Queen LiliuokalaniThe U.S. Supreme Court is poised to rule on the issue of whether apologies issued to Hawaii give native Hawaiians a legal claim to lands seized in the 19th century.

The Court will have to judge whether an apology was a mere statement of regret, or whether, even without additional language, the apology creates legal responsibilities.

The case has important implications for native Hawaiians and for other groups, such as native Americans, which may have historic claims to seized territory. It also bears directly on the politics and legal implications of the growing number of state and federal apologies for the nation’s history of slavery and discrimination.

The U.S. apologizes for the annexation of Hawaii

In 1893, the Kingdom of Hawaii was overthrown by private American interests with the backing of a U.S. official and U.S. marines. Despite protests by Queen Liliuokalani, who was imprisoned, within five years the U.S. had annexed Hawaii and claimed 1.8 million acres belonging to the Hawaiian crown or its subjects as federal land. In 1959, when Hawaii became the fiftieth state in the Union, 1.2 million acres reverted to the state government to be held in trust.

In 1993, the U.S. Congress recognized the 100th anniversary of the Hawaiian monarchy’s overthrow with a resolution apologizing to native Hawaiians for that event, and calling for “reconciliation between the United States and the Native Hawaiian people.” In its apology, Congress said the U.S. had participated in a “conspiracy to overthrow the Government of Hawaii,” and found this to be “a violation of treaties between the two nations and of international law.”

Meanwhile, the Hawaiian state legislature declared U.S. actions surrounding the overthrow to be “illegal and immoral,” declaring that neither native Hawaiians nor their rightful government had agreed to cede the land.

Hawaii v. Office of Hawaiian Affairs

Last year, the Supreme Court of Hawaii cited the U.S. apology in enjoining the state from selling any of the 1.2 million acres at issue while the claims of native Hawaiians to the land are resolved. The court found unanimously that the congressional apology amounted to an acknowledgment “that the Native Hawaiians have unrelinquished claims over the ceded land” and that the apology “contemplates future reconciliation” among the U.S., the state of Hawaii, and native Hawaiians. Taking the 1993 federal and state statements together, the court concluded that the state has a fiduciary duty to preserve the land while an amicable resolution to the claims is pursued.

The State of Hawaii appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which heard oral arguments last month in Hawaii v. Office of Hawaiian Affairs. The state wants the freedom to sell land under its control. Not surprisingly, it argues that the congressional apology was meant only to acknowledge the history and to apologize for it, and not to affect the state’s legal obligations.

Mere statement of regret or basis for legal claims?

The congressional apology to native Hawaiians specifically said, in section 3:

Nothing in [this resolution] is intended to serve as a settlement of any claims against the United States.

This language seems to parallel the disclaimers in many apologies for slavery discrimination, which usually seek to expressly reject the possibility that an apology could be used to advance legal claims, such as reparations for slavery. The language of this apology, however, seems to be less clear: the Hawaiian Supreme Court found that the language contemplates a future settlement of claims by native Hawaiians, while the State of Hawaii argues that this provision was intended, at best, neither to advance nor to deny those claims.

These conflicting interpretations may hinge on language unique to this apology, but there is a much broader issue at stake.

Advocates for slavery apologies frequently argue that an apology cannot, by implication, create substantive legal rights, and apology opponents frequently insist that their concern is that courts could find a right to slavery reparations in the mere act of apologizing. It is significant, therefore, that the Supreme Court of Hawaii seems to have found a substantive legal right, by implication, in the 1993 congressional apology—despite the legislative history, which expressly says that the apology “will not result in any changes in existing law.”

The Justice Department, in its amicus brief, suggested that if the Supreme Court upholds the ruling, it will discourage similar apologies from Congress for other historic wrongs. However, the four members of Hawaii’s congressional delegation filed their own amicus brief with the Court, opposing the state’s position and arguing that federal courts have, in the past, found that apologies have changed legal obligations, and that the Court ought to do so here, as well.

This case also has implications for the settlement of claims beyond those of native Hawaiians and the descendants of slaves. There have been seven amicus briefs filed on behalf of the petitioner, and ten on behalf of the respondent. These include a brief filed by the United States, a brief filed by thirty-two other U.S. states, and briefs raising issues involving native Americans, Alaska natives, and race-based preferences.

19 Responses to “The battle over Hawaii’s apology”


  1. bobbo says:

    James – are you aware of how the annexation of Hawaii was a violation of international law back when it occurred?

