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tv   Book TV  CSPAN  August 21, 2011 5:00pm-6:00pm EDT

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his thinking evolved a little bit in dealing with the soviet union. but i think on the whole he had no illusions about, about what the soviet, the nature of the soviet union, certainly stalin. >> thank you. >> sure. >> this is a country of immigrants. roosevelt family came early. they were in trade, china trade, international. it's a mindset, it's right down to the roots of who he was. he was an international -- >> right. well, that was developed, that was the delano family. actually, it was in the china trade, but you're right, of course. >> when, when roosevelt hosted, hosted, um, winston churchill, his family said my family were, you know, among the first
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families here. churchill said, and my family greeted them because churchill -- [laughter] was from his american roots, an american india. >> right. >> these people were international, global figures in their roots. i think we have to remember that. now, if you're from kansas, you're in the middle of the country. eisenhower's in the middle of the country. if you're at all enterprising, you reach out. eisenhower was an international figure. my father happened to know him as a cadet at west point, as commandant general of west point and as president. my father was an international-type person. that's a lower social order, but he knew these people. >> well -- >> you know, they're international people. we're immigrants. we're world people. >> no, that's an excellent point, and i would make one other point about eisenhower which is often ignored. he was, he was from kansas, but he was a german-american. and he was, he was very conscious of the fact that he was a german-american. and one of his, one of the
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reasons eisenhower was especially aggrieved at the end of world war ii when he saw what the germans had done when he he saw what the germans had done, when he visited the concentration camps, he felt a personal shame as a german-american. it's an interesting sentiment with modern resonance, and he was viewing the atrocities and the carnage and piles of bodies and whatnot, and he said he wanted to make sure that this was publicized as much as possible because all through this war, people complained that they don't understand what we're fighting for. if thigh see this, they will at least comprehend what we're fighting against, so
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eisenhower's germanness -- by the way, i drove here from -- i have a smart car, so i took the sort of back route through pennsylvania, and i wanted to avoid 95 if possible, and went through gettykberg where the beef of immigration moved west to virginia and that's why eisenhower's fore bearers were from. people wondered why he settled in gettysberg after world war ii, and it was actually an ancestral area for him. >> just running out of time, but he will be signing copies of the books in the bookstore. i invite you to go over there if you want your book signed, and thanks again for -- [applause] >> thank you, thank you very much. [applause] >> this event was part of the
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annual roosevelt reading festival hosted by the presidential library and museum in hyde park, new york. for more information of the library, visit fdr fdrlibrary.marist.edu. >> next, from our archives, sarah vowell examines the americanization of hawaii beginning with the arrival of new england missionaries in 180. she recounts the cue organized by the missionaries opposing the last hawaiian queen, liluokalani, and resulted in the annex asian of the island. hawaii was named the 50th state on august 21st, 1959. >> that's all right. i know it's awesome, there's microphones everywhere here. [laughter] i'm going to read for a little bit and then take questions,
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just like at every other reading you've ever been to. [laughter] why is there a block of salad next to the japanese chicken in my plate lunch? because the ship left boston harbor with the first boat load of new england missionaries bound for hawaii in 1819, that, and it's saturday, rainbow drive-in only serves chicken four days a week. a banyon is a fine spot for a tourist from new york city to sit and ponder the implications of a lukewarm box of takeout because none of us belong here, not me, not the salad, not the chicken, not even the tree. like a lot of people and things in these islands, banyon are imports from somewhere else, in this case, india. the branches shoot off sprouts that drip down and bore slowly
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into the ground and take root bulging into new trunks to support more and more leading to more and more tropings until each tree is a spooky forest. there is a banyon shading courthouse square in maui planted in 1873 to congressmen rate the 50th anniversary of the arrival of new england missionaries on that island. it was eight fetal when presented, and now it stands over 60 feet high with 12 trunks spanning more than 200 square feet. one time, i was in the courthouse chatting with a woman who worked there about the banyon. she told me that the town gardeners put a lot of effort to confine that tree in the square because otherwise it would grow until the roots and branches cracked the foundation hitting the walls of the nearby buildings toppling everything in
