Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Thoughts on Texas Independence

It is ironic that this Texas Independence Day, I am observing the date from half a world a way, in another State of the Union that is now wrestling with its own identity and ideas of “independence.”

The Akala Bill is working its way through Congress, which supporters believe would grant rights to Native Hawaiians that are similar to rights granted Native American Indians by the U.S. Government.

Opponents counter by pointing to the Government’s treatment of Indians as a prime example of how Western Culture and the governance it imposed on the Hawaiian archipelago cannot be trusted. Indeed, they say, if Hawaiian’s still had control of their lands and rights, there’d be no need for “rights” from the Federal Government.

It’s a story that bears watching, and resonates with the spirit of independence that was stirring in Texas in the early 1800’s. Texas’ Independence Day, March 2, 1836, was actually proclaimed before hostilities between Texas and Mexico were settled, at San Jacinto on April 21, of that same year. In fact, the grudge between Mexico and its northern neighbor was never really finalized until the Mexican-American War a few years later. The Republic of Texas was established by proclamation in Washington County, and ratified in blood in a swamp in what is now Harris County.

There are interesting layers of colliding cultures that still exist in The Islands, and if you want to experience discrimination, come to Hawaii as an “owlie,” and observe how you’re treated.

Two examples:
In a retail store on Sunday, standing in the checkout line, two of the cashiers were talking back and forth to one another in their native tongue (I have no idea in what language they were speaking…just knew that it was different.) This is not uncommon in Texas, and I have come to enjoy eavesdropping on Hispanics who slip back and forth between English and Spanish.

I asked the cashier waiting on me what language she was using—the lilting rhythm and vowel-rich speech pattern was captivating to hear. She turned to me with a condescending expression on her face and answer, “We speak English here.”
“No, before that—in what language were you talking?” I pressed.
“We only speak English here,” was her practiced reply.

I know what I heard.
And in that moment, I was irritated and offended that the woman would stand and lie to my face because I was different; because I had noticed the difference in language, and deigned myself worthy to ask about it. Her response to my genuine curiosity (and if she’d allowed it, expression of appreciation for the tongue I heard) was insulting, and I actually left the store a little angry that her discriminatory attitude left us both less than whole from our chance encounter.

On Monday, my Bride and I drove the twisting, winding Hana Highway, which follows the coastline of the northeastern side of the Island of Maui. The scenery is spectacular—if you’re in the passenger seat. It’s a real distraction if you’re driving!

The Hana Highway is routed over breath-taking ravines and gorges that are traversed by single-lane bridges erected over 100-years ago.

You have to pull over to one side to allow oncoming cars to pass before proceeding. The locals know that the visitors to The Islands—conspicuous in rental Mustang convertibles or two-wheel drive Jeep Wranglers—will observe the signs unquestioningly.

And so they generally barrel across without pause, even when it’s your turn. Just another small example of rudeness I noticed on the part of the homeboys here.

In Texas when a traveller stops to ask directions, they’re likely to receive more than they bargain for: turns denoted by landmarks, usually sprinkled with local history and lore. Here, a question about a general destination or a local feature is responded to in mono-syllabic answers, and vague pointing.

The best directions to a destination I received were from a fellow with red, curly hair and blue eyes, who’d just moved to the Island within the past couple of months. Guess he knew the feeling.

I hope the Hawaiians find their way to what they’re looking for with the Akala Bill issue, and their quest for identity and independence.
Maybe they’ll pick up some manners along the way, too.

1 comment:

Your Cuz Jack said...

I hope you and your bride are enjoying your vacation. Maybe someday Deb and I will get to go there.

We saw you on Channel 2 for the interview at 10 pm. Well we heard your voice and saw a picture of you in a rocking chair. Brandon had seen it at 6 pm and called us to tell us. So, we stayed up a little late.

Have a good time. How long are yall going to be there?