Posted by: kuhiovogeler | December 7, 2009

My Mother’s Land I Love

On November 28, 2009, my brother, William Kamehameha Vogeler, stood beside the statute of Queen Lili’uokalani and read his lines from the play, “The Queen’s Women.” He was one of about thirty people at the event near the legislature building, commemorating the 166th anniversary of Hawai‘i’s recognition as an Independent State. Until that morning my brother, Bill, did not know that he would be part of the performance. But “The Queen’s Women” is an interactive play, where audience participants read aloud the statements of Hawaiians who attended the September 16, 1897, meeting of the women’s auxiliary of the Hui Aloha Aina, at the Salvation Army Hall in Hilo, Hawai‘i. The play reenacts the meeting where Mrs. Kuaihelani Campbell and Mrs. Emma ‘A‘imi Nāwahī had sought signatures for anti-annexation petitions. As a result of these petitions, the 1897 American-Republic of Hawaii Treaty of Annexation had failed in the US Senate, due to lack of support .

My brother’s lines were the words of a Hawaiian who had signed the anti-annexation petitions during the 1897 Hilo meeting: “My father is an American: my mother is pure Hawaiian. It is my mother’s land I love.” My brother’s voice cracked. He paused, took a breath, and continued, repeating the last line, “It is my mother’s land I love. The American nation has been unjust. How could we ever love America?”

My mom, Dallas Keali‘iho‘onei‘āina Mossman Vogeler, was Hawaiian. My Dad, Edward Jerome Vogeler Jr., was Pennsylvania Dutch, an American. Both had passed into spirit in recent years. The sentiment of that Hawaiian from 1897 spoke the words that my brother perhaps would have never said otherwise, though, in his heart, these were Bill’s own words.

Bill Loves the US, but he loves Hawai‘i more. This aloha comes from the love our mom expressed and from the reverence she always held for Hawai‘i, the land of her birth. Though we were raised in the United States, our mom eventually returned to Hawai‘i and directed the 1993 reenactment of the overthrow for ‘Onipa‘a Centennial Observance. Hawai‘i is where our mother died.

The idea that Hawai‘i is not part of the US is unsettling for Bill, as it would be for many Americans. He was born in West Virginia and has lived most of his life in California. This recognition that he loves Hawai‘i, as an aspect of loving our mom, causes dissonance, tears.

After his role in the reenactment on November 28, Bill commented about how much he had learned. While he was visiting, he and my sister, Mary Alice, conducted interviews for a book project on Hawaiian sovereignty. By the time they flew back to California, Bill understood that Hawai‘i never legally merged with the United States.

The day before he left, Bill asked what he could do to help. He still loves the United States; at the same time, he realizes that Hawai‘i, this land that our mother loves, this Independent State, separate from the US, needs people working together for the reassertion of Hawai‘i’s sovereignty.

Bill doesn’t love the United States any less. But somehow part of that dissonance had become resolve. The dissonance and resolve may remain for a long time to come.

In truth, all of us struggle with uneasiness at times. What do we do next? What is pono? How do we get it done?

Bill’s experience during the reenactment is a realization that many of us have felt, just not in such a public manner. We all work through similar feelings of uneasiness, and through this dissonance we restore our resolve, as we strive to reassert the sovereignty of this land that we love.

Mahalo,

Kūhiō

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Responses

  1. mahalo, kuhio. i also noticed that bill began to choke up after he read those lines. when i gave him that part, i was just selecting different people to read different sections, without really thinking about who should read what. as you know, it’s all a crap shoot, all accidental. but maybe not. i really felt that your mom was there that day. and james, too. and the queen. we have no way of knowing for sure what else is going on around us, as we go through the different lines in the reenactment. but, as usually happens, certain lines are meant for certain people to read so that the voices that were silent for so many years have a chance to reemerge in a way that makes sense and connects us to our history. as you know, that time of silencing is past.

  2. Aloha, Kuhio,

    “The dissonance and resolve may remain for a long time to come.”

    Pololei. I am in the middle of this, too.

    Thanks for your insight and understanding. Thanks for writing about it. A difficult subject.

    Aloha,
    Stephanie

  3. aloha nui kakou, kuhio.

    i feel your expression of aloha and it resonates in me, kuhio. i, too, felt the resolve that bill feels… the first time i heard the play, i was at the palace. i could feel the mana in the room from all those ali’i kapuna and the warriors posted around the palace. they speak volumes to those disposed to listen. one cannot help but feel the power that emits from the words of the reenactment transcending into another state of being. it’s all quite mystical and unsettling at the same time.

    let us move forward in the new year, together as a team, accepting our kuleana and praying for the strength to carry out our charge.

    may the almighty god bless and protect you and yours with happiness and goodwill during this period of celebration.

    a hui ho!

  4. Aloha a Mahalo nui e Kuhio!

    This is a reality that does not often come to public discussion, though many share the sentiments.

    Mahalo for writing so eloquently and sensitively for me as well.

    Mamo

  5. e kuhio,
    mahalo nunui no kou kakau ‘ana i keia mo’olelo.. ‘a’ole au ‘ike, ‘o mossman ko kou inoa ‘ohana.. he mea hoihoi.. this story is so relatable for many of us. mahalo no kou mahele ‘ana ia makou.. i think the dissonance you write about can be so painful, and at times embarrassing.. as if somehow we are being foolish no matter what side of the issue we stand. thank you for this food for thought.. 🙂

  6. Ae, let’s shed a tear. Bemoan our loss. Console each other. But enough is enough. Instead let’s throw a spear into the heart of that Empire that continues to destroy not just Hawai’i but our planet as well. The US is imploding and taking the rest of us with it. I say we hasten its demise. I say it’s time to use that US staple of foreign policy: overthrow!

    • Aloha Ken Ng,

      Mahalo for your enthusiasm. Things move so slowly sometimes. But if the theory from my dissertation is correct, we need to participate in this transformational process. Hawaiians have discussed many ideas for a long time. However, until now, I have not seen a process that can be applied to Hawai‘i and that has worked in the past. In Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia this process took four years. We need to allow time for our transition. It may take four years, or more. These five steps are new to all of us, and we need time for them to play out.


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