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its past. the tendency to crowd out and destroy its neighbors earned it the pet name strangler fig. [laughter] here in way key key, it's hunkered down in the concrete, hotels, and condos built in the post-1959 statehood architectural style i think of a very brady brutalism. [laughter] the park where we are sitting appears in an old black and white photograph on display there. the picture was taken in the summer of 1898, a few days after the sons of missionaries who had dethrowned the hawaiian queen handed over hawaii to the united states. the park is pitched with the tents of the first new york voluntary infantry. the spanish-american war had the soldiers stopping off in this suddenly american city en route to the philippines to persuade people at gun point that
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self-government really isn't for everyone. [laughter] they named their encampment after the president who dispatched them here, camp mckinly. the united states declared war on spain in april of 1898. by august, the mckinley administration invaded many and annexed hawaii. the united states became a world power for the first time, became what it is now. hoorah for hawaii, roosevelt wrote from cuba hearing the news u.s. annexed the islands. he was in the caribbean with the rough riders licking the spanish. one of the enresults of that conquest was american control of guantanamo bay. the most important objective of all the 1898 maneuvers was prevention of far flung island
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for naval bases and ports like guantanamo and honolulu's pearl harbor. they pined for the bases for years the way a normal man envisions his dream house. all they ever wanted was a cozy gloanl empire with a few islands here and there to park a fleet of battleships. that japanese dive bomber sank four ships in pearl harbor is how i was interested in hawaii in the first place a few years back. the purpose of my initial visit was a quick jaunt to see the uss arizona memorial, the monument in the harbor perched above the watery grave of the 177,000 sailors who died on the ship that day. unlike the flip-flop wearers on my flight to honolulu, i didn't come for sun or fun. [laughter] i came to hawaii because it was
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attacked. after i checked the arizona off my list, i had time to kill. i went by the palace downtown to look at the victorian building my guidebook built as the only palace in the united states. a guide led the tour group into the room where the white businessmen and sugar planters who staged against queen liluokalani in 1893 locked her up for treason after her royalist supporters botched a counter revolution. liluokalani wiled away her imprisonment in a room on the second floor sewing a quilt. little flags of the kingdom of hawaii stand guard around the quilt's center square. in one corner, she sewed a scene of a cartoonish man struggling with an umbrella losing his had
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the in the wind. the guy chuckled over this, but i wondered if it's the sly leapt of a woman whose crown blew away and it isn't coming back. i should mention that i was there in december of 2003, the week before i arrived in honolulu, american soldiers captured hussein who was hiding in his grungy spider hole. when i was standing in the victorian cell of a poll notion queen deposed by the suns of churchy new englanders, at that moment, the iraqi dictator was behind bars in a u.s. military compound guarded by pennsylvaniaians. [laughter] not that the queen, a constitutional monarch and accomplished musician and a mass murders, saddam, famous for gassing 5,000 kurds had much many common.
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there's a link between the two overthrows, the american habit of indulging that we called regime change. when the liluokalani palace tour guide mentioned the day the hawaiian flag was lowered and the american flag went up, she looked like she was going to cry. i couldn't help but picture that scene from the tv news earlier in the year when a u.s. soldier celebrated the invasion of baghdad by climbing up the statue of saddam and covering his bronze mustached face with the stars and stripes, a gesture unfortunate as pr and improper flag etiquette. [laughter] it was telling to spend the morning at a historic site like pearl harbor, one tattooed on the american memory, and an afternoon at another site we have forgotten entirely. the ground swell of outrage over the invasion of iraq sited the preemptive war as a betrayal of
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american ideals, the subject of the dissent was this is not who we are. you were not where i was. it was hard to look at the tour guide's eyes talking about the american flag over the pal las and not realize from time to time this is exactly who we are. what's more, hawaii is just as roosevelt predicted, crucial to the american empire's military presence in the pacific. pearl harbor is still the head jr. quarters of u.s. pacific command as it was for the wars in pacific with japan, north korea, and north vietnam. i looked into hawaii's part in the epic of american global domination. americans and their children spent the 78 years between the arrival of protestant missionaries in 1820 and the american annexization in 1898,
