Today I toured the Iolani Palace for the fourth time, this time with my wonderful parents! Each time I notice something a bit different… and today I found myself looking “up” a lot and noticing the lights. These lights contain a story unknown to most of the world. This story needs to be told.
Iolani Palace is the last seat of the Hawaiian Monarchy in Honolulu after the government moved from Lahaina, Maui in 1845. In 1893, American insurgents (businessmen and missionary descendants who called themselves “Committee of Safety”) formed a coup against the monarchy and with the help of the US military, forced the Queen to abdicate her throne. Queen Lili’uokalani, the last reigning monarch, knew her people could not stand against the American men with arms and so instead of acquiescing to a bloodbath, temporarily signed over power to US President Grover Cleveland until he should take action to right the wrong. Though Cleveland investigated and declaired the coup an “act of war” not sanctioned by the US government, this wrong was never righted and the islands remain today as a sovereign Hawaiian Kingdom occupied by the American military.
Whenever I walk onto the grounds of the Iolani Palace, I feel it is a great honor to be there. I wish I could show reverence in the proper way the is due the Monarchy, yet I come awkwardly as a visitor to a museum instead of a guest of the Ali’i (royalty) in their palace home.. Admittedly, I don’t think I would be invited to the palace were the royalty still in power, so I don’t take this visit for granted… it is a sacred and beautiful place and I am a fortunate visitor to enter these gates.
I usually admire the scepter in the throne room made of a narwhal tusk, the telephone in the king’s study (one of the first of it’s kind), and the bright yellow upholstery in the music room, but today my eyes were drawn to the lights. These lights were a wonder in the days of Thomas Edison. King Kalakaua met Thomas Edison on a trip to New York in 1881 and determined to outfit his new palace with his cutting-edge electric light blub. In due time, the Iolani Palace had electricity; preceding the White House and Buckingham Palace. What a magical affect it had one visitors who had traveled seven seas to honor the reigning monarchs of Hawai’i! I can imagine the effect this had on visitors from Germany, Italy, Scotland, Japan, Great Britain, and many more nations who expected to see a kind of backwards “barbaric” kingdom and instead met one advanced in ways well beyond their own.
As I looked up at the chandelier in the music room (pictured), I saw a Kingdom that had lived without knowledge of the Western world until Captain Cook’s accidental “discovery” in 1776 but had speedily adjusted to the times. I see the light of a peace-loving neutral nation shining in the darkness of the nineteenth and twentieth century wars and yet abducted into the ugliness of it with the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. I see innovation, advancement, and a thirst for learning that propelled the Hawaiian people to surpass other nations in modernization. And in this, I see a hope that as Hawaii seeks decolonization and a restoration of the right to sovereignty rule, it will lead the way for many similar colonized peoples.
Send out your light and your truth; let them guide me. Let them lead me to your holy mountain, to the place where you live. -Psalm 34:3
Truth and LIGHT win.