Ho’opunipuni: Myth of Statehood pt.1

May 6, 2009
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We haven’t digitized the video taping of the event yet, and I’m happy to report that the May 4th event was lively, engaging, and more than met our high expectations. Rather than summarize what Julian Aguon, Kekuni Blaisdell, Jon Osorio, Kuhio Vogeler, Randy Kaulana Chang or myself presented and discussed in the Ho’opunipuni: Myth of Statehood panel, I thought it best to let the video/transcripts speak for itself as we aim towards finishing it within the month.

Photo by Roger Park

I would say, however, that both the audience and the panelists were engaged in discussion, and one thing that came across was that many had come to the event expecting to hear a unified approach on the issues of the Akaka Bill, “ceded” lands, or what Hawai’i independence might look like. What they found was that there are many approaches and that the unity that exists, exists only in the consensus of the facts. For example, the fact that in 1893, there was an illegal overthrow; the fact that in 1894 a republic was established without the consent of the United States; the fact that in 1898, there was a resolution proclaiming Hawaii’s annexation without a legal annexation treaty. Regarding statehood, there is the fact that in 1959, there was a plebiscite taken in which 96% of the people who voted, voted for statehood, but that less than 35% of eligible voters participated in the plebiscite, and there is also the fact that Hawaii was placed on the United Nations list of Non-Self-Governing Territories, slated for independence, and that we were improperly removed from that list.

What the panel suggests is that agreeing upon these facts, there are many approaches towards sovereignty and independence and there is work being done by many to uncover the myth– the misinformation, lies, misinterpretations– that have been promoted in Hawaii and abroad over the last century. The panel also encouraged all to participate in this discussion, not only those residing in Hawaii, but those residing on the continent as well. The struggle for independence, justice and dignity, is not one that is defined by the geographical boundaries of Hawaii, rather the struggle should be defined by all who are willing to engage in further public dialogue and social discourse.

Jeff Liu and the entire staff from Visual Communications was accommodating, encouraging and supportive, and considering how many films were being screened throughout the festival, I was continually amazed by how available they were to the stresses of putting this event together: stresses big and small. Jeff’s concern throughout this process was for this panel to present a standard of rigor and authority and despite him breaking his hand in a freak biking accident, he was present and always available to make sure that the event stayed on course.

Lono Kollars, the president of KA HA (Kaleponi Advocates of Hawaiian Affairs) was leading this event’s wonderful and hospitable pre-reception. He worked with Auntie Sharon Ku’uipo Paulo preparing and organizing the food, arranging for the musicians, and setting the mood and proper protocol for greetings, introductions and mahalo for the film and forum to come, even though his co-sponsor’s program kept changing!

Earlier, during the morning of our big event, Eseel Borlasa with publicists David Magdael and Associates arranged for Jon Osorio and Kuhio Vogeler to be interviewed by Sonali Kolhatkar on KPFK’s Uprising Radio.

Christian Dautresme, was assisting me with the details of shuttling and hosting our panelists, and he offered to drive us to the radio station at 7 in the morning. Jon’s flight to LA the night before had been delayed by several hours and by the time we got back to the house, it was nearly 2 am. We were pretty tired the next morning when we were traveling north on the 101 towards Studio City where the KPFK studio was, and just under a mile from the freeway exit, we heard a loud “POP!” a horrible scraping from under his car.

Christian pulled off the side of the freeway and the spring from his rear suspension had popped. He immediately set off to work on fixing his car. A police car pulled up and called road side assistance as I left messages on voicemail after voicemail. After a few minutes, and no one answering my calls at 7:30 am, I asked the officer if he could give us a ride to the station.

The officer willingly gave us a ride. He put Jon and Kuhio in the back of the squad car and I sat shotgun next to his shotgun as he raced to the radio station in time for the interview (No, he didn’t turn his siren on).

The irony was pulling into the parking lot of the most progressive radio station in Southern California in a squad car and having the officer let them out of the back. I hope he tuned in and listened to the show!

It was a fantastic interview, and the story of how we got to the radio station got quite a buzz at the forum later that evening.

Here is page one of the program:

and page two of the progam:

and a used ticket from the event:

I think Jon Osorio publicly thanked the officer and LAPD for getting us to KPFK in time!

It anyone wants to take the lead to sponsor a transcription of the two-hour event or the video, please contact me.

