The Hurt Locker/Avatar

The Oscars are tomorrow night and two of the movies up for Best Picture are The Hurt Locker and Avatar, both of which I actually got to see. I just saw Hurt Locker last night at a theatre – there were only around half a dozen other people in the theatre, which I presume means everyone else is watching it on dvd.

This was a very powerful movie. Painful to watch but I believe a very important movie. We invaded Iraq in 2003 under the false pretense of searching for weapons of mass destruction. We predictably didn’t find any yet we are still in Iraq seven years later, fighting a war that is not ours, in a country that is not ours, in a situation that we can’t possibly win and where we are hated by most people in that country. Hurt Locker featured three main characters, each representing a different kind of soldier. Some people have said the plot was weak and the characters were unlikely. Regardless of that, the movie is a very real snapshot of the damage that is being done as much to the American men and women who are fighting in this war as to the Iraqi citizens who are living in constant fear and chaos. It is disturbing and it is impossible to imagine living in this kind of situation, either as a soldier or a civilian. It explains why troops who return from this war may have most of their body parts intact or put back together but their hearts and minds are gone, the psychological damage is beyond repair. It also explains why we are hated. We should not be fighting wars in countries that do not want us on their land, that have been fighting their own civil and tribal wars since time immemorial and that have no hope of resolution, at least by the United States. The soldiers have a clear disdain for the Iraqi people, maybe because the soldiers resent risking their lives for people who are not European and/or Christian. It seems that if one is going to risk one’s life, it should be for a cause one believes in and this movie leaves me wondering if the soldiers have any idea who the enemy is and what will constitute victory. There is genocide going on in the world that we are ignoring because those countries do not have anything we want (oil, harbors, for example). We are not fighting for justice, we are fighting to protect and feed our greed and I hope people watch this movie and think twice about the high price we all are paying, who is benefiting and if it is really worth it.

On that note, I hope The Hurt Locker wins. And I definitely hope Avatar does not. While people may get caught up in the New Age and environmental themes, those of us who are indigenous laugh at how it takes a member of the colonizers (ie the white guy) to save the tree hugging people who are entirely too inept to save themselves. The “hero” gets the ultimate wannabe wish to become indigenous and lead the people, who fall at his feet. Sorry, it doesn’t ring true for those who know the history of invasion, colonization and genocide of native peoples. It’s ironic that these two war-themed movies, directed by two people who were once married, are so different. Real vs fantasy, truth vs fiction. May the truth prevail.

Wilma Mankiller

Update, April 6, 2010, I heard that Wilma passed today. Here is my otherwise unchanged blog from March 3rd:

I got word today that Wilma Mankiller is not well. That’s a huge understatement but it is not for me to speculate on her health and anyway, there is information elsewhere about her condition. I was mostly relieved that the news wasn’t what I originally thought it was going to be. She is hanging on and that means I will pray for her: pray that she is not in pain, pray that whatever is wrong will not get worse and pray that her family is holding up during this most trying and devastating situation.

Wilma’s name and legendary reputation preceded my meeting her, which made me feel all the more honored when I did meet and get to spend time with her . She included me in her book “Every Day Is A Good Day”. Although some people are under the impression that a group of women got together and had a conversation that Wilma then transcribed into this book, that is not what happened. I sat down and ‘talked story’ (as we say in Hawai’i) for a couple hours with Wilma on one of her trips to Kona, where she and Charlie rented a house near the ocean. Wilma had a list of very profound questions on various topics. Fortunately she gave me an opportunity later to edit my answers after I had more time to think about the questions. I haven’t looked at the book in a few years but I do remember the incredible depth of the conversation as it came out in the book. I was flattered to be in the esteemed company of the other women who were included in the book and hope I represented my community adequately.

I have seen Wilma a couple times since then. She was always involved in something and always intellectually curious, very sharp. When I think of people whom I deeply admire, Wilma Mankiller is at the top of that list. The world is a better place because of her. Mahalo, Wilma.

2010 American Indian Youth Literature Award

2010 American Indian Youth Literature AwardThe American Indian Library Association gave out its awards this past June 28th for youth literature. My book, Between the Deep Blue Sea and Me, won for best Young Adult Fiction.

My publisher, Kamehameha Publishing, sent me to Washington, D.C. to receive the award in person. It was a great trip and a fun ceremony, fun because the Piscataway Indian Nation Singers and Dancers, who offered a cultural presentation, invited the audience up to participate in two dances! Itʻs always nice to visit Washington, where I lived for almost 15 years. Thanks to Jim McCallum for the photo.


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