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americanizing hawaii, importing our favorite religion, capitalism, and our second favorite religion, christianity. in certain ways, the americanization of hawaii in the 19th century parallels the annexization of americament like their puritan forebearers set off into the wilderness of new england, the missionaries set sail for the islands, a place they thought of as a spiritual wilderness. perhaps just as nine out of ten natives were wiped out, so was the native hawaiian population ravaged by smallpox, measles and other diseases. just as the industrial revolution and the building of the railroads brought in huddled masses of immigrants to the united states, the suregan plantations founded by the sons of the missionaries requires massive imports of labor from the philippines transforming
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hawaii into what it has become, a multiethnic miscellaneous in which every race is a minority, hence the plate lunch. [laughter] two scoops of rice and a scoop of salad air lifted from a church pot luck in anywhere, usa -- [laughter] are served alongside an asian protein like pig, chicken, adobo or a hamburger patty topped with graff ri and a -- gravy and a fried egg, a dish to remedy what has been the hamburger's most obvious defect, not enough egg. [laughter] sugar plantation workers shared food at lunchtime swamping noodles for korean spare ribs and bread. that hat of hodgepodge was passed down evolving the plate lunch now served at diners,
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drive-ins, and lunch trucks. in 1961, the late established the rainbow drive-in where i bought my lunch. he was an army cook with the 100th infantry battalion. the mostly hawaiian born japanese american volunteer soldiers in the 142nd regimen combat team served segregated troops in europe and africa in world war ii becoming the most famous group and being named the purple heart battalion. their argument was that they were americans, not as the u.s. government classified them and their families enemy aliens. rainbow drive's men knew offering hot dogs, mahi-mahi-reads like a list of
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what america should be like, a neighborly mishmash, president obama mentioned on a trip home his craving for plate lunch listing rainbow drive-in as a possible stop. a make sense considering his kansas mother met his kennian father at the university of hawaii and his mother's remarriage blessed him with a indonesian sister, our first plate lunch president. [laughter] i see this as a painful tale of native loss combined with a multii.t. nick saga symbolized by mixed plates tracked with how i see the history of the united states in general. i'm the descendent of cherokees to oklahoma on the trail of tears, but i'm also and mostly the descendent of european immigrants swedish peasants who
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left for kansas for the same reason workers sailed to hawaii. when i eat plate lunch, i think back to the lure of my swedish great grandfather's voyage across the atlantic. supposedly the only food he brought with him on the ship was a big hunk of cheese, then he befriended a german whose only food was a big hunk of sausage. the sweed shared the cheese with the german, and the german shared the sausage with the sweed. growing up, i came to know america as two places -- a repatience country built on the destruction of original inhabitants, and a welcoming land of opportunity and generosity built by people who shared their sausage and their cheese. [laughter] in 1899 the british poet published his poem, the white man's burden about the new american empire of island colonies of new cot fallen
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peoples. four years earlier when he visited washington, d.c. for the first time, he met roosevelt. roosevelt dragged him to the smithsonian to show off glass cases full of american indian arty facts. i never got over the wonder of a people who having abandoning the aboriginals of their country more than any other race had done honestly believed they were a godly little new england community setting examples to brutal mankind. of the five countries united states invaded and/or acquired, hawaii is the only one that became a state. that said, i have come to understand that even though hawaii has been a state since 1959 and an american territory since 1898, a small, but defiant network of native activists question the legality of both developments and do not consider
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themselves to be americans at all which is easy to pick up on when they march past you down the main drag on honolulu on the 50th an -- anniversary of statehood carrying signs says we are not americans. so -- [applause] oh, okay, thank you. [applause] so, if you have questions, a microphone carrier will -- [laughter] find you? >> hi, sarah. >> hi. >> big fan. you mention your nephew in your books, how is he doing and how old is he now? >> my neigh fee is almost 11. how is he doing? [laughter] you know, he -- i don't know. i haven't seen him in awhile. i did just see him -- i do like to travel with him.
