Strong Allegiance to American Flag in Hawaii Following September 11, 2001

(c) Copyright 2002 Kenneth R. Conklin, Ph.D. All rights reserved

In part, the Statehood Day Celebration resolution HR11 and SR22 grows out of a need felt by many citizens of Hawai'i to use the U.S. flag to show our American patriotism, because of several incidents that occurred following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

(1) A reporter from a small town in Washington State happened to be on vacation in Waikiki at that time, and published a newspaper article in her home town saying that the people of Hawai'i weren't showing much patriotism and weren't flying the U.S. flag very much. Her article drew an outpouring of outrage and anger from citizens of Hawai'i who defended our American patriotism.

(2) The director of a mental health clinic in Wai'anae refused to allow his employees to display the American flag on the clinic building. He claimed his refusal is based on a policy of the clinic to avoid displaying political or religious symbols which might cause distress to mental health patients; but in reality that director is a well-known Hawaiian ethnic nationalist independence activist who considers the U.S. to be illegally occupying Hawai'i. His public comment, that he believes many residents of Wai'anae do not feel allegiance to the U.S., caused an uproar of outraged indignation in the newspapers and on radio talk shows.

(3) The director of the ‘Iolani Palace museum decided to fly the U.S. flag there for a period of 30 days, in a show of support for the victims of the terrorism of September 11. She was severely criticized by Hawaiian sovereignty activists. The director apologized to the sovereignty activists for flying the U.S. flag there; and her apology drew outraged protests from patriotic Americans who think nobody should ever apologize for flying the U.S. flag on a public building. The governor vowed to fly it there every day, despite its absence from that buolding for more than 30 years. But in the end the Governor quietly backed down and the U.S. flag will never fly there again unless the patriotic people of Hawai'i demand it. The excuse is that ‘Iolani Palace is a period-piece museum and should maintain the appearance it had during the Kingdom period. The real reason for not flying the U.S. flag at the Palace is that the sovereignty activists regard the Palace as their capitol of a still-living Kingdom of Hawai'i, and have convinced the liberal politicians that ethnic Hawaiians would have their feelings hurt by flying the U.S. flag there and would see it as an insult to their reverence for their heritage.

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The Honolulu Star-Bulletin, September 25, 2001 (excerpts)

Critique of Waikiki patriotism draws an angry isle response

Many take exception to a Washington columnist's comments

By B.J. Reyes

Waikiki residents and merchants defended their patriotism yesterday in the face of a mainland newspaper columnist's criticism of the community's perceived lack of national pride in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

The column by Karen Zacharias, which circulated among Hawaii residents via e-mail, appeared in Sunday's editions of the Tri-City Herald, a 48,000-circulation daily that serves the cities of Kennewick, Pasco and Richland in southeast Washington.

"The spirit that prevailed in Waikiki was not a patriotic one," Zacharias wrote. "Corner chatter continued to focus on surfing and snorkeling conditions and tan lines."

By yesterday afternoon, Zacharias said she had received more than 50 e-mail messages about the column -- all from Hawaii residents and only about five of which were polite. "There was sarcasm, anger, personal attacks," Zacharias said in a telephone interview yesterday.

Zacharias, 44, said she was in Hawaii on a working vacation when she became stranded due to the grounding of airlines following the Sept. 11 attacks. Her column was based on conversations with people at Kuhio Avenue and Kanekapolei Street on the weekend following the attacks. She quoted one man named Todd Nelson, who told her he had been waving a large American flag for nearly five hours because he was "disgusted" by the lack of patriotism exhibited by Waikiki businesses, adding that people "act just like nothing happened." Zacharias wrote that she and several passersby agreed with those sentiments. "You did not hear people talking about it," she said. "I read newspapers, I knew what was happening at the state Capitol and at Punchbowl. ... Downtown Waikiki appeared to be disconnected from that."

