Note: This is part 10 of a larger webpage. The larger webpage is entitled "Dialogs with a racist -- Bringing to public awareness the explicit, enthusiastic, and unapologetic racism of Trisha Kehaulani Watson, a featured blogger on the public website of the largest circulation newspaper in Hawaii." To see that larger webpage, go to
10. Sacred Palace is NOT for Sale
Trisha Kehaulani Watson dialog started August 16, 2009
Honolulu Advertiser featured blog He Hawai'i Au
Original essay by Trisha Kehaulani Watson
Sacred Palace is NOT for Sale
We've seen Hawaiian skulls sold on ebay, iwi sold online, and now the misuse of `Iolani Palace.
Elite Property Auctions is using `Iolani Palace as their example auction, with the bidding starting at $1,000,000.00.
From the website:
Only Royal Palace in United States · National Historic Landmark · Spacious · Top Quality Construction · Beautiful Landscaped Grounds
Income opportunities abound with this one of a kind property. Continue to offer tours and events, or convert it to some other use. The finest Italianate building in Hawaii, this is a once in a lifetime opportunity. Additional structures include the Royal Tombs and the Iolani Barracks.
Realtors: Full Cooperating Brokerage Commission paid. To maintain your control and client confidentiality, you may place a bid on behalf of your client. Simply register and enter your own information instead of theirs. If they are the high bidder, you will submit their standard HAR Purchase Contract just like for any other transaction.
This is not okay. It's offensive. It's improper and a misappropriation of our cultural images. It's akin to using Mauna `Ala as their example. This is a sacred place to us. There is, as noted in the example, a Royal Tomb there. We buried our royalty there. We have, over the years, welcomed foreigners there to learn and engage in diplomacy. It is the recognized heart of our lahui.
People need to truly understand what the term "sacred" means. Things that are sacred are more than significant or important. It means we hold them in reverence and that they have inestimble spiritual worth. This is like putting up the Wailing Wall or Vatican as an example. Our ancestors placed great mana or power into our sacred places and items. Therefore, our protection and care for these things is truly a way to care for them, their memory, and their honor. These are active, contemporaneous practices.
I'm going to give Elite Property Auctions the benefit of the doubt and hope that this was just a grave error in judgment. I hope they contact the Palace, issue an apology, and immediately take this website down. People make mistakes. And I hope that instead of always turning into a conflict, we can all start to learn from them.
Rebuttal by Ken Conklin:
At first I thought Ms. Watson's little essay on the Palace was harmless and not worthy of a response. But slowly I figured out some things.
Talk about teachable moments! Here goes.
Watson's essay is an example of manufactured outrage. Political activists sometimes grab hold of truly harmless situations and use them to stir up outrage where none is warranted. An example is the current right-wing claim that Obama's health insurance bill would establish "death panels" to pull the plug on granny; when in reality the bill merely says that once every 5 years doctors can be paid by Medicare for having a discussion with elderly patients to explain the options for end-of-life care, such as assisted living, nursing homes, hospice, power of attorney, living will, etc. But right-wing zealots take that perfectly reasonable proposal way out of context to stir up opposition to Obama's legislation. That's what Watson is doing with the "Palace for sale" ad.
Could anyone look at the ad and seriously believe the Palace is up for sale? If you think so, then I'll sell you the Brooklyn Bridge. The ad itself clearly says the offer to sell the Palace is not real, but merely an example to show how the system works. The same webpage also has other high-profile landmark buildings offered "for sale" such as the Sydney Opera House.
Watson's manufactured outrage over the Palace ad reminds me of Lana's manufactured outrage over the use of the word "hapa" by people to describe their own mixed-race heritage when they have no Hawaiian blood. Lana has viciously attacked mixed-race Asians with no Hawaiian blood for describing themselves as "hapa," as though that word can only be used by ethnic Hawaiians. She even posted a "hit list" of photos and names of some of them.
Where was Watson's outrage when fireworks were for sale for July 4 and for New Year, showing a picture of a chubby Hawaiian and carrying the brand name "Big Kahuna"?
Watson chooses the Palace ad to stir up manufactured outrage instead of the fireworks ad precisely because the Palace is high-profile and famous. So she (ab)uses the Palace to create manufactured outrage in the same way and for the same reason the ad writers (ab)use the Palace to stir up interest in the real estate auction system they are offering. It's high-profile and famous. So it's a good pawn for both advertising and manufactured outrage.
Now, what about the Palace itself? Is it really a "sacred place"?
Once upon a time Kings and Queens lived there. That makes it historically interesting, just like the castles in Europe -- but not sacred.
There were chiefly bones buried there, but those have since been moved to Mauna Ala (the Royal Mausoleum) in Nu'uanu. Those bones were sacred, weren't they? And they were dug up and removed. Which raises two questions about sacredness. (a) Was it pono to dig up those bones and move them to Nu'uanu? Where were the sort of protesters who now cry and scream when someone builds a beachfront house in Naue Kaua'i, or when bones are disturbed during construction at a truly sacred place -- Kawaiaha'o Church? (b) Were there other bones disturbed while digging the below-ground foundation and basement of the Palace? We do know that Hulihe'e Palace was built on top of burials, as reported in a recent newspaper article about the renovation of Hulihe'e and troubles following the earthquake.
'Iolani Palace is a period-piece museum, nothing more. A check of the Honolulu property tax records shows that it is the property of the State of Hawaii, Department of Land and Natural Resources, Parks Division.
Was it pono for Kalakaua to build the Palace? It cost $360,000, which was an enormous amount of money back in the day. That was about half of the normal annual budget for the entire Kingdom of Hawaii -- more money than was spent on the Kingdom school system. The impact on the Kingdom's economy of building the Palace would be roughly comparable to the State of Hawaii today spending five BILLION dollars on a single construction project (but at least the rail project will actually be useful, and the cost is spread out over many years). Kalakaua not only blew all that money to build the Palace, he also went holoholo on a trip around the world; and also had a lavish coronation ceremony at his new Palace even though he had already been King for nearly a decade. Kalakaua did all those things even while Hawaiians were dying of starvation and lack of medical care. Was that pono?
If the Palace is to be treated as a sacred place on account of the events that took place there, then here are some good reasons to call it sacred. (1) It was the place where a local militia of 1500 armed men, angry about the King's corruption and abuses of power, staged a revolution and forced Kalakaua to sign a new Constitution in 1887, stripping him of most of his powers (and zero U.S. troops were involved -- it was all local guys, many native-born and with voting rights). (2) It was the place where the revolution of 1893 finally overthrew the monarchy completely (hooray!). (3) It was the place where Sanford B. Dole was the ruling chief of Hawaii for nearly 11 years as President of the Provisional Government and the Republic of Hawaii, and Governor of the Territory of Hawaii -- a longer time than Kalakaua and Liliuokalani combined. (4) It was the place where annexation to the U.S. was solemnized and celebrated in 1898. (5) It was the place where a petition with 120,000 signatures demanding "Statehood Now!" was given a sendoff ceremony in 1954 with kahili, hula, chanting, Hawaiian Civic Clubs, and Royal Hawaiian Band. (6) It was the place where the transition to Statehood was achieved and celebrated in 1959. (7) It was a place where the U.S. flag flew proudly for 70 years, from 1898 to 1968, because it was the legislative and office building for the Territory and State of Hawaii until the new capitol was completed. So all of those are good reasons why the Palace should be treated as "sacred."
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