As I mentioned we were in Hawaii a few weeks ago. I was last there in 1989 and this trip I noticed that there were more Americans vacationing there and fewer Australians than 17 years ago.
Australians now have many more moderately priced vacation options particularly in Asia, so I attribute the decline in Australian tourist numbers to increased competition from other destinations.
Increased American tourist numbers? Hawaii is so much safer for Americans than other destinations. It has the benefit of the strict US border controls, and the USA is a country at war.
The USA is a country at war, and the war footing is apparent everywhere on Oahu. For many decades there has been major Army, Navy, Marine, Air Force and Coast Guard bases on Oahu due to it's strategic significance. Most of these bases are located on the main highways (Eisenhower's National System of Interstate and Defense Highways) so even tourists like us cannot help but to notice them. As with most communities in the United States, the participation in war is no mere academic distant concept. It is very real in Hawaii. There can be few places with such a concentrated and diverse operational military presence. No doubt for security reasons, few of the military personnel wear uniform off base, however the large numbers of physically fit young males with short haircuts in Honolulu has only one source.
Noticeable too are the many vehicles with stickers on them proclaiming "Support our Troops". Not something I'd noticed on my last visit to California (post September 11)
Ford Island, part of the National Historic Landmark of the greater Pearl Harbor precinct is undergoing development to provide more military housing. This construction work is visible while riding the bus from the USS Bowfin visitor center to the USS Missouri. A war machine grinds on.
Picking up some free newspapers around Honolulu, I read about increasing (for want of a better description) Hawaiian nationalism. It's not something which seems to get much mainstream coverage, but it's a movement which has some similarities to those of other indigenous peoples. From an Hawaiian nationalist website:
"The cause of Hawaii and independence is larger and dearer than the life of any man connected with it. Love of country is deep-seated in the breast of every Hawaiian, whatever his station."
- Lili`uokalani, Hawaii's last Queen
I'm going to write about eating out on Oahu in another blog post.