Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The Passion of Liliuokolani

An Opera in Three Acts

Scene: Honolulu, Kingdom of Hawaii 1887-1894

Dramatis personae:

David Kalakaua, King of Hawaii
Esther Kapiolani, Queen of Hawaii
Lydia Liliuokalani, Queen of Hawaii
Mrs. Wilson, Lady in Waiting to Liliuokalani
Lorrin Thurston, American lawyer
Sanford P. Dole, American businessman
Colonel Volney Ashford, Commander, Honolulu Rifles
G. C. Wiltse, Captain, USS Boston
Tong Kee (Aki), Chinese planter
Fraulein Wolff, German medium
John L. Stevens, American Ambassador to Hawaii
Chorus of Hawaiians
Chorus of Americans


Act I

Scene One

Reception and Grand Ball at the Iolani Palace, Honolulu, May 1887. Introduction of guests before King Kalakaua, Queen Kapiolani, and Hawaiian royalty, including Kalakaua's sister, Liliuokolani. Guests include foreign dignitaries and members of the American business community, led by Lorrin Thurston and Sanford P. Dole, descendants of missionaries, and Volney Ashford, a military adventurer. Thurston, Dole, and Ashford, in an aside, complain about Kalakaua's extravagant lifestyle, lack of restraint, and bad morals. In an expansive aria, the King expresses his vision of an inclusive, open society. Grand dance, mixing Western and Hawaiian music, with hula and chorus.

Scene Two

Law offices of Lorrin Thurston in Honolulu. Meeting of the Hawaiian League, a secret society of Americans opposed to the King's pro-Hawaiian and anti-American policies, led by Thurston, Dole, and Ashford. A Chinese planter, Tong Kee, aka Aki, asks the League for help. Aki gave the King $70,000 for a license to sell opium, he says, but the King gave the opium commission to someone else and refuses to return the money. The Americans seize on this issue to discredit Kalakaua. Thurston, Dole, and Ashford conspire to pass legislation imposing property qualifications disqualifying most Hawaiians from voting, and to limit the powers of the monarchy -- amid paeans to personal liberty, free markets, and American exceptionalism.

Scene Three

In front of the Palace. The King, after hearing that the Hawaiian League has organized a militia, the Honolulu Rifles, orders a curfew, and the ceremonial Royal Guard puts up barricades. The Hawaiian League defies the curfew and calls a public meeting to limit the King's powers. The Royal Guard cannot stop crowds going to the meeting. Kalakaua, outmaneuvered, asks Volney Ashford and the Rifles to keep the peace, thus sealing his fate. At the public meeting, Thurston, to great applause, lays down conditions that strip Kalakaua of most of his power and set the Kingdom on a new course, to be run by Americans. Patriotic medley by American chorus.

Scene Four

The Blue Room of the Palace. A chastened Kalakaua, although resistant, is forced, after bitter recriminations with the Americans, to sign the "bayonet constitution" presented by Thurston, Dole, and Ashford. The King confers afterwards with Queen Kapiolani and Liliuokalani; he designates Liliuokalani as his successor. He instructs her, should she come to the throne, to resist the arrogant Americans and their material culture and to carry out the Hawaiian vision of tolerance, open society, and a life in harmony with the earth. She accepts this new burden, seeing this redemptive mission as a transformation of her Christian beliefs.

Act II

Scene One

Outside the Palace, January 1891. Kalakaua had gone to California hoping to restore his failing health. Honolulu is bedecked with garlands and flags in anticipation of his joyous return. Shocking news arrives of a ship draped in black rounding Diamond Head, bringing the dead King home. All are stunned. Grand procession bearing the King's body to the Palace. Chorus of the Hawaiian people, chanting, with songs of mourning. Lament sung by Kapiolani from the balcony, interwoven with chorus. Liliuokolani is acclaimed, with great sadness and love, as Queen by the chorus. She accepts the acclimation, with great humility.

Scene Two

The Palace. Queen Liliuokolani confers with her inner circle, including Kapiolani and a German medium, Fraulein Wolff, who prophesizes that one day the Americans will be punished for stealing Hawaii from the Hawaiians. Liliuokolani announces that she has drafted a new constitution. Her cabinet meets and she presents the constitution, which restores full monarchical powers. The cabinet refuses to support her. She dismisses them and bemoans the deviousness of men, but reaffirms her duty to realize Kalakaua's ideal society in the face of all obstacles.

Scene Three

Outside the Palace, there is the sound of gunfire. Thurston, Dole, Ashford, and the American businessmen, relying on the Honolulu Rifles, stage a revolution, occupy the palace, depose the Queen, and proclaim a Republic. Alternating choruses of foreigners and Hawaiians. The rebels enjoy the tacit support of John L. Stevens, the American ambassador, and G. W. Wiltse, captain of the USS Boston, an American warship at anchor in the harbor. The Queen abdicates to avoid bloodshed. Sanford Dole is proclaimed president of the new Hawaiian republic, amid triumphal singing by the American chorus.


