Micah Kawaguchi-Ailetcher

This blog discusses current events and issues. Topic areas that are of interest include politics, media, California, and Hawaii.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Update on John Doe v. Kamehameha Schools

(see this earlier post for more information)

The en banc review has come in and it is in favor of Kamehameha Schools and their admission policy with a preference for Native Hawaiian students.

The docket is a very long one at over a hundred pages and its length gives insight into how the decision for Kam came to be. As I have touched on before, the cultural context of this case is vital in understanding the larger issues at hand. With this same thought, the docket starts out with an explanation of the historical and current situations of Hawaiians before diving in to the issue at hand.

This preface was noticeably missing from the earlier (and now nullified) Circuit Court of Appeals decision in favor of John Doe.

Though there is still one more court to appeal to, I have doubts that this case will make it there. The use of a rare en banc review (in which all judges in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals presided over), suggests a finality on the issue and the case's uniqueness suggests that the Supreme Court is not likely to pick it up.

That being said, if it does wonder over to Washington, I have a feeling that the decision is likely to be reversed. Otherwise, why review it? I doubt that the Supreme Court would take it on the basis of establishing a conclusive decision (as is often done with cases that go back and forth between winners) since the decision has been relatively steady in favor of Kam.

Instead, if they choose to review this case, it is likely to be used as a way to address race in admissions in other private institutions (i.e. universities) and the court may see this as their way into this issue since the Gratz and Grutter cases were decided under the previous court.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Red Dirt

My first game wasn't at home.
I ran to center-field holding the yellow softball.

My shoes still clean with no trace of dirt.

I pull my socks up over my smooth, un-scarred knees.

I tuck in my shirt and smile because it's red.

I'm nervous, my body is cold, but I do not sweat.

It's an hour before practice and I'm dripping in sweat.
My bat cuts through the air in the garage of my home.

I pull my hair back and feel my hot face; it's red.

I sit on the oily floor and trace my fingers over the seams of my old ball.

Coach pulls into the driveway. I jump off of my knees

And hop into the back of his white truck, now reddish brown from the dirt.

I pour the grass seeds out along the rows in the dirt.

Next season, I can say with pride that my hard work and sweat

Helped to give this old field its soft grass that tickles my knees

When I get down to stretch before my first game at home.

The sun sets as we finish our rows and I crumple my empty bag into a ball

And stuff it into my back pocket. The orange sun makes the dirt even more red.

But now I know why that dirt is so red.

It is red no where else on the island. It is Lahaina's red dirt.

It is red like the colors of Lahainaluna and its 'L' atop Mount Ball.

It is salty and acidic from volcanic ash and the sweat

Of ball players I never got to meet. The Kaua`ula winds plaster this dirt onto homes,

Cars, everything. At the end of the day, you find it even in the wrinkles of your knees.

With a helmet on my head and armor over my knees,

I sit protected behind home plate. My uniform is dirty but still shining bright red

In the 12 o'clock sun. "Runners on 1st and 2nd. Watch the runners coming home!"

The batter moves closer, pushing me back in my box, kicking up dirt

On purpose. I don't mind; I like being covered in our dirt, our sweat.

The pitcher cocks back and tightly grips her yellow ball.

We lost my last home game. I cried. Not because I couldn't hit her ball,

But because it was done. The pain I felt in my left knee

Was gone; it was somewhere else. I watched the sweat

From my catching gear drip onto the dirt. I saw that everything was red.

Inside and outside the fence were red shirts and faces, and everywhere, red dirt.

I looked at Mount Ball and its 'L' and what I saw is what I see when I think of home.

Lahaina is the home of many ball players,

Forever remembered covered in dirt and with scarred knees.
Our blood is red, but so is our sweat that proudly seeps back into our field.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Reasons why we should not ban horse slaugter

Click here if you're interested in knowing why the United States should reject a ban on horse slaughter. A bill to ban the practice made it past the U.S. House of Representatives last September, and if the Senate manages to find some time for it this session, it has the potential to become law.

The problem with this debate over horse slaughter is that so much of it is driven by a cultural bias that is masked by a crusade to save the horses. If the problem were about the humane treatment of horses, then why not focus on the way the USDA regulates the practice? For that matter, what about the treatment of all animals on the way to slaughter?

Instead, what is being fought for is a ban on the entire practice of horse slaughter in the U.S. which in the end, I believe, will do more harm than good.

Happy reading.

