Sunday, June 10, 2007

Ripples in History I

As I spoke more Hawaiian I asked more questions. Every day I had to be led back across Leilehua Road, and Lani and Lono left. Where did they go? Where did they come from? Would they come and meet my parents? Why not?

At one point I asked them if their Mother gave them the food they brought for lunch each day. They said no, it was their own food. Then they said they didn't live with their Mother, she still lived back home. So I asked where home was, and got an answer that meant nothing at first. Home was Ni'ihau. All I could imagine was a house, maybe half a mile up further than I'd been. I asked which way was it, and could we go there.

So that led to a long discussion about the concept of "moku", or island. O'ahu is an Island. Ni'ihau is an island. We'd need a boat.

What's a boat? They described the old wa'a to me, the traditional canoes. They sang an odd Hawaiian chant about the crew of a war canoe asking their captain which way to sail, and repeatedly having their question put off. I remember the gist of one verse. The warriors ask which way, meaning which way to war. The Captain answers by silently pointing to the leeward, the calm side. I've never been able to find the chant in the literature, but I'm sure that verse was in there, and I know it was sung in Hawaiian, not English.

But after we talked about that, it led to more talk about war. Lono was prompted to recite the Charge of the Light Brigade.

I was fascinated by it all, and asked if they knew any warriors I could meet. They laughed at that, and said, look around you. This is an Army base. All these men in uniforms are warriors. They said my own Father was probably a warrior. I was skeptical, but determined to try to figure it out. They told me what to look for in the way of insignia.

When I said I was sure nobody was doing any killing among my Father's friends, they brought up the attack on Pearl Harbor. They pointed north to the green Ko'olau Hills and told me that on a day just like that day not long ago (it was ten years earlier at the time, but "ten" could have meant nothing to me) Japanese planes appeared from exactly there and flew over Schofield Barracks and beyond to Pearl Harbor, killing many American soldiers like my Father, who then took up arms and went to war against Japan.

The history lesson provided an insight into what my father might be about. I remember wondering if he was picked to be a soldier because of his fits of anger. Maybe anger is good in a fighting man.

But that's not what the song said. The song said, if you want to know the right way to war, look to the calm side.

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