the past few weeks have been very eventful ones in terms of the history of the state of hawai`i. on august 21st, 1959, hawai`i was accepted as the 50th state of the union of the united states of america. and the 2nd of september marked the birthday of hawai`i’s last queen.
few issues manage to polarize the population of hawai`i the way native hawaiian rights do. some resent native hawaiians, see their rhetoric and anti-american stance as threatening, hateful, or take hawaiian rights advocacy as a personal attack. many other proud americans see their way of life as the only, and best way…and that native hawaiians who oppose american occupation and policy on the rights of indigenous peoples as unpatriotic or somehow ungrateful. even amongst my friends, my views can sometimes offend or incite opposition.
i can’t even begin to describe how it feels to spend your entire life seeing how your people are hurting. like every other native people in america, native hawaiians dominate the dismal end of the statistical spectrum, with the highest encarceration rates, the highest suicide rates, shorter life expectancies, and the highest poverty rates than anyone else in the country. the sickness, crime rates, and social problems hawaiians face today is the result of a cycle of poverty and cultural loss that every native person in america faces, and is the latest rotation in a cycle started when hawaiians were first conquered by the west. the same truth is apparent with every native population, its not a “hawaiian problem”, its the universally-applicable net result of poverty and disenfranchisement. it has happened to every group of people who have been through what the hawaiians have.
the american government has admitted that its annexation of the kingdom of hawai`i was in violation of american foreign policy in united states public law 103-150, and even the united nations general assembly has recognized that what happened here was illegal (UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Sept 13, 2007).
to an extent, yes i am anti-american. i think its the height of hypocrisy that a country like america can in one hand claim to “stand for the rights” of oppressed peoples in other countries, yet is unable to correct its own violations. didn’t we invade iraq after it tried to invade and take kuwait by force? what about the marines who marched on iolani palace? sometimes i wish i could leave america entirely. but where would i go? this is home. that’s the hard fact facing every native hawaiian living in hawai`i nei today. like the death of a parent, the sadness of this knowledge never, ever leaves your mind. its something i can’t even fully express, and can never, ever leave behind.
honestly, i like the quality of living that i enjoy. and yeah, some hawaiians are happy to be american. i don’t hate non-hawaiians or americans and i think that debates like “hawaiians would have been screwed without pearl harbor” are inane at best (although for the record, most of the pacific islands japan conquered in WWII are mostly independent nations now…at least, japan doesn’t control any of them, it was the US, france, australia, and other allied nations that kept control of the pacific after recapturing those nations from japan during the war). i don’t hate haoles and i think that hawaiians who are so blindly racist as to hate everyone who isn’t hawaiian is a hypocrite and an idiot (since most of us are of mixed ethnic descent anyway). i don’t think that taking the same state of mind that reduced the native hawaiian population from 1..2-1.6 million pre-contact to 8,000 full-blooded hawaiians in 2009 and applying it to non-hawaiians today would be a good thing. i don’t think that expecting a handout from the government today is fair or appropriate. i don’t think you can blame anyone alive today for what happened in the past. i don’t think that hatred, anger, and ignorance solves anything, its what the west did when they killed us off, and the last thing we should be doing is the same to others. hatred perpetuates in cycles and it has to end with us.
i do think that hawaiians are the victim of a planned extinction that is basically a holocaust. less than .05% of the original population left after 200 years is a sobering figure. to put it in other terms, hitler killed 63% of the jews living in europe during wwii and they called that a holocaust. i do think that the state and federal government should be responsible for saving what’s left of a 2,000 or more year old culture. i do think that we have a lot we can learn from a culture that lived sustainably in the islands for over 2 millennia without depending on matson shipments twice a day to eat; think about it, the current state population as of last census was 1.28 million, the same as it was pre-contact in 1778. i do think that the mistakes of the past need to be corrected, because there simply can’t ever be “justice” on land that was taken from a group of people who were exterminated. i do think that our neighbors here in hawai`i today need to remember where they are and who came before. i do think that if everyone changes their views just a little, and showed a little more compassion for their neighbors, that none of these issues would be issues anymore.
the answer is simple: aloha. pono. kuleana.
those three words can solve so many problems, all we need to do is remember them.