Recently, towards the end of a particularly spirited in-class discussion about gender, sexuality, and media, one especially bright student of mine sighed a dramatic, emotionally exhausted sigh: “I love sociology, but you can’t really enjoy anything can you..?”
As I understood it, this student was using the California-rhetorical “you,” a generalized subject as a proxy for “one” – one can’t really enjoy anything, presumably because of the ubiquitous and intersecting nature of various social-structural inequalities, can one?
“Weeell,” I replied, “It’s not that you can’t find pleasure in things. It’s just that you also gotta be mindful of the bigger picture.”
* * *
I have always wanted to visit Hawaii.
But I’ve also always felt kinda conflicted about it – you know, colonization and all. And after reading snippets of insights from Haunani-Kay Trask…
I am certain that most, if not all, Americans have heard of Hawai’i and have wished, at some time in their lives, to visit my Native land. But I doubt that the history of how Hawai’i came to be territorially incorporated, and economically, politically, and culturally subordinated to the United States is known to most Americans. Nor is it common knowledge that Hawaiians have been struggling for over twenty years to achieve a land base and some form of political sovereignty on the same level as American Indians.
Finally, I would imagine that most Americans could not place Hawai’i or any other Pacific island on a map of the Pacific. But despite all this appalling ignorance, five million Americans will vacation in my homeland this year and the next, and so on into the foreseeable capitalist future. Such are the intended privileges of the so-called American standard of living: ignorance of, and yet power over, one’s relations to Native peoples.*
…let’s just say that vacationing all over someone’s homeland as a crass, lei-wearing tourist was the last thing I wanted to do.
But recently, the opportunity to visit Maui presented itself. I decided to embrace it. Strategically. Continued…