Honolulu Lite

by Charles Memminger

Wednesday, September 1, 1999

San Francisco
celebrates our statehood

THE trouble with trying to write humor or satire these days is that real life is rapidly becoming more bizarre than stuff you can make up.

For instance, a few years ago, reflecting on how expensive it has become to do business in Hawaii, I suggested a couple of changes. With tongue more or less in cheek, I suggested that we build our prisons on the mainland. It just didn't make sense, I said, to house prisoners on some of the country's most expensive real estate.

I said we should build the convention center in Las Vegas. Give conventioneers a lei and a Mai Tai as they came through the door, throw a luau, have Hawaii entertainers perform, put a few hostess bars across the street ... in other words, provide the same experience they would get in Honolulu, but with less wear and tear on Hawaii.

We know that life imitates art; we didn't know that it also imitates goofy ideas. We didn't build the convention center in Las Vegas, but serious politicians have seriously suggested that we build a casino there.

We didn't actually build a prison on the mainland, but we did the next best thing: we started sending our prisoners to mainland prisons.

So, the concept of moving Hawaii to the mainland, as ludicrous as that sounds, has actually begun. But, even I wouldn't have imagined how far it would go.

This week, Hawaii celebrated the 40th anniversary of statehood. Being a state in the United States of America is something to be proud of. There are Third World countries that would become states if they could. Hell, Russia would become the 51st state if we gave it a chance. Hawaii residents have gone to war, given their lives for the state of Hawaii and the United States.

SO, why then did Hawaii celebrate its statehood in San Francisco?

Welcome to the Twilight Zone.

There was Gov. Ben Cayetano at 3Com Park on Candlestick Point throwing out the first ball at the Giants-Pirates game. There was Hawaii entertainer Glenn Medeiros singing the Star-Spangled Banner. There was "DaMayor" -- San Francisco Mayor Willy Brown, not Honolulu Mayor Jeremy Harris -- proclaiming "Hawaii Day." There were the leis, the hula dancers and the laulau. All in San Francisco.

People say the dilapidated Waikiki War Memorial Natatorium is a disgrace to Hawaii veterans. I wonder how the families of Hawaii soldiers who gave their lives for their state and country feel when Hawaii can't even celebrate statehood in its own state.

I've fully supported efforts by Hawaiians to regain some manner of sovereignty and redress for wrongs committed against them. But the fact that Hawaiians have some legitimate beefs against the United States doesn't mean that Hawaii residents cannot celebrate statehood.

Hawaii is a state of the union, a union that, despite its faults, has done more for mankind than any other country. Yes, there are some dark spots in America's history. But by just about any standard you can name -- public health, science, education, engineering, space travel, the arts, cultural diversity, environment, technology, government or, I suppose, cheeseburger production -- we are the envy of the world. And Hawaii, as a state, is part of that. I can't imagine any other state being ashamed to celebrate its membership in this union on its own soil.

But Hawaii was. And, sadly, it was no joke.

Charles Memminger, winner of
National Society of Newspaper Columnists
awards in 1994 and 1992, writes "Honolulu Lite"
Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
Write to him at the Honolulu Star-Bulletin,
P.O. Box 3080, Honolulu, 96802
or send E-mail to or

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