***

The Thursday before the event everything was going smoothly. I was finishing up the edit reel that was being screened at the beginning of the forum. I was advised to cut the edit reel down to under 30 minutes if possible, and I shaved off a good 15 minutes.

Then Friday, the hurricane hit with Maivan calling to inform me of her cancellation. Her new puppy, Gobi, who Otto and I met in New York a week earlier had scratched her eye and was not healing well, and she had to go in for treatment. When I last spoke with her, she was recovering well.

Then Paul Kealoha Blake, the moderator called to tell me that he had woken up with a fever and there was some concern over whether he may possibly have swine flu and thought it best that he cancel.

Scrambling, I quickly called the first person to come to mind to replace Maivan, and that was Julian Aguon who was at that time cramming for law school finals. Thankfully, after much thought and a healthful dose of persuasion from Kekuni and Maivan, he postponed his studies for an overnight Los Angeles detour. His parents drove up from Long Beach to watch the event. They must’ve been so proud because he electrified the discussion.

Jon Osorio was not without mishap either. He was supposed to be arriving around 11:15 and his flight was delayed for two hours. After picking him up from the airport we didn’t get to sleep until after 2 am and I sensed some apprehension about him getting up at 6:30 for the KPFK interview, jump into the panel, and then get up at 6 am again the next morning to catch his flight to Ireland where he was meeting Kamana Beamer. I assured him he would have time to nap.

On Sunday, I received notice from Richard Falk, that he too had to cancel. He got called to go to Europe to prepare for an investigation into human rights abuses in Palestine by the Israeli occupation.

Thankfully, Kuhio Vogeler arrived on time! In fact he offered to help mow the lawn, wash the dishes and encouraged me to sit on panel to present my research on the June 27th 1959 plebiscite. He was generous enough to help me organize my presentation right up to the pule, the chant/prayer blessing the panel given by Randy Kaulana Chang, KA HA’s recommendation for moderator to replace Kealoha Blake.

Kekuni was supposed to arrive on Saturday with Kuhio, but unfortunately he had to postpone his trip until Monday, the day of the panel, and he arrived with Julian, two hours before the start of the event.

Robert Scott, another friend offered to pick them up at 3:30 when their flight was scheduled to arrive. They were on curbside half-an-hour early and so they took a bus to Union Station. Robert, stuck in 110 traffic turned around to pick me up so that we could meet them at the station and take them to the event, which was about three blocks from Union Station.

When we got there, Roger Park, another friend who offered his services was there. He arrived at 3:30 and was the first one there. He helped Auntie Sharon unload the food from the car and assisted with communicating to the other panelists where we were when. Roger was there even before the documentarians arrived. Masayo Sodeyama volunteered her time to assist with the making of the documentary, and filmmakers Joseph Kamiya and Robyn Tofukuji also volunteered their time to assist with camera.

As I think about the details and preparation of this program, I am continually astonished by how well everyone pitched in and supported each other. It was truly a community-organized event and I believe that whatever success was achieved by this panel is a result of aloha and things being pono all around, and with that I extend my mahalo to everyone who came, asked questions, listened, and offered their assistance and mana’o, to which none of this would’ve been possible.

Most importantly, we all have to give credit to the panelists who participated for taking the time out to deliver a presentation that engaged everyone there for three hours, and the audience who engaged the panelists with thoughtful and pertinent questions!

It was so engaging that my wife Ruth went home to relieve Annika, a woman from church who agreed to be Otto’s sitter and prepare the house for the several guests who came over to carry on discussions around our own round-table until 2 am over beer and tacos from the El Sereno taco trucks.

Jon Osorio and Julian woke at the crack of dawn to catch their respective early morning flights, Kekuni and Kuhio both left in the afternoon and for me, the event closed with the rise of an early moon and ended with a long and exhaustive sigh.

Missing in the credits are also five organizations without whom this presentation would’ve been impossible: the early contributions of Hawaii Council for the Humanities for the creation and maintenance of this website; Mineral Studio who’ve donated their time and resources to host and stream content; Kanaka Maoli Independence Working Group, Ka Pakaukau, and Kanaka Maoil Tribunal Komike for their collective inspiration, motivation, and will to persevere in the struggle for Hawaiian independence.

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6 Responses to Ho’opunipuni: Myth of Statehood pt.1

  1. Jere Krischel on May 25, 2009 at 11:22 pm

    The Fact of Statehood is quite clear, and evidenced by an electorate which votes, pays taxes, obeys laws, and has organized and lived by this system of government for nearly 50 years now. Calling it a “myth” is wishful thinking at best, and cynical manipulation of the gullible at worst.

