Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Free Hawaii

Several years ago in the Boston Museum of Fine Arts I came across a temporary exhibit of Hawaiian paintings. As a graduate of US public education, I knew nothing about Hawaii, only remembering the hoopla when it became a state. I don’t recall much about the exhibit or who the artists were because I was overwhelmed with the artistic rendering of massive US violence against the Hawaiian people--which came as a shock since we are taught it is a paradise.

Hawaii was a sovereign kingdom until it was violently overthrown by US marines in 1893 at the behest of sugarcane corporations; the US annexed it as a territory in 1898 & made it a US state on August 21, 1959. Like many former colonies (as in the Caribbean), it has become a play ground for wealthy tourists & the site of second homes for celebrities. Most native Hawaiians are unable to afford living there & have been displaced by golf courses, shopping malls, & swanky resorts or have been reduced to second class servant status by the tourist industry. Many natives live in squalid diaspora in the continental US grieving for their homeland & cultural cohesion.

Israel “Iz” Kamakawiwo’ole (1959-1997), a native Hawaiian singer & ukelele player, was the troubadour for Hawaiian culture, rights & independence against what is essentially an occupation by well-heeled colonial settlers. Over 10,000 people attended his funeral & gathered to scatter his ashes into the Pacific Ocean in July 1997 which is featured in this video of “Over the Rainbow.” Although the organized movement for Hawaiian independence appears to be relatively weak the indigenous sentiment supporting it remains powerful & massive including among those in diaspora.

In 1993 the US government made a formal apology to native Hawaiians for the 1893 catastrophe but took no measures to redress it; to make sure there were no confusions on this score or potential law suits, the US Supreme Court (in 2009) made a ruling to deny any claims of sovereignty or compensation based on the apology--giving the apology the full authority of used toilet paper.


(Photo from freehawaii.blogspot.com)

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