Fifty Years: A Generational Cycle

In today’s Advertiser, “Statehood panels will look to futureMichael Tsai writes:

“While some have called for fireworks and parades and others for solemn marches or fiery protests, the official end of the state’s yearlong commemoration of the 50th anniversary of statehood will instead be marked with in-depth discussions on where Hawai’i is headed over the next half-century Kippen de Alba Chu, chairman of the 50th Anniversary of Statehood Commission, said “New Horizons for the Next 50 Years,” a one-day conference scheduled for Aug. 21 at the Hawai’i Convention Center, is an opportunity to “bring together good ideas of what people want Hawai’i to look like 50 years from now.”
I’ve been fascinated with this last sentence and have been thinking about generational cycles and how that applies to the general western approach of history in Hawaii. A generational cycle is a mark of time by which a story can be passed from kupuna to keiki, the mo’olelo of a grandparent to a child. Consider that a generational cycle between a grandparent and a grandchild is roughly 45-65 years, and for some kupuna, imagine that they might unfold their history back to Captain Cook by only four generational cycles. In other words, their grandparent’s grandparent’s grandparent’s grandparents. Lili’uokalani was born in 1838, exactly to the year between Cook’s arrival and Annexation. I imagine that the stories Lili’u were told by her kupuna were similar in content to the stories we read in Samuel Kamakau, John Papa Ii, David Malo, and of course the Bible. The first generational cycle after contact used the Bible, as a way to make sense of the extreme depopulation by disease, afflictions that native Hawaiians had no experience of. These epidemics were whooping cough, measles, mumps, venereal disease, influenza, leprosy and small-pox. By the time Lili’u was born, the Kanaka Maoli population had dwindled by 50%, and by the time of Annexation, the population shrank to over 80%. Before her birth, what ravaged the islands was worse than a war that split families in half, entire families simply vanished. Victims developed horrible abrasions, deformities, open wounds, and were left convulsing in their own waste. As the diseases multiplied and new diseases introduced, an army of hucksters continued to arrive. Door-to-door salesmen carting books of scripture, baited the sick and dying to abandon their traditional gods for the faith of a lord that promised everlasting life. Gifts were given, medicine and candy, penicillin and sugar, opium and drink. Missionaries peddled a cure-all: faith. Needless to say, for all who survived, their faith must’ve been strong. During the second generational cycle, in the sixty years between Lili’u’s birth and Annexation, she had witnessed the promulgation of five constitutions: three Constitutions and a Declaration of Rights by the Hawaiian Kingdom; another Constitution proclaimed by the Republic after her overthrow; and the Organic Act that defined Hawaii as a Territory after the 1898 Joint Resolution. Among other things, Lili’u passed on the story of our Constitutions. 1n 1948, fifty years after Annexation, the Territory of Hawaii was marking its first Jubilee celebrating America’s occupation of Hawaii. The year 1948 was just six years after the attack on Pearl Harbor, three years after the end of WWII, three years after the mushroom cloud rose over Japan, and two years after the birth of the United Nations. In the years between 1898 and 1948, the world had gone through massive changes. The stories a grandparent could tell their keiki! Stories of two world wars, marvels of invention and discovery, the beginning of mass production, homes with lights and electricity, the automobile, airplanes and rockets, radio and television, movie houses, the telephone, refrigerators and gas stoves. We officially entered into the atomic age! But also in those fifty years, kupuna might not have known to tell their keiki that these World Wars were essentially about countries competing for territories. Did kupuna know that as a mandate to end world wars, the United Nations had been formed and set to course the elimination of territories through providing independence, including independence for Hawaii? Kupuna had hardly been told that between 1946 and 1959, Hawaii was on a list of countries with the option for decolonization. There was some mention, like through the ILWU at their conventions, but there had been no educational process or oversight to give Hawaii’s option for self-determination much meaning or substance. Today, most of our grandparents remember Statehood, while some even remember the adoption of the Hawaii Constitution in 1950. In the last fifty years many of us who could afford to remain have prospered and have actively participated in sending our representatives to Congress, even to the White House. Now, a generational cycle later, we understand what this omission of our options signified, and although we may not know where this may lead Hawaii in the future, we at least understand the implication of those asserting change. In the past fifty years, many have come to understand and embrace this history. With prosperity came opportunities of education, the ability to voice issues of social welfare and justice. By understanding our rights, we have come to know the wrongs, the injustices, and the illegal and fraudulent acts that have determined a course that was not really of our choosing. No matter how much it is repeated that 94% of the people voted for statehood, for example, we know that assertion is a misapplication of our history. This history, these generational cycles does little to affirm our collective deeper history, the history that traces culture back to the Kumulipo or to wherever our ancestors lie. This history since contact, although as much a history of disease, death and loss, is also one of survival, dignity and strength, and as we affirm our future as something new altogether, we can at least use these cycles as evidence of the inevitability that things will not remain the same. It is the leadership of today that will determine our course over the next fifty years. The question remains however, will it be the leadership of an economy collapsing under the weight of its own hubris, or a leadership that understands the movement of peoples and their will for self-determination.]]>

10 comments for “Fifty Years: A Generational Cycle

  1. Jere Krischel
    July 22, 2009 at 12:17 pm

    Okay, so instead of saying 94% of the people voted for statehood, why don’t we say that less than 2% of the people voted against statehood?

