Defending Hawai’i?

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.



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5 responses to “Defending Hawai’i?

  1. Younodat.

    “No one seems to know for sure what or who is behind the “Defend Hawai’i” phenomenon,” are you serious? is this sarcasm? because anyone can know who created this via any one of many avenues on the interweb. Which means braddah is well known. man oh man. Do further research beyond questioning children.


    • umi

      a couple of people have now commented on the opening line – it wasn’t sarcasm exactly, but in my circle, no one seems to know, and I’ve asked lots of Hawaiians (I work at Kamehameha). If people are displaying these symbols for such different reasons, they probably don’t know the point of why they were created. It is true that some people must know, but there’s no identification on their website.


  2. Pierre's kin

    That the quintessential modern symbol of American military hegemony is chosen as their central image is curious. Iʻm guessing Amazonians probably wouldnʻt choose the bulldozer – nor northwest US environmentalists the chainsaw – as the symbols for their Defend campaigns.

    Nonetheless, Iʻm for anything that is against Dog the bounty hunter.


  3. Well said brother Umi! I especially like your nuanced assessment of Kamehameha. I put the Defend Hawaii people in the same boat as the Occupy Hawaii people = clueless about how their slogans fit in the historical context.


  4. Younodat.

    Kinda like another local t shirt; “Spread aloha. Or Else!” or sumpin li’dat. Which has gotten not a small amount of flack. But hey! It is self expression. It is art. Are we to suppress it, based on our own individually interpreted motives of what the creator was trying to convey? Art is not ‘what da heck is the artist saying?” (in this instance; “Is the ‘defend’ guy into sovereignty? or is he a (gasp! shudder!) gun aficionado?” I am of the mind in things like this, that,
    One- free enterprise. da dude’s just trying to earn a buck and put kaukau on da family’s table. And,
    B- all the while creating an oblique social statement, that is apparently doing what most entrepreneurs hope to see…. create a buzz. Keep in mind Oscar Wilde’s quote; “There is only one thing worse than being talked about. And that is NOT being talked about” At least I think he was talking about that. Then again maybe he meant to kill the Queen with an assault rifle).
    In other words I am also of the mind I caution people to not fall into that contemporary group of hypersensitive victims which seems to be spreading like the avian flu; “Uh, I just saw this! should I be offended?!”


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