Aloha from Hawaii
Greetings from Hawaii, where our family is enjoying a Polynesian
vacation amid pineapples and palms, leis and luaus, daring surfers and
graceful hula dancers. It is our first visit to the 50th state,
and the "land of paradise" has lived up to its fabled reputation.
Hawaii is indeed an exotic place of spectacular beauty and extraordinary
hospitalitypunctuated by high prices. Bathed in sunshine and cooled by
gentle trade winds, the islands feature rich red soil, lush green
plants, and gaily-colored flowers; cloud-crowned volcanic peaks and
secluded waterfalls; and, of course, coral beaches shaded by towering
palms and laved by white surf and turquoise water.
unique ecosystem includes no snakes. The primary pests are the 6 million
tourists who invade the archipelago each year. Like locusts, we
converge from all corners of the globe, swarm into the airports, clog
the highways, and invade the beach resorts, flip-flopping our way along
the shore at Waikiki and Maui, oblivious to the impact we are having on
the states fragile environment. The Polynesian paradise is quickly
turning into the worlds playground.
Hawaii has always had an
ambivalent relationship with the outside world. When Captain James Cook,
the English naval adventurer, accidentally discovered the islands in
1778 while searching for Asia, a perpetual transaction began between the
Polynesian natives and Western entrepreneurs. The Hawaiians killed Cook
when he returned a year later, but by then the Englishman had set in
motion a cultural exchange that would change the islands forever. Not
only did the English introduce goats, pigs, pumpkins, melons, and
onions; they also left behind smallpox and venereal diseases that
ravaged the Polynesians. By 1890 the native population had plummeted
from over 500,000 to 40,000.
During the early 19th century,
the Sandwich Islands, as Captain Cook had labeled them in honor of his
patron, the Earl of Sandwich, became a popular waystation for whalers
and traders of all nations. The American invasion of Hawaii was led by
Christian missionaries, who began converting the "heathen" natives and
sinning sailors in 1820. By the mid-19th century,
Americans in Hawaii had shifted their interest from piety to profits.
The ferocious demand for cane sugar in California enticed investors to
develop large plantations in the islands. In 1875, the American planters
convinced Congress to allow Hawaiian sugar to enter the country duty
free. Twelve years later, this trade agreement was amended to grant the
United States exclusive right to a naval base at Pearl Harbor, outside
of Honolulu. These agreements sparked a boom in sugar growing, and
Americans came to dominate the economy. In 1887 the Americans forced
Hawaiis king to create a constitutional government. This "Bayonet
Constitution" weakened the monarchy and strengthened the political clout
of the American landowners.
Hawaiis political climate changed
dramatically when the kings courageous sister, Queen Liliuokalani,
ascended the throne in 1891and tried to restore Hawaiian sovereignty.
The sugar planters responded by organizing a revolt in 1893. The
American ambassador in Honolulu used marines to support the rebels and
afterwards declared that the islands were to be a U. S. protectorate. As
he reported to Washington, "The Hawaiian pear is now fully ripe, and
this is the golden hour of the United States to pluck it." Within a
month, a delegation representing the new American-controlled Hawaiian
government visited Washington and signed an annexation treaty.
the new American president, Grover Cleveland, refused to recognize the
treaty and sent a special commissioner to investigate the political
situation in Hawaii. The commissioner declared that the American
businessmen who had staged the coup had acted improperly. President
Cleveland then sought to restore the queen to her throne, but the
American rebels resisted. On July 4, 1894, they proclaimed the Republic
of Hawaii and called for annexation to America as soon as possible.
matters remained until William McKinley became president in 1897.
Unlike Cleveland, he encouraged the Congress to annex Hawaii. A joint
resolution by the House and the Senate passed by simple majorities in
both houses, and Hawaii was annexed to the United States in the summer
of 1898. A little over sixty years later, in 1959, Hawaii became the 50th state.
1993 President Clinton signed a Congressional resolution formally
apologizing to the Hawaiian people for the way in which the American
government had interfered in its political life. This month marks the
102nd anniversary of Hawaiis
annexation. It is a day marked here more by ambivalence than
celebration, as native Hawaiians, now representing only 21 percent of
the states population, grow increasingly concerned about the erosion of
their traditional culture and the degradation of their environment. As a
local journalist observes, "Pick up any local newspaper in Hawaii and
you will read about some beloved beach, some ancestral landmark, some
pristine wilderness threatened by development, industry and sheer
What transformations will the next hundred years
bring to this island paradise? No one knows for sure, but the
traditional Hawaiian welcome of leis and alohas may turn into "no
trespassing" signs. Who could blame them? Aloha.