Good morning and greetings, back to school fans. After last week’s chronicling of my papaya-filled North Shore adventure, I thought it was time to moveon.org and take a look at some of the summer floral madness that colors the westside of Santa Cruz. But then I came across an article written by Mark Niesse of the Associated Press, and before you could say “Holy chocolate covered macadamia nuts,” I knew what direction this blog was heading. And that would be due west, back to the islands.
Hawaii turned 50 years old last Friday, but there were no parades, no fireworks, no displays of native culture, not even a damn luau. Organizers of the observation were not even willing to call it a party. It is simply a “commemoration,” one that is sensitive to a painful history of the Hawaiian monarchy’s overthrow and unresolved claims of Native Hawaiians. Or in the words of “The Honeymooners” Ed Norton, “That’s the surprise. There ain’t gonna be no party.”
Alaska, by contrast, which joined the union in January, 1959, embraced their 50th anniversary of statehood with concerts, fireworks, a prize-winning float in California’s Rose Parade and a dunk tank featuring Sarah Palin. Were residents excited to see the former Governor/Vice Presidential candidate turned Lens Craft model getting moist in a wet t-shirt? You betcha.
The main event of the island commemoration was a low-key, daylong conference reflecting on Hawaii’s place in the world. But behind the tourist-friendly tropical images of beaches, sunshine and teriyaki beef plate lunches, many natives, lifeguards and Tahitian dancers remain uncomfortable with the U.S. takeover of the islands and the idea that businesses have exploited Hawaiians’ culture.
“Instead of state government having huge parties and fireworks, we’re having a convention,” says Manu Boyd, cultural director for the Royal Hawaiian Center. “That shows the strength and spiritual power of the Hawaiian people, whose shattered world has not yet been addressed.” Or as Mick Jagger says, “Love and hope and sex and dreams, I’m shattered.” My main man Manu is not a happy camper.
Sovereignty groups advocating independence from the United States make up a minority, but many residents recognize the long-standing issues associated with the 1893 overthrow of the monarchy, the islands’ annexation and past harms to the Native Hawaiian people. Hawaii was admitted into the United States on Aug. 21, 1959. About 94 percent of island chain’s voters supported statehood. Opponents argue that the vote was tainted because the only choice on the ballot was to become a state or remain a territory — independence was not an option. I believe I saw this movie, it’s called “Shaft.”
The Hawaiian kingdom was overthrown in 1893 when a group of white businessmen, after a day of snorkeling off Molikini, forced Queen Liliuokalani to abdicate while U.S. Marines came ashore. This never would have happened if Queen Latifah had been manning the thrown. She would have kicked some royal butt.
“This newfangled idea of celebrating statehood shows that people don’t understand Hawaii’s history, or if they do understand, then they’re celebrating a lie, a theft, that essentially stole a people’s right of self-determination,” said Poka Laenui, a Hawaiian and attorney who has worked for independence for more than 30 years. The natives are pissed and I don’t blame them. Or as it stated in my rental car agreement, “Remember the Alamo.”
Along with statehood came striking changes to the islands, as the first commercial jetliner’s arrival in Honolulu just a few weeks earlier began the dawn of the tourism era. Today, Hawaii’s economy depends on tourism as its primary industry, with nearly 7 million visiting the islands in 2008 to snap photos of Pearl Harbor, swim in the warm tropical waters and purchase every possible concoction made from pineapple at the Dole Plantation store.
One way Hawaiians are moving toward having a voice in their self-determination is through legislation pending in Congress that would treat them similarly to Native American tribes and Alaskan natives. After a decade of efforts, the measure could pass into law as soon as this year with the support of Hawaii-born President Barack Obama. Or as the sticker says, “Lucky You Live Hawaii.” Well, we’ll see about that.
On to round two of our North Shore photo funfest. The first image is the lovely view from the deck of our Sunset Beach cottage, followed by a rainbow shot from the front yard. Then it’s on to our neighbor’s papaya tree and some coconuts that fortunately didn’t conk us on the head. We conclude with the sunrise from our first morning followed by the sunset that evening. These were taken the day before my camera went into early retirement and forced me to re-examine my life, liberty and the pursuit of tree-climbing geckos.
On to some late night humor. “I didn’t think this day would come. Squeaky Fromme tried to assassinate President General Ford. She’s been let out of prison. She was paroled. Is she going to get a job? If you think about it, there aren’t many jobs for unstable, gun-toting women, unless she wants to run for governor of Alaska.” How about this? Brett Favre is coming out of retirement and joining the Minnesota Vikings. He’s getting $12 million from Minnesota. Talk about cash for clunkers. Now, here is a statistic — 90% of all paper currency has traces of cocaine. Ninety percent of all paper money in this country, traces of cocaine. Had a $20 bill today. I thought Ben Franklin looked a little jumpy.” –David Letterman
“It’s been reported that former Vice President Cheney is hard at work on his memoirs. It’s called ‘The Five People You Meet in Hell.’” –Conan O’Brien “You remember John Edwards? He finally admitted he’s the father of his mistress’ baby after denying it for over a year. So it’s a pretty classic case of whoever denied it, supplied it. Fortunately, some good news came out of the whole thing, he agreed to join Bristol Palin on the abstinence tour.” –Jimmy Fallon
So that’s our report from the South Pacific. I’d once again like to thank all the firefighters that had a hand in putting out the Lockheed fire that raged last week along the north coast. This past Friday the air was choking with ashes-I hadn’t seen smoke that thick since my last Doobie Brothers concert.
But the skies above Monterey Bay are once again fresh and exciting, as we had some sunset action on Saturday night. So enjoy the summer breeze that makes you feel fine and the final days of August. Loved watching the Yankees beat up on the Red Sox this weekend. We’ll catch you in the deep center. Aloha, mahalo and later, Usain Bolt fans.