long gone…the wild, wild west…

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.

………hugmamma.

(Photo courtesy of Wikipedia)

 

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like flies buzzing around…inside my brain

A proud mother watches from afar as Prince Wil...

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One more thought before I finally end all discussion about Sarah Bradford’s Diana – Finally, The Complete Story. It centers upon her devotion to her sons, William and Harry. Not that there ever were any doubts. But first-hand testimony of a heretofore, unheard from source, only strengthens the universally held belief that the Princess of Wales excelled at mothering. 

According to Meredith Etherington-Smith, then marketing director of Christie’s Worldwide, who from September 1996 to July 1997 helped Diana prepare for the sale of her gowns to aid her favorite charities:

Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother

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The British Royal Family in 1880.

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One thing she did take seriously was her role first as mother to the boys and second, as Meredith put it, as the Queen Mother of the twenty-first century. ‘Her relationship with the boys was patently a wonderful one…She was a very good mother. I expected them to be more protective of her than they were, and they weren’t, they weren’t mewling and puking and clustering round her. They didn’t have a neurotic relationship. It seemed to me to be perfectly healthy and normal and nice and a great tribute of all to Diana and secondly to Charles.’ ‘Constitutional plans–well, she felt her long-distance role was to be the Queen Mother of the twenty-first century, that the influence the Queen Mother had had on her grandchildren in a way, she felt that was the kind of role which in a curious way she had been chosen for and one did feel that there was a bit of divine right entering into this, a little bit of fate. And she felt that William should be a democratic King, that the boys needed to have friends, that they needed to know their generation, they needed to know politicians, not just Tory ones, that they needed to know the Blair children. They needed to be part of contemporary English life, not an English life that was really out of date by the end of the war–and I’m paraphrasing some quite long conversations about this. And her job was to make sure they were released from the glass cage, and that when he did come to the throne, a lot of people would know him, and he wouldn’t be a mystery, wouldn’t be a royal freak, that he would be a person. I think that she very much thought she would be a power behind the throne…Diana emphasized her desire that William should be a ‘very English King‘: she felt that her Spencer blood had a lot to contribute. ‘She felt that because of the spider’s web of marital alliances and blood they (the Royal Family) weren’t English. “I come from an English family,” she had said proudly, and “we (the Spencers) are a lot older than they are.” She was very proud of the Duke of Marlborough, for instance.

The Prince Willam Cup. The trophy that is cont...

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Who is hotter? Prince Harry or Prince William?

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Diana was very anxious that her boys should not become isolated as the previous royal generation had been, as indeed their father had been. That was why she had wanted the boys, and William in particular, to go to Eton because they would have proper friends there and not sycophants, ‘Diana said, “There’s no messing around at Eton about someone being the heir to the throne. If you’re not popular, charming, intelligent, or good at games, you’re not going to rate, are you?” And so William knows a lot of people. And the interesting thing about that she said, “I think they’ll be protection, those friends too. They’ve grown up together and they’ll be protective.” And they are. You don’t see grab shots of William that often, and why? Because his friends don’t utter. She’d thought all this through. That’s what I mean by being smart.’ ‘They had money which they carried and spent and they went shopping. In other words she was trying to provide as normal a life as possible–they could come out from behind the glass window, and that was her great legacy.’

Princess Diana dancing with John Travolta in t...

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Princess Diana

 Why would Princess Diana be so forthcoming with Etherington-Smith, you ask? Probably because she was older, very much like her other confidantes, Lady Annabel Goldsmith and Margueritte Littman. “Meredith surmised that Diana was very comfortable in the company of older women. ‘I think possibly, without being too psychotherapeutic about it, because of the lack of a mother…most of her confidantes apart from Rosa Monckton, were actually older women…and I think she felt very comfortable, they weren’t competition, they were fun and she could become slightly girly with them without the baggage of “I’m the most beautiful person in the world”…’ “

Another random, final, or maybe not so final, thought occurred as I lay awake last night, reading I Love You, Ronnie. President Reagan had a very human, extremely sentimental side. Apart from his family and a few close friends of the couple, I’m sure no one suspected what a great romantic he was, and how he could wax so poetic. At the same time, however, his vulnerability as a human being comes through. To know that the man who could dial up a third world war lay bare his soul in love letters to his wife, is hugely touching. I find myself remembering Ronald Reagan as President, but trying to imagine this newly revealed man behind the strong facade. What I picture is someone like my husband, my father-in-law, friends in high corporate positions. Not only them, but husbands and fathers the world over who, to the best of their abilities, care for their families.

