Liberate Hawai’i! Asserts Claim To Sovereignty
Jon Olsen’s book, Liberate Hawai’i!, is a slender volume that packs a strong punch. Repudiating the grade school assumptions of the average American citizen, he dispels myths about how the geographic area of Hawai’i came to be considered a part of the United States. A compelling read for activists, organizers, and ordinary citizens alike, Liberate Hawai’i! proposes that the islands of Hawai’i became a territory of the United States not by choice, treaty or negotiation, but at the gunpoint of an Anglo coup d’état, and that the sovereign nation of the Kingdom of Hawai’i remains, to this day, in existence.
Reminiscent of nonviolent struggle scholar Gene Sharp’s famous 90 page manual From Dictatorship to Democracy, in its clearness and brevity, Jon Olsen’s work covers historical and political overviews in a succinct manner, moving swiftly to the thrust of the argument that Hawai’i has a right to regain her independence from the United States, compelling reasons to do so, and can use the methods of nonviolent struggle to accomplish these ends.
Olsen uses Lithuania’s struggle for independence from the USSR as a comparison for Hawai’i, since both were internationally recognized, independent nations prior to their invasion by larger nations. (In Hawai’i’s case, the invasion took the form of a coup d’état staged by the wealthy business interests on the islands that was later cemented by the United States’ alleged annexation of the islands as a territory.) Olsen also proposes that the democratic vote to join the United States was a rock and a hard place question for Hawaiians. The question of statehood was framed in terms of becoming a state or remaining a territory; the option of restoring the sovereign nation of Hawai’i was not offered.
This worthwhile, insightful read covers, in brief, courageous actions taken by Hawaiians to preserve culture, health, and wellbeing while struggling to assert their right to independence. It also provides an overview of the on-going legal and political assertion of sovereignty that has been placed before the United Nations and other international venues, and addresses some of the racial, ethnic, and class dynamics of the islands that influence the whole discussion of independence.
The concepts and history of Hawaii are valuable to any reader, and the broader reflections on Empire, colonization, nation states, world history, and contemporary superpowers like the United States make this book of value to activists and organizers who are working on a variety of issues. Olsen’s work challenges many assumptions, including a sense of defeatism in the middle of a long struggle. In arguing in favor of Hawaiian independence from the United States, Olsen encourages activists to never give up on what is morally just and ethically correct, reminding us that empires do not grant freedoms or rights: people wage struggle to get them.
Liberate Hawai’i!, in its succinctness and straightforward commitment to the thesis that Hawai’i is a sovereign nation illegally occupied by the United States, stirs up many questions that have profound ramifications on our understanding of the world, our own lives, and ourselves as United States citizens.
Author/Actress Rivera Sun is a co-founder of the Love-In-Action Network, a co-host on Occupy Radio, and the author of two novels, The Dandelion Insurrection and Steam Drills, Treadmills, and Shooting Stars. www.riverasun.com