Thursday, June 12, 2008
Aloha is the most universally recognized word in the Hawaiian language. Most people think of it as the word that stands for "hello" and "goodbye" but its meaning is much deeper than that, as I discussed in an earlier entry.
Presumptive Democratic nominee Barack Obama should introduce the electorate to another Hawaiian word--the word for family: ohana. He should introduce the American people to it and do everything he can to make it as well-known as aloha. That effort would accomplish the "task" set out for him by the mainstream media: Acquaint the electorate with his story and with his values.
Here's the best way I can describe ohana: Imagine that Barack Obama is elected president of the United States. Imagine that he comes to his boyhood home in Hawaii and is in the bosom of his ohana. One of the most powerful men on the planet would not be the most powerful person in that room. That honor would belong to Obama's tutu--his grandmother Madelyn Dunham. Obama's wife and children and everyone there--whether related by blood, by marriage or by acquaintance--would honor her status as the matriarch of the family. Gatherings of ohana in Hawaii are highlighted by the joining of hands in a family circle at some point--usually for the blessing of the meal--and everyone participates, regardless of spiritual belief, under the leadership of the head of the ohana. Ohana is more than religion. It is the reason for being.
Visitors here get the impression of Hawaii as paradise. It can be. But if you are alone here, there is no more lonely feeling in the world. If you are without a home here, it is one of the most difficult, inhospitable natural environments you can imagine. Blistering heat, torrential rain, numbing cold at higher elevations, volcanic rock, mosquitoes...
Life is tough without ohana.
If you find a way to deal with nature, the socio-economic realities of the last seven years lurk to test the mettle of those wishing to make a life here. This place isn't like the mainland United States. You can't move away from your mistakes. Your reputation is universal on certain islands. Ohana is the cushion that allows people here to get along and to get by. And ohana means anyone who is accepted into the family circle. If you are ohana, your race or religion or sexual orientation or economic status don't matter. You belong. You contribute. You matter.
As a screenwriter, one of the most important things I have to determine about a screenplay of mine is its logline: What slogan best expresses its overarching theme?
I think this should be the "logline" of the Obama campaign: You belong. You contribute. You matter.
You are ohana.
That is the American Ideal. That is the logic bomb entwined in the DNA woven by the slave-holders who initiated this experiment in democracy: We are ohana. One of the vilest crimes of the conservative movement has been the concerted effort to destroy that aspect of our national identity for its own selfish reasons. For money. President Dwight Eisenhower warned us in 1961 of the very situation we face today. The United States Supreme Court was compelled to hand down a decision yesterday that affirmed Eisenhower's wish that "security and liberty may prosper together."
Mainstream political discourse of the past twenty-eight years has been designed to divide, control, and cower the American People. What we need now are policies that reverse this trend. We need to restore the concept of the Fellow American. We need to pull together as a nation to address the lengthy and dire list of problems that face us. But we can do it. We must do it. Nothing can stop us from doing it but us: We are ohana.