Friday, November 07, 2008


Hey, world, come to Obamaland instead of Disneyland this year

by Larry Geller

A small Japanese town has jumped on Obama’s victory to boost their own tourism. It will probably work. Now, how about we do the same?

As followup to the pics of Obama, Japan posted a couple of days ago, here is a crazy YouTube video produced there. It could be shorter… much shorter… but here it is:

That’s the Anyones Brothers Band, hoping for a hit. Hey, I used to live in Japan, this could move them right to the top of the charts. For about 17 seconds.

Obama [Japan] is aware of [Barack] Obama’s Hawaii roots, and they’re capitalizing on his election victory. Here’s an LA Times picture gallery of a party there complete with hula dancers (thank goodness, these are still pictures).

Back here in Hawaii, I don’t see “Obama slept here” signs on Beretania Street, or “Obama Ate Here” t-shirts in local restaurants the way they’re springing up in Chicago, apparently (see Friday’s Advertiser, p. A2). Let’s face it, Obama isn’t a person with strong Hawaii identification. Although Lee Cataluna is trying her darndest to claim Obama as a kamaaina, it won’t work.

Cataluna misses a key point: He left.

She says:

Well, he is our own. Of course, everyone is laying claim to Obama now. Kenya and Kansas, Chicago and Jakarta. But he was born here and graduated from high school here.

Obama has made it clear that he’s the senator from Illinois, not from Hawaii. High school graduation doesn’t mean anything on the Mainland. His accomplishments are there, not here. He looks and sounds like the Harvard Law School graduate that he is (did you hear his first press conference? What a refreshing difference!).

Obama’s sister still lives here, but suppose she decides to move to DC and live a different life as First Sister? Could happen. Security is pretty weak in Honolulu for someone suddenly related so closely to the President of the United States.

Now, having said all this, why not capitalize on the Obama craze as long as it lasts? If tourists stop every day to snap pictures in front of Dog’s little bail bond office, shouldn’t there be a place where the tour buses can bring them for that “Obama feeling?”

Tourism is in a slump. Why not print up the t-shirts, make some souvenirs in China and get busy promoting Hawaii while the opportunity is still alive. Name a beach for him. He stayed at a hotel when he visited—how about renaming his rooms the Obama Suite? (It works for the Manila Hotel which has a very nice MacArthur Suite).

C’mon, all you entrepreneurs, do your bit for our economy.



Obama-as-local is really at the end of a very long and complex history of ethnic relations and class relations in Hawai'i. Some of the logical conclusions do seem absurd (birth and high school graduation = local). However, I think a deeper analysis is to figure out how "high school graduation" rises to the level of "being born here" which is typically the dispositive issue in nationalistic causes around the world. What does graduating from high school mean in Hawai'i and how does that confer "local" status?

I can tell you that high school alumnus status is usually alone dispositive of local identity without further inquiry into place of birth.

Obama's story has infinite possibilities and helps reveal, in a clear way, the limits of common sense understandings of belonging and nationhood -- here in Hawai'i and elsewhere.

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