Repeated several times on CNN news this morning were the compelling stories of American hostages being held by the government in North Korea, as well as by ISIS terrorists in Syria. Anyone listening to their pleas for release must feel compassion for them and for their loved ones back home. No one would want to trade places with either the captives or their families.
I must confess that while my immediate reaction is one of sympathy, there’s also a niggling feeling that Americans tend to take risks without sufficient thought as to the consequences. Yes, I’m sure they reflect upon the matter, but not enough to dissuade them from their course it seems.
For better or worse, we Americans tend to think we can go anywhere, do anything. We rationalize our thinking by either following our God-given right to do so, or our sense of morality. Meanwhile, we don’t take into account that other cultures might feel the same way about their rights and moral obligations.
That I can understand the other side’s viewpoint is perhaps owing to the fact that the Hawaiian Islands, my birthplace, were annexed by the United States against the will of the reigning Monarch, Queen Liliuokalani, and the majority of natives.
Of course the transaction was not a simple one. It never is. There was enough finger-pointing to go around. However, the Western businessmen who prodded the U.S. Congress and President Cleveland into making Hawaii a Republic had railed against the natives as being ignorant heathens unable to rule themselves.
Of the 150,000 Hawaiian residents, fewer than 800 were allowed to vote for the ratification of the Republic of Hawaii.
“Why is that?” you ask.
King Kalakaua, the queen’s predecessor, was unable to secure the intervention of other foreign powers to help thwart the efforts of his opponents. He was forced to sign into law a constitution which required voters to own property. It became known as the Bayonet Constitution. According to the well-written book Princess Kaiulani, Hope of a Nation, Heart of a People by Sharon Linnea…
This effectively took the vote away from most native Hawaiians and gave it to virtually every Western businessman, even those who weren’t citizens. Why did so few Hawaiians own land? For centuries, Hawaiian land had been overseen by the alii and his people–the concept of owning land was completely foreign to Hawaiians. When Western businessmen had begun to want to own Hawaiian property (and reap Hawaiian sugar profits), land formerly governed by alii had been parceled out to the Hawaiian people. Native Hawaiians, often unable to read English, had had no understanding of how a piece of paper could mean that they “owned” mountains or lakes or coastland, and they had been happy to sell the deeds to Westerners for cash in hand. In this way, many Hawaiians had ended up homeless in their own country. Now, according to the new constitution, the Westerners had bought up votes along with the land. The running of the country would now be in their hands.
Yes. I have empathy for fellow Americans who find themselves in life or death situations. However my eyes are also open to those who might feel we are trespassing upon their territory, their religion, their culture. So the fact that our government must tread lightly when our citizens find themselves on hostile turf is not altogether unexpected.
…the days of the wild, wild west…are no more.
(Photo courtesy of Wikipedia)