building empires…

English: Photograph of a mural entitled Indian...

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Like pioneers circling their wagons preparing against an Indian attack, my thoughts gathered round until, once in formation, the idea for this post was born. I only tell you this so that you understand…there is no let-up whatsoever for my weary brain. It’s working, nearly 24/7.

I’m not a builder of empires. Perhaps being the youngest of 9, there was no one whom I could lead. Remember, practice makes perfect. Obviously I wasn’t able to practice…at home.

Here and there, I did get to be a leader among friends and classmates. Being the youngest sibling, I had an uphill struggle. I wasn’t use to being at the front of the pack. When I was, I found it nice…yet somehow uncomfortable. Head alpha was not the skin into which I’d been born. Getting it to fit involved a lot of talking…to myself.

I’ve not changed, even as an adult. I’ve a lot of great ideas…with an overworked brain like mine…I’ve no choice. But when I have the opportunity to get up on the box to expound about this, that and the other, I like to have others standing up there with me. Call it comfort, call it insane, call it whatever you like. I’ve never, ever enjoyed having the spotlight…all to myself.

Catholic Cross JesusThose who know me well can confirm that I will tout the virtues of my husband and daughter until the earth implodes…before I ever talk about my own. I couldn’t even tell you what my own virtues might be. I’ve never taken the time to think along those lines. I say that because I’ve never felt confident enough. Still don’t. Remember I’m Catholic-educated, having been taught to renounce false pride. And I had a mom who had her hands full to overflowing…without having to include boosting my ego to her “to do” list.

Baby-boomers understand. We knew to just get out there, suck it up, and do what we needed to do…to survive. Street smarts meant picking up whatever we needed, however we could, from whatever resources we found. Along with that, however, comes a lot of bad information…which, unfortunately, sticks…as friend and fellow blogger, jeanne,  http://nolagirlatheart.wordpress.com mentioned in a comment recently.

My own bad info led to my discomfort at being in charge of more than 1 or 2 people. I know I would’ve been a compassionate leader. I’ve had many an opportunity to manage in my career path but always failed to go the distance, because I felt insecure with power…and found it difficult to dictate to others. 

Instead I have delighted in managing my family of 3…with me at the helm in many ways…enabling my husband and daughter to be the natural-born leaders they were meant to be. And they do amazing jobs. Their bosses, peers and subordinates will testify to that.

Moses with the tablets of the Ten Commandments...

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While I may not relish physically sitting in a position of authority, I’m equally resistant to being led down a path I do not choose for myself. Very resistant. My mom was the last person to whom I ever relinquished the control panel…and I fought tooth and nail before I gave in. She was my mom, after all. And remember, I’m a Catholic. The fourth Commandment says “Honor thy father and thy mother.” I had a hard time getting around that one.

When my mom passed, I slowly began to find my own voice. I refused to succumb to any one’s demands anymore. It didn’t come easily. I spent many, many, many years arguing with myself. Still do on occasion. But my husband and daughter are my sounding boards, giving me the courage to believe in my own thoughts and perceptions and decisions.

Aristotle tutoring Alexander

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There are those who are proficient as little emperors.” Napoleon was one; Hitler another. I’m sure there were others not as bombastic as these, who may even have done a world of good. I think Alexander the Great might have been one. I’d have to ask my husband; he watches the History Channel 24/7…except if there’s a football game he’s interested in seeing.

Amongst us peons, I’ve observed that there are those who engage in empire building. I don’t think they’re aware they’re doing it, it’s just that they’re born to lead and don’t mind doing so. They’ve strong personalities; they may not have a bottomless reservoir of patience; and they probably prefer getting things done, rather than waiting around for others. What makes them successful, is their unwavering self confidence. They know, without a doubt, that they’re right for the job. They don’t need to be convinced and they’re more than willing to lead others. More power to them. If they are compassionate leaders…I’ve no complaints.

I can’t build empires; I’ve not the stomach nor the stamina for it. In my own little queendom (new word?)…I rule with a lot of hugs and kisses…and tears. My daughter swears my tear ducts are directly tied to my heartstrings. Guess I’m a…

 

The Great Dictator

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…mushy dictator………hugmamma.  😉

 

 

 

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.

street paper, off-the-beaten-track news

 

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Picked up Seattle’s street paper, Real Change, from a vendor I’ve now seen for the second time outside the local Trader Joe’s supermarket. I’ll have to ask his name the next time; he’s very helpful, pushing empty carts back into their storage areas. He even came running as I dashed between the rain drops, taking the cart and returning it for me. 

