The KKCR radio show that Jimmy Trujillo and I had hosted to promote Saturday’s “Unmasking Statehood” event was pau. We’d covered a lot of territory — the negative impact of statehood on kanaka maoli, America’s desire to possess the Islands for military purposes, the disgusting spectacle of the lei-bedecked USS Hawaii, a $2.5 billion war machine billed as “7,700 tons of aloha,” the critical need to educate people about what really went down to counter the hoopla surrounding the 50th anniversary of statehood.
And our guests had received, and answered, a number of calls posing many of the same questions that are raised whenever the topic of America’s illegal overthrow of the Islands comes up. Wouldn’t some other nation have taken over the Islands if the US hadn’t? [Ben Nihi: Great Britain did, and gave it back. Other nations honored international treaties.] Doesn’t Hawaii need the US to protect it? [Nani Rogers: No. America is the greatest threat to Hawaii.] Isn’t something, like a token land grant or the same status given to Native Americans and Alaskans, better than nothing? [Ben Nihi: Why should we settle for something when all of it is ours?]
We were preparing to leave the studio when the phone rang again. I picked it up, and a man spoke, hesitantly, on the other end.
“I’m calling about the show,” he said. This was followed by a long pause. “I’m not sure I can do this. I’ve never called a radio show before.”
I explained that we weren’t taking any more calls, but that if he wanted to make a comment, I would convey it to the guests.
“I don’t know where to start,” he said, and this was followed by another pause. “I don’t think I can say it. Never mind.”
His voice was full of emotion.
“Are you alright?” I asked.
“No, I’m not alright!” he responded vigorously.
“Maybe you’d feel better if you say whatever it is you need to say,” I replied, bracing myself for whatever that might be.
“Yes, I think I would,” he said.
This was followed by another pause.
“And what would you like to say?” I coaxed.
“I’m a member of the Choctaw Nation, and I just wanted to tell Kane Pa [one of the callers and a member of the Reinstated Hawaiian Nation ], forget about treaties. We had over 750 of them and not one got honored. And that call, the one that said we should give the Hawaiians what we gave to the Indians. Oh, we got something, alright. We got people trying to change our religion, our language, our complete way of life. We got land no one else would live on. As far as people in the world, we’re probably among the poorest.
“So I just wanted to tell your guests, don’t let the US treat you like Indians. Don’t ever, ever give up your fight for sovereignty, and never go with the Akaka Bill or whatever tries to treat you like Indians.
“Because we’ve been screwed forever.”
Later, as I reflected on his words, I thought of the well-meaning, and not so well-meaning, people who urge Hawaiians to “get over it,” move on, forget their dream of independence, accept the crumbs America is willing to share after it’s gorged on the entire cake.
It’s easy for those of us who have not known or experienced the direct effects of imperialism and colonialism to say such things. We’ve had the luxury of moving wherever we like to lay a claim to a better life. But we can’t forget that it’s come at the cost of those who were there first.
So our responsibility is not to assuage our guilt, whether we’re conscious of it or not, by encouraging others to forget the wrongs, but to right the wrongs, and we can start right here.
As the caller noted, “I see all those people driving around with their Free Tibet bumper stickers, and I want to say to them, what about looking first in your own backyard?”