    I wonder if more problems are caused rather than solved by looking so far backward?


  2. James says:

    Yes, bobbo, I'm well aware of how the annexation of Hawaii was a violation of international law.

    The Kingdom of Hawaii was a sovereign nation, recognized as such under international law and by the United States, among other states. The U.S. participated in the overthrow of the legitimate government of a sovereign nation, and later annexed the territory of that nation, both of which are fundamental violations of core principles of sovereignty and international law.

    I think you raise a very important issue when you ask whether it helps to look back to historical events like this.

    In general, I think it's essential that we be aware of the history, both good and bad, of our country and society.

    When it comes to issues like slavery and race, or the treatment of Hawaii, I don't believe that we're simply covering old ground or discussing obscure historical matters. I'm constantly hearing comments from people about our nation, its history, and the present day which reflect a profound lack of understanding about our history and an unconscious embrace of historical myths which distort their thinking about important issues.

    Beyond simply being aware of our history, I think there are excellent reasons to acknowledge the darker aspects of our history in certain cases.

    Shays’s Rebellion, for instance, may no longer have implications for groups in our society which would require us to focus on it today. The annexation of Hawaii and the history of slavery and race in this country, however, have profound echoes in our society today. Among other issues, both of these historical episodes have resulted in groups of Americans today knowing that they are in different circumstances, and are treated differently by those around them, because of terrible historical wrongs committed by our nation and society. These wrongs (and their effects today) are generally not acknowledged by our nation or its citizens, and indeed are often explicitly denied.

    This is why I believe that acknowledgment can be so important, and amount to more than merely "looking backward."


  3. bobbo says:

    For my education, I have a hazy notion that "today" the UN sets forth actual rules about when WAR/Annexation is "legal" and when it is not.

    I'm not aware of any such global body (powerless, but still "an authority?) that was in place to make such judgments in 1859.

    So, more specifically, if you know, what international law was violated and what body was charged with creating/pontificating that law?

    Knowledge is always to be treasured, including the darkest and blackest of history. I'll bet I would tend to accept that history for its "pragmatic" reality while you would tend to decry its inhumanity?

    Which position would better embrace the lessons that history offers us?


  4. James says:

    The rules of sovereignty, including such fundamental principles as not interfering in the domestic affairs of sovereign nations nor annexing those nations, are contained within international law and do not depend on the U.N. or any other international body.

    It's true that the U.N. Charter in 1945 continued the process of refining the rules of war and peace, and gave the organization a role in the maintenance of international peace and security. In practice, this means that the U.N. often serves, for instance, to grant legitimacy on behalf of the international community to invasions of sovereign nations. But the rules at issue here were already in place in 1893.

    So there was no international body charged with making or enforcing the rules of sovereignty in 1893, but sovereign norms like non-interference were well-established under international law, to be found in such sources as international treaties and treatises.

    As for the darker moments in our history, I suspect that I accept the reality, indeed, the inevitability of much of human history every bit as much as you do. This doesn't mean that we shouldn't decry its inhumanity when appropriate, and certainly when that inhumanity still resonates within our own society.


  5. bobbo says:

    OK, 1893. Seems to me elevating a number of treaties to "international law" is a stretch.

    Treaties. Yea. I guess if they were all enforced most of America would be returned to "the natives."

    The reality of treaties and international law without enforcement is that they are peices of paper and not worth much more.

    The lesson of history I accept is that borders change/leaders are disposed with little regard to right and wrong, but only upon the exercise of power. After that, people without power make arguments as their interests are perceived==not much "law" about the process other than misapplied names/labels/sentiments.

    I think the whole notion of "tribal homelands" and what not captures the natives in outmoded/unsupportable/unrealistic cultural artifacts and ALL such reserves should be done away with. We are all Americans, New Zealanders, etc.

    Cut off the dead hand of history and lets move on.


  6. James says:

    Bobbo, treaties are what make international law. If you think that international law resides primarily in formal international institutions like the U.N., then you've misunderstood what international law is all about.

    It's true that international treaties are often broken. It's also true that the U.N. is often ignored or powerless. What you're missing is that international law, and especially its fundamental principles, are obeyed the vast majority of the time.

    think the whole notion of “tribal homelands” and what not captures the natives in outmoded/unsupportable/unrealistic cultural artifacts and ALL such reserves should be done away with. We are all Americans, New Zealanders, etc.

