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Doris writes a weekly column for LaGaceta, the nation's only trilingual newspaper, which has pages in English, Spanish, and Italian.  Begun in 1922 for Tampa's immigrant community, it continues to thrive more than a century later.  Her column is titled "In Context," as it aims to put contemporary issues in the context of the past.

The Times, They Are A’Changin’

There’s been no White House acknowledgment that its policy of separating children from their parents smacks of Nazi concentration camps, but others seem to be catching on. Nor are they all bleeding-heart liberals, but instead business minds who are seeing that the administration’s anti-immigrant bias is having unintended consequences. This is particularly true in terms of labor shortages for menial jobs that Americans (most of them Trumpers) refuse to do, but also in new unforeseen ways.

The proof is Pima County, Arizona, where county commissioners are leading the effort for a more humane and reasonable approach. They have the longest border with Mexico of any county in the nation, and last week these commissioners voted to stop accepting federal money that forces their sheriff’s office to work closely with ICE. And by the way, who thought up that chilling name? It used to be the Department of Immigration and Naturalization, and we still use “naturalization” when we talk about swearing-in ceremonies for new citizens. “ICE,” or Immigration and Customs Enforcement, was created in 2003, during Dubya’s administration. I don’t see them doing that much re customs, however, as we almost never hear anything about someone being arrested for failing to pay taxes on imports. Although Jeb’s wife should have, on the $19,000 worth of clothes that she brought from France.

But back to Pima County. The reason why the locals decided to stop cooperating with the feds was because of increased crime. No, not crime committed by immigrants, but instead because residents stopped reporting crime because of their fear of ICE. This area has a centuries-long history of Spanish-speaking people who move back and forth, often following agricultural jobs. Almost everyone has family on both sides of the border, and that worked fine until ICE came along. (Most ICE workers, by the way, are not federal employees, but instead are hired by contractors who make money by creating what amounts to a private army. The Constitution prohibits private armies, you know.)

Pima County residents now are afraid to call their local law enforcement if they are victims of a crime because they fear that they will be victimized again by the hair-on-fire fascists employed by ICE. The result is that county commissioners gave up millions in federal money because their sheriff’s deputies and prosecutors were seeing community relations deteriorate to the point that obtaining witnesses against criminals was impossible. And those fears were reasonable, as anyone with a Spanish accent found their citizenship questioned by ICE. Now Pima County is essentially what the right-wing derides as a “sanctuary city,” where local elected officials pay their own law enforcement officers without federal aid, freeing them of having to cooperate with guys who wear badges but don’t report to an elected official.

In the Texas borderland, the situation is similar – or even worse. Many adults have had their legitimate passports confiscated on the grounds that decades ago, some midwives may have recorded that some births were on the American side of the border, not the Mexican side. When ICE officials aren’t busy taking babies away from mothers, they now are busy taking away passports from people who have lived in Texas for decades. But if Beto O’Rourke defeats Ted Cruz in November – which is looking increasingly likely – this injustice also may end.

That prospect is enhanced, I think, because former Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio lost the recent Republican primary. Notorious for his bias against Hispanics, he was convicted of corruption and also sentenced for contempt of court – but His Highness in the White House pardoned Joe so that he could run for the US Senate. But the times they are a ‘changing, and Arizona Republicans firmly rejected him. He came in third, well behind two women. There’s hope.

Speaking of Nativity and Nativism…

and whether or not one’s birthplace should bless or curse him or her for life: Along with evasions and prevarications and outright lies, Supreme Court Justice nominee Brett Kavanaugh also has shown a lamentable ignorance of geography and history. Hawaii Senator Mazie Hirono quoted from a Wall Street Journal editorial he wrote, in which he said that he didn’t think Hawaiians were Native Americans because they “come from Polynesia.” Hawaii, is of course, part of geographical Polynesia, as the senator reminded him. It’s also part of the United States, as the Dole Pineapple people stole it fair and square from its Queen Lil’uokalani in 1900.

So I decided to do a quick lesson in Hawaii history. It is, I think, the best possible example of how people can mess up even a natural paradise with unreasonable ideology. Tahitians, Samoans, and other Polynesians reached the islands around 400 AD, and by the 14th century, its political/religious chiefs, called alii, had gained total control: The alli owned the land and effectively owned the people who worked it. Society was governed by a hierarchy that imposed a strict set of laws and taboos, and dissent meant death. Women, for example, could be executed for eating with men, or for eating foods reserved for men, including pork, bananas, and coconuts.

Britain’s Captain James Cook and his crew were the first known Europeans to sight the islands. This was in 1778, when he arguably should have taken his ship to the Atlantic to fight against the American Revolution, but we’ll ignore that. He named them the Sandwich Islands in honor of his patron, the Earl of Sandwich, and you can think about that next time you see one of those fast-food places. Because of its central Pacific location, natural ports, and gentle weather, the islands soon became a popular waystation for American whalers and for merchants plying the China trade.

There was no need for warfare, as the alli sold out to the traders, but especially because the native population soon was decimated by European diseases. Experts estimate that when Cook arrived in 1778, as many as a million people lived there; by 1850, the population had fallen to a mere 85,000. In 1804 alone, an epidemic that may have been cholera or bubonic plague killed 150,000 indigenous people. Those who survived were led by chief Kamehameha, who united the islands and created the kingdom of Hawaii.