Scene One

Waikiki, January 1894. President Grover Cleveland refuses to annex Hawaii, giving hope to Liliuokolani and her supporters that she might be restored to the throne. Arms are smuggled into Waikiki from California, and an insurrection is planned. But the weapons are discovered, leading to a skirmish in which an official of the new Republic is killed. Hawaiians loyal to the Queen (chorus of the Hawaiian people) stage an uprising to restore her to power. After a brief struggle, they are put down by American troops from the USS Boston. The defeated insurrectionists (Hawaiian chorus), now in chains, bemoan their fate.

Scene Two

The Palace. The Queen is put on trial by the Republican government, and accused by witnesses of fomenting counter-revolution. The prosecutors, led by Thurston, make their case, accusing the Queen of duplicity and treason. Liliuokalani passionately proclaims her innocence, but is found guilty and sentenced to house arrest in the Palace.

Scene Three

The Palace. The Queen is imprisoned in a room in the Palace with Malia, a lady in waiting. They weave a quilt and sing as guards pace outside. The Queen reflects on the cruelty of fate, the paradoxes of history, and the persistence of hope and idealism. In a final aria, she invokes the dark prophecy of Fraulein Wolff that one day the Americans shall be punished for their sins. And rising up and looking to the future, she envisions, with deep hope, the eventual dawn of a golden age of universal tolerance and peace.

Adrian Kuzminski
279 Donlon Road, Fly Creek, NY 13337

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Does the Economy of Otsego County NY have a Future?

Our local economy has been flat, if not in decline, for decades. We have a 16 percent poverty level, an underestimated unemployment rate of nearly 8 percent, an exodus of young people, rising prices, and a median household income of around $40,000 a year. Not so great.

Our economic planners have focused on luring outside businesses into the area — whether it’s manufacturing or tourism. Since everybody else is trying to do the same thing, often with advantages we lack, it’s no wonder this strategy has failed.

Unfortunately, capital-intensive industries like manufacturing produce fewer and fewer jobs. Armies of well-paid assembly line workers are a thing of the past. Economic developers are chasing a mirage by pursuing such industries, especially in a remote rural county like ours.

Tourism has been maxed out for years. It’s a secondary not a primary industry dependent on discretionary income. If economic hard times intensify, it will be among the first to go.

Other options are also limited: Bassett Healthcare’s incredible expansion is mostly completed. And our colleges do not interact productively with the community. Apart from Hartwick’s nursing program — they produce few students with relevant local skills.

So let’s revisit some fundamentals: Wealth is created through value-added production utilizing existing resources. Our economic boosters, intent on finding a savior from outside, tend to discount the potential of local resources.

And what are those resources? Good water and land, above all, with the potential not only to support a vibrant agriculture of field crops, livestock, fruits, forest products, and specialty crops, but even more the value-added products they make possible.

Such products — from wine and beer and other beverages to yoghurt, cheese, and animal products, to honey, syrup, and furniture products, and whatever inventive imaginations can conceive — are arguably our best path forward.

One model is the Finger Lakes region, once desolate and remote, now crowded with boutique farms, wineries, food tourism and related enterprises.

A more general model is found in the specialized regional products for which France and other European countries are famous. Why not an Otsego cheese or mead or sausage, or a local line of furniture or clothing? Why not grow hops — once a specialty of this area — to supply local breweries, who currently import hops at considerable expense?

And, not least, let’s stop exporting energy dollars and look to local renewable, clean sources to power local businesses and residences, including, where viable and efficient, solar, hydro, wind, and perhaps biofuels. There’s real potential for jobs and energy independence.

Of course, if the exploitation of one resource destroys others, we’re worse off than before. This is why, as our communities have recognized, natural gas doesn’t count as a resource for us. Its harmful environmental, economic, and social side-effects — ignored by the industry and its supporters — cancel out any short-term profits fracking might bring.

Our local advocates for jobs at any cost — like the Citizen Voices group, which refuses to rule out fracking — fail to distinguish between enterprises that will promote the general welfare and those that will harm it.

Keep in mind also that recent successful enterprises in our area — from the Glimmerglass Opera to Brewery Ommegang to Chobani to the Cooperstown Dreams Park — were not rustled up by our local economic planners.

They were unpredictable, spontaneous initiatives by individuals with vision who knew how to execute. And they all built on local resources they recognized and valued.

Finally, the local industries of the future have to be sustainable. They have to utilize renewable local resources. They have to respect the carrying capacity of our area.

The goal here cannot be endless growth. We must strive to make the best of the resources we have, while preserving them, but that will mean, at some point, a steady-state not a growth economy.

Nonetheless, we have the potential to produce real wealth right here at home, with real opportunities for local labor and investors, leaving us better off than we are now.

In short, investing in ourselves, in sustainable local initiatives, not hoping for someone to bail us out, is our real economic future. If you agree, support the Sustainable Otsego candidates in this fall’s elections.

ADRIAN KUZMINSKI is moderator of Sustainable Otsego

This article originally published in The Daily Star, Oneonta, NY, 27 July 2013, under the title: "Does Our Local Economy have a Future?"