    Even if we accepted your approach, bobbo, we wouldn't all be equally Americans and New Zealanders. To use the examples above, in the U.S., blacks and native Hawaiians are not always treated equally, and history explains why. Nor do members of these groups, on average, have the same resources or opportunities, and this is all about history.

    If we "cut off the dead hand of history" in favor of all being citizens of our country, we will ignore this reality and be blind to these injustices.


  7. bobbo says:

    Hey James, this is a topic that interests me and that I need to learn about. I think we have a common interest, how to best serve man, but have opposite initial ideas about how to approach that.

    You say: "To use the examples above, in the U.S., blacks and native Hawaiians are not always treated equally, and history explains why." Yes, but letting that dead hand of history keep people on reservations and tied to a lost culture kept alive by the conquering nation as some type of living zoo, does not give anyone the equality treatment we both want to encourage.

    I am reminded of a tribe in the North East ((you probably know them well?)) something like "Chickasaw" and in 1978 tribal records showed there to be 8 members of the tribe. They decided to use their soveriegnty to open an indian casino and to distribute the profits in equal shares to anyone of 1/x indian heritage. A year later the tribe had grown to 100. Next year 300. I believe that proud indian nation is now in the thousands.

    Its just really stupid. If the law is you can't gamble or hunt whales then there should be no exception for "treaty holders" from 400 years ago. More importantly, on the issue of being discriminated against, the western indians that leave the reservation and make it in white america often cannot be told apart from the polyglot American. Those that stay on tribal land and rely on welfare and alcohol and learn to dance, weave and treat inanimate objects as holy are as lost to themselves as they are to anything rational.

    Its because I want all human beings to maximally self actualize that I want everyone to be just like ME!!

    Ok, I took a little blue pill.

    International law according to my quick read of the wiki only really started in the early 20th Century. Looks to me like to have any real meaning at all there indeed needs to be an independent "authority" of some type. Treaties are treaties, international law developed later and is something a bit bigger/different? Unless one is an advocate of some type?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_law

    Lots of directions to go here. Anything strike your fancy sufficient to take the time?


  8. James says:

    letting that dead hand of history keep people on reservations and tied to a lost culture ….

    I'm inclined to agree with you, bobbo, that most people wouldn't be well-served by being kept on a reservation or "tied to a lost culture."

    However, people need to be able to choose for themselves how to recognize their heritage, especially in a culture where they are part of a disadvantaged minority with an historically disrespected heritage. I have the luxury of being able to retain and honor my heritage without taking dramatic steps or being accused of being caught in the past.

    Those that stay on tribal land and rely on welfare and alcohol and learn to dance, weave and treat inanimate objects as holy are as lost to themselves as they are to anything rational.

    Those who live in mainstream society will often tell you that they aren't treated equally, especially if they choose to honor their heritage in any way, and that the disadvantages of being a minority don't magically disappear.

    Meanwhile, I'm not sure you're doing justice to those who live on reservations and try to preserve an ancient culture. To be sure, there are significant problems on reservations, but these aren't unrelated to how the U.S. has treated indigenous peoples and can't simply be chalked up to practicing an older way of life.

    I want everyone to be just like ME!!

    I appreciate that you have a sense of humor about that, bobbo, just as you do with so many of the issues we discuss.

    However, it's also a serious issue, as I'm sure you realize. You want people to be "just like you" more than many people are comfortable with … and "just like you" may sound to them like trying to emulate the majority, and thereby buying into second-class status.

    For all the calls for black citizens, for instance, to simply try to be like white people, those who have assimilated still face daily discrimination. So they can be forgiven for being skeptical of calls to solve our racial problems by assimilating.

    International law according to my quick read of the wiki only really started in the early 20th Century.

    You read that too quickly, bobbo, or else it was misleading. International law dates back centuries, at least to the 17th century and Hugo Grotius.

    Treaties are treaties, international law developed later and is something a bit bigger/different?

    No, that's not international law at all. For one thing, international law is famously based in treaties and similar international agreements, and not in independent "authorities" at all.


  9. bobbo says:

    To be fair, like all good subjects, we "ought to" spend a few hours defining our terms and clarifying the point to be resolved?

