Tag Archives: Maui

Can Racial Reconciliation be achieved by Ignoring or Falsifying History? An Open Letter to the Episcopal Bishop of Louisiana regarding “Truth, Honor, and Pride”

I have basically been very happily based in New Orleans, Louisiana, since I arrived here from Maui, Hawaii on December 9 of last year.  You know, there are ups and downs everywhere, but I had missed living in this city ever since I graduated from the Tulane College of Arts & Sciences on May 11, 1980, and have wanted to return here ever since.  I actually did return for several years 1997-2000, but was so wrapped up in my problems in Texas, I was basically bouncing back and forth.  One of the most consistently agreeable aspects of my life in New Orleans has been attending Church at Christ Church Cathedral on St. Charles & 6th Street, occasionally visiting at Trinity on Jackson right around the corner from my temporary home on Prytania (since March 8, 2013). One of the things I love most about New Orleans is its history—basically it’s impossible to take a walk, anywhere in this city, and not confront history face-to-face, it’s everywhere.  Basically, even the majority of the historic architecture in French Quarter really dates from the 19th century city, the actual 18th century buildings number in the dozens at the highest possible count.  The Garden District and “Uptown Audubon” mark a progression through the 19th century into the 20th.  St. Charles itself has been hideously scarred with mid-twentieth century cheap apartment buildings which took the place of many blocks of Victorian houses… but to either side of St. Charles, the historically decimating devastation is less.

How few people realize just how deeply New Orleans was shaped by the ante-bellum era and how loyal it was to the Confederate States of America, ESPECIALLY AFTER (ironically enough) the collapse of that nascent Federal Republic in 1865.

It is also undeniably true that the question of race-relations hangs like a sword of Damocles over the heads of the people of New Orleans.  The question comes up all the time, usually in emotional and rarely in analytical terms.

Ever since I heard, at the beginning of September, about an “Ecumenical Mass of Racial Reconciliation” being planned for January 12-21, 2014, I have been reflecting on the question of race and history in this wonderful town, this city where by dint of history black Americans first created a kind of “Jazz Aristocracy” recognized all over the world in the 1920s….

I wrote my initial thoughts on this question in a letter I just completed and delivered on Wednesday to the Episcopal Bishop of Louisiana and other members of the Clergy at Christ Church and Trinity Church.  

I have been told that in the bad old days of the Civil Rights movement, when the barriers of segregation were first being torn down, they had special “greeters” at Christ Church would take black folks aside and suggest to them that they might be “more comfortable elsewhere.”   The inversion of history is so great, I more than casually wonder whether I’ll now be afforded the same treatment for challenging the modern “politically correct” mythos of race.  

I attach here two versions of my letter to the Bishop and Clergy—only one of which I actually delivered (the October 2, 2013 version in which I reflect on the sinfulness of pride).  

2 October 2013 Letter to Bishop Thompson of Louisiana

1 October 2013 Letter to Bishop Thompson of Louisiana

I owe a great debt to two of my California friends who read over this letter before I delivered it: Shelene Emily Peterson of Belmont and Daniel Christian Mack of San Juan Capistrano.  Shelene keeps my English in line and tries to control my tendency to ramble (obvious with only limited success, although you should see how much she cut out….).  Dan made me realize the error of asserting, oxymoronically, “pride” which is inimical to Christian faith—although it is a critical element of human identity and sanity, it seems to me, that we must love ourselves for what we are.  And our ancestry shapes us, both culturally and genetically, whether we would wish it so or not.

Saint Andrew’s Day in Wailea, Wailuku, and Lahaina on Maui

Although as an Episcopalian, Baptized on the Feast of the Epiphany in 1993, my son Charlie was dedicated to Saint Andrew under whose sign and flag he was born on August 23, 1992, I am told after his mother and I separated, Charlie was rebaptized in the Orthodox Church behind my back as Constantine so that he could celebrate the same Saint’s Day as his mother Elena (“Emperor Constantine and Queen Mother Helen”.  [Sidebar#1: Constantine & Helen were a son & mother pair apparently an important as portents of the future from the 4th century indicating or mandating the future of mother-son relations in post-Classical Greece….[Sidebar#2: In Classical Greece it will be remembered that the Goddess Athena, at least in Aeschylus’ Eumenides, part 3 of the Orestian Trilogy judged Orestes either unworthy of capital punishment or in the alternative without mortal sin of the murder of him mother Clytemnestra while avenging Clytemnestra’s murder of his father Agamemnon.  Athena’s judgment relied at least in part on the extreme patriarchal notion that “a son is not closely related to his mother as he is to his father.”  I think that Athena’s solution may have been formulated radically—taking the need for an antidote to the Oedipus Complex a bit far perhaps…..]