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a few weeks ago we went to some mayan ruins in mexico and guatemala, and, i don't know, he's quite a budding wordsmith. [laughter] he wanted to sit next to me on the plane ride home. i said, i don't know, are you going to be a pill? he said, oh, i don't know, maybe only a chewable. [laughter] teaser. >> i'm real curious how you go about doing your research, like what is your process from start to finish? [laughter] >> my -- what is my process from start to finish? well, let's see. oh, you know, i read -- i read a bunch of books first, a lot of, you know, i read some of the official histories, then i read some, you know, primary
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documents or diaries, memoirs, that kind of thing. i had a lot of missionary memoirs this time, lucky me. [laughter] you know, official biographies of all of the, you know, players, and then i just start going and doing reporting trips where in this case i went to back and forth from my home in new york city to the islands i think seven or eight time staying for a week to several weeks where i rented an apartment including one in the building that jack lord stapedes on top of in the opening credits of "hawaii 5-0." [laughter] i spent time in mission houses that houses the missionary papers reading their letters and die riches, -- diaries, and the library with the government papers and
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monarchy papers and the bishop museum archives and various treasures and artifacts and also, you know, just reading a lot of old newspapers on microfilm, the whiling newspapers and going to historic sites interviewing curators and tour guides and i did interviews with various locals, you know, some of them independent activists, you know, one of my interviews is with a woman who became a good friend of mine who was a missionary descendent, that kind of thing. yes -- oh, sorry? oh, sorry, microphone. [laughter] >> hi, sarah. >> hi. >> i was curious if you saw the annexization of hawaii as having a modern ripple effect in some ways causing the birther
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movement? [laughter] >> i don't -- i mean, correct me if i'm wrong, birther, it's not a word i enjoy saying. [laughter] because i like english. [laughter] correct me if i'm wrong, but i don't know that their entirely up to speed of the history of the 1890s. i believe their focus and concerns are prompted by anger at who the president is and trying to find ways to, you know, not make him be the president, unless i'm wrong about that. [laughter] so i don't really think there's too much. i mean, i guess the two things are vaguely linked in that if the united states had never annexed hawaii, a person born in honolulu would not be eligible to be president, and therefore would not garner such, you know, loathing as the current one, but
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no, i don't think they are that linked, but i'm not sure. [laughter] yeah, you pick. [laughter] oh, mic race. [laughter] >> i drove three and a half hours to be here with you. . [laughter] >> thank you. >> i'm from lore ray doe. [laughter] >> wow. there's a button with my face on it. >> close to my heart, and i'm also 38 years old, a connection there. [laughter] the tv show, the last one is david letterman, is he like -- [inaudible] or is he like -- [inaudible] ? >> david letterman? >> yeah. >> well, -- [laughter] what am i supposed to say? [laughter] i think david letterman, you know, is kind of a youthful hero of mine, and he's actually a real reader who has always been
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nothing but nice to me and my books, so i have nothing but kind thoughts for the man. [laughter] which makes a terrible story. [laughter] oh, he's very nice to me and helps me sell my books. [laughter] that's a terrible story. i write nonfiction, and if you have to tell the truth -- [laughter] thanks for driving though. the rest of you probably like road your hippy bikes here. [laughter] >> when you come up with an idea for the next thing that you want to work on, do you come up with a bunch of ideas and one sticks or just sitting around one day and like, yeah, that's it. >> yep. [laughter] it's different every time, but i don't have my next idea, sure i have a million ideas every day,
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almost all of them lame at this point. [laughter] but like kind of know it when you see it, like the last book, my one about the puritans, i started -- i mean, i always wanted to write about the puritans, i mean, who doesn't? [laughter] i love john winthrop's sermon, and i thought about them for awhile, but then i started writing the book after reagan's funeral, and that sermon was read at his funeral. it's the sermon of new england and later america as a city upon a hill, and it's a sermon about charity and generosity, and that it was so closely associated with president reagan, a president whose administration was not about charity and generosity, but, in fact, gutting every social program designed to help one's fellow
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man, so it was just a little kick i needed, you know, to get cracking. i thought it was a good time to revisit that speech just because, you know, winthrop in that sermon because it's about charity and generosity, he said we shall be as a city upon a hill, and to him, it's two-sided. yes, it could turn out the way we talk about that image now that, you know, that this place eventually, the united states, then just new england would be as a city upon a hill, a beacon of hope and light, you know, to the world, but winthrop meant it -- two wayings meaning we can fail and everybody can see us fail and have a great view of the failure, and he defines that failure as the colonists failure
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to care for one another, so i don't know -- that's why that one. [laughter] >> yes, sarah. >> hi. >> i noticed on your food plate you didn't mention poi, and does jim neighbors still have his show there? >> i don't know what's been happening with jim in the last 40 years. [laughter] but what about poi? poi is still, you know, a very prized food amongst hawaii. it's just not a staple food. it's -- it's an object of almost religious devotion. it's the, you know, mashed terra root. i personally -- let's say i haven't craved it for awhile since i left hawaii. [laughter] i mean, there is a whole story there. you know, one of the people i
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interviewed, a doctor whose grandmother's worked for the last queen of hawaii, he walked me through the creation myth -- i mean, i sat down to interview him and asked a question about the overthrow of the queen and he answered by going back to the beginning of time. [laughter] it was a very long interview. [laughter] during that when he was talking about the beginning of time, you know, he talked about the earth's mother mating with the sky father, and all of that, and they -- the object of the union was this stillborn and when that child was buried up sprouted the first terro plant, and then the next sibling was the first human, and so the people saw the plant as an older sibling and
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the number one sibling and the number one sibling's job is to take care of all the younger siblings, so this is the staple food, and it's just not, you know, what a cheesecake is in phillie. [laughter] it's a member of the family kind of, so it's been very cherished for very long. .. >> i know this is come i have to say, who is your favorite author?