    For now, let me clarify a point you should agree with: CHOOSING to be an indian on a reservation with all the discrimination that entails is quite different than BEING born black in the USA. No other judgments being made, just that the two subjects are different enough that they should be lumped together only very carefully.

    Can we agree on this: I believe we all should honor everyone else for their equal humanity. I don't believe the same applies to different "cultures" as may be variously defined. The culture of pacifist Quakers for instance is nothing to honor. If they weren't surrounded and protected by those who would fight for the freedom they enjoy, they wouldn't have that freedom. Whatever residue of "respect" I might have is purely abstract as pacifism doesn't work in the real world.

    Does pragmatism have any role to play in evaluating the various ideas that come and go?


  10. James says:

    CHOOSING to be an indian on a reservation with all the discrimination that entails is quite different than BEING born black in the USA.

    Perhaps. I don't think it's as simple as you may intend it, although you don't say why you want to make this point.

    For instance, I'm sure you agree that being born an American Indian isn't a choice, and is very similar in this sense to being born black. Now, once you're born American Indian in this society, the choice to live on a reservation has particular implications.

    The U.S. government made many promises, some of which can only be carried out by choosing to live on a reservation. If you want to carry out the proud traditions of your ancestors, you need to live on a reservation; this isn't limited to the full package you described above, but is also true if you want a more-or-less modern lifestyle, but to live under tribal governance or tribal laws, for instance. Finally, many American Indians are born on a reservation; asking them to consider leaving is asking them to leave their communities for other places, which is quite different from sitting outside and wondering why more people don't choose to leave reservations.

    I believe we all should honor everyone else for their equal humanity. I don’t believe the same applies to different “cultures” as may be variously defined.

    You certainly don't have to honor all cultures equally, bobbo. I suspect, though, that someone who's black or American Indian or native Hawaiian, reading those words, might suspect that you're passing judgment on their heritage and the native culture of their families.

    In any event, the point is merely that everyone should be able to honor their heritage. It's easy for someone in the majority, in a society steeped in their own culture and traditions, which honors the history and traditions of that culture every day, to say that minority groups should simply let go of their cultures and blend into the mainstream culture. I suspect it looks very different when doing so actually means giving up your own culture, rather than have your own culture validated by that assimilation process.

    The culture of pacifist Quakers for instance is nothing to honor.

    A fascinating statement, bobbo. Are these the same Quakers who lead the way in the movement to abolish slavery? The same Quakers whose belief in nonviolence has been respected and tolerated, both officially and unofficially, in the United States since the Revolutionary War? The ones who routinely volunteer for hard, dangerous jobs in the service of their country, in lieu of combat duty?

    This is precisely why we don't allow anyone to judge for us which cultures are worth honoring, and which are not. Can you imagine the controversy if you proposed that we implement your view?

    Whatever residue of “respect” I might have is purely abstract as pacifism doesn’t work in the real world.

    Sure it does, bobbo. Quaker pacifism works perfectly in the real world. Members of the Society of Friends don't have to violate their beliefs by engaging in violence, they remain protected by other members of the broader society, and society in turn isn't harmed by the conscientious objector status of a tiny percentage of the population.

    Your real objection seems to be that pacifism shouldn't work in principle–if, for instance, everyone practiced it.

    You might also ask Gandhi, or Martin Luther King, Jr., whether or not nonviolence works in the real world. It may not accomplish everything you'd like, and it may have significant drawbacks, but then, so does war.

    I say this, by the way, as someone who also has to wonder what the Society of Friends, and others like them, would do if they didn't live in a society with members willing to engage in violence to protect everyone.

    Does pragmatism have any role to play in evaluating the various ideas that come and go?

    Sure, bobbo. If, however, your comments so far are any indication, you might have a very hard time convincing everyone else about your view of what's pragmatic and what's not.


  11. bobbo says:

    Perhaps. I don’t think it’s as simple as you may intend it, although you don’t say why you want to make this point. //// Just trying to establish some points of definition and agreement. Why get all subtle when we can't agree on the shape of the table? I'm gonna boil you to death with the Socratic Method but you won't get into the GD pot! I think that is dishonest. Or as you might say: "Perhaps that would seem not perfectly honest to some people who have engaged in similar discussions."

