No man is an island. In this issue, FLUX Hawaii explores how migrants have made Hawaiʻi the amazing place it is today, and how they continue to do so.
Editor’s Letter: “No man is an island / Every man is a piece of the continent / A part of the main / Any man’s death diminishes me / Because I am involved in mankind.”—John Donne, Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions
Everywhere we turn these days, it seems we are greeted with horror. When grisly scenes from around the world confront our daily lives, we do our best to look away—to avoid seeing the blood in the streets, the blown out windows of buses and buildings, the shocked faces of those who have just escaped with their lives, the dejection of those waiting to start new ones.
Yet it’s all too easy to get caught up in the frenzy that arises from conflict. We build walls and reinforce borders to keep “them” out, to keep “us” safe. A prime example, and one that is found right here at home: Nearly 14,000 Hawai‘i residents signed a petition titled “Stop Syrian Refugees from entering Hawaii and the USA” after Governor Ige said the state would welcome these refugees in the days following the terrorist attacks in Paris in November 2015. (This despite the fact that there has not been a single refugee involved in an act of terrorism in the United States since the country’s refugee resettlement program began in 1980; not to mention that all but one of the known assailants in the recent attacks in Paris and Belgium were European-born citizens, and all were raised in the EU.)
Fear is a powerful rhetoric. It was employed not so long ago on our very shores, when race prejudice and war hysteria marginalized an entire community of Japanese Americans. “A Jap’s a Jap,” General John DeWitt famously said of internment. “It makes no difference whether the Jap is a citizen or not.” And while we like to tell ourselves that hindsight is 20/20, “You are kidding yourself if you think the same thing will not happen again,” the late Justice Antonin Scalia warned a group of University of Hawai‘i law students in 2014, predicting that the Supreme Court would eventually authorize another impediment on civil rights similar to that which happened with Japanese internment during World War II. “It was wrong, but I would not be surprised to see it happen again, in time of war. It’s no justification, but it is the reality.”
In Hawai‘i, it can be easy to ignore what is happening around the world, to quickly turn the page from the headline stories playing out far from our isles. After all, it is unlikely that the migrant crisis unfolding in Europe will ever reach Hawai‘i’s shores. But we can still put up borders, draw boundary lines around our neighborhoods, and cast blame on those who arrive in need. Nowhere does the cool shrug of indifference feel harsher than in the aloha state, a place filled with migrants who traveled from Polynesia, Asia, and around the world—we are only too proud to call ourselves the “melting pot of the Pacific.”
This, our Migration issue, celebrates the diversity of peoples—traveled from near and far—reminding us that no man is an island, and that we are all really foreigners even in a place as familiar as our island homes.
Atom Bombs and Rising Seas As climate change continues to threaten Micronesian communities, Hawai‘i may be faced with its own migrant crisis.
Prayer Warriors For the Korean immigrants that began arriving to Hawai‘i in 1903, the church came to signify stability, camaraderie, and progress. Today, as the relevance of an age-old institution continues to wane, Korean devotees meditate on meeting the needs of an ever-changing community.