Ronald Reagan and Nancy Reagan aboard an Ameri...

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The following letter was from a man to his wife, his best friend. It’s a letter any man could’ve written, in fact. This one just happened to be from a President to his First Lady, although at the time he was a working stiff, and she was a housewife.

Ronald Reagan
Pacific Palisades
Thurs. (May 24, 1963)

My darling
     Last night we had our double telephone call and all day (I didn’t work) I’ve been re-writing the story of my life as done by Richard Hubler. Tomorrow I’ll do my last day of location and then I’ll call you and I’ll tell you I love you and I’ll mean it but somehow because of the inhibitions we all have I won’t feel that I’ve expressed all that you really mean to me.
     Whether Mike helps buy his first car or spends the money on sports coats isn’t really important. We both want to get him started on a road that will lead to his being able to provide for himself. In x number of years we’ll face the same problem with The Skipper and somehow we’ll probably find right answers. (Patti is another kind of problem and we’ll do all we can to make that one right, too.) But what is really important is that having fulfilled our responsibilities to our offspring we haven’t been careless with the treasure that is ours–namely what we are to each other.
     Do you know that when you sleep you curl your fists up under your chin and many mornings when it is barely dawn I lie facing you and looking at you until finally I have to touch you ever so lightly so you won’t wake up–but touch you I must or I’ll burst?

Cropped screenshot of Ann Blyth from the trail...

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     Just think: I’ve discovered I can be fond of Ann Blyth because she and her Dr. seem to have something of what we have. Of course it can’t really be as wonderful for them because she isn’t you but still it helps to know there are others who might just possibly know a little about what it’s like to love someone so much that it seems as if I have my hand stretched clear across the mountains and desert until it’s holding your hand there in our room in front of the fireplace.
     Probably this letter will reach you only a few hours before I arrive myself, but not really because right now as I try to say what is in my heart I think my thoughts must be reaching you without waiting for paper and ink and stamps and such. If I ache, it’s because we are apart and yet that can’t be because you are inside and a part of me, so we aren’t really apart at all. Yet I ache but wouldn’t be without the ache, because that would mean being without you and that I can’t be because I love you.

Your Husband

Queen Mother Rose

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…would that all men could, and would, …..bare their souls
…..without flinching ….. at the thought ….. hugmamma.

england’s monarchy…still relevant?

Prince William and Kate Middleton

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Thought I’d poll readers of hugmamma’s mind, body and soul as to your opinion about the relevance of the British monarchy going forward? What prompted my curiosity is that Bill Cafferty of CNN just revealed that a poll taken by anti-monarchy supporters showed that only 3% of Brits will be tuned into coverage of the wedding between William and Kate. Forty-six percent said they could care less. While only their countrymen know for sure why the disinterest, I wondered if you’d weigh in on the discussion.

As I indicated in the previous post, “entrepreneurialship..the royal connection,” I’m definitely up for the entertainment factor. Prince meets commoner, falls in love, and makes her his princess. I mean I grew up reading fairy tales, imagining my handsome knight in white armor would carry me off to his princely castle, on his magnificent steed. That romantic notion has been imbedded into my brain cells for more than half-a-century. So for me, being happy for Kate is part of the fibre of who I am.

