No one seems to know for sure what or who is behind the “Defend Hawai’i” phenomenon, but one thing seems sure: everyone is wearing the shirts or putting the stickers on their cars for different reasons. If you live under a rock (volcanic, of course), the logo says “Defend Hawai’i” with the silhouette of an assault rifle. This militant silhouette can be interpreted in various ways, and is – some seem to wear it as a sovereignty symbol. But based on my information, those behind it have no ties or interest in sovereignty, though they are probably willing to take the money of those who are.
I’ve also been told that it’s a kind of reaction to Dog the Bounty Hunter, who swooped in from the mainland, marauds our streets and arrests locals willy-nilly. So it’s a militant local reaction to interlopers who are very astute at making themselves at home here. This is supported by one bumper sticker that says that aloha doesn’t mean weakness. The company’s website holds “To Defend Hawaii is to defend aloha; by any means necessary” – a very strange position indeed. When one of my own students showed up to school in one of the shirts, I asked him (as research for this article) what his rationale was for wearing it, and he said it was “beautiful” – likewise strange.
Some versions show Kamehameha (in silhouette of course) with the assault rifle. Would Kamehameha have employed such a weapon? Probably, but it’s still on the border between disrespect and sacrilege. And there are really two Kamehamehas, the younger and the elder. The elder Kamehameha had mellowed with age – Captain George Vancouver remarked on this – was much more thoughtful and reflective, and would likely have counseled us to use reason. The point of his conquests was unification for peace. He recognized the superiority of Western arms possibly as early as age 20 (on Cook’s ship). Some may not agree with this, but in my view if are to defend Hawai’i, it must be with reason, else we become the violent aggresors we despise.