After nine years, Hawaii has finally celebrated, err "commemorated", Statehood. At the final session, Dr. Trisha Kehaulani Watson, Director of Operations, Hawai'i Youth Conservation Corps, called it progress, saying "Three years ago we had a very different Statehood experience."
The last Governor to hold a public celebration of Statehood was Ben Cayetano in 2000 --and he held it in San Francisco.
In 2001 the Democrat-controlled Hawaii State Senate passed SR 98 sending a formal message to the United Nations requesting the world body reconsider its approval of Hawaii's 1959 Statehood referendum. As Volcanic Ash columnist David Shapiro points out: "The rest of the country took note of our muted observance of the 50th anniversary of statehood. Only in Hawaii do we celebrate statehood in a state of confusion about whether we want to be one." The highlight of the 50th Anniversary "Commemoration" was the "New Horizons for the next 50 Years" conference at the Honolulu Convention Center. After 200 sovereignty activists cut the 50th star out of the US flag and burned it in front of the convention center, some of them joined the speakers' panel for the Conference's final session, "Cultural navigation in a Sea of Change". What ensued may be the only example of a US State "commemorating" statehood by sponsoring a public roundtable discussion with secessionists.
Perhaps reflecting broad public disgust with Hawaii's cravenness towards the miserable gaggle of ex-cons, drug dealers, felons, burglars, elder abusers, and mortgage scammers who call themselves the "sovereignty movement", only about 200 of the conference's 2100 registered participants stayed for "Cultural Navigation".
The result wasn't all bad. Office of Hawaiian Affairs Trustee Oswald Stender told the eight panelists that "This is our one and only chance -- this year" for passage of the Akaka Bill. But the eight panelists had other ideas.
Dr. Jonathan Osorio, Center for Hawaiian Studies, University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa, said he was firmly against passage of the Akaka Bill saying he envisioned Hawaii as "an independent country again" within the next 50 years.
Donovan Preza, President of the Hawaiian Society of Law and Politics, said the Akaka Bill "can be a tool" towards independence and said he was "indifferent" towards it because "US legislation cannot extinguish sovereignty."
His sentiments were echoed by Dr. Kamanamaikalani Beamer, Department of Geography, University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa who said he used to be against the Akaka Bill "but lately I've been thinking ‘it is a US resolution which cannot affect sovereignty.'"
None of this should be very surprising. The entire "sovereignty" movement is a creation of 1960s-70s leftists at UHM and it continues there entrenched in the faculty. The UHM Ethnic Studies Department is the source of Hawaii's Statehood confusion.
But outside of the UHM Ethnic Studies and Law School "sovereignty" clique, others were not focused on taking power. Watson said, "I am sick of Hawaiians living on the beach." Ramsay Taum, Director of External Relations and Community Partnerships at the University of Hawai'i at Mānoa's School of Travel asked, "Why do I have to ask permission to recognize my identity. I've yet to be convinced that this action (passing the Akaka Bill) has long term benefits." Describing "crabs in a bucket" Pono Shim, CEO of Enterprise Honolulu points out: "crabs act that way because we put them in a bucket."
Shim was the most rooted in reality, tearfully asking: "Is it possible (God) allowed (annexation) to happen because if (God) didn't allow the US to take Hawaii, somebody else would've." His view contrasts sharply with Preza who channels the "birthers" when he questions the legality of Hawaii Statehood saying, "It's our 50th birthday and we don't have adoption papers."
Hawaii's 51st anniversary is coming up with the Admission Act celebration in March and the 51st anniversary of Statehood next August. The "confusion" revisionist history and conspiracy theories about the legality of Hawaii Statehood got a huge boost from the 1993 Apology Resolution which focuses debate on the overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom without consideration for the 116 years of history since.
Some such as Osorio focus single mindedly on taking power. Others such as the OHA Trustees focus on the acquisition of land and the exercise of claims over the land of others. Meanwhile, as with all natural-resource-based economic systems, the condition of Native Hawaiians does not improve. Unchecked, sovereignty activists harass State and County officials and the general public at public hearings and in court proceedings. They prey on Hawaiians in mortgage scams, and with elder abuse, dope pushing, and other crimes. The police have on several occasions refused to enforce the law against the sovereignty activists -- most prominently at Iolani Palace -- reinforcing their ability to intimidate others -- including other Native Hawaiians.
OHA's effort to control land and other natural resources directly drives job loss and pushes up the cost of housing. As a result, thousands of native Hawaiians leave Hawaii every year.
This sorry record contrasts sharply with the record of US involvement in Hawaii. The abolition of slavery in Hawaii and the extension of full voting rights are both tied to Hawaii becoming part of the United States. This is a story which is almost entirely untold outside of the pages of Hawai`i Free Press.
In 1900 the post-annexation Organic Act brought US law--abolishing multi-year indentured servitude plantation labor contracts.
Just as Annexation brought the abolition of contract slavery, Statehood is analogous to passage of the Voting Rights Act. Hawaii Statehood brought an end to Territorial Governors and Judges being appointed from Washington. Although there were elections under the Kingdom and the Republic, the franchise was effectively limited to Hawaiians and Haoles only.
With Statehood, for the first time all of Hawaii's citizens could elect their Governor. Judges were appointed by an elected Governor and Legislature. For the first time in the 2000-year history of these islands, they became fully democratic.
These two revolutions are worth celebrating-but first they must be acknowledged.
Andrew Walden is editor of Hawaii Free Press.