How do you know when itʻs time to stand up for what you believe in? In Hawaiian they say, "Whatever you feel in your na’au (guts), you have to do."
When I heard that the Japanese and Asian Americans were rallying to support the rights of immigrants at the Chicago Cultural Center, I knew I had to show up. No second thoughts about it. Their rallying cry was "Never Again is Now!"
I remembered the stories of my maternal grandfather who was taken away from my grandmother and his 9 children during WW II just because he was Japanese and not because he was guilty of anything. That was wrong. He was interned at Honouliuli Camp in a dry dusty gulch in central Oahu. He died there of an aneurysm. When I found this out many years ago, I said to myself Never Again should this happen to anyone.
The night before the rally as I lay in bed trying to sleep, I was surprised to find deep feelings of sadness arising as I thought about my grandfather. The next morning, my husband and I took the L from Oak Park to the Cultural Center. As we approached the center I saw about 75 Asian Americans heartily chanting, "Never again is now!" Long buried grief came up as I stood with them - hardly able to speak because of tears. I had never really grieved about my grandfather. He died before I was born.
But there it was! My heart felt broken for him, for all the immigrants - children and adults - who had died because we had not cared properly for them. I stayed silent a lot that morning, just bearing witness to this grief that was finally bubbling up for my grandfather who died some 75 years ago. Paying deep attention to sorrow was healing for me.
This past Sunday, we did a small rally chanting and singing at Lake Opeka in Chicago to show support for the protectors of Mauna Kea.
The protectors are Native Hawaiians, their families and friends who are standing up for what they believe in. They are doing civil disobedience against the building of a $1.4 billion Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) on the mountain that is the tallest in the world measuring from sea bottom. In Hawaiian tradition, Hawaii Island is the eldest child of sky father Wakea and earth mother Papahanaumoku. Mauna Kea is the umbilical cord that connects Hawaii to the heavens, and connects humans to land.
The protectors, numbering in the hundreds to thousands on the weekends, have been blocking big trucks from taking equipment up the mountain for the past 20 days. And they have vowed to stay there as long as TMT plans to build.
It was a hot day at Lake Opeka, but a stiff breeze blowing off the lake kept us cool. My dear friend was expressing her opinion about the great possibility of the TMT being built. As I listened to her, I noticed again this deep grief welling up in me. This great sadness came from my guts, deep within my na’au. Noticing this feeling reminded me that grief comes from love.
I trained as a biologist in college. I know and appreciate the value of science. I also trained as a kumu hula. Kumu hula, like ecologists, know and appreciate the value of the natural world. It is where our hula and our life comes from. This is not about being anti-science. It is about respect for indigenous knowledge about the mountain which is different than western knowledge and just as valid.
Poliahu, is the deity of the mountain. She is the goddess of the snow and also a deity of compassion. Kapu Aloha, deep compassionate love, is being practiced on the mountain by everyone. This means bringing your highest self - which I’d call your Christ-consciousness or Buddha Nature - to the mountain. No matter what happens.
May the protectors’ kapu aloha also inspire us to practice kapu aloha, in our everyday lives, towards ourselves as well as others especially with people who we do not agree with. Such compassion takes the form of patience, generosity, respect, and loving kindness. Then it can only go well. EO!!!
Malama pono (take good care of body, mind and spirit),
June Kaililani Tanoue
Kumu Hula and Sensei