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>> who is my favorite author? >> two parts. curious. >> i don't have one favorite author. there are two that i've returned to again and again when i am writing. like if i'm stuck and i just want to revise myself. and not just give up and eat cereal in front of television or something. [laughter] one of them is moby dick. i'll always crack it open at random and before a little bit. and language is so weird, and the story is so strange and it's just, it just reminds me of, i mean it's a jampacked little book, you know? it's like cold water splashing at my face, just because it reminds me of what a book can be. but it's so different from the way i think and speak and write that it doesn't, you know, it doesn't bleed into my storytelling. and the other is charles adams,
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the cartoonist. i have a big stack of old charles adams books, of cartoon collections and i just flip through those. and he's also just so delightful, strange and funny. there's something that is like those two, it's just like conflict a switch in me, you know? >> and i also would ask, i'm doing a lot of research on my family. i'm part cherokee. the rest very slavic. but are you thinking about the book? on, there's so many books on you. well, there's not enough, not the way that congress is going right now. but have you thought -- >> about the cherokee? oh, i did write one very long essay about the trail of tears. it's in one of my essay
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collections. so i doubt i would revisit that. but there is a little bit, you know, i do revisit some of the history of that tried in this hawaii book just because it's the same organization in boston, the american board of commissioners for foreign missions, the group that sent missionaries to hawaii. they're also the group that sent missionaries to the cherokee nation and christianize, westernized charity. and you know, that same group started the school up in connecticut for he can use where all of these -- heathen youth, the ships and the china trade were coming back with all these kids from all over the world. and some of them were put in this school, including the boys who basically were the first hawaiian christians. and two of the cherokee men, they studied there as boys and
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they were a couple of the ones who signed that treaty against the will of the rest of the tribe decades the u.s. government commission -- permission to link to start the trail of tears. there is a concrete connection, that group of missionaries really got around. [laughter] >> here's one. i don't know. >> hi. i also drove three and a half hours. [laughter] do you have any words, obviously libraries have been important i would assume so in your research, and is a former librarian, because you guys are awesome, do you have any words to maybe advocate to any, you know, just telling how important libraries have been to your process? >> oh, in case legislators are watching c-span at 7 a.m. on
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sunday morning. [laughter] i'm not going to reinvent the wheel. yes, libraries have been very important to me. that's where books are. [laughter] i mean, i spent the first 11 years of my life in a tiny tiny, tiny town in oklahoma that had no library. like at the school does one jump that some books on it and you could take those home. but you went through those books pretty quick. when i was 11 years old my family moved to a college town in montana that had more than one library. that first summer sidewalks. they have sidewalks also. [laughter] we like to rollerskate. so that first summer we spent -- moved from oakland to montana probably isn't, it sounds like one state to another but it was a college town. and two as it was basically like
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we have moved to paris. [laughter] that first magical some weird roller skates, and the sidewalks and would rollerskate to the library every day. and we just thought we had moved to civilization. no offense, oklahoma. [laughter] and you know, when i was in high school i would skip the school a lot. i would skip -- that doesn't sound good. stay in school, kids. i would skip school and go to the library. [laughter] the library is not just my work as a writer. in this book i was helped tremendously by archivists and librarians, you know, at those institutions i mentioned in hawaii. some of that would be impossible without them, you know. you know, i can't tell you what you can learn from microfilm of old newspapers. i mean, and not all that, or
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much of it has been digitized and is available, you know, widely. i mean, i can't even, i can imagine, i think, libraries are just so crucial and vital. i don't even know how to talk about life without them, you know? it's like all, there aren't going to be any more eggs anymore, you know? like, what? [laughter] so i go, yeah, i wish i had something super zippy to say about it, but i mean, i do think they are so important. i mean, you don't know how great a library is unless you're born into account that doesn't have one. put it that way. [applause] >> we lived in hawaii years ago, and we knew the history and all that, but it is interesting how the natives are conflicted about
