Archive for November 2019

Learning from the Golden Rule

November 26, 2019

“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

In 1958, the Golden Rule sailed toward the Marshall Islands to protect nuclear bomb testing. Their courage and dedication got them arrested and put on trial in Honolulu. They also inspired the Phoenix of Hiroshima to make their own maritime protest and helped bring about the Limited Nuclear Testing Ban Treaty of 1964.

This was a surprise to me. I remember learning about Pearl Harbor, Hiroshima, and Nagasaki, and the 442nd Infantry Regiment; but I don’t remember anything about the protests against nuclear testing. So I was very interested to attend a program about the Golden Rule, hosted by the Interfaith Alliance Hawaii, Veterans for Peace, Honpa Hongwanji Hawaii Betsuin, and other community organizations.

Golden Rule crewmember Helen Jaccard shared the history of the Golden Rule, which was relaunched in 2015 and showed the film “Making Waves: The Rebirth of the Golden Rule.” By sailing to the Marshall Islands again, Helen stated, “We want to be a mouthpiece for their concerns.”

Rev. Tatsuo Muneto, former Rimban of Honpa Hongwanji Hawaii Betsuin, talked about going to school in Hiroshima after the bombing, when classes were divided into morning and afternoon sessions because there weren’t enough school supplies. He recalls watching the Phoenix of Hiroshima being built. He reminded us, “We have to keep the world peaceful for us and for future generations.”

Dr. Seiji Yamada, a family physician in Hawaii and professor at the University of Hawaii, offered an informative presentation about public health and weapons development. With photos and first-hand accounts, he highlighted the displacement of the Marshall Islands people from their homes to resource-poor islands like Ebeye and the subsequent lack of fresh food, overcrowding, and increases in obesity, alcoholism, and diabetes. “Instead of preparing for nuclear war, we must prevent nuclear war,” he declared.

Throughout the program, speakers talked about the things that we can do to help bring about peace in the world:

  • Support justice, compassion, and health for Marshall Islands residents. Write to Hawaii senators and representatives in support of restoring their Medicare benefits.
  • Learn more and think about the reasons for military action. Is our military defending our country or serving economic objectives? Call for honest military recruitment.
  • Support better education about nuclear bomb testing and the use of nuclear weapons. The emphasis on education resonated with me. Hearing the stories of people who survived Hiroshima and protested nuclear testing make a big impact on me.
  • Get educated about the Pohakuloa Training Area on Hawaii Island, where they use live rounds that destroy the environment; and encourage other nations NOT to participate in RIMPAC, a maritime warfare exercise, an attendee encouraged.
  • Have conversations about nuclear testing. “Local ministers themselves have to work harder in this area,” Rev. Muneto suggested.

Seven decades after the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the threat of nuclear war is still with us.

What are we teaching our children about military force? How can we influence our governments to avoid nuclear war?

Journeying with “Harriet”

November 19, 2019

I don’t go to the movies often, but when my 13-year old son’s social studies teacher recommended that the class watch “Harriet,” we decided to watch it as a family.

Teen translation: we sat in the same row at the movie theater, but with empty seats between us.

I was impressed with the movie. Harriet is portrayed as a woman of faith, conviction, and fearlessness. Once she decides to run towards freedom, she is committed – she doesn’t look back and she doesn’t give up.

A few reflections about the movie “Harriet”:

Harriet is the focus. She is in most of the scenes and almost all of the events are seen from her perspective. Even when she is not on camera, the characters talk about her. There are many strong and interesting people in her life, but we only learn about them in their relationship with Harriet. What made the fictional Walter completely change his life after spying on Harriet? How were Harriet’s life and character different from her sister Rachel’s experiences of slavery? In real life, Rachel died before Harriet returned to help her escape.

The power of names. Harriet was born Araminta Ross, and her family and slave owners called her Minty. (Araminta means “prayer and protection”). When she decided to escape slavery, she chose a new name: Harriet (which means “ruler of the home”) for her mother and Tubman for her husband. And when she was a conductor for the Underground Railroad, she was given the name Moses.

Freedom and rivers. Two pivotal scenes in the movie involve a river. The first scene is when Harriet stands on a bridge, surrounded on both sides by slave hunters, and decides she would rather die free than live as a slave. Harriet survives the fall and the churning river, awakening on the river bank closer to freedom. The second scene is when Harriet is leading a group of slaves to freedom and the slaves question her judgment when they confront a river. Harriet walks into the river to show them the way and emerges on the other side as a strong, committed leader.

The two scenes parallel the story of Moses, who was put in a basket in the river to save his life and who parted the Red Sea to lead the Israelites to freedom.

