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Nifty 50

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.

By Alexandra Petri  | August 21, 2009; 6:41 PM ET
Categories:  Petri  | Tags:  Alexandra Petri  
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Comments

My right-wing friends insist that Hawaii is, and always has been, a part of Kenya.

Posted by: SC_observer | August 25, 2009 11:31 AM | Report abuse

obozo's mother sure got around, didn't she?

Posted by: charlietuna666 | August 25, 2009 3:40 PM | Report abuse

Look at the two morons whom posted below, and you'll understand why Hawaii, insulated by thousands of miles of Pacific ocean is so much better off, separated from the continent that spawned these two forking haoles.

Posted by: interactidiomas | August 27, 2009 12:50 PM | Report abuse

oops, I guess I should have written "posted above"...and by the way, The last queen of Hawaii didn't abdicate- she was imprisoned with the help of US Marines, at the behest of white American descendant's who wanted to take over the kingdom and give it to the United States.

Just can't trust those anglo immigrants! Just ask Mexico about Texas, or indigenous Americans about North America...yet, these same folks are the ones screaming about the dangers of immigration- I guess what they did was to steal fair and square.

Posted by: interactidiomas | August 27, 2009 12:54 PM | Report abuse

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