On this All Saints Day I enlist my mother, Gladys Vaz Morais and my father, John Victor Morais to move heaven and earth to help us to put things right in our ailing world. My mother left this world on November 8, 2015; my father on March 6, 1991. Having joined the saints, I pray they will help us find our way out of the darkness, ugliness, and cruelty that threaten us today — even as beauty, kindness, and grace bring light.
My parents were avid, earnest followers of local, national and international politics. They did not just teach us to think: they showed us the necessity of outrage. Integrity was non-negotiable. They would find the spectacle of present-day politics in Malaysia, India, and the United States unspeakable. They would have embraced John Lewis’ advice to “make some noise and get in good trouble.”
I would like to imagine them trading stories of Kerala and Kuala Lumpur with John Lewis and Elijah Cummings, two of the brightest of lights extinguished this year on planet earth, but no doubt adding to the stars in the firmament. I wonder if those two American warriors for a more just and egalitarian nation are only just learning about Kerala’s pride in its long standing “communist” government that has melded capitalism and welfare in the tradition of social democrats. (And no, the idea of doing that does not freak out the people of Kerala the way it does the media and too many in the United States.)
“We must be impatient. We must make more progress.”
Today I also listened to the first discussions of Value of Hawaii 3: Hulihia as part of the 2020 Hawaii Book and Music Festival, driven online as so many events have been, by COVID-19. Again, it was like being allowed into the company of saints –the trouble-making kind. Contributor Māhealani Perez Wendt asked “Where would we be without the diabolical separation of indigenous peoples from the people and places that matter to them, and from their kupuna? Hawai’i has so much to offer the world, that could help heal the planet –and yet we are forced to live under siege.”
Charles Lawrence spoke of the joy of being welcomed to Hawai’i and making his home here with his wife and fellow law professor and critical race theorist, Mari Matsuda, years ago. That led him to discover the many ways in which his study of racism and its afterbirth on the continent intersected with the struggle for Native Hawaiian sovereignty here in the islands.
Moderator and co-editor of the Value of Hawaii 3: Hulihia, Jon Osorio, drew together the themes running through the poetry and the conversation when he asked the panelists to consider what would happen if they–and we–recognized the commonality of our different struggles.
There is reason to be impatient, said Wendt. “We should be further along. We should be making more progress. Indigenous people have so much to offer the world: and what we offer could save the planet.”
And it is on that note of activism and impatience with the status quo, and in remembrance of my beloved parents, that I end this All Saints Day with the Franciscan blessing that Fr. David Gierlach at St. Elizabeth’s Episcopal Church in Kalihi offered at the close of yet another mostly ZOOM Sunday service:
MAY GOD BLESS YOU with discomfort,
at easy answers, half-truths,
and superficial relationships
so that you may live
deep within your heart.
May God bless you with anger
at injustice, oppression,
and exploitation of people,
so that you may work for
justice, freedom and peace.
May God bless you with tears,
to shed for those who suffer pain,
rejection, hunger, and war,
so that you may reach out your hand
to comfort them and
to turn their pain to joy.
And may God bless you
with enough foolishness
to believe that you can
make a difference in the world,
so that you can do
what others claim cannot be done,
to bring justice and kindness
to all our children and the poor.
And this week, in this terrible year, the most important way we can each help restore our sense of decency and ensure a 2020 hulihia is to VOTE. And tell a friend.
Remember Hawaii has same day registration–so if you have not registered to vote by mail, you can still take advantage of same day registration at a Voter Service Center and make your voice heard.