2/25/15

Fort Kamehameha

As my mother puts is, my mind has "a very large engine," and going through the mundanity of daily mothering without something big to keep my mind busy is like putting a cog in the works until the engine starts smoking and sputtering out. Lately I've been contemplating the 18th century, specifically how the Enlightenment fundamentally altered the history of the world. Not just in my beloved France or here in America, but all around the world. I've been delving into Haitian history and Toussaint l'Ouverture, Simone Bolivar in Venezuela, and King Kamehameha in Hawaii. Mostly I've been listening to podcasts while I cook or clean, and read Wikipedia articles while I hold Eloise.

Growing up I remember seeing statues of King Kamehameha all over the place in Honolulu, remember hearing stories about him in school, and I lived in Fort Kamehameha for Pete's sake. But I never cared to learn much about him; he existed as this vague historical figure in the corners of my memory as I imagine Brigham Young must be in the minds of young Utahns. I remember visiting a "haunted" coastal cliff in Oahu, where 700 people were pushed off to their deaths, and it was all somehow connected to King Kamehameha.

Learning about King Kam as an adult has been a peculiar experience. Those vague outlines in my memory have been sharpened, with some startling realizations. Primarily, he was a cunning and strong leader, a ferocious warrior, but basically a thug. A thug with better technology than the other chieftain thugs. Not that I believe the European colonizers or plantation owners were bastions of morality, but...King Kamehameha had a bloody rule. He may have united the islands, but through bloodshed. He may have reigned in relative peace toward the end of his life, but treachery and bloodthirst brought him there.

These revelations for me are what I imagine it must feel like to learn your childhood pet rabbit had rabies, and spread rabies to all the other rabbits in the neighborhood. And it pushed 700 people off a cliff. Its a bit unsettling.

This experience also strangely connects to another eery discovery about my childhood home:
This is a video taken in 2014, "Fort Kamehameha, HI. Formerly extraordinary US Army family quarters, now left ignored, in disrepair, vandalized, and a heart breaking sight." They were indeed extraordinary homes, built on beachfront property in the early 1900s for the army colonels and their families. Each house has nearly identical layouts, and were a magical place to grow up. I have precious memories there. Its where I met Sarah, my BFF, and when she showed me this video last year, it was a strange sensation. Its eery to see your childhood home, alive in your memories with geckos and ocean waves and best friends, now abandoned, broken, derelict. Its like a sad, bizarre horror film.

I have never been back to Hawaii since I left when I was almost 11. I would like to, but I can't see it happening. I wonder what it would feel like, if it would feel like watching that video or learning about King Kamehameha (disturbing and strange), or if it would feel like a homecoming. It was such a unique place to live that it is almost entirely removed from my life now. Despite being part of the same country, living in the Rocky Mountains is an entirely different experience than tropical Pacific islands. There aren't any traces of my island childhood in my current life, except for these unexpected revelations that seem to occur without warning. Its a little odd.

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