Sleeping rough

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On the other hand, the wealth of the monarchy in an economy where the masses over whom they are figurehead rulers, makes me wonder about its morality. Just as I’ve difficulty stomaching the upper echelons of society everywhere, having billions to pad their lifestyles, while the majority of the world lives in poverty, I can’t imagine twenty-something year olds William and Kate continuing the inheritance of wealth when people their age are sleeping rough,” as the prince himself has witnessed.

Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II X

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But the decision is not mine to make, it belongs in the hands of English citizens…like Sylvia. And I know her opinion in the matter. But what’s yours? Leave a comment and we’ll see what “hugmamma’s” poll reveals. No comments will indicate the topic’s irrelevant.

can’t wait to see…what you think…

…..still relevant?…..hugmamma.

Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip visiting ...

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“george, who would be king”

Enjoyed another great night at the movies with close friends Sylvia and Jim. She and I were particularly keen to see “The King’s Speech.” Sylvia was a subject during the rule of George VI and was, therefore, very excited to see the film’s portrayal of England’s beloved monarch and his queen. Revisiting her homeland by way of the vivid photography was an added bonus. I’m a devoted fan of Colin Firth who acted the part of the king. But I too wanted to see what George VI was really like, the man beneath the crown. I’d heard of his speech impediment, but wanted to learn more about it, and how such an introvert as he, dealt with the problem. Our spouses were on the fence about the film, but decided to accompany us. They were both very happy they did.

Colin Firth did not disappoint, nor did Geoffrey Rush as the king’s speech therapist, Lionel Lough. Firth’s handling of the king’s prominent stutter was excruciatingly realistic. It pained me to watch him struggle to speak. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but the dilemma to form words and emit them naturally were so physically apparent. Firth’s eyes bulged and teared, beads of sweat sprung up on his forehead and beneath his squinting eyes. He seemed unable to breathe at times, the words sticking in his throat. I felt his dizziness, his nausea. I wanted to collapse alongside him, under the weight to speak publicly as the people’s sovereign, especially when he announced that England was joining the war against Hitler.

A great actor, but not necessarily a favorite of mine, Geoffrey Rush acted the role of Mr. Lough with eloquence and restraint. If you’re not well acquainted with Rush, you might remember him as Johnny Depp’s nemesis in the “Pirates of the Caribbean” movies, Barbossa, captain of the haunted ship, the “Black Pearl.” In this role and others previous, Rush seems verbose, wordy. In “The King’s Speech,” he spoke in reaction to Firth. The part of therapist was to encourage the king to speak, a lot.

As the story unfolded, it was apparent that Lough’s value to King George VI transcended the professional. Lough became mentor, confessor, friend, and “family” to the king. They remained so, for the rest of their lives. As is so like me, I shed silent tears here and there.

How sad that George VI’s difficult childhood contributed to his stuttering. How sad that his brother abdicated with little thought to the burden he was placing upon George, who would be king. But how wonderful that he had his wife and daughters, and Lionel Lough to love and support him throughout his reign. And, of course, the overwhelming love of a grateful people.

a beautiful and touching “fairytale,” deserving of an “oscar” for all involved…hugmamma.

preservation of a people

Prominently featured alongside “Google Agonizes on Privacy As Ad World Vaults Ahead,” is another article, “In Alaska, a Frenchman Fights to Revive the Eyak’s Dead Tongue.” It’s undeniable that the internet giant Google is more relevant to millions worldwide. But for me, the struggle to keep a native people from disappearing altogether is of greater significance to humankind. Obviously the editors of the Wall Street Journal feel both Google and the Eyak’s deserve equal attention by deciding to feature both on today’s front page. Kudos to the Journal!

Twenty-one year old, French, college student Guillaume Leduey, proficient in French, English, German, Chinese and Georgian, and able to sing one Lithuanian song, has made it his mission to save the Alaskan Eyak language from extinction. “Mr. Leduey’s Eyak odyssey began at age 12, when he happened on the language while trolling through an online dictionary of languages in his hometown of Le Havre. By searching more online, he discovered Eyak appeared to have only one native speaker, Ms. Jones. ‘I was like, “Wow, one speaker left. I must do something to learn the language,” ‘ Mr. Leduey says. His parents were less than thrilled. ‘They don’t think it’s useful,’ he says.”