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being americans, being hawaiia hawaiians. and it is a different state to live in. it is, like i said, interesting how they don't always consider themselves part of the united states. but it got to be very aggravating to hear people come over and visit, or go over visit and say, well, back in the states, are back in the u.s. we would say you are in the u.s. or we would go back to visit and hear people say, well, how -- now that you're back in the u.s., we would say we are living in the u.s. we are in hawaii. well, hawaii is not really a state. and things like that. it's been since i could remember, back in 1959. and i guess you hear a lot, you
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heard that -- >> well, i watched, i think those shows jack paar dana white, i think right after statehood, and he does ask this crowd of people what you think of the united states, and they all yelled back, you're in it, you know? [laughter] i think some of that dislocation, i think some of that is just a byproduct of what happens when, you know, one country on a continent, you know, colonizes an island thousands of miles from its shore. in some ways, yet, in some ways it's a completely un-american place to me just because it's so militaristic. there are military bases and training grounds everywhere. it is religious. there's a lot of really crummy commercial architecture, which is, you know, a bit of a specialty in this country.
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there's so many things about it. especially, and then you have all those hotels and resorts with all the hotels and resorts and all the military bases, you know, there's a writer i really like named steve erickson who once wrote that the two great contribution of the american civilization our annihilation and fun. [laughter] he was writing that about las vegas in a piece about, you know, all the old nuclear tests that were done in the nevada desert, but i think that metric applies to hawaii as well. but then on the other hand, it is still so much to often a sovereign independent country it once was. the language, even english speakers, people who take it don't speak hawaiian, words are peppered into normal talk if you're going to ask directions from someone, they would tell you to go malka r. mckay, not
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the towards the mounds or mckay towards the ocean. and it is such a singular place. and it still has so many vestiges of its singular culture that it is kind of lost in a way. that's why -- like i have a friend who he's a teacher and i was speaking to him and some of his colleagues, and is talking about something and it's butchering his name, and the pronunciation, and i made, i just had i hasten hawaiian words in front of the wind. and my friend was driving home later, and he said it's funny you call this hawaiians because i don't think of myself as a way. i said what he talked about? you were born here. you lived here. you would die square. he said i know, but, you know, my family, his ancestors came
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from japan and germany. he just, i don't know. and compared to come it's like that in new york where i live. it's this very desperate place with all these people from all over the world and all these different kind of food. but everyone who has been there a while considers themselves new yorkers. it doesn't matter where you're from or where your ancestors are born or what color your skin is, or whatever. it's just all one big jumble, unlike fairly happily so. so there is something, there is this loss quality about hawaii and the identity of the place and the people, and that i think is, you know, a result of this kind of i'd -- kind of like a sort of americanization and what happens when the missionary offspring overthrew the wind queen in 1893, was kind of a severing from the hawaiian past,
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you know. one of the one thing she did when she was locked up in her cell was she translated to the creation myth which is a genealogy that tells the story of hawaii from the beginning of time from the slime that created the earth up to her own ancestors. and i think one reason she did that after her overthrow is she's thinking about that, and a long, long, long eons of hawaiian past that has just been, you know, you know, severed. and i think there's still, you know, it's like what is that called when you have something is educated? the lost limb center. phantom limb, thank you. i think there's always going to be that there. i mean, it makes it a very fascinating place for that reason. you know.
