By Alexandra Petri
What, no luau?
Today was Hawaii's 50th anniversary as a U.S. state, and it celebrated the occasion with the political jurisdiction’s equivalent of a quiet evening at home. Hawaii is the friend who, when asked what it would like for its fiftieth birthday, shrugs and mutters, "Oh, nothing really. Maybe a commemorative postage stamp."
The state has given us everything from Jasmine Trias to Barack Obama to a more symmetrical flag. And it asks so little -- Hawaii celebrated today by hosting a convention focusing on issues of ecology and tourism and, yes, launching a commemorative stamp. Even Alaska had a bigger party, with three outdoor stages and performers filling the streets.
Fifty’s not even so old. Although it was a U.S. territory after the abdication of Queen Liliuokalani in 1893, Hawaii's status as a state is younger than William Shatner. For states such as Michigan, which is 172, or Rhode Island, creaky at 233, such a low-key celebration might be understandable. But Hawaii?
Still, even after 50 years, statehood remains a sore subject for many Hawaiians. Although 94 percent of the populace voted to join the union as a state when the subject came to a vote in 1959, the only other option on the ballot was to remain a territory. Some people still advocate independence, and they quietly protested outside the convention.
They may get support from an unlikely quarter. All those who have been stirring up such a fuss about Barack Obama’s birth certificate would probably be delirious if his home state suddenly seceded. There is no precedent for the secession of the native state of a sitting president. Tennessee had already seceded when Andrew Johnson took office as vice president, so there were no surprises there, and he'd already severed his ties by remaining in the Senate after it opted to join the Confederacy. If Hawaii were to leave now, President Barack Obama would be faced with a choice between his country and his native state while sitting in the Oval Office. And who knows? Given the state of his health care plan, the country's economic woes and the challenges of conducting two wars, he might actually have to think about it.
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