He died in 1819, and his favorite wife, Kaahumanu, became the monarch who abolished the ancient taboos. Said to be six feet tall and weighing 300 pounds, she was receptive to American missionaries who arrived the next year. Noblewoman Kapiolani especially led the way in conversion to Christianity; she divorced all but one of her husbands and became literate. Kapiolani dramatically took on the volcano goddess, Pele, in 1824. She climbed some 500 feet into Pele’s volcanic home, confronted molten lava, and observed by terrified onlookers, demonstrated the superiority of her new god over the old one.

Things went as you might expect in the next decades, and sugar, often worked by laborers from China and Japan, became the mainstay of the economy. Polygamy had ended by 1856, when another king died, and his young successor married a woman who was one-quarter Caucasian. Many Hawaiians objected, but Emma Rooke (or Kaleleonalani) eventually became very popular. Usually called Queen Emma, she created schools and hospitals and the beginnings of democracy. In 1874, after her husband and their only child died, riots broke out when the legislature refused to name her as the rightful monarch.

Instead they chose David Kalakaua, and he sold out to American business interests. Most Hawaiians lost their civil rights, and the monarchy was reduced to a ceremonial role. Queen Lydia Lil’uokalani ascended the throne in 1891and attempted to restore Hawaiian power – but by 1895, she found herself under house arrest. She appealed to Republican president William McKinley, but he responded to the white businessmen by signing legislation in 1900 that formally created the US Territory of Hawaii. The act, incidentally, was the only case in which the federal government explicitly prohibited a territorial legislature from granting women the right to vote.

Hawaii remained a territory until 1959, when the US finally upheld its World War II promise for statehood. Its strategic location had been key to winning the war in the Pacific – and it was, after all, the home of Pearl Harbor – but many segregationists openly objected to statehood because of the polyglot nature of Polynesians. It seems that Brett Kavanaugh still harbors those views. I would remind him that there was a time, not so very long ago, when a man with an Irish Catholic name like “Kavanaugh” would have no chance to sit in judgment on others.

“The Earth Is My Home”

I’m going to end with a little more about Senator Mazie Hirono and another woman you should know, but probably don’t. “Hirono” is of course a Japanese name, and little Mazie was born there in 1947, two years after Japan surrendered in World War II. Her father was abusive, and her mother managed to take Mazie to a better life in Hawaii. She graduated Phi Beta Kappa from the University of Hawaii and earned a law degree at Washington’s prestigious Georgetown University. Like another Hawaii native, Barack Obama, she is a perfect example of what a highly diverse culture can produce. I look forward to the time when that diversity will not be considered unusual and when everyone will be deemed a child of the world, not of any particular place on our planet. I won’t live that long, but our grandchildren may.

No one has expressed this vision better than Emily Balch, who in 1947, was the second American woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize. Born to an old New England family in 1867, she went to Bwyn Mawr College in Pennsylvania instead of the nearer Radcliffe because she wanted to accompany a friend whose Harvard-professor father, Balch wrote, “was not willing to have it known among his Cambridge friends that he was disgraced by having a daughter at college.”

With further education and travel, Dr. Balch became a specialist in immigration and introduced the new field of sociology at Wellesley College. After two decades there, its all-male trustees fired her because of her opposition to World War I. She spent the rest of her life working for the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, largely in neutral Switzerland, where she helped refugees from Nazi-occupied areas during the 1930s and 1940s.

Fascism caused her to emphasize the “freedom” portion of the organization’s name, driving her away from absolute pacifism. As she witnessed Japanese brutality towards other Asians, Italy’s destruction of Ethiopia, Spain’s civil war between democrats and monarchists, and especially Germany’s extermination of Jews, Balch declared: “Neutrality in the sense of treating the aggressor and his victim alike is morally impossible.” Here’s the quote that I want you to remember. It’s from a book of her speeches, Beyond Nationalism:

Every night before I go to bed I step out of doors and look up at the sky. It is partly to see what the weather promises to be, but it is more than that... It places me in a large universe… The stars are remote, innumerable, incomprehensible...

My mind returns, like a bird to its nest, to the familiar earth... It sustains life almost throughout. In the depths of ocean, amid polar ice, within the sands of the Sahara, there is life, sometimes in mammoth shapes, almost everywhere in microscopic forms. These living things are inextricably interdependent...

No spot on earth is alien to me. The earth is my home. It is my fatherland and motherland, my birthplace. To it my body will return whenever I die, by land or sea. I cannot be expatriated or exiled, alive or dead…

I am at home wherever there are people. Wherever I go, I know I shall find cruel, sly, dishonest, unpleasant people; and everywhere I shall find magnanimous, generous people, with keen minds, honest, open, serviceable people, who want to help, who want to make friends... I am a patriot and my fatherland is this dear, dear earth, sole home of life in infinite space.


Doris Weatherford writes a weekly column for La Gaceta, the nation's only trilingual newspaper. With pages in Spanish, Italian, and English, it has been published in Tampa since 1922.
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