Some merchants said it was hard to openly display their patriotism because flags have been in such short supply. Lynelle Sato, assistant manager of Salvatore Ferragamo near the Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center, said the store was not able to find a flag to display until last week. She agreed with Bren that she does not feel there is any shortage of patriotism in Waikiki. Another merchant in agreement was Tony Miloni, owner of Moose McGillycuddy's Pub and Cafe. Miloni's establishment has three flags on display, including one that spans Lewers Street overhead. "We've gotten a lot of comments from people who come by," he said. "They give us the thumbs-up and say, 'Good job.'"


Honolulu Star-Bulletin September 30, 2001 (excerpts)

Paper regrets Hawaii article

A mainland columnist had written that Waikiki lacked patriotism after the terrorist attacks

By Diana Leone

A WASHINGTON STATE newspaper columnist and editor are publicly apologizing today for a column that questioned the patriotism of people in Waikiki and angered many Hawaii residents. The Tri-City Herald "grievously offended many of our fellow Americans in Hawaii" with "a column we published last Sunday recounting a small part of staff writer Karen Zacharias' time spent stranded there" after the Sept. 11 attacks, wrote Executive Editor Ken Robertson.

Zacharias wrote in her Sept. 23 column that "the spirit that prevailed in Waikiki was not a patriotic one. Corner chatter continued to focus on surfing and snorkeling conditions and tan lines."

Both Robertson and Zacharias wrote apologies that appeared in today's edition of the 48,000-circulation daily that serves the cities of Kennewick, Pasco and Richland in south-central Washington. The columns also will be posted on the paper's Web site. Robertson provided a copy of his column to the Star-Bulletin, but Zacharias did not.

Robertson said he spent much of the past week "poring over the hundreds of messages" in response to Zacharias' column, most from angry Hawaii residents who did not appreciate its implication.

The volume of e-mail on Thursday crashed the newspaper's e-mail system for about 30 minutes, Robertson said yesterday.

Zacharias said in an e-mail message yesterday: "If the Aloha spirit is alive and well, then I hope you each will understand how much I wish I could find the words to assure you that I in no way meant my impressions to be reflective of the whole state. But I fear, I have alienated many of you and that at this point nothing I say will have any credibility. "But I will say it anyway. I am sorry to have offended you faithful and proud patriots of America. That was not my intent. "I hope (you) will read this Sunday's column on the web at and I hope you will find the grace to forgive." Zacharias also said in her e-mail: "Sadly an apology I make will never have the impact the column did. "

"There are people who I think wouldn't be happy even if we conducted a public execution (of Zacharias)," Robertson said. Some comments were so rude that the Tri-City Herald did not post them on its Web site. Many of the dozens that are posted are blunt, to say the least.

"We certainly needed to be more sensitive and we deserve to get smacked for that," Robertson said. "But there have been some people who got way wound up, more than it seemed to me was called for." Robertson said he sent dozens of e-mails to "all the people who I felt like were receptive to hearing an apology."

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Following the terrorist attack on America of September 11, 2001, there was a great upsurge of patriotism throughout America, including Hawai'i. Many people began flying the U.S. flag on their homes, cars, and businesses as a way of showing their patriotism.

Controversy erupted when a Hawaiian nationalist independence activist refused to allow employees to fly the U.S. flag at a mental health clinic he runs in Wai'anae, an area where most residents are ethnic Hawaiians. Angry employees called the media. Hayden Burgess, alias Poka Laenui, who is the director, made a statement that many residents of the area do not feel any allegiance to the United States. That comment provoked a further outpouring of angry comments from people throughout Hawai'i, including patriotic ethnic Hawaiians living in Wai'anae. Interestingly, the clinic is heavily dependent upon money received from the federal government, which Poka Laenui says is engaged in a 109-year illegal military occupation of his homeland of Hawai'i, and money received from the State of Hawai'i which he says is an illegal puppet regime. Here is part of a newspaper article from the Honolulu Advertiser newspaper of September 26, 2001 describing the controversy:

WAI'ANAE — Hayden Burgess, the executive director of the Wai'anae Coast Community Mental Health Center, says his decision not to allow American flags to be flown at the center in response to the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington is based on a long-standing policy against displaying any political or religious symbols, not his personal beliefs. But Burgess, also known as Poka Laenui, is a veteran Hawaiian activist and has angered many in the rural community with his public comments that many people in Wai'anae feel no allegiance to the United States. Sen. Colleen Hanabusa, D-21st (Barbers Point, Makaha), said such comments are ridiculous. "It makes everybody look so bad out here," Hanabusa said. "That is not the way we feel. If he is speaking for himself, that is fine, but don't try and speak for everybody on the coast." The clinic, a nonprofit facility serving the mental health needs of children and adults in the community, was flooded with angry phone calls yesterday. Leeward resident Celeste Lacuesta, who is Hawaiian and has a son in the Navy, and several others spoke during the center's board of directors meeting last night. Residents said they are proud of their country and felt that Burgess' remarks hurt the community. Burgess said his comments were taken out of context and he did not intend to speak for all of Wai'anae. Richard Bettini, executive director of the Wai'anae Coast Comprehensive Health Center, a separate organization not affiliated with the mental health center, said they have no policy against displaying American flags and many were put up at the facility the day after the attack with the full approval of the employees. "From what I have seen, and we are the largest employer on the Wai'anae coast, there is a tremendous level of patriotism amongst our employees and the majority are from the Wai'anae Coast," Bettini said. "There are a lot of people really upset."

An internet discussion board was established by the Honolulu Advertiser newspaper, and received 220 posts in 16 discussion threads. The discussion board on this topic has now been taken down, but formerly had the URL:

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A far greater controversy occurred when the management of a government-owned museum decided to fly the U.S. flag. But this is no ordinary museum. This is 'Iolani Palace.

'Iolani Palace had been built by King Kalakaua in 1882 as the capitol of the Kingdom of Hawai'i. 'Iolani Palace was the seat of government where his sister and successor, Queen Lili'uokalani, was overthrown on January 17, 1893. The ex-queen was "Imprisoned" in 'Iolani Palace for several months in 1895 following a failed counterrevolution. 'Iolani Palace was the place where a unity rally of perhaps 10,000 Hawaiian sovereignty activists was held on January 17, 1993 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the overthrow, and to vow to restore an independent nation. The U.S. flag flew over 'Iolani Palace as the capitol of the Territory of Hawai'i and the State of Hawai'i from the Annexation of 1898 until the new capitol building was occupied in 1969. But since 1969 the Palace has been restored as a period-piece museum, and only the Hawaiian flag has flown there. In fact, the flag is not that of the State of Hawai'i, with its 5x3 ratio of length to width, but the identical-looking but longer Hawaiian Kingdom flag whose ratio is 2x1. Hawaiian ethnic nationalist independence activists have grown increasingly bold about claiming 'Iolani Palace as their capitol of an allegedly still-living Kingdom of Hawai'i. The activists have frequent rallies on the Palace grounds; and they control the way the museum operates including the showing of an inflammatory film in the barracks and the certification of tour guides who use the museum as a sovereignty propaganda factory to influence visitors from throughout the world.

Thus it came as a major shock when the U.S. flag was raised over 'Iolani palace on September 28, 2001 for the first time in 32 years. Instead of the Hawaiian Kingdom flag flying alone, it now flew from one front corner of the building's roof while a U.S. flag flew from the opposite front corner. The director of the Palace management, apparently with the approval of the board of directors, had ordered both flags to be flown for a period of 30 days in sympathy for the terrorist attack of September 11.

There were immediate angry outbursts from some of the sovereignty activists. But as is customary in Hawai'i, most sovereignty activists expressed their outrage in the guise of feeling "hurt" by what had happened.

The executive director, Alice Guild, then sent a letter of apology to the volunteer tour guides and other activists:

"The responsibility was mine for it lay within my power to bring clarity to the decision making process and I failed to do so. Because the failure was unintentional and came from my own ignorance of past and recent history, does not make it acceptable ... At a staff meeting the week the flag went up, [a staff member] said something that has haunted me ever since. He said 'if you had been at the Rededication [in 1993], had seen those hands grasping for the rope that raised the Hawaiian flag over `Iolani Palace ... people reaching out just to touch the rope, to touch the people who were touching the rope, you would know how deeply this hurt is felt'. I was not there. I did not see. Now I am here. I do see and I am so, so sorry for the pain that has been caused."

