Michener’s “Hawaii”

September 14, 2008

Flag of Ka Lahui Hawai’i movement

Last night we watched the beautiful but disturbing film based on James Michener’s epic novel “Hawaii.” It focuses on a hell-bound, er, heaven-bound missionary (played by Max Von Sydow) who is determined to convert the “heathens” of Hawaii to Christianity. It underlines the dangers and ugliness of such endeavors. Our hatred for this minister grew through the movie to the point where we kept threatening to turn off the movie itself. By imposing literal interpretation of the bible onto an otherwise happy, loving and spiritual people, his efforts ruined a culture and killed hundreds of thousands by bringing measles to the islands. Although history and science have proved that incestuous relationships are biologically a bad idea, using the bible to justify splitting the king and queen of Hawaii put a bad light on that great book.

We also watched a locally made DVD that outlines the history of Kauai. In it, a senior Hawaiian ultimately thanked those early missionaries for bringing Christianity to Hawaii. But a terrific resource for information about Hawaii that I found at the house we are renting “Atlas of Hawaii” 3rd edition states:

The biggest challenge to the political-economic establishment of today is the Hawaiian sovereignity movement. Emerging in the 1980s to demand control over Hawaiian life and lands, the movement developed from the Hawaiian cultural renaissance that followed statehood, restoring a sense of pride in being Hawaiian. During the territorial years, Hawaiian culture and language were disvalued––as were other non-white cultures––and Hawaiian language was suppressed. White American culture was promoted as the ideal, and many Hawaiians grew up ashamed of their heritage. While the Democratic political revolution brought economic success for Chinese and Japanese, Hawaiians stayed disproportionately at the bottom of the socioeconomic scale. In reaction, Hawaiians revived traditional music and hula in the 1960s and their native language in the 1980s. […] Ka Lahui Hawai’i is the largest sovereignty organization, claiming a membership of 21,000 citizens in 1996. It is working to gain control of the Hawaiian lands ceded to the United States at annexation and is opposed to large-scale development by outsiders, favoring instead development based within the Hawaiian community.

As much as I love having Hawaii as part of the United States, after seeing “Hawaii” I support Ka Lahui Hawai’i. If you have never been to Hawaii, visit it and see what a magical miracle this place is.

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