All that notwithstanding, I have always loved Saint Andrew’s Day at the beginning of Advent and as the Patron Saint’s Day of Scotland and Greece (marking the opposite ends of Europe) as well as Barbados.  Saint Andrews’ day also indirectly celebrates the flags of Alabama, Florida, and not coincidentally, the famous (or infamous, depending on your views of mid-19th century politics) Battle Flag of the Confederate States of America.

This year I spent Saint Andrew’s Day between three spots on Maui: (1) starting off from the beautiful Villa Kalista at the border of Keawakapu and Wailea where I am spending these two weeks: Villa Kalista by Night and Looking South by Southwest from Villa Kalista, (2) to the Maui County seat and Courthouse at Wailuku (and finding out that there is really no such thing as a 9-5 day in Maui), and (3) finally ending up, for the third night in a row now, in King Kamehameha III’s beautiful home town of Lahaina.  Kamehameha III, who reigned 1825-1854, is said to have been the last “traditional” King of the Hawaiian Islands, and his royal compound was the island of Moku’ula at Lahaina.

The memory of the Hawaiian Kings and Nobility is strong here.  On my first full day here, Tuesday 11-27, I stopped into the Good Shepherd Episcopal Church and discovered that I had just missed “Ali’i Sunday” wherein the local Anglicans were celebrating 150 years since 1862 when King Kamehameha IV and his “Beloved Queen Emma” (née Emma Rooke) became converts to the Church of England (Anglican Communion), having been confirmed on November 28, 1862 as communicants of the one true Church and instituted a period of intense Anglophilia on the Island which is to this day commemorated in the inclusion of the Union Jack in the state (formerly Royal, and afterwards Republican) flag of Hawaii.   It is noted that this years is the sesquicentennial of the Anglican Church of the Sandwich Islands, that Queen Emma decreed that the Episcopal Seat/Cathedral should be named Saint Andrew in part because her husband, Kamehameha IV, died on Saint Andrew’s day, November 30, 1864, having reigned only eleven years since the death of Kamehameha III at Lahaina.  The Episcopal Church in Lahaina is called Holy Innocents and it was apparently there, on that site in December 14, 1862, that the Right Reverend Thomas Nettleship Staley (sent by Queen Victoria) conducted the first Anglican services in Lahaina.  This was commemorated this year as “Feast of the Holy Sovereigns”—a name which sounds positively Orthodox-Eastern (Byzantine or Russian Imperial) rather than Church of England-Protestant Episcopal.

But the Church of England had lagged behind among missionary activity in Hawaii.  A few blocks away from the Good Shepherd Episcopal Church, also in Wailuku is a Church at 103 South High Street, founded in 1832, in a building dating to 1875, called the Ka’ahumanu (Congregational/Hawaiian Evangelical) Church (affiliated with the United Church of Christ).   This Church was founded, however, much earlier, and endowed in 1832 by a predecessor of “Beloved Queen Emma”, namely Queen Ka’ahumanu, the “Kuhina Nui of the Hawaiian Kingdom, who was an “ardent convert to Christianity.”

The relationship between the Hawaiian Royal Family and Nobility, on the one hand, and the Anglo-Christian missionary/colonization of Hawaii on the other, are the sources of major disputes in Hawaiian cultural, political, and racial identity and affiliation to this day.  It was precisely during the 1850s-1860s that Great Britain had politically perfected the first “World System” economy ever actually to encompass the entire world, ushering in the “Pax Brittanica” which lasted for barely 50 years until the start of “the Great War” (aka World War I).  The British did this by suppressing the Sepoy Mutiny in India and winning the first Opium Wars in China (forcing the Chinese to buy British India’s poppy and opium products, against the Chinese Emperor’s strong resistance), as well as by carefully staying out of the American War Between the States despite Queen Victoria’s strong sympathies for the Confederate States of America.

