

And –

I’m really tired of being “nice.”

I feel terrible that I wasn’t the advocate that I should have been for the young women college students.  I could have gone on to the college chancellor with the five young women and told. If that didn’t work, we could have kept talking until someone listened and acted.   I could have written to the head of the medical licensing board for Hawaii about the sleazy doctor and continued talking if that didn’t work.  I could have taken our experience at the MACC outside its walls.

For women, shame and the idea that whatever happens is our own fault is deeply embedded in our culture and starts at birth.

Why do some women wait – maybe years, maybe decades later to tell or perhaps never?  One woman I know recently revealed that starting when she was 11 years old, she and her sister were raped by their father for years.   Today the woman is 75 years old and only now is she telling!

Covering up the bad behavior of others doesn’t really help anyone.

Some of those U.S. Senators who  smeared and humiliated Anita Hill 27 years ago when she testified against Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas will be judging Dr. Christine Blasey Ford on her allegations against Brett Kavanaugh.

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Dr. Christine Blasey Ford  & Judge Brett Kavanaugh

Image from www.cnn.com/2018/09/23/politics/christine-blase-ford-senate/index.html

Is Dr. Ford telling the truth?   A resounding YES is my opinion – even if she has waited years to tell and didn’t tell her “loving parents”  – as our president disparagingly called them.  Of course, she wouldn’t have told.  I had loving parents too.

It would be just and reasonable to have an actual investigation – not the “he says,”  “she says” grilling by a Republican prosecuting attorney with no witnesses in front of the 21-member (17 of them white males) Senate Judiciary Committee that is now scheduled to happen Thursday – and no matter what happens in that Senate committee, the vote to confirm Kavanaugh is already scheduled for Friday.  I hope this makes you mad.

Hawaii Senator Mazie Hirono, Democrat, one of only four women on that Senate Judiciary Committee, said on Thursday, September 20th, “I just want to say to the men in this country: Just shut up and step up.  Do the right thing, for a change” (“The Maui News, 9/21/18, A 1).

01-Senator-Mazie-Hirono.w700.h467U.S. Senator, Mazie Hirono, Democrat, Hawaii

I wonder what kind of man Jeffery, my kindergarten classmate, grew up to be.  That creepy  doctor is unlikely have stopped his actions because he just got a letter from me. What about the male college student?  Do you think he learned anything from being called in to the Dean’s office and having the young women’s complaints dismissed?

Thank you to the #MeToo Movement, Anita Hill, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, and all the women and men in the world who speak out and speak up — and don’t give up.  And thanks to all the people who are listening and asking for justice.

We are flawed human beings.  We all make mistakes, but covering up for others, excusing with “boys will be boys” attitudes,  or pushing someone around because you can are not evolved ways to be and don’t help anyone grow or change.

We can together create a better world, but not if people feel they must stay quiet and can’t tell the truth – and when others don’t show respect or listen.

Good luck,  Dr. Ford. I’m wishing you strength.  Thank you for standing up.

But it is hard to change things alone.

The really frightening aspect of Brett Kavanaugh becoming a U.S. Supreme Court Justice is that he is only 54 years old, the appointment is for life, and his record is of an extremely conservative judge: against women’s rights, immigrant rights, environmental protection, gun restrictions .  . .

On this U.S. National Voter Registration Day, September 25, please

  • Make sure you are registered to vote,
  • Become an informed citizen on local, state, and national issues, and then
  • Vote on November 6, 2018.

Michael Moore’s new movie Fahrenheit 11/9 notes that 100 million Americans did not vote in the 2016 Presidential Election! Get informed — and make your voice heard!

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Let’s stand up, speak up, listen, and join others to make our voices heard — and create change that’s desperately needed.
And the idea behind telling need not be to catch someone doing something wrong so we can crucify the person, but to show the harm that has been done — and to come up with other ways to be and do.   Let our voices be the yardsticks to measure what is — and what could be.
In my MACC example, mainly I got my feelings hurt.  I’m sure to get over it especially now that others know, and I don’t feel isolated.  Perhaps the MACC Administration will consider other ways – more evolved ways – to act.  And I will move on – and forgive.
Also we must make space for people to tell the truth about misconduct.  We hope to learn and evolve.  What if, for instance, Bill Clinton had told the truth at the beginning of Monica Lewinsky’s allegations?  What if he said that he had made a mistake and that he was sorry?  We must provide space for people to tell the truth.
In the U.S, the environment is under attack; children are ripped from their parents; our taxes go to the military machine; our public education system is stressed.  Even at the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary (where I now volunteer most happily), we have lost two wonderful full-time staff members in the last few months because of budget cuts.  We have many issues to support.  Let’s put our energies together and work for good causes.  Be an informed voter – and see where you are most needed.  Your vote and your energy are needed.  What we each do matters, now and for the future.
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Aloha – in love and action, Renée

Banner photo:  Maui Arts and Cultural Center – photo mauiarts.org

Barry’s Gleanings: “Free California of Fossil Fuels” By Bill McKibben

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In a recent New York Times Opinion piece, environmentalist Bill McKibben,  founder of 350.org, a group seeking to build clean solutions for the world’s energy needs, notes the possibility and importance of California state legislation.

“The State Senate passed a measure last year that would commit California, the world’s fifth-largest economy, to running on 100 percent clean energy by 2045. Now it is up to the Assembly to provide crucial leadership by passing that legislation, S.B. 100. If any place on earth can handle this transition, it’s California, home to some of the planet’s strongest sunshine and many of its finest clean-tech entrepreneurs.

Already, thanks to strong efforts at efficiency and conservation and the falling price of solar power, the average California household spends almost 50 percent less on energy than the average family in, say, Louisiana. But unless the Assembly passes S.B. 100 before the current session ends, much of that momentum will evaporate. After great organizing (including from my colleagues at 350.org chapters across the state), 72 percent of Californians back the bill; it’s now a test of confidence versus cravenness for members of the Assembly.

The governor, Jerry Brown, has been strangely quiet on S.B. 100, which is odd since it should be the no-brainer capstone to his clean-energy endeavors. After the governor’s years of leading efforts to deal with the demand side of the energy equation, activists are now also demanding he show equal attention to the supply side. His administration routinely grants new permits for oil and gas drilling, leading not only to more carbon emissions but also to drill rigs and derricks next to the houses, schools and hospitals of the state’s poorest residents: From rural Kern County to south-central Los Angeles, nearly 70 percent of the people living near wells are minorities. . . “

See the complete article at –

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/08/opinion/fires-california-fossil-fuels.html?hpw&rref=opinion&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&module=well-

Aloha, Barry (and Renee)

P.S. Thanks, Sue for sending this article to us.

Image by: Mikey Burton

 

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