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>> hi. [inaudible] >> book ideas, where he came up with the idea for my book on presidential assassinations. i don't know. i don't, i don't remember. i think i was writing a lot about president lincoln, and it must've just occurred to me and some of my lincoln research. i don't have a snappy story. >> i find your style real dry and funny. so i was wondering if you ever entertained the idea of branching out into fiction? because you mentioned -- >> no. [laughter] that question which comes up a lot is such an insult to
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nonfiction. [laughter] just because something is true, no. no, i'm not a liar. [laughter] there are times of other liars, books are welcome to buy here. [laughter] i mean, the thing i love about nonfiction is it does not have to seem plausible, you know? nonfiction is about things like, that can't be true, but it is, you know? [laughter] fiction, you have to write the stories that seem like they could've happened to people might exist. at you don't have to do that when you're writing about a weirdo like abraham lincoln or, you know? even in this hawaii story, one thing that happens is, as the first missionaries are leading boston harbor, they are en route to, and christianize the hawaiians, while they're on the way, while they are on the water, the new hawaiian king
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decides to abolish the old religion. you put that in one of our fiction type stories, it's just going to seem like, you know, like no. like that's too easy. but in the missionaries show up and they get the news, guess what? the old religion has been, you know, banned and outlawed. there's nothing to replace it. and here we just sailed into the spiritual vacuum. [laughter] to sell our christian wears. to them it just seemed like god was on their side, and a gift from god. if you put that in a made-up story, i mean, it just wouldn't work. it just is unbelievable. or like, you know, about that story about john adams and thomas jefferson died on the same day, and it's the 50th anniversary of the declaration of independence. it's july 4, 1826. if you put that in a novel, that
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would be so laughable. [laughter] but, you know, it is fact, and, therefore, it can be as plausible as possible. intimate, fiction. [laughter] >> i know i am a groupie and a pre-order everything you write, as soon as i hear it is coming out. >> thank you very much. >> however, this one -- >> where is this going? [laughter] speedup when it came out, with the title and content i had no idea what you're going to be writing about. and it's just like we're -- >> that's because i hate subtitles. go on. [laughter] >> what inspired you to use that title? >> oh, it is, it's a quotation from a letter written by one of the first hawaiian writers.
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his name is david, and he was almost 30 years old when the first missionaries arrived on maui, the odds were he lived at the time. antitoxin how to read and write. he was well schooled, but the missionaries from new england had to invent a written language for hawaiians. so they taught, they taught him and some other people to read. in fact, pretty much the entirety of hawaiian population within a generation. and within a few years he was writing his book, hawaiian antiquities, which is a compendium of sort of knowledge on the classical hawaiian culture that was dying away, thanks to the coming of the westerners. and it's a very beautiful, very useful book. and he became, he was under the influence of these new englanders. is until read and write. he became a teacher and a minister. but being a writer, just to say
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grumpy and full of misgivings, as he saw, as the years wore on and he saw more and more white people kind of drowning his homeland, and not just the missionaries, you know. malley where he lived was one of the stopping point for wailers and the golden age of one. so there would be, there are hundreds of waiting ships stopping in hawaiian parts country and ports. as he saw all these white people coming in, dropping by sailors on leave, they're probably not the ones to make the best impression. he wrote this really sad letter to the data friends were he said, something like, i'll try to get it right. when a big wave comes in, large and unfamiliar dishes come from the dark ocean, and they feed the small fishes of the shallows, and they would beat them up. and then he says, the big man from the important countries
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come here and see that our people are small, they will devour us. so it was kind of prophetic. but i also like, just pulling "unfamiliar fishes" out of that just because michael begins about these americans and these americans who came to the y. in that time in the 19th century, they are not like regular joe americans, you know? you've got your bible thumping killjoys. you've got your sailors on leave. and then a bunch of, you know, capitalists and conmen and other kind of dreamers. something about just pulling that out, "unfamiliar fishes," captured that it's about these kind of singular types who ended up there. >> time for one more question. >> your first book was immediate for malicious point of view. have you thought about doing one
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now that you've been on the other side with npr, your television appearances? >> oh, you want to read a diary of me going, let going on book tour and talking, talking to interviewers? yeah, no, that hadn't occurred to me. [laughter] i will say that that, that was my first book listening to the rave for a year. that was a prison sentence, and it's been more than a decade that i was let out. so no. i mean, one thing about that, i had to listen to the radio everyday. i don't know if you ever listen to the radio, but it was kind of trying as a project, but i do think, there is something in that form, but definitely captured the time, the year i listened was 1995, i mean, i
