Monthly Archives: December 2010

Julian Assange and Rape

I’m perplexed by Julian Assange and Wikileaks. I haven’t fully formed my opinion on Wikileaks yet, but I will say the following about the accusations being leveled at Assange.

Is the timing curious? Yes. Is the motivation political? Probably. Mostly because the security of women’s bodies, lives and sexuality is primarily of very little concern to those in power, wherever they may dwell in the world.

And as Laura Flanders recently pointed out, “It seems we always care about women’s bodies when there’s a politcal point to be proved, but not at other times.”

Tonight Rachel Maddow very poignantly asked, “Even if you are suspicious about the timing, there are 2 women who went to the police with what are essentially date rape charges against this guy… Can your suspicion about the forces arrayed against Julian Assange and Wikileaks, your suspicion about the timing and the pursuit of these charges,  coexist with respect for the women making these accusations against him, and with a committment to take rape allegations seriously?”

I’m inclined to say yes. Yes, my suspicion about the timing of the accusations can coexist, and should coexist with respect for these women, and with respect for all women who have been raped and ultimately denied justice.

Ninety-four percent of men who rape never spend a day in jail. Women’s bodies remain vulnerable to rape worldwide. Haiti currently lies in the midst of a rape epidemic following its devastating earthquake earlier this year. Rape has long been used as a tool to control, dominate and oppress women, particularly in times of war. It’s a brutal, ugly, devastating and humiliating crime. It screams to be taken seriously.

Whether or not Assange is guilty of the crimes he is being accused of remains to be seen. Consent is tricky business. Perhaps men sometimes feel entitled to take sex, and women obliged to acquiesce. Does this translate into consent? Now is the perfect time for dialogue on this very serious issue.


Commemorating Pearl Harbor

The U.S and Hawaiian Flags Waving Side by Side

Today is the anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack. I lived in Hawaii for nearly 7 years, during which time I studied the history and cultures of the islands intensely, and with great passion. Here I will offer my commemoration of Pearl Harbor based on what I know and have experienced of Hawaii Nei.

In 1893 the U.S. Marines, in conjunction with a small, elite group of American businessmen in the sugar industry (mostly descendants of the first missionaries to arrive in the islands), conducted America’s first experiment in regime change. They illegally and forcefully overthrew the sovereign government of the Kingdom of Hawaii Nei. Queen Lili‘uokalani, the reigning Monarch of Hawaii at the time, abdicated her throne at gunpoint. She did so believing with her fullest conviction that the United States Congress would take the appropriate steps to rectify the situation and restore her to power.

She was wrong.

In 1897, more than half of the native population (kanaka maoli) on 7 of the Islands signed a petition against annexation of their land to the United States. However in 1898, both the US House and the US Senate voted to unilaterally annex what was formerly the Kingdom of Hawaii. The islands were attractive to the U.S. economically and strategically. The  Spanish-American war solidified the perceived American need to dominate and control this conquered territory in the Pacific, and served as a justification for annexation.

During the early 20th century, Hawaiians lived under what was essentially a military dictatorship. The U.S. imported Jim Crow-style racism to the islands. Hawaiians were forbidden to speak their native language or practice their religious and spiritual beliefs. They were treated as subhuman in their native and once sovereign land.

The Duke Kahanamoku Statue at Waikiki Beach

When Pearl Harbor was attacked in 1941, Hawaii was not yet a state. In fact even today, Hawaii remains illegally occupied territory under international law, although the U.S. vehemently denies this. Yet the U.S. military controls nearly 25% of the land of the O‘ahu, the most populated island, to the detriment of the indigenous population, and to the health and well-being of the land (‘aina).

What unfolded on December 7, 1941 was indeed a tragedy. Many innocent people lost their lives that day. However, long before that day a great wrong was committed against the Kingdom of Hawaii and its people, a wrong that is still being carried out today. Nearly 1,000 homeless Hawaiians live in tents along the western shore of O’ahu, denied access to their native land because of the presence of the American military, foreign investors and the high cost of living in Hawaii, where the median cost of a single family home was $635,000 in 2006. Let us keep them in our thoughts as well as we commemorate the tragedy of Pearl Harbor.

For more about race relations in early 20th century Hawaii, see Honor Killing: Race, Rape, and Clarence Darrow’s Spectacular Last Case by David E. Stannard.