Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Sunlight and Shadow

Last Saturday the annual King Kamehameha Day parade was held in Waikiki. I had gone down to play some chess and I had my camera with me, so since there weren't any chess players around during the parade I slipped into my reportorial mode and took a number of pictures of the parade. The one which wound up pleasing me the most was this picture of a small group of marines making their way up Kalakaua Avenue.

I like the way they are emerging from the shadowed background into the light, and the way their foward march is emphasized and dramatized by the white arrow. I like the contrast between the disciplined and purposeful formation of the Marines and the relaxed, self-indulgent postures of the onlookers, most of whom are just enjoying a day at the beach, while the Marines have their backs, at least in the metaphorical sense. The more I looked at the picture, the more heavily freighted with metaphor it became. It is a pretty good embodiment of the balance between freedom and discipline in the United States today. The vacationers had the good grace to applaud the Marines in appreciation for what they do to ensure and protect the freedoms we all enjoy.

There is, of course, more, not all of it pretty. Kamehameha is celebrated as a warrior king. It was Kamehameha who united the Hawaiian Islands under one rule for the first time. He is admired by current Hawaiian sovereigntists, who advocate for restoration of the Hawaiian kingdom, for his forcefulness and leadership. The time of his rule is now looked at as a kind of golden age. The fact that he attained his power by systematically destroying his enemies is the part of the story that is not often emphasized. Kamehameha's government, like every government in history, before and after, was built on conflict and bloodshed.

And yes, the American armed forces played a significant role in the overthrow of Queen Liliuokalani in 1893. I'm sure that the presence, even this token deployment, of the Marines (and of a similarly small group from the army) in this parade was not welcomed by everyone who participated or observed.

Hawaii became a state on August 21, 1959. Since that time the third Friday in August each year has been celebrated in the state as "Admission Day." But in recent years the Hawaiian nationalists have been calling for the day to be "celebrated" as a day of mourning for what they feel has been lost. Some say stolen.

So here's a picture of "another beautiful day in Hawaii-nei." The sunshine is very pleasant, and everyone loves a parade. But shadows, and ironies, abound.

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