    We could have the same detailed, legalistic discussion of the unification of the Hawaiian Islands in 1810. We could call it the “Myth of Kingdomhood.” We could analyze the various illegalities (as we claimed them, not adjudicated by anyone but ourselves), point out the poor treatment of the maka’ainana, and the imported slave labor from China, Japan, Portugal and the Philippines. We could delve into the corruption of Kalakaua and Liliuokalani, and rail against the injustice of it all. But then what?

    My question to these panelists, and to anyone who truly believes that statehood is a myth, is what next? Do we ethnically cleanse Hawaii so that we can have a direct democracy that gives these people the voting results we want? It’s obvious that if a Statehood plebiscite was given today, it would be overwhelmingly in favor – but die-hard racial sovereignty activists will dispute the rights of suffrage to anyone who would not vote “properly.”

    Hawaii is governed by the consent of the people, for the people, regardless of race, creed, color, or political history view of 1893. Unless someone can suggest a better form of government than being a highly influential part of the last remaining superpower on earth with a constitution that has lasted over 200 years, there really isn’t much substance to the argument.

    My fear is that this kind of legalese is used to pursue political power on the basis of identity politics, and the poisonous politics of racial categorization. Hawaii is a place, not a race, and anyone who is telling you that on the basis of bloodline, you should have special privileges, is doing grave harm.

    He Hawaii au; he mau Hawaii kakou a pau. I am Hawaiian. We are all Hawaiians.

  2. orban_nees on May 26, 2009 at 1:07 am

    Granted there are some on both ends of the political system who engage in these discussions who expound the race card. But most– including those on panel– who maintain that this discussion and controversy is about the nation, and not race.

    By over-determining this dialogue on race-based constructions when no one is discussing race, is like trying to argue against gay rights at a pro-choice rally.

    If someone is discussing an independent nation, why not talk about independent nations? When race is baited all it does is create further disparity.

    This is a good discussion, and if we are to engage in it, let’s do so like gentlemen.

  3. Jere Krischel on May 26, 2009 at 7:30 am

    Actually, it’s more like arguing gay rights at a civil rights rally -> some people don’t see gay rights as equivalent to anti-segregation laws, others do.

    But taking you at face value, let’s talk independence -> at what point would that be an option for Hawaii, at what cost, and with what population? Unless we’re willing to ethnically or politically cleanse the islands of patriotic Americans, Hawaii certainly would never choose independence, especially given the nearly complete dependency our people have on the federal tax dollars from other states that flow into our coffers. Having essentially an island chain with no natural resources besides eco-tourism and military location, declaring independence and severing ties with the United States would have incredible negative consequences. The islands would become a 3rd world country, economic activity would grind to a halt, and frankly, hundreds of thousands of people would have to move away and immigrate to other countries because of the hardship. This isn’t even considering the potential military vulnerability our island chain would have if the US was no longer present.

    Independence for Hawaii is not about independence, it’s about changing the ruling elite from the current crop of Democrats and Republicans to a more radical anti-military, anti-tourism, and anti-people set of ali’i. We have our independence, and wield more power as a part of the United States that we would apart from it. Our 3 congress critters and native born President have an overwhelming amount of influence in the direction of the other 49 states, and severing those ties would be like amputating the body, and just leaving the foot.

    Of course, I’m not convinced that people proposing independence are not specifically race-based, especially since the many various sovereignty activist groups explicitly call out race in their faux-constitutions. They also implicitly deem many of the current citizens of Hawaii to be not worthy of suffrage in their “independent” government, even when those people have been born and raised in the islands for generations.

    Perhaps if we could agree that the question of independence is one that must be presented and accepted by 94% of the current population of the State of Hawaii, I could get on board – but never do I hear a call for a Statewide vote on the matter from radical sovereignty activists.

  4. [...] Ho’opunipuni: Myth of Statehood pt.1 –. [...]

  5. [...] this week I was a part of a panel “Hoʻopunipuni: The Myth of Statehood” organized by Arnie Saiki, in Los Angeles. Julian Aguon, Kekuni Blaisdell, Kuhio Vogeler and I [...]

  6. [...] this week I was a part of a panel “Hoʻopunipuni: The Myth of Statehood” organized by Arnie Saiki, in Los Angeles. Julian Aguon, Kekuni Blaisdell, Kuhio Vogeler and I all [...]

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