May is known as the “Merry Month” for its longer days and warm sunshine. Most of the world observes May 1st as International Workers’ Day or celebrates the ancient pagan rites of spring. But in the U.S., the radical legacy of May Day has been suppressed and supplanted by the typically tame Labor Day. In Hawai’i, on the other hand, “May Day is Lei Day,” a holiday invented in 1927 as the perfect marketing gimmick for the tourist industry. This year, the Occupy movement across the U.S. called for an international day of action on May 1st. Thousands took to the streets in Oakland, New York and other major cities. DeOccupy Honolulu also held a solidarity rally.
While the action did not amount to a general strike, the spirit and symbolism of the action was significant. Activists painted a banner depicting Kanawai Mamala Hoe (The Law of the Splintered Paddle), a Hawaiian human right law that protected ordinary persons from harassment even when sleeping along the side of the trail. This has been a theme of the DeOccupy movement in Honolulu to resist the harassment and eviction of the poor and homeless and to defend access to the commons. A few weeks earlier DeOccupy activists stood with houseless families on the west side of Oʻahu as the City of Honolulu raided and swept them from their dwellings. But the artwork that was to be featured at the May Day event was seized by City workers the day before the event. This led Laulani Teale and other activists to confront Mayor Peter Carlisle at a public May Day concert in Waikiki, where Teale was arrested for “disturbing the peace” to a chorus of tourists applauding her removal. Such is the state of ‘aloha’.
The month of May is also Asian-Pacific American Heritage month in the U.S., but you would never know that in Hawaiʻi. Although Asians and Pacific Islanders comprise most of Hawaiʻi’s population, few if any claim “Asian-Pacific American” as their identity. Why is that? One reason is that since there are so many Asians and Pacific Islanders, people tend to claim a multi-ethnic “Local” identity or else identify with their particular ethnic groups. However, I think the main reason is that despite whatever political affinity with the U.S. a person may have, deep down they realize that Hawaiʻi is not of America. A glance at any map immediately presents this problem to the viewer: Hawaiʻi is 2500 miles from America.
Which brings us to the lingering problem of the U.S. having invaded and occupied the independent Kingdom of Hawaiʻi in order to establish a strategic military outpost in the Pacific and coincidentally to the annual observance that occupies the most space in the month of May in Hawaiʻi: Military Appreciation Month. Most states have an military appreciation day, or a week, but that’s not enough tribute for the game masters of Hawai’i. Orchestrated by the Chamber of Commerce of Hawai’i, the same business association that pushed for the cession of Ke Awalau o Pu’uloa (Pearl Harbor) to the U.S. in 1876 in exchange for duty free sugar exports to the U.S., Military Appreciation Month is a dizzying public relations blitz that can leave one confused about who belongs to this place anyway, which is precisely the point. There are military discounts at restaurants, theaters, and other businesses (no local discounts), special events and media spectaculars, and even a glossy full-color booklet insert in the newspaper.
For the military, this is a good month for announcing military expansion plans or the reoccupation of land formerly returned by the military. It is a good month for an aircraft carrier to make a port call and for the Navy to announce that sonar training may be twice as dangerous to marine mammals than previously thought. It is an excellent month to conduct missile tests on Kauaʻi only a month after sharply criticizing North Korea for doing the same. The Missile Defense Agency reported “Second-Generation Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System Completes Successful Intercept Flight Test” (May 9, 2012):
The Missile Defense Agency (MDA) and U.S. Navy sailors aboard the USS LAKE ERIE (CG 70) successfully conducted a flight test of the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) system, resulting in the first intercept of a short-range ballistic missile target over the Pacific Ocean by the Navy’s newest Missile Defense interceptor, the Standard Missile – 3 (SM-3) Block 1B.
At 8:18 p.m. Hawaiian Standard Time (2:18 a.m. EDT May 10) the target missile was launched from the Pacific Missile Range Facility, located on Kauai, Hawaii. The target flew on a northwesterly trajectory towards a broad ocean area of the Pacific Ocean. Following target launch, the USS LAKE ERIE detected and tracked the missile with its onboard AN/SPY-1 radar. The ship, equipped with the second-generation Aegis BMD 4.0.1 weapon system, developed a fire control solution and launched the Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) Block IB interceptor.
This video depicts the weaponized concept of ʻalohaʻ, a weapon to neutralize your ability to defend yourself. The Honolulu Star Advertiser covered the story as well – “Pearl Harbor-based ship tests new missile defense system” (May 11, 2012).
But the proliferation of U.S. missile systems in Europe and Asia have actually increased tensions and insecurity. CNN reported “Russian general raises idea of pre-emptive strike against missile shield” (May 5, 2012):
With talks deadlocked between the United States and Russia over plans to deploy a missile defense shield in Europe, a top Russian general raised the possibility of a possible pre-emptive strike against launch sites if a deal could not be reached.
The warning by Gen. Nikolai Makarov followed the conclusion of the international Missile Defense Conference in Russia, where Russian officials lobbied against the missile shield.
“Taking into account the destabilizing nature of the missile defense system and, in particular, creating an illusion of an unpunishable strike, the decision about a pre-emptive use of force will be made in a period of heightened tension,” Makarov said.
And most of all, on even numbered years like this one, May is when the military hypes the RIMPAC exercises that take place later in the Summer. The sci-fi blockbuster movie “Battleship” just opened in theaters. Based on the board game of the same name and set during the RIMPAC exercises in Hawaiʻi, the movie is computer-generated propaganda for the military and its weapons, just like its “Transformers” counterpart. William Cole of the Honolulu Star Advertiser wrote “22 Nations Gear Up for RIMPAC exercises in isles.” (May 9, 2012):
Twenty-two nations, 42 ships, six submarines, more than 200 aircraft and 25,000 personnel will participate in the biennial Rim of the Pacific exercise scheduled for June 29 to Aug. 3 in and around Hawaii, the Navy said Tuesday.
The world’s biggest international maritime military exercise will be larger than two years ago, reflecting reduced wartime commitments and the growing emphasis on the Pacific.
RIMPAC “provides a unique training opportunity that helps participants foster and sustain the cooperative relationships that are critical to ensuring the safety of sea lanes and security on the world’s oceans,” the Navy said in a news release. The series began in 1971.
This year’s exercise includes units or personnel from Australia, Canada, Chile, Colombia, France, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Peru, South Korea, the Philippines, Russia, Singapore, Thailand, Tonga, the United Kingdom and the United States.
The aircraft carrier USS Nimitz will be the centerpiece of U.S. Navy forces. Surface ships will “battle” three submarines from Pearl Harbor and subs from Australia, Canada and South Korea.
Training includes amphibious operations, gunnery, missile, anti-submarine and air defense exercises, as well as counterpiracy, mine clearance operations, explosive ordnance disposal and diving and salvage operations.
War games also will have tests of a submarine-launched unmanned aerial vehicle and blue-laser underwater communications, and a “green” emphasis with the largest government purchase of biofuel in history.
Nevermind the human cost and morality of the wars or the dangers of rising militarization around the world, it’s just business:
Hoteliers are expecting an influx of business, with past RIMPAC exercises adding more than $40 million in contracts and spending on shore, the Navy said.
Thirty-two ships, five submarines, more than 170 aircraft and about 20,000 personnel took part in RIMPAC two years ago.
This would be a good time for federal anti-human trafficking law enforcement agencies to monitor the sex industry when the fleets are in town. The Pacific Alliance to Stop Slavery notes, large port calls are typically when international sex-trafficking organizations transport women to Hawaiʻi to exploit the militarized sex industry:
Hawaii is driven by a tourist-based economy which attracts sex-traffickers looking to establish territory to capitalize on the market of male travelers and transient military personnel.
Law enforcement ought to be more vigilant during RIMPAC, but they probably won’t do anything. After all, a big anti-trafficking bust during an even bigger international military exercise would be bad for business and the military and would not show ‘aloha’ for the visiting troops.