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 Short Story

You Foreigner

By Cordell Keith Haugen

“You have been receiving mail in a foreign language,” the man said. “May I come in to talk with you?”

Charles was dumbfounded. He’d heard some pretty innovative opening lines from peddlers and others who called on his home to sell something or to get you to let them try to convert you to one religion or another. Even those soliciting donations had some very clever ways to get you into a conversation, but he’d never heard this one before. The man suddenly appeared on his doorstep to tell him that he was receiving mail in a foreign language?

“No. You must have the wrong address,” Charles replied. “I don’t know that we’ve ever received anything in a foreign language. Who are you anyway?”

“I’m with the Department of Homeland Security,” the man said, quickly flashing a badge and ID card in a small leather folder he carried in his suit coat pocket. “You might say I work for the President, Attorney General, Secretary of Homeland Security, the FBI, INS, and all the government agencies that are protecting our great country.”

“Protecting our country? What are you doing at my doorstep?”

“I’ll ask the questions,” the visitor said, carefully straightening his necktie. “I could get a search warrant, but I hope that won’t be necessary. Just answer a few questions for me and I’ll be on my way. Your name was brought to our attention by US Postal inspectors who have been watching your mail for several months.”

“Well, thanks for coming by. Have a nice day.” With that, Charles closed the door.

The doorbell rang again.

Charles opened the door. “You still here?” he asked, rhetorically.

“Does this ring a bell?” the man asked, holding up a copy of “Ke Kuamo`o O Ke`elikolani.”

Charles began to laugh.

“What’s so funny?” the visitor asked. “You should be taking this more seriously. Under the new Patriot Act, what used to be simple violations of law are now terrorist crimes. You could be sent to prison for not cooperating.”

He started to explain how Charles could be held without trial, or without an attorney, incommunicado, for as long as the President wanted him held, but Charles began to laugh again.

“This is serious,” the man said.

Charles laughed even louder. “You’d look pretty foolish,” he told the man. “That is the newsletter of the college of Hawaiian language at the University of Hawaii in Hilo. It’s entirely in Hawaiian.”

“That makes no difference,” the man responded angrily. “It is not in English.”

“No, it’s not,” Charles chuckled. “It’s Hawaiian, the first language of our Islands. And Hawaiian is one of the official languages of our State.” Charles couldn’t help himself, and he laughed again -- this time really loud.

“The Federal Government should know better,” he said. “They sent you all the way to Honolulu to tell me that they think Hawaiian is a foreign language?” He was still laughing.

“It doesn’t matter,” the man said. “Lots of Hawaiians are preaching the overthrow of the US Government, and we’re looking into that too. Anyone wanting to pull out of the United States is a terrorist, under the new Patriot Law. Those who want to secede from the Union are using the Hawaiian language as a way to keep Americans from reading and knowing what they are doing. It won’t work, I tell you. We know who they are. Are you one of them?”

Charles was still laughing. It was a great idea, he thought, but should he say it?

“If we were recognized as a sovereign nation, not a part of the United States then that would solve the problem. We wouldn’t have spies like you reading our mail.” With that, Charles closed the door again.

But the visitor was persistent. He rang the bell again, and again, and again.

Charles opened the door slowly, smiling at the agent.

“I gotcha, didn’t I?” he asked, smiling all the while. “What are you going to do now, arrest me”? “On what charge”?

The more he smiled, and laughed, the angrier the agent became.

“You think it’s funny? I’ll show you what funny is. You foreigners are all alike. You need to be taught a lesson.”

“Foreigner” Charles asked? “Where are you from? I’m the native here. You’ re the foreigner.” With that Charles pulled out his cell phone and dialed 911. He gave his name and address and spoke briefly, softly to the young woman on the other end.

“What are you doing?” the man shouted, almost hysterically.

“I called the police,” Charles said. “I’d suggest you leave before they get here.”

“Me leave?” the man screamed! He was losing it. “You gotta be kidding.”

Just then, a blue and white cruiser screeched to a stop in the driveway, and two huge uniformed Hawaiian police officers jumped out of the car. They walked quickly to the door, confronted the man with the briefcase.

“Are you the man who called?” they asked.

“No,” Charles said. “I called. This man is threatening and harassing me. It seems he thinks Hawaiians are foreigners who should not be allowed to read things written in Hawaiian and that we should be arrested and charged for speaking in favor of sovereignty.”

“Sir,” said one officer, whose nameplate bore the longest Hawaiian name the stranger had ever seen. “You’ll have to come with us. You are on private property, Hawaiian property, you’re trespassing.”

By that time, two other police cars had arrived and several more officers had emerged from the vehicles. All were Hawaiians.

Turning to Charles, the first officer asked: “How did this all start?”

“He told me that he came here from the Mainland to tell me that I was receiving mail in a foreign language, and that it was against the terrorist laws,” Charles said. “It turned out to be a Hawaiian language newsletter. One thing let to another and soon he was out of control. He said he worked for the President, the Attorney General, the Secretary of Homeland Security, the FBI, and the INS. He sounded like a nut case.”

The officers hustled the agent into the waiting cruiser and as they drove away, Charles’ wife pulled into the driveway. She jumped from the car. “What’s going on here?” she asked Charles. “What were the cops doing here.”

“You’re not going to believe this,” he told his wife.

“Try me!” she said.

“They came to pick up some federal agent who thought you should not read anything written in Hawaiian,” Charles replied.

And he could tell by the expression on his wife’s face; she didn’t believe him.
Cordell Keith Haugen
Copyright 2003

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