Faith in God (or trust your instincts). During her adult life, Harriet had “spells” or visions, which she believed were from God. She chose to follow those visions, even when the people around her doubted her, and she doesn’t hesitate to second-guess her decisions.

If you have you seen “Harriet,” what did you like about the movie? What did you learn about her life – or about the people around her?

5 insights about helping trafficking survivors

November 12, 2019

I didn’t want to believe that sex trafficking happens in Hawaii. I was afraid to believe it. I was uncomfortable thinking about it. Yet we can’t do anything about it unless we acknowledge that it’s a problem.

When Defend the Family held their annual conference and training that focuses on sex exploitation, abuse, and trafficking, I needed to learn more.

I attended the night session on the last day of the conference. I was uneasy being there, but Shannon Marocco warmly welcomed me and conference founder Andria Tupola started a conversation with me, genuinely interested in why I was there.

We learned about the wrap-around case management services offered by the Susannah Wesley Community Center from victim specialist Veronica Lamb. The Center assists survivors of all forms of human trafficking.

We listened to Tina Frundt, a survivor and founder/executive director of Courtney’s House in Washington, DC. Courtney’s House has helped more than 1,000 survivors escape from being trafficked and find a new life, while also training law enforcement and other non-profit groups to help and provide resources to victims.

Tina shared a video clip from an interview with a “former” pimp to show how manipulative, persuasive, and seemingly reasonable sex traffickers can be when they explain what they are doing.

We also heard from a survivor of sex exploitation in Hawaii, Malina Briakadasha, who shared her story of kidnapping, sex exploitation, addiction, and domestic violence.

Here are 5 insights I learned about helping trafficking survivors:

1. Start with believing. Pay attention and screen youth and their parents for trafficking. In Washington, DC, 30% of survivors were trafficked by family. Tina also stressed the need to screen and train the staff and volunteers at shelters, because sex traffickers will deliberately seek jobs where they have access to children who are vulnerable.

2. Give survivors different ways to connect. Be available where they are. Survivors need more than a hotline; they need access to help by text and social media.

3. Language matters. We need to use language that survivors understand. “Trafficking” is a legal term, and most children don’t know what that means. “It’s pimping,” Tina said bluntly.

4. Don’t cry when you hear their story. This was one of the hardest things to hear, because we feel compassion for survivors. But Tina says that tears can reveal pity or even show survivors that we can’t handle their story.

5. Ask non-threatening questions. For example, ask “How many times did you leave home?” and “How did you take care of yourself?”

“If you want a different outcome, then you do everything differently,” Tina stated.

Learn more about Defend the Family and Empower Hawaii at https://www.empowerhawaii.org/; and the Susannah Wesley Community Center at https://www.susannahwesley.org/.

“Do It Anyway” by Kent M Keith

November 5, 2019

“Even when things are going badly in the world around us, we can still find personal meaning and deep happiness,” Kent M. Keith reminds us in “Do It Anyway: The Handbook for Finding Personal Meaning and Deep Happiness in a Crazy World” (2003).

He talks about paradoxical people who live “The Paradoxical Commandments,” sharing their stories of perseverance and resilience, and asking questions that challenge us and make us reflect on our own lives.

My grandmother Janet was one of these “paradoxical people.” She shared her time to visit elderly and ill people, she shared her month to churches and ministries, and she shared her beautiful voice in song. She was one of the most gentle, caring, and gracious people I know.

She seemed to know intuitively what most of us struggle with, and what Keith identifies as the central ideas of his book: that we choose how we respond to events and there is more meaning in service than in power.

Keith lived in Hawaii and was a vice president for YMCA of Honolulu. I loved reading his stories with Hawaii connections, such as the 442nd Regiment during World War II, who gave the best they had despite prejudice and injustice; Wally Amos, who lost everything he had and then rebuilt; and Franchot, who built plantation fields that closed down.

Choosing to live the “Paradoxical Commandments” starts by making two distinctions: 1) loving and approving are not the same thing; and 2) there are many kinds of love.

Every now and then, we all need to be reminded of the Paradoxical Commandments:

  • People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered. Love them anyway.
  • If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives. Do good anyway.
  • If you are successful, you will win false friends and true enemies. Succeed anyway.
  • The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow. Do good anyway.
  • Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable. Be honest and frank anyway.
  • The biggest men and women with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest men and women with the smallest minds. Think big anyway.
  • People favor underdogs but follow only top dogs. Fight for a few underdogs anyway.
  • What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight. Build anyway.
  • People really need help but may attack you if you do help them. Help people anyway.
  • Give the world the best you have and you’ll get kicked in the teeth. Give the world the best you have anyway.

What do you do anyway, even when you think it won’t make a difference? What do you do anyway, because it feels meaningful and right?