The Friends of the Georgetown Public Library’s Hill Country Authors Series:The Hill Country Authors Series will feature Air National Guard major MJ Hegar on at the library. She is author of Shoot Like a Girl and we will be discussing her novel at the event. Please help us publicize this fund raising event and plan to join us at the Georgetown Public Library, 402 W 8th St. The doors will open at for a delicious dessert from the Red Poppy Cafe, with the talk beginning at Tickets will be available for $15 beginning at Second-Hand Prose bookstore on the second floor of the library and online at www.folgeorgetown.org/calen
Sunday, March 25, 2012
Beautiful Island, With a History
Sharing about experiences with leprosy? No, none of us admitted to knowing of any leprosy (Hansen's disease) victims personally...I say "admitted" to shadow the book's atmosphere of shame of the disease and the pain caused by the social stigma attached to the disease.
We instead dug into the contemporary social implications of what we saw in the book. Pam started us comparing aspects of Moloka'i to the way AIDS patients have been and are treated in society today. Over the years, AIDS patients have been shunned and hidden. Fear surrounds AIDS even today as it surrounded leprosy in Hawaii before medicines were found to "cure" it. AIDS patients are not officially quarantined, but don't they live a somewhat quarantined life once they can't hide the illness?
Linda noted the intolerance in the book and extrapolated it to the American institution of picket fences, noting that the traditional American private property is surrounded by a white (the color of cleanliness) fence shaped like...shark's teeth! In Texas, it's barbed wire for the animals, with some homes surrounded by the wire rather than the prettier and more difficult to install picket fences. The barbed wire keeps the animals in and keeps people out. I suspect that few livestock animals are likely to jump any fence, barbed wire or none.
Carla continued the theme, noting prejudice on several levels in the society on Moloka'i. The original Hawaiian faith was replaced by Christian missionaries, who made the old faith taboo and virtually forced its proponents into hiding. Prejudice against the Japanese abounded during World War II. We read more about that in Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, but it was especially alive in Moloka'i, exemplified by the naval officer who killed Rachael's husband. Rachael's reception on Honolulu, losing jobs and being shunned by most who noticed her disfigured hand, gave us a picture of the continued prejudice against leprosy even after it was given a cure and the new name of Hansen's disease.
Hansen's disease today is known to be minimally contagious and effectively treated. This doesn't discount the history of isolating the patients, as at that time the Hawaiian population did seem particularly susceptible to the disease, and there were no medications to stop the progression. Although the antibiotics used for many years have kept the disease under control, new drug-resistant strains of the bacteria are a current concern. Patty told us that there are still cases in poor countries, namely Ethiopia, that are going completely untreated due to lack of available drugs.
Moloka'i is beautiful and as yet mostly untainted by tourism. This is primarily due to the residents' resistance to tourism. The island was rated as #10 in "sustainable tourism" among 111 islands; Hawaii was #50, Maui #51, and O'ahu #104. If you went to Moloka'i and visited Kalaupapa, would you give your hands a little extra washing?