Hawaii and the tragedy of its real history

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Hawaii and the tragedy of its real history
Lost Kingdom: Hawaii’s Last Queen, the Sugar Kings and America’s First Imperial Adventure
By Julia Flynn Siler

Most Americans probably really don’t know and don’t care about the tragedy of Hawaii. All they see is a beautiful island of hula dancers and a dream vacation that often gather little more than dust in the bottom of the bucket lists of most Americans who never get to travel there.

Julia Flynn Siler’s book “Lost Kingdom: Hawaii’s Last Queen, the Sugar Kings and America’s First Imperial Adventure” may sound like a boring academic look at a long gone history of the islands, but it instead a compelling narration of how explorers from Britain and later America’s Missionaries destroyed the innocence of the Hawaii people.

First, it was Capt. James Cook of the British Royal Navy who accidentally stumbled upon the Hawaii Islands in the late 18th Century while looking for a sea route to Asia’s wealth. When his ship landed, the islanders were a complex people with customs, culture and historic rituals dating back nearly two millennium settled originally by natives from the Polynesian Islands.

Cook brought fleas and gonorrhea to the people of the islands which he first named the Sandwich Islands in honor of another British Admiral.

Cook was killed during a battle with islanders but when his men returned to England they brought with them stories of great natural resources, wealth and beautiful naked women.  A few years later, a Methodist Priest Asa Thurston led a group of missionaries to the Sandwich Islands, which were later renamed Hawaii, in the hopes of civilizing the natives there. But in the 80 years since his landing in 1820, the missionaries became greedy prospectors, stealing the land and resources of the island and imprisoning the native Hawaiians with teachings of forgiveness and love — forgiveness for the foreigner and suffering for the islanders.

By the end of the 19th Century, Hawaii’s royal family was deposed and jailed and the descendants of the American missionaries had managed to put most of the land ownership and the economy of the islands in their own control and hands. Hawaii was annexed and in 1959 was incorporated as an American State, against the will of the island’s natives.

Siler tells this story in a poignant, detailed manner. It’s a compelling narration of destruction and tragedy. Beauty destroyed by the missionaries who were driven by evil interpretations of the Bible.

The story of Hawaii is tragic beyond comprehension. Man of the natural resources of the island were destroyed and driven to extinction, while imported resources like sugar and pineapples were exploited into industries controlled by the “Hawlay” or White People as the native Hawaiians called them.

I remember as a child how America celebrated the embrace of Hawaii. We were told that the Hawaiian people wanted to become a part of America, but we were never told the truth of how American businessmen and robber barons stole much of what is now an American colony.

America can claim many great accomplishments. But the story of Hawaii and the imprisonment of their culture, transforming it into a cheap tourist industry now overshadowed by the many Pacific battles of World War II that began with the Japanese attack against pearl Harbor in Oahu on Dec. 7, 1941.

This is a must read book that will open the reader’s eyes to the truth. In 1993, President Clinton and the US Congress offered an apology to the people of Hawaii on the 100 year anniversary of the island’s annexation by the United States. Later under President Obama, legislation was introduced to grant special status to the native Hawaiians similar to the rights given to the Native Americans on the American continent.

Too little, too late. But it’s not too late to know the truth of this beautiful island’s sad and tragic history.

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— Ray Hanania

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Ray Hanania

Ray Hanania

Ray Hanania is an award winning political and humor columnist who analyzes American and Middle East politics, and life in general. He is an author of several books.

"I write about three topics, the Middle East, politics and life in general. I often take my life experiences and offer them in an entertaining way to readers, and I take on the toughest topics like the Israel-Palestine conflict and don't pull any punches about what I feel is fair. But, my priority is always about writing the good story."

Hanania covered Chicago Politics and Chicago City Hall from 1976 through 1992. Hanania began writing in 1975 when he published The Middle Eastern Voice newspaper in Chicago (1975-1977). He later published “The National Arab American Times” newspaper which was distributed through 12,500 Middle East food stores in 48 American States (2004-2007).

Hanania writes weekly columns on Middle East and American Arab issues for the Arab News in Saudi Arabia at www.ArabNews.com, and at www.TheArabDailyNews.com, www.TheDailyHookah.com and at SuburbanChicagoland.com. He has also published weekly columns in the Jerusalem Post newspaper, YNetNews.com, Newsday Newspaper in New York, the Orlando Sentinel Newspapers, and the Arlington Heights Daily Herald.

Palestinian, American Arab and Christian, Hanania’s parents originate from Jerusalem and Bethlehem.

Hanania is the recipient of four (4) Chicago Headline Club “Peter Lisagor Awards” for Column writing. In November 2006, he was named “Best Ethnic American Columnist” by the New American Media. In 2009, Hanania received the prestigious Sigma Delta Chi Award for Writing from the Society of Professional Journalists. He is the recipient of the MT Mehdi Courage in Journalism Award. He was honored for his writing skills with two (2) Chicago Stick-o-Type awards from the Chicago Newspaper Guild. In 1990, Hanania was nominated by the Chicago Sun-Times editors for a Pulitzer Prize for his four-part series on the Palestinian Intifada.

His writings have also been honored by two national Awards from ADC for his writing, and from the National Arab American Journalists Association.

The managing editor of Suburban Chicagoland Online News website www.SuburbanChicagoland.com, Hanania's columns also appear in the Southwest News Newspaper Group of 8 newspapers.

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Ray Hanania