Saturday, April 22, 2006

Hawaii and we're overrun with Fluff

Did you catch "Overthrow: America's Century of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq" on Democracy Now! Friday? That's the first of a two-part interview. The second part will air sometime next week. If you missed it, you can listen or watch online and you can read a transcript of it online as well.

If you need an overview, here's a piece from the opening of the interview that sets up the topic really well:

AMY GOODMAN: Well, you are looking at 14 coups that the U.S. was involved with. What was the primary reason for the U.S. government's involvement in overthrowing other countries' governments?
STEPHEN KINZER: A lot of these coups have been studied individually, but what I'm trying to do in my book is see them not as a series of isolated incidents, but rather as one long continuum. And by looking at them that way, I am able to tease out certain patterns that recur over and over again. They don't all fit the same pattern, but it's amazing how many of them do.


I always start with the assumption that everyone in the room knows more than I do, so most people are probably aware of the history of Hawaii. I wasn't aware of any of it. I was reading Maxine Hong-Kingston's The Fifth Book of Peace and came across a point that puzzled me. So I asked for clarification (which we all need to do but a lot of times are too afraid to so we just nod and act like we know). Well this was covered Friday on Democracy Now! and it ties in to current news plus it's something that you may not know about. (I honestly didn't until last month). Here's one of the sections from the interview about Hawaii:

AMY GOODMAN: The queen called in ambassadors from other countries for help?
STEPHEN KINZER: The queen was a little bit shocked by all this, as were her cabinet ministers. In fact, they appealed to the United States and asked, "What instability is there? Who's in danger? Tell us, and we'll protect them." The queen had about 600 troops at her disposal. That was the whole Hawaiian military force. And her cabinet ministers actually called the ambassadors from foreign countries in Honolulu -- there were about a dozen of them then -- and said, "What should we do? Do you think we should fight the Marines?" And the ambassadors quite prudently told her that that would be foolish. "You should just accept it and then try to regain your throne by some other means." That never proved possible. But even then, it was clear to the ruler of this small, weak country that there was no hope in resisting U.S. military intervention.
AMY GOODMAN: It still took a few years before Hawaii was ultimately annexed.
STEPHEN KINZER: It's a very interesting story. Immediately after the revolution, the revolutionaries went back to Washington and, sure enough, President Harrison, as he promised, submitted to the U.S. Congress a law to bring Hawaii into the U.S., but there was a great resistance to this when it was understood how the coup was organized and on whose behalf it was organized, so the Congress did not immediately approve the annexation of Hawaii.
And right at that time, the presidency changed. The Republican, Benjamin Harrison, was out of office, and the new president, a Democrat, Grover Cleveland, came in. He was against annexation. He was an anti-imperialist. He withdrew the treaty. And that meant that Hawaii had to become an independent country for a few years, until the next Republican president came into office, McKinley. And then, at the height of the Spanish-American War, when the U.S. was taking the Philippines, Hawaii was presented to the U.S. as a vital midway station between California and the Philippines. And it was at that time, five years after the revolution, that Hawaii was actually brought into the United States.


I was feeling pretty good about myself while they were discussing that because I'd just found about it recently. But then I saw something online and thought I really should note it.

This is from Friday and it's by Chris Newmarker, of the Associated Press, the article's entitled
"Native Hawaiians Honor Grover Cleveland:"

When it comes to Grover Cleveland, many Americans, even residents of his home state of New Jersey, have trouble recalling anything about him except that he is the only president ever to serve non-consecutive terms.
But 5,000 miles away, Native Hawaiians credit Cleveland with sticking up for their rights and sovereignty in the 1890s, when sugar plantation owners overthrew their queen and asked for annexation by the United States.
So it was on Thursday that three Native Hawaiians landed at New York's LaGuardia Airport, carrying about 20 leis, and found themselves getting lost on New Jersey roads as they searched for Cleveland's birthplace in Caldwell and the town's First Presbyterian Church, where his father was a pastor.
The Hawaiians are in New Jersey this weekend to pay their respects to Cleveland in Caldwell and at his grave site in Princeton.


Friday morning, I hear Grover Cleveland's name for the first time, I didn't know about his part in it (or in stopping it), and then I saw this online. I really know nothing about Grover Cleveland other than that he was a president and, as of yesterday, that he stopped the empire from grabbing Hawaii. Possibly, that's why he served only one term?

But I know we have members from Hawaii in The Common Ills community and I know C.I. shouldn't be the only one noting them. Which is one thing I wanted to write about last night but was too tired. C.I.'s holding this morning's entry at The Common Ills so that shout outs can be done to me and Kat for our entries. If that weren't the case, I'd go in detail about the subject (even though C.I. would say, "There really are other things to write about"). Instead, I'll just note that week in and week out The Common Ills is a site that goes far beyond the "White" or the "Male." This week, I laughed so hard at C.I.'s take on this person who wrote into The Nation to say that MLK 'won' and Malcolm X 'lost.' The guy didn't know anything about either man. C.I. responded with "Young, Ignorant and White" which was one of my favorite commentaries this week. So let me note that.