An aspiring sculptor, Leduey had never left Europe until June when he made the trip to Alaska to study with 75-year-old Michael Krauss, a linguistics professor at the University of Alaska who knows conversational Eyak. “While as many as 20 native dialects remain in Alaska, Mr. Krauss says Eyak is considered extinct because there are no fluent, native speakers.” Sequestered in a room together for 5 hours each day, they pored over Eyak documents. As a diversion, Leduey sang Eyak songs to the professor’s Norwich Terrier, Scamper.

Immersing himself into the culture, Leduey journeyed to Cordova, “where the Eyaks made their last stand against being swallowed up by civilization.” Rival Tlingits helped white settlers in the takeover of the Eyak territory. Some part-natives took Leduey to visit a demolished village site and Child’s Glacier, a natural attraction. There a harbor seal leapt out of the icy waters to which he exclaimed “Keeltaak,” the Eyak word for the animal. To complement his education, Leduey learned the tradition of cooking salmon in the ground. He dug a shallow pit in the front yard of an Eyak descendant, then tended a crackling fire in which 2 red salmon roasted in giant skunk cabbage leaves. Still raw after 90 minutes, however, the salmon were thrown into the oven to finish cooking.

Several have sought lessons from Leduey, like 50-year-old Mr. Lankard and 53-year-old Ms. Curry.  Her “…mother, Marie Smith Jones, was considered by Alaska historians the last native Eyak speaker when she died in 2008. Her descendants and others didn’t become fluent in the language because of a stigma around speaking anything other than English in Alaska’s native villages.” Curry, eyes brimming with tears, viewed a film in which her mother spoke in the Eyak tongue at a tribal ceremony. To understand the words, however, Curry turned to Leduey to translate. She thanked him saying that it was beautiful. To which he replied “It’s a pleasure to be here. Thank you God. ” Curry feels that learning her native language, which had been passed down through storytelling,  is the right thing to do now in spite of the past stigma. “‘This will help keep my mom’s memory and spirit alive.”

The extinction of the Eyak language and potentially its culture, reminds me of my childhood growing up in Maui in the 50’s. My mom was a native who spoke Hawaiian fluently with her family and native friends. She did not, however, speak it with us, her children. Prominent, powerful landowners were lobbying to make Hawaii the 50th state, for obvious business reasons. To support these efforts speaking English and studying  American History were a mandatory part of school curriculums. Our native language and culture were virtually squelched.

As her friends passed away, my mom had fewer and fewer people with whom to speak Hawaiian. Long before she died, she had ceased speaking it, having lost much for lack of use. Not until long after my husband and I graduated from college and moved away from Hawaii, did a movement among the natives slowly bring about a resurgence in an appreciation for the language and the culture. Today they are taught in schools statewide, including at the University of Hawaii. Proud of their culture, islanders are more than happy to share their food, song and dance with new communities, when they relocate to other parts of the country.

While there is a strong comparison between the plight of the Eyaks and that of the Hawaiians, the latter did not face extinction. Westernization did not eradicate their culture. It was ingrained as much in the land, as it was in the people themselves. The gods of the earth, sky and sea would not relinquish their hold, nor would the natives abandon their attachment to the islands without bloodshed. That is the history of the Hawaiians. And it has been preserved through the ages by the monarchy, and following their demise, by natives and others  loyal to their memory. Kamehameha School has long been an institution dedicated to educating children of native descent, not only in the academics but in all aspects of Hawaiian heritage. It remains at the forefront of yielding young adults not only well versed in their own culture, but in the world-at-large.  And they confidently take their place in society, a credit to their native roots.

We should applaud the efforts of Guillaume Leduey for taking on the preservation of a culture almost singlehandedly. It seems when others ask “Why?” Leduey asks “Why not?”

a people depend upon it, that’s why…hugmamma.