'Iokepa and I know, quite well, that it is a very fine line that straddles messages that are purely "Spiritual" from those that are somehow tinged with the "Political." The ancestral Grandmothers have been adamant over these years. The movement that 'Iokepa Hanalei 'Imaikalani represents is not a political one. It is simply a return to the cultural values of the ancients, the wisdom of his kanaka maoli ancestors.
We've tip-toed around those boundaries with care.
"Native Hawaiians were never politicians," 'Iokepa has said. "Our strengths - that which we have to teach the world - are cultural. When we've tried, in the past, to emulate the politics of others - to enter their arena - we've always come up short."
So carefully, very carefully, I've been instructed by my husband and my husband's ancestors not to speak the language of the colonizers, when I speak of my husband's people and their culture.
Apparently, I stepped over that fine line in my last Ever Changing Page post, titled "The President Elect, 'Iokepa and I."
I was reminded by a loving critic that not everyone voted for Mr. Obama (though almost 70% of Hawai'i voters did). To speak glowingly of his values - shared by the Native culture - was, in her opinion, a mistake.
"It may have tainted your message with some people."
To exacerbate matters: 'Iokepa objected to a single word in that same post. It was the word "debt." It sat near the end of the essay. I was speaking of Mr. Obama's debt to the Native culture where he was born and bred.
'Iokepa was uncomfortable with the word.
There is no concept of "debt" within the aboriginal Hawaiian culture. Kahiau--giving with no expectation of return - is the cultural default setting.
There is no word for, "you're welcome" after "thank you" in the Hawaiian language. The gift is fully and freely given. Naturally, you are welcome.
There is no Hawaiian word for "barter." You take what you need.
There is no word for "charity," because it implies, "I have" and "You don't" - an impossibility. Community shared. Giving and receiving were a single, inseparable motion - neither more holy than the other. Everyone gives, everyone receives.
'Iokepa is certain that Mr. Obama, "owes nothing" to the people who nurtured him and his values. My husband's ancestors gave to every soul who found his or her way to the Hawaiian Islands, "With open arms, open heart, and open hands.
"And that will never change."