Let me also note Kat's "Both Sides of the Coin -- Ben Harper's Both Sides of The Gun vs. The Living Room Tour" which is great and, if you haven't already gotten Ben Harper's Both Sides of The Gun, you need to. My cousin says he'll be hosting NBC's Last Call all next week, so check that out and if that and Kat's review don't make you think, "I need to get Both Sides of The Gun," I don't know what will.

Last night, Three Cool Old Guys had a mixer at their nursing home. There were some people brought in from another nursing home. And the guys were really bummed for the first half-hour. It was depressing. I asked what was going on and got an earful.

They pointed to one group of women as an example. Right then, they were on couches, talking. This is the thrust of the conversation.

Woman 1: Girl, I love me some bread!
Woman 2: I have to have bread with every meal. I couldn't have a meal without some bread.
Woman 3: I have to cut my ice cream because I'm diabetic. I have to cut it or it's too rich for me.
Woman: Milk and cream and bread, I could live on it.

It went on and on like that forever. I got Three Cool Old Guys' point. I get depressed when I'm around people my age and all they want to do is talk about nonsense. (Big topic at the end of the week was Ace -- whoever that is -- getting voted off American Idol.) It must be even worse, when you're older and wiser and you have to hear that. The conversation on milk, cream and bread went on for fifteen minutes while I was listening and it was taking place before I was standing with Three Cool Old Guys. They're going to write about it for next Friday's gina & krista round-robin so check for that.

I'll just point out that we can talk about fluff or we can talk about the world around us. There's nothing wrong with bread (unless you are on a low-carb diet) but if you're not sharing recipes, I'm not sure why you'd go on and on about it like that. It was never even, "___ is the best loaf of bread" or anything like that. It was always "bread." It made me wonder exactly what I'd be talking about when I was older. Because, and Three Cool Old Guys believe this too, when you're older, you should have a little bit more to offer to a conversation than superficial.

I mean, if bread's your topic, talk about the best loaf you ever had or maybe someone in your family makes great bread or whatever. But to just go on and on with "Oh, I like bread too" seems like a waste of time.

I feel like a lot of time gets wasted with people my age. I hear way too much about American Idol and that dance show that's off right now. But especially with those contest shows, it's like people are so focused on who might win (and it's not them) that they don't care a thing about what goes on in the world. I went to lunch with some people at the office on Thursday and I felt like we'd all taken a stupid pill. The entire conversation was American Idol. And will Fantasia have a career? What about Kelly? What was the name of the guy who lost that year?

Justin. I don't even watch the show, never have, and I know his name. Honestly, I preferred it when the people I worked with were obsessed with soaps. It was stil fantasy but at least something was happening on them. I didn't watch them either but I knew Carly and Sonny and Jax's name and could follow the conversation. At the end of the lunch, one guy pointed out that I hadn't said anything. (Other than "Justin!" when they went on for several minutes trying to remember the guy's name.) I said I don't watch American Idol.

He apologized and said we'd talk about something else on the trip back to work. Guess what it was? Survivor. Which I also don't watch. But it was coming on tonight and . . .

Is that what we're coming to? A bunch of boring conversations about psudeo-reality? Sometimes I wonder. And I blame the corporate media which offers nothing but a headline on one story and then on to the next one. When the follow up, which is usually a kidnapping or some other White woman in tragedy story, it does get talked about. But they won't follow up on important stories. They won't say, "Yesterday, ___ spoke out against the administration's handling of pre-war intelligence and today ___ came forward to offer additional information. For that story, we go to ___."

There are two people I usually go out to lunch with but one's off on vacation and the other had an appointment so I ended up with the Fluff Crowd (who'll read this if they can tear themselves away from American Idol and its website long enough). We'll all listen to Democracy Now! and we can talk about things at lunch. Not just what's going on in the world but maybe someone's brother or whatever. But it seems like a lot of people aren't getting any reality/spinach in their media diet and they've come to the conclusion that obsessing over American Idol for hour upon hour (and they were talking about it after lunch when we got back to the office) is somehow going to enrich their lives.

At the start of the week, this woman came over to my desk and says she heard I follow the news. I say I try to. She says she was busy this weekend and needed to know did Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie get married?

I thought, "How do I respond to that?" Do I tell her, "They issued a statement that says: Live your own lives and quit living their life!" Do I tell her that, since she was well over forty, she was a little old to be obsessing over movie stars' private lives? I just told her that I try to follow news. She replied, excitedly, her too and said she's always surfing E! and The Star. She doesn't care for US weekly because it can be "a little too mean." If US weekly is a grown woman's idea of hard hitting journalism (and she turns from it), what does that say about the country?

Because it's not just this one woman. It's a lot of people at the office. When I got back from California, people at the office wanted to know about the trip. So I was excited and talking about protests and activists and they just wanted to know (except for the two I lunch with and the boss), did I see any movie star homes? That's saying something about the state of the country.
And more importantly about the state of distraction corporate media encourages.

My rant for the morning.

Check out Betty's "When friends are awarded, Thomas Friedman goes fugue," C.I.'s "NYT: A columnist can tell it's news -- why can't the reporting section?" and Wally's "THIS JUST IN! ALBERTO GONZALES IN THE MIDST OF MADONNA UP!" but read Elaine's "My pacificism isn't a cloak I wear some days and others put on war drag" immeditately. Mike's got good reasons why in "US number four on execution, Guantanamo prisoners, strong voices."

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