    You say I represent "the majority culture" and as I have no "conscious" affinity to any culture, I guess that is true. My background is mongrel and I did enjoy traveling thru England finding my "roots" but it was a vacation activity and means nothing to me. I don't know what that means, but I'm sure its important. So, if the Irish want to celebrate their Irish Roots 6 hours a year by drinking green beer, I'm all for it and I drink green beer too. If the Mexicans want to celebrate Cinco de Mayo and eat tacos for dinner, I'm all for it and I eat taco's too. If Native Americans want to honor their spirit ancestors and put a dream catcher in their window, I'm all for it and have a few in my study. This represents the nature and limits of the respect due these foreign cultures.

    I do not and will not respect anyone who wants to eat nothing but potatoes, have large families, and do whatever the local catholic priest says to do.

    I do not and will not respect anyone who wants to eat nothing but menudo, have large familes, and do whatever the local catholic priest says to do ((how did THAT happen? must be subconscious)).

    I don not and will no


  12. bobbo says:

    I do not and will not respect anyone who wants to live off the land not disturbing any tree, rock, or mountain top and who wants to let the buffalo roam.

    To the above, to the degree that is "culture" that I should in any way admire/respect/support/artificially maintain, I say doing so is disfunctional to what America needs to be in order to be a melting pot and bring the bounty of freedom and a stronger/better culture better fitted to individual and collective success in the 21st century.

    I'd go on about the Quakers, but I don't have anything against them either, as long as their stupidity doesn't harm America either. As a total aside, it is interesting to contemplate how much better off America would be IN GENERAL if we were more pacifist. Imagine not starting wars all over the place? But then, there is Hitler and his type. On balance, I would rather have my country be wrong 9 out of 10 times and keep my freedom than be under the gestapo's authority right now.

    Freedom can require harsh things.


  13. James says:

    I say doing so is disfunctional to what America needs to be in order to be a melting pot and bring the bounty of freedom and a stronger/better culture better fitted to individual and collective success

    I'm not going to comment on your views of the various "foreign" cultures which make up our society, bobbo.

    However, I do want to emphasize that you are urging everyone to give up their own culture and to assimilate into a single culture, which you argue brings "the bounty of freedom" and is "stronger" and "better."

    You speak as if this were a neutral request. In fact, it seems to me as though you're asking everyone else to assimilate into your culture. If that's exactly what you intend to be saying, then we're clear on that point. If not, however, then I hope you can understand why most people won't agree to follow your approach.

    I would rather have my country be wrong 9 out of 10 times and keep my freedom than be under the gestapo’s authority right now.

    Given that choice, I suppose that I'd agree with you. However, I'm quite certain that the U.S. can commit to standing up to totalitarian threats to global security, while still maintaining an error rate of less than 90%.


  14. bobbo says:

    I’m not going to comment on your views of the various “foreign” cultures which make up our society, bobbo. /// Why not? I only tried to indicate the nature of my acceptance and rejection of different involvement levels and gross characterizations. Books are written on the smallest aspects of different cultures. You don't want an encyclopedia with each posting do you? See how hard/easy it is to do to capture a culture in one sentence.

    However, I do want to emphasize that you are urging everyone to give up their own culture and to assimilate into a single culture, which you argue brings “the bounty of freedom” and is “stronger” and “better.” /// Correct. That is my thesis right there. Any culture is better than a "mixed culture" because a mixed culture is in conflict and not strong and not better than either of the composing cultures alone. What else does "a melting pot" mean? It means all the cultures combing into a new culture. When two cultures are combining, if Culture A has 320 Million people and Culture B has 20 Million people, its going to be Culture A that predominates leaving only a few days a year to remember the good food of the home land. That is pragmatically how it works.

    You speak as if this were a neutral request. In fact, it seems to me as though you’re asking everyone else to assimilate into your culture./// No. I'm only recognizing the majority culture wins. If I move to Mexico, I learn the language, drink taquilla, and slowly learn to wish I was born in Spain. And Vice Versa.

    If not, however, then I hope you can understand why most people won’t agree to follow your approach. /// But most people DO follow this approach. Most people want to assimilate and "fit in." That in fact was and should be the "Beacon" that America was: come here and become American. No longer a peasant, serf, or bonded servant. Its only a recent phenomenon that this "cultural pride" nonsense has gained traction. That and reconquista movements that actually need to be stamped out.

    while still maintaining an error rate of less than 90%/// Well sure, we would all dream of having Zero error rate but the fun question is how high an error rate is still worthwhile.