A dollar per newspaper isn’t cheap by today’s standards, and I usually hand over $2 for one paper. I can’t help but feel it’s such a small price to pay to help another human being get by. But in addition to this feel good gesture, I look forward to finding “small stories” that are absent from mainstream media. To my pleasant surprise, Real Change ran an article about Hawaii and the white man’s role in its history.

Anyone who has read or heard anything substantive about Hawaii’s history, will probably  empathize with the natives who were out-maneuvered in terms of land wealth and self-governance. Unfortunately theirs is not a unique story; the Native Americans tell a similar one. Both have the same unhappy endings, although the Indians are making a tremendous comeback with their casinos.

But the romanticism of bygone days living off the land, taking only what was needed for sustenance, allowing Mother Earth to care for all species equally, was brought to an abrupt end. Buffalo were killed making way for trains, and the Indians were corralled onto Reservations, becoming the first recipients of government welfare.

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“Saying hello to the Aloha State‘s complicated history” is an interview with author Sarah Vowell. Guessing from the accompanying photo, she looks to be in her early 30’s. I was impressed to think someone her age was so attuned to the sad events that had transpired in my ancestral history. But when I learned that Vowell is part Cherokee, I understood her interest in Hawaii’s dealings with the white man. To do her voice justice, I am letting the author of Unfamiliar Fishes speak for herself.

Cover of

Cover of The Wordy Shipmates

Cover of

Cover of Assassination Vacation

Sarah Vowell is a very, very busy person. She’s the New York Times bestselling author of “Assassination Vacation” and “The Wordy Shipmates,” a frequent contributor to Public Radio International‘s “This American Life” and she serves on the board of Dave Egger’s educational nonprofit organization 826NYC. She even lent her trademark deadpan vocal delivery to Pixar’s 2004 animated feature “The Incredibles.”

Vowell’s writing combines conventions of history, journalism and tongue-in-cheek satire that is often as hilarious as it is thought-provoking. She revels in the absurdities and contradictions of American history, exposing the hypocrasies of power while remaining personally committed to the ideals upon which our democracy was founded. Her latest book, “Unfamiliar Fishes,” explores the history of Hawaii, and the American missionaries, sailors, plantation owners and imperialists who arrived on its shores in the 19th century. Vowell recently took some time out of her busy schedule to discuss her work with Real Change. …

What is the historical significance of the glop of macaroni salad on a Hawaiian plate lunch?
On a Hawaiian plate lunch, which is a traditional mixed plate that is served throughout the Hawaiian islands, there is always a scoop of macaroni salad along with two scoops of Japanese style rice and then some sort of Asian or Polynesian fish or meat. The macaroni salad is this little American anomaly amidst that Pacific smorgasbord and the whole lunch hints at the multiethnic saga that is the history of Hawaii, starting with the arrival of the New England missionaries in 1820 and going up through the 19th century when the missionaries and their offspring founded the sugar plantations that became the foundation of the Hawaiian economy for about a century. And for those plantations to run, those New Englanders and their descendants had to import labor from all over the world–Japan, China, the Philippines and Korea–but also Portugal, and to a lesser extent Norway. My book is mostly about those people: the Haole, the Caucasians, the Americans who showed up and changed the islands. And so a glop of macaroni salad is not just a glop of macaroni salad: It’s indicative of centuries of change.

How do the words “aloha” and “haole” represent the differences between Hawaiian and Western cultures?
“Aloha” is to my mind the most Hawaiian word, and on the mainland we just hear that it means “hello” and “goodbye,” which is true and it also basically means “love.” But, literally translated, it has to do with the word “breath.” It can mean “the breath of life,” and the reason it’s said as a greeting is that the traditional Polynesian greeting is when two people touch noses and then literally breathe each other in.

Now the word “haole”–which also contains that word “ha,” the word for breath–there’s a sort of old wives’ tale or myth that the word “haole” connotes “without breath,” because the first Westerners who came to the islands, they did not greet one another in traditional Hawaiian. So, it’s supposed to be symbolic of how alienated the white people are from the breath of life. But really, it’s an old word and it can mean anything non-native including plants or animals. The story that I tell in the book is basically about the coming of the white people in general and the New Englanders in particular. These people changed the islands and a lot of native Hawaiians think for the worse. Besides their ideas about Christianity, capitalism and private land ownership, they also brought with them their diseases, which had a devastating effect on the native population, just as it did in the Americas. So the coming of the whites to Hawaii is a pretty complicated story and there’s some resentment toward those people on the part of native Hawaiians, which I find understandable.

