Not in the spiritual desert, but in Nevada–the home of rattlesnakes, cactus juice and casinos aplenty. In response to a request to look through the papers of Chuck Helstrom, a former TT police head who died a few months ago, I spent a few days in Las Vegas with friends. Browsing through his files was a flip through 20 years of island history during the 1970s and 80s: heroin drug busts on Saipan, investigations into the practice of “crazy eight” handcuffing in Chuuk, death threats against certain congressmen for voting the wrong way, intrigues among the HiCom staff, and so much more. I’d almost forgotten how thrilling those days were. How many times since then have police been sent into a village at dawn and kicked down doors to get men wanted by the law? Read More
The article that is posted here has already drawn several responses, not as comments here but as emails. Perhaps I should have posted a disclaimer. I’m not an economist, as is probably obvious to those who have read the article, but only a dabbler with a fascination in the history of economies on the world stage. Even in that area the reading list I can draw on is embarrassingly short. Read More
We all know that the Micronesian island nations are having problems building their economies. Palau might be doing better then FSM and the Marshalls, but they all seem to be heavily dependant on Compact funds from the US. Are the US-related island nations north of the equator doing worse than the rest of the Pacific Island nations? Perhaps because they’ve become fat and lazy due to the Compact funds?
Last year, working with two Fordham graduate students, I gathered as much economic data about the island nations as possible so that we could compare the Micronesian nations with the rest. When looked at this way, Read More
Many times over football has been declared America’s religion. Maybe it is. When I was saying mass last Sunday, the day that the New York Giants was to play the San Francisco 49ers for the NFC spot in the SuperBowl, there were lots of heavy jackets bearing the Giants’ logo. There were also plenty of remarks after the mass about where people expected to be when the game started at 6:30 that evening. The two religions–the one I’m supposed to represent and the one symbolized by those jackets–were meshing very nicely that morning. Read More
The other night I asked one of the men here if he wanted to go with me to see a move that he had mentioned approvingly the week before. He replied that he didn’t feel in the mood to see a movie tonight. His favorite TV program was on that evening, he was feeling a little tired, and he wasn’t sure that he even wanted to see the movie in the first place.
“Listening to you makes me yearn to be back in the islands,” I told him. “At least in the islands a person I was inviting to a movie would save face all the way around by making Read More
Let’s take a look at the “crime and punishment” issue from a different point of view. In an island society–or in backwoods hill country US–it is important to keep the peace. Otherwise, the Hatfields start taking shots at the McCoys, or the people of one village begin slinging spears at those of another, for some real or imagined damage sustained. To heal this rupture in the society, there has to be some compensation or pay-back for damage done. Chuukese, and people from other islands also, sometimes adopted the young man who had killed their own son. The killer was the payback to the offended family. At first I found this hard to believe, but then it began to make sense. Read More
If casual conversation is any gauge, Americans seem to want their justice system to do one thing, and only one thing: punish wrong-doers harshly enough to teach them and everyone else a lesson. “Crime doesn’t pay” is presumably the lesson.
Two 13-year olds toss a shopping cart off a bridge and badly injure a woman? Put them away for 20 years. A drug dealer is caught making a deal across from a public high school? He should get the maximum sentence for threatening young people. Barry Bonds is convicted of perjury over steroid use–something that may be unfair but is no threat to others? Teach him a lesson and put him away in jail.
I found myself arguing with a woman Read More
Christmas Eve here in Oceanside. A half hour of confessions in the early afternoon-–a nothing assignment compared with the hours we used to spend in the box in Chuuk and the afternoons of penance services on Pohnpei. Mass at 4 PM in a crowded church, with Christmas mass celebrated in two other locations at the same time. Here as everywhere there are crowds who haven’t seen the inside of a church in months, but people who seem to cherish even these occasional ties with the parish. The traditional Christmas hymns, a homily that tries to speak to our lives on the day after Christmas as much as on the day itself, and communions that seem to go on forever.
Right after mass a visit to the hospital here in town to see a woman with one leg amputated and another Read More