    From #10–"you might have a very hard time convincing everyone else about your view of what’s pragmatic and what’s not. /// Hopefully not. The defintion of pragmatic is "what works" and that should be more objective than mere desires and preferences. Example: Can a religion long survive if it preaches abstinence? No. Is it pragmatic for a religion wishing to become the most popular religion in the world to teach complete abstinence? No. So, pragmatism as a working concept is very different than trying to convince people to be abstinent or not.

    Likewise the notion of being a thriving culture and holding to pacifism. It ain't pragmatic unless you stay real small and still then find a valid culture to be a parasite on.


  15. James says:

    Why not? I only tried to indicate the nature of my acceptance and rejection of different involvement levels and gross characterizations.

    Let's just say that I think you were deliberately offering negative stereotypes of several different cultures, and let's leave it at that.

    Any culture is better than a “mixed culture”

    There are certainly arguments in favor of that view, bobbo. Samuel Huntington, the political scientist who wrote The Clash of Civilizations, strongly argued for this view in his last book, Who Are We?, which I assisted him with. I don't happen to agree with this view, but that's fine.

    Your argument, however, sounded as though you were saying that your culture was better. Your use of words like "freedom," "stronger" and "better," coupled with slights at minority cultures, gave that impression. I realize you intended to argue that any single culture is better than a mix of cultures, but that wasn't explicit.

    I’m only recognizing the majority culture wins.

    If you want to follow your recommendation to form a single, monolithic culture, then yes, the majority culture is the obvious choice. You should be prepared, though, to be challenged by anyone who happens not to be of the majority culture.

    It's been observed, for instance, that those who argue strongly in favor of having a single culture are usually members of the dominant culture, and who are thus the ones who have nothing to lose by this.

    Most people want to assimilate and “fit in.”

    Most people do want to assimilate and fit in. However, that doesn't mean that everyone wants to take it as far as you do.

    In fact, the mere fact that you are so concerned that we're exhibiting a "mixed culture" in this country is probably a sign that a lot of people don't take assimilation as far as you'd like.

    Its only a recent phenomenon that this “cultural pride” nonsense has gained traction.

    That's a bit of a myth. Americans have been fiercely proud of their ancestral cultures for centuries. The recent rise of trends like multiculturalism haven't fundamentally changed that.

    Of course, distinct cultural groups in this country tend to assimilate more after they've received a higher degree of acceptance. Irish or Italian families, for instance, ceased being quite so distinctive here after they started to be seen as less distinctive. It's possible that other ill-treated minority groups might start behaving as you'd wish, after they're no longer treated as different from other Americans and group identity is no longer their only means of pointing out the discrimination and having it addressed.


  16. bobbo says:

    Ah James – I keep turning the kaleidoscope looking for that most pleasing arrangement of colors, yet I can't find enough agreement with you. Still all more red and orange rather than blue and green.

    You know, its true. Discussion with someone who disagrees can be quite beneficial even when no agreement is reached as it "clarifies" a position held. Can we both benefit if we both become more entrenched? (Finger in the soup.) Why, yes we can.

    Let’s just say that I think you were deliberately offering negative stereotypes of several different cultures, and let’s leave it at that. /// Well, it is the HEART of the discussion. How can we talk about cultures without talking about cultures? But you misperceive or misconstrue my characterizations. I am NOT characterizing these cultures "in toto" merely what I particularly like and then dislike. There are many many good aspects of all cultures – they are afterall what brings and holds people together. When reviewing in thumbnail fashion why I don't want to be a member of another culture, I'm not going to list the good things now am I? Do you enjoy menudo or catholic priests telling you how to live your life? Yes, my thumbnails can be rejected out of hand but there is much more substance just behind those statements that are at the heart of cultural autonomy, appreciation of roots and how we come to be who we are, the source of conflict between different groups. They all lead to why land should not be given back to the Queen of Hawaii and why the notion of "international law" has a bit of silliness about it.

    As neither of us will define it, lots of room for inexplicit miscommunication, but as a general recognition, YES, the American Culture is far superior to the Mexican and Indian cultures. In gross support of this, I would not want to "be" a mexican or an indian. Irish would be ok as long as it wasn't in the 1800's in a rock hovel digging at tuberous roots. The cities are quite nice and a life of brewing beer or blowing glass could be tolerable in the vivid green of that emerald isle. Unless you think all cultures have the same worth, aren't all cultures (except one) better than some others? And isn't one culture better than all the rest? I suspect the very best culture may be Nordic or maybe New Zealand. Hard to say with all the various cultural components swirling around. Substantive as well as temporal. Criticism of anyone for thinking any culture is better than some other culture cannot be general, it must be specific, detail, listed.