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What David Malo Means to Me

In the Future, every student will get to be David Malo for fifteen minutes. For the low price of admission, every pupil, regardless of race, culture, gender, and age, will climb through the portal into David Malo’s educated Hawai`ian brain. In the multi-cultural theme park called David Malo Land, you will spend your youth in the courts of Chief Kuakini and become an expert in the history, traditions, myths, and unwritten literature of old Hawai’i by mastering the hula. You will then leave the court and your birthplace of Kona on the Big Isle of Hawai’i to move to Lahaina, Maui where you will meet the American missionary, Reverend William Richards, and become the first pupil at Lahainaluna School. Here you will author one of the first books using the newly created Hawai`ian written language. But you, the educated Hawai`ian, will also convert to Christianity. And at the end of your David Malo journey, you will be shown the exit and given a souvenir book mark that reads, IF LAHAINALUNA IS EDEN, THEN DAVID MALO IS ADAM.

David Malo is our father. He is the first gene pair of the indigenous student DNA. In the beginning, he was the word, and the word was possibility. I revel in the wondrous possibilities of David Malo. It is good to embrace your heritage in the presence of his spirit, because I hope he had moments of tradition in what must have been an intellectual life. This much is true: David Malo documented the traditions and meanings of the hula in the book, Mo`olelo Hawai`i. At the time, there already existed ways that he could have recounted Hawai`ian traditions, but I suspect that David Malo chose to do so in writing, and not in hula, because he had chosen to embrace the new traditions that he was being educated in. If that is true, then certain historians would argue that the documenting of Hawai`ian tradition in writing diminished the importance of the hula, Hawai`i’s traditional method of documentation. I don’t know much about documentation, but I know enough about our history to recognize that the more educated human beings become, the more highly human beings extol that education. In that sense, education might be a barbaric process, enriching and enlightening to be sure, but prejudiced and intolerant as well, and possibly a hindrance for the advance, however constructive and destructive, of all civilizations.

After all, Lahainaluna School’s story has never been just the triumphant tale of the handful of Hawai`ian students that made up its first graduating class, no matter what the educators might need to believe. David Malo was not a foresaker of tradition either, no matter what the Kupuna and I might want to believe. The story of Lahainaluna School is also the story of education in Hawai`i and of the many students, from both Lahaina town and from across Hawai`i and Polynesia, who have come there to learn. Considering the public school system and the rich traditions of Hawai`i, I imagine those students were given a new lens under which to examine and pass judgments upon their world with. And it is most certainly the story of Keali`i Reichel, who, after graduating from Lahainaluna, was convicted of theft and sentenced to the community service that would spark in him a determination to embrace traditional Hawai`ian culture and become its most prominent promoter. Lahainaluna School is exactly the kind of Pidgin-English-speaking, No Child Left Behind-failing, anti-haole environment that should rightly be celebrated by anti-U.S. government traditionalists and castigated by educators.

In the end, I wonder if education might somehow not be so magical. After all, it has been nearly 200 years since Hawai`ians were given the opportunity of education, yet Hawai`ians suffer from some of the highest drug-use, poverty, and crime rates in the country. In 1887, the exclusively Hawai`ian Kamehameha Schools were founded and each year, the school offers millions of dollars in college financial aid for Hawai`ians, yet the school’s prospectus pledges that instruction would only be given in English, less it loose its recognition by the government. I remain stunned by these contradictions, by the successive generations of social, political, and artistic mutations that can be so Hawai`ian and foreign. How did we get from there to here? These islands gave life to the first newspaper West of the Rocky Mountains and the annual Merry Monarch hula festival, to the astronomical observatory atop Haleakala and the Hokule`a’s modern-day canoe voyage to Tahiti navigated only by stars, to college prep academies and Hawai`ian language immersion charter schools, to sacred sites and sugar refineries, to `oli chants and Elvis’ “Blue Hawai`i”.

As a Hawai`ian student, I want to hate my education and its contradictions. I want to believe that David Malo hated his education and its contradictions. But Hawai`i’s education system exists, in whole and in part, because David Malo came to Lahainaluna and wrote Mo`olelo Hawai`i. In the school that came to be called Lahainaluna High School, he acted as diplomat between the missionary educators and the Hawai`ians he in turn educated. Why wouldn’t he teach his Hawai`ian pupils to preserve their heritage and ways of learning because it is just as good as this new form of education from the missionaries? David Malo is a contradiction. Here in school, I exist, in whole and in part, because my mother moved me from my birthplace of Kona on the Big Isle of Hawai`i to be educated, like her and the many previous generations in my family, at Lahainaluna, so as not to break the tradition. I am a contradiction; I am David Malo.

{This is my take on the poem "What Sacagawea Means to Me" by Sherman Alexie}