Native Hawaiians

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Generally though, Hawaii is a pretty easy-going, accepting place, and because of its multiethnic heritage, it is wildly integrated, especially compared to the rest of the country. It’s rare to find someone who was born in Hawaii who is just one race. Even the people who identify as native Hawaiian might have Chinese grandparents and American grandparents. But the origins of that are kind of nefarious. The reason that so many different kinds of people were shipped there wasn’t because the sugar plantation owners had this “It’s a small world after all” mentality. Their goal was to bring in workers from as many different places as possible because they felt that people who  spoke different languages were less likely to organize against the plantation owners.

How did the arrival of the New England missionaries in 1820 affect the institutions of Hawaiian society?
Radically. Those missionaries, they were smart people. As New Englanders, they were pretty democratic: Their only goal was to usher as many people into heaven as possible and they didn’t care whether those people were commoners or chiefs. But they recognized that because Hawaiian society was so hierarchical, they were going to have to convert and convince the monarchs and the other aristocrats first. And by sucking up to the ruling class, one major impact the missionaries had on society at large was convincing the Hawaiian government to outlaw fornication and adultery and to regulate liquor. Just as the first New England missionaries arrived, the first New England whalers had pretty much opposite goals than the missionaries, and so the Hawaiians got to witness Americans at our worst, at both our most puritanical and our most Orlando spring break.

Then, when the missionaries and their offspring started the sugar plantations, that completely revolutionized the Hawaiian landscape. They built these complicated, engineered irrigation ditches and diverted water so that places that had been dusty dry plains and near deserts became green with sugar cane. In traditional Hawaiian society, land had been held communally and was managed by the chief in concert with the commoners, but with the sugar trade, it became the American capitalist system of plantations overseen and owned mostly by white people and worked mostly by foreign workers. The native Hawaiians were increasingly shut out of their land and the Hawaiian population was decimated by as much as 80, maybe 90 percent, just by disease, so it’s hard to overemphasize how much impact the haoles had on Hawaiian life, government, culture, everything.

You write about David Malo as a figure who embodies the transitional period of Hawaiian history between traditional culture and Westernization. How does his life and work capture this?
Well, he’s a really interesting figure, and probably because he’s a writer, I really identify with him. When the first missionaries showed up, he was pretty old. He was nearing 30 when they taught him to read and write, and he happened to be, luckily, one of the Hawaiians who had been the keepers of the oral tradition. So he knew all the old chants and genealogies and was intimately aware and knowledgeable of all the old customs and the stories of the old chiefs and priests and the old religion. So after the missionaries taught him to read and write, he wrote “Hawaiian Antiquities.” He also became a very devout Christian and was eventually ordained as a minister.

But later in life, he still had nostalgia for the old ways even though he (was) a true servant of Jesus Christ. He wrote this rather melancholy letter to some Hawaiian friends that I quote in the title to my book: “If a big wave comes in, large and unfamiliar fishes will come from the dark ocean and when they see the small fishes of the shallows they will eat them up.” And it turned out to be the truth. When he died, he asked to be buried up this hill that was really hard to get to because he just wanted to be where no white man would build a house. But his book is really quite beautiful.

Native Hawaiians

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The events leading up to the U.S. annexation of Hawaii were driven by the opposing ideals of Lorrin Thurston and Queen Liliuokalani. Can you explain the political and cultural conflicts between these two figures?
Lorrin Thurston’s major problem with Queen Liliuokalani was just that she was a queen. Even though he was born in Hawaii and because he was a descendant of the missionaries, the whole idea of monarchy was just something to disdain. And that is something I can kind of identify with. To me, there’s no inherent value in monarchy. That said, the Hawaiian kingdom was an established constitutional monarchy and as monarchies go, it was wildly inclusive. I mean, the Hawaiian monarchs welcomed all these foreigners into their kingdom and into their government, including Thurston.

Ship's landing force at the time of the overth...

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Although to me there’s nothing inherently great about a queen, she was, I think, for that time and place, pretty much the ideal ruler. She was an impressive person who was schooled by the missionaries, so she was a very devout Christian who at the same time was a very proud and knowledgeable native Hawaiian. So by the time the queen became the queen she was plotting to reverse that constitution which had also severely limited native Hawaiians’ right to vote for their representatives. That’s when Thurston and his pals conspired to oust her to support their own sham of a constitution. Even though she had overwhelming native support, the native population was in such decline that there just weren’t enough of them to put up much of a fight.

