I’ve never cared about Hawaii. Like…ever. They were the 50th state brought into the Union, that’s all I knew. And a Brady Bunch movie had been set there. And its people liked to surf. Oh! and Dog the Bounty Hunter lives there, which is awesome.
I was vaguely aware that we’d overthrown their queen, Liliuokalani, but I never really thought about it, or about what the people of Hawaii felt about that.
New opinions I have garnered from this book: McKinley was a douchebag, Roosevelt was maybe not as wonderful as I have thought, Grover Cleveland was surprisingly cool, mayyybe Hawaii shouldn’t be a state since we pretty much stole it, and Sarah Vowell isn’t always antagonistic towards Christianity (although I learned that in The Wordy Shipmates). She was generally okay about the way the missionaries handled things, or at least appreciative of some of the contributions they made. It was their children and grandchildren who mucked up everything.
McKinley didn’t have the votes to pass a treaty of annexation, so instead, in the month that all the major battles were happening in the Spanish-American War, he had Congress pass a joint resolution to annex Hawaii. As a dude in the book says, “A joint resolution is normally what the Congress of the United States does to say, ‘We recognize this day is Joe Blow Day.’” But that time they decided to use it to annex a nation and its people (and its sugar! its wonderful, wonderful sugar). You suck, McKinley.
Grover Cleveland was awesome, by the way, because after President Harrison put forward the treaty of annexation in the Senate, when Cleveland became president he withdrew it. And after McKinley used his lame, shady tactics to annex it anyway, he said “as I contemplate the means used to complete this outrage, I am ashamed of the whole affair.”
Tangents aside, I learned a lot about Hawaii’s 19th century history in 233 pages, which is pretty good. I developed some interest in it, which is better than no interest at all, and I want to try poi, despite being informed it’s “pretty much just paste.” Good job, Sarah Vowell.