When Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announced the U.S. military’s “Pivot to the Pacific” many of us in the Hawaiian Islands celebrated an anticipated economic boon. Some of us eyed warily the notice of increased live-fire training and Strykers on the Big Island. And shadowy rumors: UAV’s (drones) are to be based here? What’s this about dangerous Osprey aircraft coming? Only the report of Kaneohe houses that shake in the path of powerful roaring jets overhead, only the occasional upsetting news of another rape in Okinawa, or a suicide in Schofield, give us pause. And as for the statistics; the 70,000 soldiers and 12,000 civilians at hundreds of U.S. installations in the Pacific, not to also mention the Pacific Missile Range Facility on Kaua’i, the Satellite Tracking Stations, the Supercomputing Observatory on Maui, highly classified activities on O’ahu, the enormous Pohakuloa Training Area on the Big Island–well, it’s like the national debt; it just makes one’s eyes blurry.
In point of fact, our eyes are not blurred, but focused mistakenly on mainland U.S.A. Most of our news comes from there, as well as our T.V. shows, our food, our fashion, and the economic foundation of our jobs. The Pentagon tells us we need to maintain military superiority and calls for more reinforcements and new bases in the Pacific islands encircling China. Looking stateside, we turn a blind eye and accept Washington’s dictates without consideration.
Yet our roots are here in Hawai’i, in the Pacific, our great ocean, the Moana Nui! Even those who are immigrants here are touched by the mana of this place and the tragedy of its history of colonialization. We celebrate the efforts to revitalize Hawai’i through sustainability and through renewing and honoring traditional cultural practices. Now is the time to turn our eyes and ears to stories of other islanders, our Pacific cousins. Families, farmers and villagers fighting to maintain their unique communities, their ancient cultures and thriving environments in the face of encroaching militarization. We begin to attend to our connections. We start to see each other as family across Moana Nui.
“…Hawaiians also see themselves as the continuation of cognizant nature, rather than as the only beings that think…Hawaiians know how they fit into the world. In touch with the land, the sky, and the sea, they have the fulfillment and sense of belongingness for which Westerners search.” (Michael Kioni Dudley, Man, Gods and Nature, p.122)
Connecting to this unique historical Hawaiian perspective helps all of us enlarge our conscious kinship with the world. It is a reverent and at the same time humanizing approach to life. Such a belief compels us protect a community of people and place.
Militarization, on the other hand, strips us of these human qualities. Militarization means the dominance of military over civilian society, introducing values that celebrate war into social relations at every level. It is the process of erasing our memories of a social order that promotes critical thinking and respectful communication. It is a big business and the ultimate nightmare of big government. The U.S. military eats yearly a staggering $1.4 trillion, much of it with little accountability, or into a black hole of “secret op’s”. It is the true “zombie apocalypse”.
We’re not so easily “de-humanized,” however. Our roots in human rights, in reverence for life, in promoting good will and mutual understanding, run deep. We respond to a universal hope for peace and with compassion to those who suffer in the shadow of violence. We thirst for good stories, where the human spirit, grounded in the richness of art and culture, rises perpetually in every kipuka, in every island and every oasis in the midst of the wasteland of war machines.
You can hear inspiring and empowering stories at this year’s Watada Lecture Series. We invite you to attend the lecture entitled Militarization of the Pacific, with Dr. Teresia Teaiwa, a Senior Lecturer and Program Director of Pacific Studies at Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand. She is a great fit for this topic as she has written extensively about the relationship between militarization, gender, and culture in the Pacific.
The Watada Lecture Series is a biennial event presented by the Church of the Crossroads, United Church of Christ, recognizing Umematsu Watada’s concerns for social justice and peace, and made possible in part through the generous support of David and Kathy Watada Wurfel.
Thursday, Nov. 8, 5-7pm @ UH Manoa Center for Hawaiian Studies,
“Fiji. Women. Soldiers. And Poetry”
Saturday, Nov.10, 7-9pm @ Church of the Crossroads,
“The Military Cultural Complex”
Sunday, Nov. 11, 9am-afternoon @ Church of the Crossroads,
9am “Adult Education with Dr. Teaiwa”
10:30 Morning Worship: “Religions & Militarization”
after lunch “Alternative Veterans’ Day Forum“