Friday, August 21, 2009

Comment on NY Times opinion piece re 50th anniversary of Hawaiian statehood -

I don't usually comment on NY Times articles but the Times had an article today in honor of the 50th anniversary of Hawaiian statehood.

It's by Paul Theroux. You can read it here.

I did. Not sure how I feel about it.

Paul Theroux is brilliant, and a great writer, and all that - but somehow my main encounter with his writing bothered me. And his opinion piece was an interesting read, and he gets a lot right, but again, something about it bothered me. Judging by many comments, I wasn't alone in having that reaction.

Between that, being reminded of a funny incident at a UPS store, and seeing another comment that I just thought was kind of wrong, I actually composed a comment on my lunch hour. However, I think I may have missed the cutoff (I don't know whether it's a number or a time that kicks off the close of the comments, but the Times does have a definite point at which comments are closed). So it probably won't see the light of day over there. No matter, wasn't anything important.

Figured I'd share it here, anyways. Filing under "silly opinions". I suppose I should have a "serious opinions" tag, too, but I always feel like I'm skating on the brink of stupid when I do get serious.


The only work of Paul Theroux's that I've read is Riding the Iron Rooster. I enjoyed it but was bothered by a constant, niggling sense that Mr. Theroux felt disdain for most of the people he encountered on his travels.

When he makes statements like "It is fashionable to drive with your feet out the window" about the state in which I was largely raised, it gives me that same feeling - only it hits home a little harder. It's an interesting piece, but somehow, despite his 20 years of residence there, it does read like the opinion of an outsider who holds himself to be superior (much though he appreciates the scenery).

On a less critical note - his comment about tourists referring to the Mainland as "the States" reminds me of one visit I made to a United Parcel Service outlet here in NY. My father was a teacher on O'ahu at the time; I work in publishing and had gathered a couple of cartons of books to send to the library at my father's school. I was quite surprised to find myself explaining to the young man at the counter that no, I did NOT need to fill out a customs form to send these books home!

Note in response to poster #38, who claims "Haoles (HOW - LEE) doesnt connote whites, on the islands is means non-hawaiian ancestry" - The word "haole" does not literally translate to "white person". However, in modern usage, when a person from the islands uses the word "haole", it's a safe bet they are talking about a Caucasian.

It's not like other ethnic groups aren't perceived as distinct, either -if I'm remembering correctly, Hawaiian pidgin has specific terms for pretty much every ethnic group.

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