Hurt mail promptsAlice Guild, executive director of the Friends of Iolani Palace, has apologized for raising the American flag over the palace for a month in honor of the Sept. 11 attack victims.
apology for flying U.S.
flag over Iolani Palace
A tribute to those killed on
Sept. 11, and the ensuing fallout,
draws mixed reactions
By Pat Omandam
"I am so, so sorry for the pain that has been caused," she wrote in a Nov. 8 open letter to the "Board, Staff, Volunteers of Iolani Palace and to those who were affected by the raising of the American flag at the palace on September 28th."
She wrote that she received hate mail and "'hurt mail' from people who were feeling a deep sense of pain and betrayal" after raising the U.S. flag over the former home of Hawaiian monarchs.
Her letter, however, has angered others who believe no apologies are ever warranted for flying Old Glory, especially on what is now a state building.
"To me it's just not right," said Gene Wallace, a docent at Iolani Palace. "To me it just boils down to one simple thing: You don't apologize for raising the American flag."
Guild blamed her ignorance of Hawaiian history for the Sept. 27 board decision that approved displaying the U.S. flag above the palace for 30 days, alongside the Hawaiian flag. Usually, the Hawaiian flag is flown alone at the palace as part of an effort to restore the grounds to the late Hawaiian monarchy period.
Guild, who could not be reached for comment yesterday, wrote that she received numerous e-mails from the native Hawaiian community after the U.S. flag was raised. Their objections stemmed from the betrayal and hurt that came the first time the U.S. flag flew over Iolani Palace on Aug. 12, 1898, when Hawaii was annexed by the United States.
A century later, during the annexation's centennial observance, thousands of people gathered at the palace to witness an emotional and symbolic lowering of the American flag and the raising of the Hawaiian flag.
A struggle to restore a Hawaiian national government on various fronts continues today.
When it decided to fly the Stars and Stripes in September, the board cited a similar event in April 1917, when deposed Queen Liliuokalani displayed the U.S. flag at Washington Place to honor the deaths of Hawaiian military personnel during World War I.
Oahu resident Kau'i P. Goodhue told Guild that Queen Liliuokalani flew the American flag over her private residence at Washington Place and not the palace, the former seat of the Hawaiian monarchy.
Goodhue, a member of the Hawaiian Patriotic League, said her love for the palace is hard to describe, but "I would rather see the Iolani Palace burned to the ground than to see the U.S. flag flying over her again.
"How ironic that this time the flag was raised by Hawaiians. How sad our ancestors must be. This day will be remembered forever as a day of great sadness for the Hawaiian nation and her people," she said.
In her apology letter, Guild explained the board's decision was a gesture of compassion -- one that had swept across the country following the attacks -- and was not a result of political pressure. As director, however, Guild said she should have sought input from the Hawaiian community before doing so.
"We had worked so hard to involve the native Hawaiian community, to ask for their mana'o (thoughts) and to develop a partnership for the well-being of the palace, and yet I did not suggest that we consult with our staff and supporters before making this decision," Guild said in her apology. "You see, I, too, was caught in the moment."
But others in the Hawaiian community believe Guild's apology was unnecessary, especially since countries like Great Britain have flown the U.S. flag as a gesture of sympathy to the United States.
"When I see that palace, I always think about our Hawaiian nation, even though we're not formalized," said Roy Benham, a member of a native Hawaiian working group on the Akaka bill to give Hawaiians federal recognition similar to American Indian tribes. "But I still say that we can show our sympathy for a country that is going through a turmoil like that. I didn't see anything particularly wrong with it."
Wallace, a former California resident who has lived here for three years, said he reread Guild's letter more than once because he could not believe what she was saying.
He said he believes the American flag is appropriate for Iolani Palace because it is a state building that has been restored using state and federal funds and has even served as the home of the state Legislature.
"Our governor just went to New York and gave 1,200 tickets to firefighters and policemen trying to get their families to come here. Well, a lot of those families are going to go through the palace," Wallace said.
"I'd like to know what those firefighters and policemen would think if they found out they (Iolani Palace officials) apologized for raising the flag over that building."
Meanwhile, board member Lynette Cruz said Guild's apology shows the board is sensitive and receptive to concerns from the Hawaiian community. Moreover, it is a lesson that the board and others need to learn more about Hawaiian history.
"What it's pointing out to is that people don't know the history and the Friends of the Iolani Palace board doesn't know the history of Hawaii," Cruz said. "So it (the apology) has good implications."