    You should be prepared, though, to be challenged by anyone who happens not to be of the majority culture. /// heh, heh. I think I'm up to it. If I was the King of America (a very anti-American cultural thing to be) I would move to abolish all indian reservations. We are all Americans. I'd give the indian "Nations" 4-5 years to figure out how they wanted to divvy up their assets to the INDIVIDUALS involved. I suppose if they wanted to recombine in some sort of legal communal association, that could be allowed–but all according to what any other group of Americans could do. No right to hunt whales, rabbits, bison out of season or otherwise. It would have to be from individual plebiscite procedures, no counsel of chiefs BS. One official language. No need to be splitting apart like "French Canada" or "Reconquista LA." Language brings people together or pulls them apart. Consistently, I would rather we Americans all speak spanish rather than develop two official supported languages. Am I culturally insensitive to think that the language spoken by 99% of the people should be the official language?

    It’s been observed, for instance, that those who argue strongly in favor of having a single culture are usually members of the dominant culture, and who are thus the ones who have nothing to lose by this. /// You have it ass backwards. The call for "single culture" benefits all of the societies members (just like the justification for enrichment of blacks today by slavery of the past) and the "minority culture" members the most. Its why most mexicans want their kiddies to speak english–so they can get a job, assimilate, have a better life. That is the very strength and betterment of the single culture idea/goal.

    Culture is like the physics of gravity: Does the earth rotate around the Sun or vice versa? The most accurate answer is that they both rotate around the point of common gravity-about 50 feet from the center of the sun. The cultural parts of a society rotate around each other like that. There is never a single culture and that is fine as long as the point of common gravity remains within the body of a single element.

    Most people do want to assimilate and fit in. However, that doesn’t mean that everyone wants to take it as far as you do. /// Let me give you both distal responses: A. Yes, its true, most people can't accept the fruits of their own rational analysis and find greater comfort in the emotions of ignorance. How strongly argued was "Clash of Civilizations" if you still rejected its conclusions? Not my definition of strong. Do you reject it intellectually or emotionally? and B. "Take it as far as I do?" – – I'm not the one living on a reservation, or wanting compensation for actions occurring "in the main" 150 years ago, or wanting to reunite with a much more oppressive government that lost the land 200 years ago. Lets keep cause and effect a bit more ordered.

    Your last paragraph is a loose tautology. Yes, people who act differently are treated differently and treated the same when they act the same. Just the way culture demands.


  17. James says:

    Still all more red and orange rather than blue and green.

    It's precisely that diversity of thought which makes life so interesting, isn't it?

    I also agree with you that the exchange can be valuable for both sides, even if we're never any closer to agreement.

    When reviewing in thumbnail fashion why I don’t want to be a member of another culture, I’m not going to list the good things now am I?

    No, you're not. But neither do you probably want to summarize what you don't like about a culture with what others perceive as negative stereotypes.

    Do you enjoy … catholic priests telling you how to live your life?

    No, but I'm not Roman Catholic. How does this not sound to you like a swipe at the Catholic Church, and at Catholics?

    They all lead to why land should not be given back to the Queen of Hawaii and why the notion of “international law” has a bit of silliness about it.

    I'm not sure how your cultural observations lead to the conclusion that native Hawaiians should not receive the land (or the benefits from that land) which Congress suggested would be appropriate.

    I'm certain, however, that none of this discussion of culture bears on whether or not international law is a valuable institution, or whether it has a "bit of silliness about it." (That last may be true, but I'm not sure this is why.)

    Unless you think all cultures have the same worth, aren’t all cultures (except one) better than some others?

    I'm not sure that it makes sense to say that one culture is "better" than another. It may be like saying that apples are better than oranges, or vice versa.

    However, I think that I can believe, in principle, that cultures can have different worth, without necessarily being qualified to make definitive judgments among them. You, for instance, want people to be precise in weighing the value of different cultures, yet you simply can't judge one culture against another without being comprehensive. Otherwise, it's simply your impression of a culture, and not the culture itself, that you're expounding upon.

    I would move to abolish all indian reservations.