  2. arnie
    July 22, 2009 at 3:56 pm

    Yes, both statements would equally be a misapplication of the historical data.

  3. Jere Krischel
    July 22, 2009 at 11:17 pm

    Except they’re mutually exclusive if we treat both “yes” and “no” the same, aren’t they? 🙂
    If you want to show that the number of “yes” votes was a small portion of the population, by adding in non-voters and undecideds, we can also do the same for the “no” votes by the same logic.
    What is good for the goose, is good for the gander, right?

  4. admin
    July 23, 2009 at 7:22 am

    What is good for the goose is not necessarily good for the gander when the application of the process is/was a dereliction of what had been previously established and mandated by international law.
    When the plebiscite data is a result of a sham, it leaves a lot of room for critical reexamination, as well as a demand for a new vote based upon the internationally mandated conditions through which the vote must be applied.
    If there is another law which you are citing that has the legal determination of those set by the United Nations regarding the self-governance of territories, please cite.

  5. Jere Krischel
    July 23, 2009 at 11:06 am

    Wrong. The mandate at the time of the Statehood plebiscite was both a valid and honest application of international law, and represented Hawaii’s long history of desiring union with the United States (as far back as King Kamehameha III).
    Of course, my point was accepted by the United Nations when they removed Hawaii from the list of non-self-governing territories in 1959. Conspiracy theories aside, this is the current state of international law, and has not been challenged by any UN member.
    The idea that we can treat “yes” votes in a different manner than “no” votes in order to make your statistical point is simply dishonest. Either you accept that 94% of the representative electorate voted in favor of Statehood and less than 6% of the representative electorate voted against Statehood, or you have to be willing to say that 77% of the total electorate voted in favor of statehood, and less than 2% of the total electorate voted against statehood. So here are your choices:
    94% in favor, less than 6% against
    77% in favor, less than 2% against
    Hypocrisy, even if well intentioned, is still hypocrisy.

  6. Jere Krischel
    July 23, 2009 at 11:11 am

    A few notes:
    1) UN resolution 1514 was passed a year after Statehood on December 14, 1960:
    No ex post facto laws, so it clearly didn’t apply to the Statehood Plebiscite.

  7. Jere Krischel
    July 23, 2009 at 11:20 am

    2) The resolution 1469 regarding the removal of Hawaii from the UN list of non-self governing territories:
    “based on its examination of the documentation and the explanations provided, that the people of Alaska and Hawaii have effectively exercised their right to self-determination and have freely chosen their present status;”
    “Congratulates the United States of America and the people of Alaska and Hawaii upon the attainment of a full measure of of self-government by the people of Alaska and Hawaii;”
    “owing to the circumstances mentioned above, the declaration regarding Non-Self-Governing Territories and the provisions established under it in Chapter XI of the Charter can no longer be applied to Alaska and Hawaii;
    12 December 1959
    So clearly, international law recognized the 1959 Statehood vote as legal, valid, binding, and it was unanimously recognized as a legitimate expression of self-determination. Objections to the contrary are simply contradicted by the facts of law.

  8. Jere Krischel
    July 23, 2009 at 11:21 am

    Tiny URL for resolution 1469:

  9. admin
    July 23, 2009 at 8:08 pm

    We already went through this…,
    and again, there is nothing clear about how UN resolution 1469 passed Hawaii with no regard to the process outlined in UNGAR 742.

  10. Jere Krischel
    July 23, 2009 at 8:41 pm

    It is perfectly clear that the state of international law today includes the passage of 1469. You cannot simply pick and choose which UN resolutions you think are valid, and which are not.
    You see, this is the problem with the whole anti-statehood position -> it recognizes no final authority other than their own opinion. 94% of the electorate voted in favor of Statehood, but that doesn’t matter. The United Nations officially removed Hawaii from the list of non-self governing territories, acknowledging the legal fact that Hawaii is self-governing since 1959, but that doesn’t matter. The entire island chain of the Hawaiian islands has lived and governed itself under the premise that Statehood was legal and proper for 50 years, but that doesn’t matter.
    My bet is that even if we had another UN sanctioned vote today, and 99% of the people voted in favor of Statehood, that still wouldn’t matter. (And let there be no doubt, given another chance to vote, the vast majority of Hawaiians would vote for Statehood over any other possible relationship.)
    From the lowest district court, to the supreme court of the united states, to the very United Nations and every international court of law, Hawaii is the 50th state of the United States. All of these authorities have spoken and acted, and the vast majority of the people of Hawaii have spoken and acted, and still, it is not enough to address the anti-statehood sentiment. And why?
    All of us of Hawaii are Americans, and have been since 1898. The anti-statehood movement simply wants to overturn the current government of the people, by the people and for the people in Hawaii, and wants to replace it with a new government run by the wisest of the wise (namely, them). This kind of social engineering arrogance is a special kind of hubris, mixed with a sense of victimization that is only thinly veiled.
    Hawaii has been self-governing since 1959. This is indisputable. By any interpretation of UNGAR 742, this is indisputable. By any interpretation of international law, this is indisputable. Any rationale or process which would invalidate UN resolution 1469 based on some conspiracy theory or technicality would be intentionally ignoring reality.
    I challenge anyone who truly believes that UN resolution 1469 was passed improperly to clearly identify a final authority they are willing to abide by, and then to petition that authority. If no answer, or a negative answer is the only response, I would expect them to finally admit that their position is untenable.

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