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don't really listen to a lot of different kinds of radio so much anymore. but at the time i can imagine that it's gotten more violent, but talk. like when i turn on the reader, i think maybe on the first day, this was right before oklahoma city, before, especially with the right wing talk radio, that people started wondering hey, maybe you shouldn't talk like that all the time. you know? and the reason i wrote it was because of the 1994 congressional elections, and the freshman congressman when the republicans took over the congress call themselves a ditto head caucus. and i thought radio is having a huge impact on the country as kind of unaware of that side of it. but i would hear before oklahoma city, you know, i heard made on the first day a kid with a paper route calling in a talk show saying there's this other kid
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trying to horn in on my paper route, and the host would say oh, you need to get again. they said it and just, you know, and i remember maybe a week into it i was visiting my parents in montana, and it was this big snowstorm. there was so much snow at the streets were not plowed yet and i went cross-country skiing in the middle of the night and it was so fluffy and white and wonderful. and then i came back and turned on the radio and there was some person saying that you could solve the problem of the welfare mothers and to illegal immigrants by giving the welfare mothers jobs, like posting them at the borders to gun down all the illegal immigrants. like him when i say i was a prisoner, not like usually hard having to hear the songs all day long. it was very dark and violent and terrible, things had to listen to. you know, so i don't, you. i mean, and i think we forget,
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we forget that. i mean, i don't know. i would like to forget it but i can't. and then after oklahoma city, when that happened, there was something president clinton said even that stuck with me when it happened but if there's talk of hate, talk against it. that was something that was nice to hear after, you know, a few months of listening to violent calls, to murder in between commercials. so, i don't see we creating that experience, lovely as it was. it was my first book and i learned a lot by writing and publishing it. it's a very, like, dark and angry book. but i think that comes from when i had to listen to. maybe we can have one more question. and could it maybe be slightly
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more hopeful? [laughter] >> that's not from your question. that's me in this darkness. >> i will have to work on hopeful, i think. do you see a parallel between the missionary effort that you write about in here and the dulles brothers who enjoyed life in the 60? >> i don't know the dulles brothers are. >> john foster dulles. >> oh, yeah, i've been to the airport. [laughter] spent produce the overthrow. >> oh, some of the other american regime changes? it does seem to be a habit of ours, you know. we don't like a guy running guatemala, i know we can do. or we don't like the guy running iran. i mean, these things do kind of -- or, you know, we don't like the guy running cuba, that kind of thing. i mean, it's one thing for a government to want to hope for
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foreign leaders that would perhaps, if not act in our interest, at least, you know, not, you know. but the thing about the united states is, as our founding, in the declaration of independence, you know, defined our beliefs, our three of government is that it should be based on the consent of the governed. so by definition, the idea that americans would go abroad and try and like monkey with other countries rulers is a contradiction. it is at best hypocritical. is that what you're talking about? [inaudible] >> the thing about the difference with hawaii is the missionaries, the original missionaries, the one who came in the 1820s and '30s, they were not the one who overthrew the queen. it's their children, the ones were born in hawaii, who most of
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them attended the school founded by the missionaries to educate missionary children. that's the school our president went to. it's those children, the hawaii born, the one to overthrow the queen. and to them religion played very little role. the queen was a more devout christian than any of those guys everywhere. so the original missionaries in hawaii had, they are supposed to westernize and civilized the hawaiians as best they could, but they also had strict instructions not to mess with the government and not get involved with political affairs. because political affairs r. of this earth. and they were to be concerned with getting as many hawaiians into the kingdom of heaven as possible. and most of them really stuck to that. a few of them did quit commission to go on and work for the hawaiian government, but they had to quit their jobs as missionaries to do that. there was one ask missionary who
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helped with the framing of a new constitution when the hawaiian constitutional monarchy. there was one missionary who quit commission to work in the judiciary because he objected to the fact that the headquarters back in boston was taking donations from slave states. this is before the civil war. so the actual, the actual missionaries did more or less stick to the plan. partly because they just didn't have time to do anything else. these were incredibly burdens, overload people, look at what they did. so they wanted, they want to make everyone christians. and because they're protestants that means they need everyone to be reading their bibles. so they have to invent the written language, then translate the bible got a because their persnickety seminary educated new englanders they translate the bible from greek and hebrew into hawaiian. and they have to publish that. then they have to teach everyone

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