    A controversial proposition, to say the least, given that those reservations are a key part of the promises made to American Indians in exchange for their historic treatment. As it is, it's already very hard to reconcile those promises with what has transpired.

    One official language.

    We have a single language in this country, and there's no sign that situation is in danger. Hispanic immigrants, for instance, learn English at the same rate as immigrants always have, and value knowledge of the language almost universally. Nothing to be gained from making English the "official language."

    Its why most mexicans want their kiddies to speak english–so they can get a job, assimilate, have a better life.

    I think minorities are entitled to question whether they do, in fact, benefit most from efforts to eradicate minority cultures.

    I'm certain, however, that many Mexican immigrants, who of course want their children to learn English and function well in this society, do not intend for them to simply assimilate into this culture altogether.

    How strongly argued was “Clash of Civilizations” if you still rejected its conclusions?

    I didn't say that I rejected the conclusions of "Clash," did I? I was speaking of certain arguments in Huntington's later book.

    Your last paragraph is a loose tautology.

    I don't agree (unsurprisingly!). Minorities in this country can be entirely assimilated, and still be discriminated against. Just take discrimination against blacks, which occurs regardless of an individual's degree of conformity to majority culture.


  18. bobbo says:

    But neither do you probably want to summarize what you don’t like about a culture with what others perceive as negative stereotypes. /// I'll bet the hole in that needle is pretty small. I've been to Ireland, Indian Reservations, and Mexico. Those are my negative impressions. If they are stereotypes as well, might say something valuable about negative stereotypes.

    No, but I’m not Roman Catholic. How does this not sound to you like a swipe at the Catholic Church, and at Catholics? /// I am intentionally swiping the Catholic Church and zombie catholics of the faith. I swipe things I don't respect. That includes most religions for non-religious religions. They require conformity and enforce that conformity when they have the power to do so.

    I’m not sure that it makes sense to say that one culture is “better” than another. It may be like saying that apples are better than oranges, or vice versa. /// Well, its exactly like saying that. Oranges are better than apples at curing scurvy. The American Culture is Better at preserving freedom of speech and individual autonomy than are cultures captured by any religion. and so forth. No culture is better at every identifiable element of value. Its a mix.

    A controversial proposition, to say the least, given that those reservations are a key part of the promises made to American Indians in exchange for their historic treatment. As it is, it’s already very hard to reconcile those promises with what has transpired. // Correct. What does international law say on this? What it "should" say is that such promises are well known lies told to a weaker counterpart to gain peace so that the current war of aggression by the other party doesn't have to take the time and energy to kill every one of the native peoples. All such promises to be broken in the future at the convenience of the winning side. Thats world history up until current times. If you try to play forward the problems inherent in keeping these promises compared to the problems of voiding these problems as I recommend, MY SOLUTION makes ever so much more sense. In that manner, assuming the fantasy of international law without international government having the power to enforce it, thinking any such treatises/promises should be enforced/followed really is silly.

    One official language. // You are right. I'm just following the slippery slope to the bottom of that position is all. There are local smallish areas where english is hard to find, but I assume they will eventually be assimilated as well. Again, as long as their orbit is completely within the radius of America: no problem. I thought of this just a moment ago as an open borders advocate was grilled on a talk show just now. I see long term philosophical/moral arguments for it, only shorter term pragmatic arguments against it. I am against open borders, (music refrain) "How about you?"

    Minorities in this country can be entirely assimilated, and still be discriminated against./// Well, thats culture bias vs race bias. If the culture is not there, very little discrimination going on. It is curious/sad why discrimination against blacks is so strong in this country. As we all turn multi-mulatto, that prejudice will die out and then we can turn our attention to the shape of our ears.

    xxxxx

    I consider myself more a world citizen than an American "but" I recognize the pragmatic realities. I enjoy as much multiculturalism/language/history/religion/food/music as possible. The problem though with multiculturalism, of which ethnic homelands is one of the worst examples, is it interferes with people of a nation coming together as one, and ultimately it causes revolution. The problem with encouraging multiculturalism is you never know quite where that tipping point is and once there, you can't back out. So, I see the benefits of "strong" multiculturalism outweighed by the potential bad, so why go down that road?


  19. California weighs apology for Chinese immigrants | The Living Consequences says:

    […] to descendants of the original victims. There are other examples, including the 1993 congressional apology to native Hawaiians and apologies for slavery by the U.S. House and eight state legislatures in the last two years. […]

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