I’m on the balcony of our hotel in Honolulu trying to soak up every last moment in paradise before flying home. The pleasant haze of pina colodas, sunshine and ocean air Ive been walking around in for a week is slowly dissipating, a cloud of existential dread creeping up in its place.
The bright orange and pink glow surrounding the island moments ago has faded into the sea, the last of its stubborn light creating rebellious streaks of red and purple across the night sky. Beauty born from belligerence, what a metaphor.
Breathtaking as it is, not even the majesty of this view can quell my anxiety. After a 9 day hiatus from news and social media, I checked Twitter and learned the Supreme Court overturned Roe V Wade.
Below me the resort’s nightly Luau is in full swing. I can see glimpses of the performance and hear the music and movements perfectly from 32 floors up.
I watched, entertained and then unexpectedly moved. The rhythmic drum beating, the fire, undulating dancers and guttural chants were evocative, intensifying emotions already heavy on my heart. There was a familiar mournfulness behind the strength and joy of the story being told. It left a pounding in my chest an ache for something not just missing, but stolen.
I felt like I was eavesdropping on a ritual, ancient and sacred, cheapened by my outsider’s gaze.
I looked away guiltily. Feeling awkward, I busied myself with googling the origins of hula and ended up reading for hours.
The hula is an ancient dance, a way to call on the power of the fertility Goddess. It’s a living archive, a piece of the islands soul that is deeply personal to its people and the survival of their history.
When Christian missionaries settled in the islands, in their puritanical ignorance they didn’t see the spiritual or cultural importance of the hula, they saw sexual deviance and Pagan worship. They saw topless dancing and female divinity. They saw something they couldn’t control.
So they shamed the women preforming it, regulated when and where and by whom it could be preformed, and they banned it outright.
Outlawing hula was one of the first ways they asserted their beliefs and increased their influence on the path to complete dominion over the island.
These white Christian men peddled their religion as morality and used their presumed proximity to God to manipulate Hawaiians into entrusting them with positions of power in government. Then, they used their power and positions to subjugate the Hawaiian people.
They do this over and over again. White Christian men. They pretend to be the arbitrators of what is right and just and godly. The truth is the church is used as a political institution of power for the purpose of seizing and maintaining control over the social and economic hierarchy, which is based on white supremacy, a foundation of which is patriarchy.
And We white women keep letting it happen. You know who was right there next to those missionaries in early Hawaii? Their wives. Their white Christian wives were there to excuse their racism, ignore the hypocrisy of their proclivities, justify their assaults and help their attempts at turning more women into ornamental breeding chattel with no bodily autonomy, cultural ties or female deities to draw strength from.
I don’t expect much more from those men. But how did those women convince themselves that what they were doing was right? How could they claim to have cared about the lives and souls of women while exposing those same women to deadly diseases? How could they look at their racist husbands & think it’s Godly to allow racist men to dictate the lives of the very people whose race they harbor hatred against? How could they reconcile that the same men who mistreat them, harm them emotionally, mentally & physically & neglect their own children are the men that God has tasked with deciding the fate of an entire nation of women?
Even more I wonder why those women, in their limited world view, having existed only in an echo chamber of their own beliefs, thought their understanding of God and morality was the correct one and their divine right to impose on others.
Most of all, I wonder why we still haven’t caught on today. Why we don’t heed the warnings from history. Why are conservative Christian women voting for a party of men who’ve shown time and time again what their true intentions are? Why have we continued to believe this bullshit narrative that these men are the true defenders of the sanctity of life when all evidence points to the contrary? Why are we participating in our own oppression, blindly following a path that we know leads to our daughters having less rights than we do? Why aren’t we asking what the end goal here is? Bc there is ALWAYS an ulterior motive when it comes to laws that apply to only a certain group of people. Why does anyone believe the same party of people who blocked free pre natal care, the child tax credit, paid family leave, universal pre-K, a living wage, child care subsidies and every other program or policy that would demonstratively improve the lives of mothers and babies cares one bit about the lives of women or the unborn? Why do we believe that the party of people who voted against the violence against women act, who are currently passing laws to drop age requirements for marriage, banning books, trying to criminalize IVF, outlawing unmarried cohabitation, the party littered with sex offenders and pediphiles and who just had a candidate in Indiana win a primary from his jail cell where he awaits trial for the murder of his wife, has women’s best internet at heart? Why don’t we ask why the Catholic Church, the most outspoken defenders of unborn babies is also the biggest defender of pedophiles? The same with the evangelical church and their protection of predators. Why hasn’t the GOP focused any resources or attention on the 500,000 children in foster care in the US? Why don’t they want economically disadvantaged school children to receive free lunch? Why haven’t they focused any attention on the fact that the leading cause of death for pregnant women in the US is MURDER? Why aren’t they investigating states that have maternal mortality rates on par with 3rd world countries? Why haven’t they considered legislating mens bodies? What other rights aren’t enumerated in the constitution? What’s more; What will they take from us next?
The luau is long over, it’s just me and the moon and the pounding in my chest. But It sounds like war drums now and though the performance has ended, from somewhere in the distance I swear I hear a battle cry…