In the case of Poka Laenui and his mental health clinic in Wai'anae, he and the soverengnty activists know full-well that the refusal to fly the American flag is an anti-American gesture of support for Hawaiian ethnic nationalist independence. But when questioned by the media Poka Laenui retreated to the "cover story" that he is following a long-established rule prohibiting the display of political or religious symbols that might be disturbing to his clients at the mental health clinic.

Likewise, in the case of 'Iolani Palace, the board of directors is dominated by ethnic nationalist independence activists who have used the Palace for many years as their center of operations, and who see it as their capitol of a still-living Hawaiian Kingdom. Therefore it is taboo to ever fly the U.S. flag there. But when questioned by the media, they resort to their "cover story" that the Palace is merely a period-piece museum intended to portray the palace as it was during the monarchy, when only the Hawaiian Kingdom flag flew there.

There was tremendous public indignation that anyone should feel compelled to apologize for flying the U.S. flag over a government building -- especially the building that served for 70 years as the capitol of the Territory and the State of Hawai'i. The Governor stated publicly that he thought the U.S. and Hawaiian flags should fly there permanently, and he intended to make that happen.

"The executive director of the Friends of 'Iolani Palace has apologized for flying the U.S. flag over the Hawai'i landmark as a tribute to the victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. In a Nov. 8 letter to the board, staff and volunteers at the palace, Alice Guild said she was 'so, so sorry for the pain that has been caused' to those in the community who objected to the flag's presence. But Gov. Ben Cayetano said yesterday that the U.S. and Hawaiian flags should fly over the palace every day. The governor said yesterday he intends to look into the matter. If he has the authority, he said, he will order that the American and Hawaiian flags fly over 'Iolani Palace every day just as they do over Washington Place. 'I think those who are sensitive to the idea or who oppose the idea have their point of view, but I believe that the overwhelming majority of Hawaiians in this state — and I'm talking about Hawaiians of Hawaiian blood, not Hawaiians like me — support the idea that the flag is appropriate over 'Iolani Palace.' ... Among the e-mails sent to Guild and Cruz was one from Kau'i Goodhue, who wrote that the palace — and all it represents — is too close to her heart for words. 'But I would rather see 'Iolani Palace burned to the ground than to see the U.S. flag flying over her again.'"

But later, the Governor backed down and decided he would not insist that the U.S. flag be flown at 'Iolani, and would leave it up to the board of directors to decide when to do so. And the executive director, Alice Guild, said she hadn't really intended to apologize for the fact that the U.S. flag had flown there, but only for her mishandling of the situation.

The issue was so controversial it was covered in the New York Times of November 25

The 'Iolani Palace flag flap drew more than 3,000 posts in 30 discussion threads on the Honolulu Advertiser website discussion board, almost double the number of posts for any other topic since it was established.

A letter-to-editor sums up the situation as follows:

"A small group of ethnic nationalist Hawaiian independence activists have hijacked 'Iolani Palace. They imagine it as their capitol of a still-living Kingdom of Hawai'i. They have controlled our publicly owned museum for years. Many tour guides, and an inflammatory film shown in the barracks, make statements that are false but part of the constant drumbeat of sovereignty activist mythology. The activists said they felt "hurt" when our American flag was raised. But we all are hurt when 'Iolani operates as an anti-American propaganda factory and cult headquarters. Not flying our Star Spangled Banner there gives aid and comfort to radicals who see the U.S. as a hostile foreign occupying power in Hawai'i. Every expression of their anger or "hurt" is another reason why the Flag of Freedom must fly there, to show we are all Americans and will remain so. Let's all wear or display U.S. flags whenever we visit this museum or have a picnic on its lovely grounds. Let's replace the sovereignty activists on the board of directors with historians, scholars and managerial experts. Let's liberate and demystify 'Iolani."

(c) Copyright 2002 Kenneth R. Conklin, Ph.D. All rights reserved

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