Dear Hawaii: Aloha! You Can Be A State, Or You Can Be A Country. Pick One.

Surfer Hawaii

This was news to me: in the World Surf League and in international surfing competitions generally, surfers from Hawaii can represent island, or the United States. If they represent Hawaii, they are not regarded as representing the U.S.

Surfing will be an event in the Summer Olympics in Tokyo, and the option of just representing Hawaii will disappear. Hawaiian surfers will represent the United States, since, after all, Hawaii is a state. This, believe it or not, is causing outrage and consternation in the Aloha State. Two of the four Americans on the team, John John Florence (above) and the four-time world champion Carissa Moore, were born and raised in Hawaii and are accustomed to competing under the state flag. Moore is doing so again this month as the global tour holds major events in Australia.

Across the islands, on cars and on porches, Hawaii flags fly upside down, signifying distress. “Hawaii has had so much erased history,” said Duane DeSoto, the 2010 longboard world champion, told the New York Times. “Surfing prevailed against the possible suppression into oblivion. It endured the challenge of being exterminated at one time. And now it needs to be a source of Hawaiian pride.” Another surfer said, “In surfing culture worldwide, everybody looks at Hawaiian surfing as different. Even California surfers look at Hawaii different. But the Olympics see us as the same.”

Yes, that’s because Hawaii is the same an the other 49 states. Alabama, Virginia and Louisiana don’t compete under their state flags because they are nostalgic for the land of cotton where old times were not forgotten, and there is no more justification for Hawaii pretending it is still independent. Why are athletes from that state allowed to operate under a special exemption anywhere?

Many Hawaiians view the United States as an illegitimate occupier. While the U.S. recognized Hawaiian independence,9 0% percent of Native Hawaiians had been wiped out by disease the end of the 19th century, and the Hawaiians were soon outnumbered by Asian immigrants who came to work on the growing sugar cane plantations, largely owned by Americans. The US protected Hawaii from being taken over by other nations, and it also controlled island politics. It established Pearl Harbor as a naval base in 1887, and in 1893, the U.S. used the Marines to back plantation owners in overthowing Queen Liliuokalani. Full annexation by the U.S. came in 1898, and Hawaii became a state in 1959.

With a different culture and located far away in the South Pacific, Hawaii has never quite accepted reality, and pandering to native grudges by some misguided politicians hasn’t helped. In 1993, the U.S. Congress passed a joint resolution, signed by President Bill Clinton, formally apologizing for “the overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaii on January 17, 1893 with the participation of agents and citizens of the United States, and the deprivation of the rights of Native Hawaiians to self-determination.” Like all such official apologies, this one just tore open an old wound rather than healing it. Is Hawaii worse off now, as part of the U.S., than it would have been if it had been conquered by Japan, which is what almost certainly would have happened? Do Hawaiians really believe that?

Fine: put it to a vote. If Hawaiians want their independence back, let’s give it to them. But if the vote is to stay a state, let that be the end of the special treatment, nationally and internationally, that allows Hawaii to pretend that it is different from, or better than any other state.

13 thoughts on “Dear Hawaii: Aloha! You Can Be A State, Or You Can Be A Country. Pick One.

  1. “Fine: put it to a vote. If Hawaiians want their independence back, let’s give it to them.”

    Any time a region of a country is allowed to vote on whether to secede, the rest of the country should be allowed to vote to expel the malcontents. Otherwise, secession threats just become extortion attempts.

    • I have to agree here. The question of whether secession is allowed or not was decided in 1865. Unless we’re really prepared to see this country split apart, I think that’s a terrible idea. Besides, you know the Democrats would never let it happen, because it would deprive them of two pretty much guaranteed Senators.

      • I didn’t outline the whole process, since it’s a tangent. 1. The US agrees that it will let the state go. Obviously NY, Texas, the internal states, Alaska and others can’t leave. 2. Once we decide a state won’t be excessively missed, call its bluff. The Civil War was about unilateral secession.

      • We should trade Hawaii for Puerto Rico. Hawaii becomes independent with a guarantee of a naval base, and Puerto Rico becomes a state. No net change on the Senate and one House gain.

        • I admit to a bias here: in college, I and my room mates knew all of the Hawaiians in our class. They were without exception arrogant, insulting about Americans and the mainland, and called us “howlies,” a derogatory term for whites. This continued until my non-nonsense, 6’5″ room mate got all of them in a room and said, if I remember correctly, “If I hear any of you use the word “howlie” again, I will take the smallest one of you and stuff him up the biggest one’s ass. Is that clear?” He was not kidding.

          We never heard the word again.

          • Damn. Sounds like a pretty rotten group of Hawaiians. I haven’t known many, but the half-dozen or so I have known have run the gamut, from one Big Kahuna type who failed to impress the Jersey shore folks with his attitude, to one woman who was nice, laid-back, and always there for her ohana (extended family, including friends close enough to be thought of as family).

  2. Having never been to Hawaii and with no plans to go, I would not miss Hawaii if they decided to become an independent nation. They take in billions more federal money than they contribute, even discounting military spending. (No doubt they would continue to profit from foreign aid paid for by the rest of us, although cleansing the Senate of Hirono and Schattz would be worth a lot.) I read a while back that their tourism industry was devastated by the pandemic, so I doubt that there would now be widespread enthusiasm for independence, especially among the tourism business community, as they anticipate a renewed surge of tourism.
    Whenever I heard of a state threatening to secede, I am reminded of James Pedigru’s comment concerning South Carolina’s secession, declaring that the state was ““too small for a republic, but too large for an insane asylum.” Maybe Hawaii isn’t too large for the latter function.

    • Ugh. Foreign aid. Have you seen Joe Biden has read a speech Ron Klain wrote for him to say the U.S. will be giving aid to Hamas to “rebuild Gaza?” (From the photos, Gaza appears to be forever under construction, like most shithole countries.) Can you believe it? We sell or give Israel all that ordnance and weaponry to demolish entire city blocks and now we’re supposed to underwrite the cost to rebuild those decrepit, half-built, instant slums? All Hamas had to do to avoid the destruction was either not lob pipe missiles into Israel or not turn urban areas into military bases. Why isn’t Iran paying to “rebuild Gaza?” Would the Trump administration done so? No. Ron Klain has re-initiated “aid” to Hamas. Great. Morons. Let’s make the Congresswoman from Gaza the Secretary of State.

      • You know the Saudis (among other wealthy Arabs) could “rebuild Gaza” from the change in their couch cushions if they really cared a whit for the Palestinian people.

        • You’d think they would want to turn Gaza into a modern day French Colonial Lebanon. But I think you’re right, Jim. So many Middle Easterners seem to look down upon the Palestinians and consider them an annoyance. Certainly the Jordanians. The Shia Iranians/Persians seem to use the Palestinians and the Lebanese Shiites as a way to gig the Saudis and fellow travelers.

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