Saturday, July 16, 2005

Bill Giving Native Hawaiians Sovereignty Is Too Much for Some

HONOLULU, July 15 - Hawaii is once again awash with mainlanders, as summer vacationers delight in its beaches and make themselves feel at home even on distant tropical islands. Breakfast at Starbucks, lunch at Subway, dinner at Red Lobster and a restful night at the Marriott or Hilton.

But most visitors soon discover something profoundly different about the 50th state that the requisite luaus and hula dances only hint at. The 250,000 indigenous people of Polynesian ancestry who are among Hawaii's 1.2 million residents make the state like no other, sustaining a native Hawaiian cultural and linguistic imprint that preceded the arrival of Capt. James Cook by a millennium.

Now, 112 years after United States troops helped overthrow the independent Kingdom of Hawaii and 12 years after Congress apologized for it, that Hawaiian distinctiveness appears close to being formally recognized by the United States government. A bill that for the first time would extend sovereignty to the native Hawaiian people is poised for a vote - and likely approval - in the United States Senate despite opposition from many Republicans who denounce the measure as unworkable and as promoting racial Balkanization.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

The Founding Sachems - New York Times

SEEKING to understand this nation's democratic spirit, Alexis de Tocqueville journeyed to the famous centers of American liberty (Boston, Philadelphia, Washington), stoically enduring their "infernal" accommodations, food and roads and chatting up almost everyone he saw.

He even marched in a Fourth of July parade in Albany just ahead of a big float that featured a flag-waving Goddess of Liberty, a bust of Benjamin Franklin, and a printing press that spewed out copies of the Declaration of Independence for the cheering crowd. But for all his wit and intellect, Tocqueville never realized that he came closest to his goal just three days after the parade, when he stopped at the "rather unhealthy but thickly peopled" area around Syracuse.

Tocqueville's fascination with the democratic spirit was prescient. Expressed politically in Americans' insistence on limited government and culturally in their long-standing disdain for elites, that spirit has become one of this country's great gifts to the world.

When rich London and Paris stockbrokers proudly retain their working-class accents, when audiences show up at La Scala in track suits and sneakers, when South Africans and Thais complain that the police don't read suspects their rights the way they do on "Starsky & Hutch," when anti-government protesters in Beirut sing "We Shall Overcome" in Lebanese accents - all these raspberries in the face of social and legal authority have a distinctly American tone. Or, perhaps, a distinctly Native American tone, for among its wellsprings is American Indian culture, especially that of the Iroquois.

Monday, July 04, 2005

Mexico Braces for Next Move by Leader of Zapatista Rebels

OVENTIC, Mexico, July 2 - The sign on the road outside this Zapatista town says "Closed for Red Alert," and the normally bustling cluster of shops, schools, a shoe factory and a health clinic is quiet. The masked rebels who usually oversee Oventic have been called to a meeting in the jungles of southern Mexico.

In Mexico City and in Chiapas, many people wonder why Subcommander Marcos has declared a "red alert" in Zapatista-run centers like Oventic.
After years of relative calm, the uneasy peace between the government and the Zapatistas has been shaken in recent days as the rebel leaders have put their forces on high alert, shut down the five governing centers they established in Chiapas in 2003 and issued a flurry of communiqu├ęs calling for a nationwide leftist political movement.

Here in the southern state of Chiapas, and in Mexico City, the question is: what is Subcommander Marcos up to?