Stirrings of unease mark holiday
The very real tension that is part of Hawaii's ethos came neatly into play Friday at Iolani Palace.
Statehood Day, a little- celebrated state holiday, happened at the same time as the 125th anniversary of the opening of Iolani Palace by King David Kalakaua.
During the same month in 1960, toward the end of his campaign for president, Vice President Richard Nixon stood on the steps of Iolani Palace to happily welcome Hawaii into the union.
Although as historian and reporter Tom Coffman noted: "To say that Hawaii went happily into the American fold is one of the great manipulations of history."
While Gov. Linda Lingle, Mayor Mufi Hannemann and a collection of representatives of the royal benevolent societies and the Free Masons gave gifts to honor King Kalakaua last week, a group of 35 Hawaiians chanted in front of the statue of Queen Liliuokalani, the nation's last monarch.
"Hawaii = a sovereign nation occupied by America," read a sign held by one chanter.
There is no denying it, as Lingle noted last Friday: "This was a sovereign nation and it was overthrown. It was a nation and then it wasn't."
As much as Hawaii can easily be the most American of places, where stories of immigration and opportunity are celebrated in kitchens graced with musubi, adobo and Spam, Hawaii is never really comfortable saying "We are 100 percent USA."
If America's business and military have always coveted the Hawaiian Islands, politicians have not been as enthusiastic. Hawaii became a state despite the worries of southern Senate Democrats who didn't want non-white U.S. senators and representatives voting on civil rights.
Today, politicians worry that inaction by Congress in passing a native Hawaii self-governance act, the Akaka Bill, will lead to civil unrest.
The issue is land. Rep. Neil Abercrombie told Star-Bulletin editors and reporters last week that something must be done with nearly 200,000 acres of Hawaii belonging in some form to native Hawaiians.
"There is a group of people that are going to insist, damn it, that if we don't get control of this, somebody is going to pay, there is going to be occupation of land ... there is going to be a civil disobedience movement, I guarantee you," Abercrombie warned.
Even Lingle acknowledges that if the federal courts rule to take away Hawaiian Homes or ceded land revenues, "it would create great bitterness."
Perhaps the wisest counsel comes from a speech by former Gov. John Waihee, who welcomed both opposition from within because it moved "forward the limits of possibility" and opposition from without which "clarifies the issues":
"The enemy is not opposition, the enemy is indifference."
Continuing the debate is the way Hawaii will define itself.