By Jay Fidell
ThinkTech is doing a movie about July 4th and how it is different this year, and what it should mean to the people of Hawaii and our country. In doing the movie, we are asking people to talk about what the Fourth means to them. So far we’ve had some touching and thoughtful answers.
Today, in making the movie, we thought we’d take some background photos downtown and see the flags flying over the public buildings. It’s always heartening to see the flag flying above our city, and there are many flagstaffs on the buildings where you can see that. Hawaii has a long tradition of patriotism, in peacetime and in war, and an abiding respect for the flag.
But as we walked around we were amazed to find that despite the number of flagstaffs on Iolani Palace only the Hawaii state flag was flying there. There was no American flag. We wondered how long this has been going on. In Google we found the omission was intentional. We found the explanation in an article in the November 16, 2001 edition of the Honolulu Advertiser, by Mike Gordon and Kevin Dayton, who are both still around working for the Star-Advertiser.
The Friends of the Palace had flown the flag for 30 days after 9-11, in sympathy with those who died, but upon complaints from sovereignty activists took it down and actually went on to apologize for having flown it. The article quoted one person saying she would rather see the palace burn to the ground than fly the U.S. flag, even then, in a time of national trauma and crisis.
The flag apparently hasn’t been raised since it was taken down in 2001. What makes this more interesting is that Iolani Palace is a state building. It is owned and maintained by the State with taxpayer funds. The Friends of the Palace manage the docent program, but do not own the building, yet they have apparently hunkered down into a permanent refusal to fly the flag.
The government must know about this but chooses to turn its back and avoid controversy. Ben Cayetano was governor in 2001. He was dismayed by what happened and said he’d look into it. But ten years have gone by and still the flag does not fly. It’s hard to believe that our national ensign does not have a place on a prominent public building in the civic center of our capital city, not a block from our State Capitol and across the street from our State Supreme Court.
As a public building, doesn’t Iolani Palace belong to all of us? What has been happening for the past ten years, and which is likely to continue on July 4th, violates our rights and sensibilities, to say nothing of our patriotism. The flag should fly atop this special state building. There is no good or legal reason to justify the refusal to fly it. If the Friends of the Palace won’t do anything, then will some public official please step up and take the necessary action? Thank you.