Here is a Hawaiian blog that gets many hits each day (10,120 yesterday alone): Cutest Kawaii Cat Gif Animations. So, before you know anything else about Hawaiians, understand that they are not like the rest of us.
(Although, maybe “us” doesn’t apply. There are only 10 of you reading this blog on a good day, and maybe each of you immediately signed up to Follow that kitty blog.) (Okay, the bread-loaf kitty over there is cute.)
This post contains four of the more interesting details from Sarah Vowell’s book Unfamiliar Fishes, along with some more Hawaii stuff stuck in here. Once you finish this post, you will be an expert on Hawaii and can be hired out to perform at nerd parties. Mail or PayPal me your $9.95 and you’ll get your certificate saying so posthaste. Would I lie to you?
This book was worth a read. To me, not as interesting as Sarah’s Wordy Shipmates (in another post), but I still got some fascinating cherry-pickings from it. Here is a hint about the first cherry (if you’re a male still giggling every time you read that word, stick to the Disney site, and wait for your 18th birthday):
Cherry 1: He Who is Lashed First, Laughs Last
Had you already known that the elite Hawaiian school Obama attended as a child was also attended by the last of the Hawaiian royals? The fire-and-brimstone Christian who ran it back then didn’t give the three royal children enough to eat, and whipped them on their bare backs with a lash for sneaking out repeatedly at night.The really sad thing was that they were sneaking out to find food because he was starving them so badly. His harsh treatment caused the children to rebel. Instead of maturing into uptight, rigid Christians like he was, all three grew into fun-loving adults. David Kalakua ( Ka-la-KOO-ah ), Hawaii’s last king, was known as the “Merrie Monarch.” Hawaii’s last ruler, Queen Liliuokalani ( Lily-oo-oh Ka-LA-knee ), wrote the love song “Aloha Oe”, which must have made that old Christian missionary inside his grave look a lot like the kitty at the top of this post. Good on you, royal kiddos!
Cherry 2: In Old Hawaii, Incest Was Best
This was a big surprise to me: The old Hawaiians had great respect for incest; at least among their royals. Brother-sister unions were thought to concentrate spiritual power, and children of siblings were “especially revered.” When King Kamehameha (Ka-MAY-ha-MAY-ha ) died, the highest-ranking possible heirs were the son and daughter of one of his wives, and she was the daughter of siblings, too. Some Hawaiians felt that Kamehameha’s children, who were 12 and 8 years old, should marry. (Some thought they were already having sex, anyhow. Ew.)
Forget cultural sensitivity. Really disgusting practice. Sarah and I agreed on that one.
Cherry 3: Traditional Hawaiians Place a High Value on Low Parts
Traditional Hawaiians have a high respect for their belly buttons and privates. In the words of a Kekuni Blaisdell as quoted by Sarah: The navel represents “each person’s anatomical attachment to [its] mother…each child is taught to respect [it], to make sure it’s clean and to reflect on its significance.” Genitals are revered as the connection to one’s descendants. Hawaiians even teach their keikis (KAY-keys), or children, a little poem to remind them of these two things:
Keep your bell-y but-ton clean,
And your legs up in-be-tween;
Your bell-y-but-ton’s where you’re from;
The o-ther place? Go ask your mom.
Okay, I lied. The Hawaiians don’t teach their children that poem at all. So sue me.
There is, for real, a specific genre of hula dance honoring royals, the hula ma’I, “that praises the genitalia of the person being honored.”. In detail. Giving sizes and comparisons. Forget debates: I’d like to see today’s presidential candidates stand up to that kind of scrutiny. In my opinion, that is the one and only instance where the phrase “man up” would be non-sexist (always assuming male candidates, which this friggin’ sexist country IS always assuming).
Cherry 4: Our Astronauts Brought Whales to the Moon
Revealed in Sarah’s section on the old whaling industry in Hawaii, here’s a factoid that surprised me even more than the incest yes-yes: Whale oil was used as an officially-sanctioned lubricant by the United States government well into the space age! Because it remains effective at temperature extremes, sperm whale oil was used by NASA for moon landers and other remotely-operated vehicles until the International Whaling Commission banned commercial whaling in 1986.
Imagine: Greenpeace stealing a shuttle and trying to ram a moon mission lander…
The Theft of Hawaii
Part of Sarah’s book tells the story of Hawaii’s theft from the Hawaiians by the U.S. government. But rather than using Sarah’s words, a very short YouTube video does a fine job of summing up the highlights:
The Foreign Country of Hawaii–Its Strange Language, Money, and Customs
But for the ultimate word on all things Hawaiian, this video contains everything you’ve ever wanted to know: