Sunday, February 19, 2017

I Make Fun of State Quarters: Hawaii

I'm a U.S. citizen, so it's only natural that some of the states featured in this series are going to have a more personal connection than others. I ran into this for the Connecticut quarter, and the future entries for Massachusetts, Maine, and Minnesota (whenever they may appear) will likely feature some first person observances as well.

In one sense, Hawaii is just one of the states I've visited in my lifetime. But this was a special trip, given that my wife and I chose the islands for our honeymoon. It was an absolutely wonderful experience, which you can read about here.

So am I going to have to go easy on Hawaii's state quarter because it was such an incredible place to visit? Let's find out.

Wait a minute, is that Magneto? Is Hawaii's quarter just a mutant levitating the islands, preparing to rain them down on the mainland in a shower of lava and palm trees?

Before we get to that, it's worth mentioning that Hawaii was the last state to get a quarter in the Mint's series. The state wasn't admitted to the United States until August 21, 1959. So while the first quarters in the series started appearing in 1999, Hawaii's wasn't released until 2008.

Interestingly enough, the quarter was released just one day before that year's election. President Barack Obama was no doubt delighted to see the state quarter for his home state unveiled right before he was chosen for the highest office in the land. It's a happy little coincidence, unless you're one of those hollow-brained sapheads who takes the word of InfoWars as gospel. In that case, you're probably wondering if this quarter was a secret government device to rig the election results by assuring people that Obama grew up in Hawaii and not Muslim Socialist Kenyastan.

But back to the quarter. It's not Magneto, of course. Clearly this is meant to represent Hawaii's Gate of Kings. I'm not sure if that's Isildur or Anarion, but he's gazing toward the enemies of Gondor and raising his arm in a show of defiance.

OK fine, it's not that either. But it is a royal monarch, at least. The quarter depicts King Kamehameha I, one of the most well-known monarchs of the island's pre-state days. He is best known for uniting the Hawaiian Islands into a single kingdom, a feat he accomplished in 1810. Kamehameha's "Law of the Splintered Paddle" is also particularly well-regarded, as it held that citizens should be protected during wartime.

The fact that this design was chosen for the quarter is a solid affirmation of Hawaii's native culture and history. One other finalist's design also had King Kamehameha on it, with a Hawaiian beach in the background instead of the islands, but the two other finalists focused more on the touristy aspects of the archipelago. One of them had a hula dancer, which is indeed part of the Hawaiian culture but today seems to be more closely associated with the entertainment at hotel luaus. The last finalist had an awkward dude on a surfboard.

"I own a timeshare!" (Source)

It's also striking that the quarter uses a lengthy Hawaiian phrase. The other finalists simply stuck with "aloha," the word everyone knows as the traditional greeting and farewell. The phrase on the approved quarter, "Ua mau ke ea o ka aina i ka pono," translates to "The life of the land is perpetuated in righteousness."

This gets a tad awkward for a few reasons. For one thing, the phrase was spoken by Kamehameha III, not Kamehameha I as the quarter design implies. There's also the fact that the phrase is celebrating how the Hawaiian kingdom was restored after the British briefly seized control of the islands in 1843. I guess the United States can share some solidarity with the Hawaiians in this regard, since we booted the British monarchy as well. Then again, Hawaii is a U.S. possession only because U.S. officials backed an effort to depose the kingdom in 1893.

So the Hawaii quarter has a celebration of the restoration of monarchy on a piece of currency of a nation that celebrates the overthrow of monarchy and also deposed Hawaii's monarchy. It's a little convoluted. But hey, it makes you think more than Craig the retired hedge fund manager/surfer dude would*.

"My golden parachute could pay your salary for your entire working life!" (Source)

*Addendum: A friend let me know that the man portrayed on the surfboard is Duke Kahanamoku, not some random hedge fund trader who retired to the islands on a government bailout. Duke was an Olympic swimmer who is credited with popularizing the sport of surfing in Hawaii. He's a fascinating character, and it's too bad that his quarter design wasn't able to include his name. You can read more about him here.