‘Keel Haole’ idea is left for dead
Jonathan Cook is a public relations and marketing man with a big idea, probably -- as he realizes now -- a bad, big idea.
I, on the other hand, think it's a great idea. But it's that kind of thinking that has gotten me into so much trouble over the years.
Jon, owner of a PR firm called the Inventive Agency, has fond memories of his days at Radford High School, particularly the last day of school, known in local public schools as Kill Haole Day.
Now, Jon graduated from Radford in 1987, long after lawyers and burgeoning proponents of hate-crime laws had taken all the fun out of Kill Haole Day. Jon remembers that people would kind of joke about it, but nothing bad would actually happen.
"Some people would nudge you and say, 'Tomorrow is Kill Haole Day, heh, heh, heh,'" he recalls.
Jon's a youngster. When I attended Aiea High School (grad '72), Kill Haole Day was not quite a humorous vestige of the past. It was rumored that just the year before I attended, haoles had been locked inside the cafeteria and beaten with pots and pans. We didn't really think that was true, but we took no chances. Discretion being the better part of valor and fleeing the better part of discretion, we fled from campus at lunch time.
Besides, we few haoles at Aiea didn't have to wait for Kill Haole Day to be subjected to abuse. That could happen any day of the year. I have often related the time I was tied to a desk in class and the teacher walked out. (It might have been Tie Haole to Desk Day.) After a few years of being bullied, ripped off and threatened on a nearly daily basis, Kill Haole Day didn't engender much fear. Besides, as far as we knew, no haoles actually were killed on Kill Haole Day.
Jon's warm memories of the last day of school prompted him to start a petition to make Keel Haole Day a state holiday. (I guess "keel" is a more jolly version of the word "kill.")
With tongue somewhat in cheek, Jon states on his Web site (theinventiveagency.com/haole.html), "This is part of an effort to keep Old School Island culture alive." The reasons for making Keel Haole Day a state holiday are several, including the health benefits.
"One major problem in getting people to exercise is that they find it so boring," he states. "Keel Haole Day will help solve that. The excitement of the chase will keep people on the go."
He points out that no haoles will be keeled. "Haoles who are caught will be tagged and then released onto the streets of Waikiki," he says.
What about hapa-haoles?
"You could play on one side for part of the day and then switch over," he says. "You'll get both perspectives and have twice the fun!"
After launching his petition in support of the state holiday, Jon found that some people didn't think it was such a funny idea. The Governor's Office, for one. When he approached an aide to Gov. Linda Lingle to find out what he would have to do to submit his petition, he was told the governor does not share his sense of humor on the subject. The reaction of others convinced him that there are still strong negative feelings about Kill Haole Day.
"I started thinking, this might be a little too sensitive," he told me. For one thing, Hawaii actually does have a hate-crimes law now, and it's definitely uncool to even joke about attacking someone because of their race.
So while people can still go to his Web site and leave comments about the idea of Keel Haole Day being a state holiday, he's kind of given up on the project.
I was a little disappointed. Kill Haole Day didn't actually spawn hate crimes. It was more of a "hate sport" or "sport crime" or something like that. But I can understand the conflicting message that a Keel Haole Day holiday would pose. A lot of people would understand it was a joke. But pity the haole in the schools where mokes didn't quite understand the irony. And there's the jealousy thing. If Keel Haole Day became a holiday, would Keel (insert your ethnicity here) Day not be far behind?
, the National Society of Newspaper Columnists' 2004 First Place Award winner for humor writing, appears Sundays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org