Today, Lahaina’s mile long boardwalk (called “Front Street”) displays an interesting stylistic combination/mixture of higher-end Santa Fe and Key West type art boutiques mixed together with cheesier New Orleans (and Key West) bars and souvenir shops—heavy on the toe rings and t-shirts.   The historical architecture is probably closer to Key West and Magazine Street New Orleans than to the French Quarter, and the prices are more akin to those in Santa Fe, but the overall effect is delightful and the soft sea air is better than any of those three (Key West, New Orleans, or Santa Fe) can ever manage.

My hostess at the Villa Kalista took me to the Baldwin House Museum (a New England Missionary’s House built in 1834, now the oldest standing structure in Lahaina; anything with original walls and foundation dating back to 1834 is of very respectable antiquity by the standards of someone just arrived from West Los Angeles, where the oldest standing structures were built not much before 1934, even on the UCLA campus and in downtown Santa Monica).

At the Baldwin House we took a slightly over-hyped “Candlelit Tour” (available only after 6 only on Fridays) from a woman who knew that the Baldwin Missionary couple had eight children two of whom died….and where these children slept in the house…..and that was about it.   It seems that Mark Twain visited in the late 1860s and Thomas Edison visited in the 1890s.  But nobody could tell us much about the relationship between these earliest Baldwins and the real estate company of that name “Alexander & Baldwin”) which seems to own most of the island on Maui, much as the Bishop family owns most of the land on Oahu.  Our tour guide knew much less than my hostess about the Baldwin Family and how they run Maui, or at least she admitted to knowing next to nothing.

We had a magnificent dinner with a corner balcony table overlooking the Pacific, looking west at Lahaina Fish Company, which I recommend to anyone who ever visits this town, and then spent an hour or so looking over vintage european posters at Christopher Dudley’s excellent shop of that same name.  The highlights for me were an early 20th century French poster with a Centaur and an even earlier poster with a rare text in the now almost extinct Langue D’Or of Provençal in Southeastern France, although seeing an early edition Toulouse Lautrec Poster that seemed to have been stolen from my mother’s bedroom (not really, just identical) was the eerie beginning of my tour at 744 Front Street.

No place could be less reminiscent of Scotland than Lahaina on Maui—on Saint Andrew’s Day or any other day, I feel reasonably sure.   The transition from Barbados to Maui would not be such an amazing cultural shock I suppose.  But then I think of Heilige Andreasnacht in rural Austria….and that would even be greater.  There are stone field walls and rough stone masonry in the historical buildings of Maui just as there are in Patras, the city in Western Peloponnesos in Greece where Saint Andrew was martyred—crucified on a saltire cross….which became his emblem, both during Hurricanes of his Name and otherwise, and on several flags of Dixie….

The conversation here in Maui almost inevitably returns, over and over again, to the interrelationship between race and politics here on Maui in particular and Hawaii in general.  The consensus seems to be that non-White Hawaiians constitute the “establishment” here on the Island, and that they are pro-corporate and anti-Environmental in their political affiliations, even though the state has a resolutely democratic voting record.

There are lessons here for the whole country: Whites are the agitators for environmental protection and ecological/historical conservation.   People with Anglo-names but non-white constituencies (like the Baldwins on Maui and the Bishops on Oahu) constitute the local core elite controlling the large corporate real-estate holdings and all aspects of local land-use regulation, apparently, but the local elite does not share the immigrant White “Howlie” fondness for environmental conservation—even as an obstacle to “growth and development.” Supposedly “Howlie” in local parlance refers to whites whose “uptight” customs include avoiding excessively close “nose-to-nose” proxemic contact with non-relatives….

Visions Hawaii from Dinesh D’Souza’s Obama 2016 keep coming back to me.  The “minorities” have become the ruling class—Hawaii has travelled even further down this road than Los Angeles—a LOT further.

Every single day in Hawaii is a major step of learning, as well as an overwhelming process of sensual satisfaction with the feel of the air, the taste of the food, the smell of the flowers, and the sound of the ocean or even of the garden around the villa at night.

I wish my son could be here with me on this adventure—I haven’t been to Hawaii in several decades, and never to Maui before.   I am grateful that God and Kalista gave me the chance and invited me here.   Somehow I feel I will never be quite the same again—and when you’ve travelled as much as I have, it’s a very rare new experience that makes you feel that way.  I should have come to Maui before….