The Three Cherokee. Came over from the head of...

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You write about a double-sided view of American history that you have come to know through your own experience. How does Hawaii represent this notion of America as two places at once?
I’m part Cherokee and was born in Oklahoma because some of my ancestors were forced by the U.S. Army at gunpoint to march across the country in what came to be called the Trail of Tears. So, that’s always been a little bit of a caveat to the story of American exceptionalism that I was certainly taught in school. You know, I’m all for self-government and the First Amendment and all that stuff–but there’s always a part of me that knows firsthand about the failures of those ideals.

The annexation of Hawaii, as many of the dissenters of the time pointed out, really does contradict the ideals put forth in the Declaration of Independence. In 1898, when the U.S. annexed Hawaii along with Guam and Puerto Rico and invaded the Philippines and Cuba, we became a global empire overnight. A group of Americans, a lot of them in the highest echelons of the government, were more concerned with power and greatness than our core ideals of republican forms of government. One of those men was Henry Cabot Lodge and he gave (this speech) in 1900 to poo-poo all of the anti-imperialist sissies where he just demolished the idea that consent of the governed is even possible. He talked about Thomas Jefferson, the author of that phrase, being the greatest expansionist in American history who, when he negotiated the Louisiana Purchase, acquired the biggest chunk of land at once that we had ever acquired, and it didn’t even occur to him to ask the consent of all the French colonials and Indians who were living out on that vast continent he had just taken over. So, I think Lodge sort of has a point.

It is interesting to me that throughout American history, this idea of government based on the consent of the governed is at our core, but also this contradictory process of expansion. The Hawaiian annexation definitely is a part of that because the Hawaiian people, once annexation was afoot, they rallied and collected thousands and thousands of signatures and sent them to Congress, protesting annexation. It was definitely something that the Hawaiian people were completely against and yet the United States annexed those islands anyway. So, I guess in that sense it jibes with my view of the country as having these lofty ideals that we frequently betray.

Interviewed by Robert Alford
Contributing Writer           

“free at last, free at last,…we are free at last!!!”

Another place, another time, Martin Luther King proclaimed the freedom of African-Americans from slavery’s lynch-hold.

Today Egyptians have realized the decimation of Hosnei Mubarack’s stranglehold on their lives. But while King and his followers protested nonviolently with as much support as they could muster, the cause to free the Egyptian people from their leader’s tyranny was embraced by millions via the internet. 

Thirty-eight-year-old Wael Ghonim, marketing director for technology giant Google, spearheaded the campaign to free his countrymen from 30 years of suppression and hopelessness. No longer able to distance himself from their plight, Ghonim felt compelled to help, even risking his own security and comfort, and that of his wife and kids. Instant viewing of global images on YouTube these days seems to uphold the truism, that there’s “safety in numbers.” So perhaps Ghonim knew that the rewards reaped would far outweigh the risk in which he was willing to engage. 

“A digital revolution,” as one news pundit explained of Mubarak’s removal by his people. The internet has leveled the playing field, allowing the “Davids” of the world to successfully take aim and bring down the “Goliaths.” My earlier post “give up the internet?” published on 2/7/11, pondered the inevitable loss of a simpler life, when technology came to dominate.  

These last 18 days have shown the internet to be a weapon in the hands of the masses. Egypt‘s next generation, fed up with a government they didn’t countenance, and armed with useless college degrees, expressed their contempt for the status quo. They voiced their vehemence on Facebook, the online social networking system. From this global vantage point a phenomenal movement grew. As a result, President Mubarak is history.

“Aided and abetted” by technology, Oprah Winfrey, a black woman, garnered unimaginable power from the masses who identified with her. “Aided and abetted” by technology, the Tea Party Movement born out of the disenchantment of Americans for their government, has the power to make and break political careers. “Aided and abetted” by technology, the Egyptians gathered millions together in protest, making their collective voice heard and their will known, successfully bringing down the enemy. 

I’ve always felt that the “have nots” live with faces pressed against the glass, envying the lives of the “haves.” If those who “have” don’t freely share of their material wealth, then the “have nots” will wrestle away whatever they can. Deserving or not, it doesn’t matter. All “have nots” probably feel it’s their moral right to live in equality with their fellow “haves.”

who could argue… with the “have nots” in egypt…hugmamma.