How come progressives aren’t attacking statues of King Kamehameha?

How come progressives aren’t attacking statues of King Kamehameha?
© Greg Nash

It seems like every day, there’s a new attack on an otherwise cherished American icon or institution. Such strident anti-Americanism used to be saved for Columbus Day, but with “progressives” in need of fresh fodder for the social media feeds, every day is now Columbus Day. Statues and monuments have become a front line in the war on American history.

We recently saw such attacks on the birthday of Thomas Jefferson — a founding father, our second president, author of the Declaration of Independence, and a man whose contributions irrefutably created the quality of life we enjoy.


Progressives don’t like Jefferson, and an increasingly long list of others, because the values of his life were out of sync with their mercurial values of the day. So how can we erect a statue to someone whose values were wrong and deeds were evil?


Here’s a better question: when are progressives going demand we pull down the statue of King Kamehameha in the U.S. Capitol?

Why would we do that? As we are told, King Kamehameha is a hero. Hawaiians ring his statues with leis every June 11. He united the Hawaiian Islands.

But he didn’t unify them through collective bargaining, a cooperative negotiation style, or a polite social media campaign. He was a violent conqueror who, after obtaining superior firepower, savagely attacked defenseless natives on the smaller islands of what we now call Hawaii. We don’t know a lot of details about Kamehameha’s violent campaigns — since less developed societies did not write as much down as, say, Christopher Columbus or Thomas Jefferson — but we can assume that he, as a king and conqueror, oversaw mass enslavement, rape and torture.

We do know that he ritually sacrificed those who opposed him, like his Oahu rival Kalanikūpule and many of his warriors.

After “unifying” Hawaii, Kamehameha instituted laws, reforms, opened trade, and so forth. But there’s no doubt that his kingdom was built on blood. His office as “king” is one that should repulse progressives. America figured out that was a bad idea 250 years ago and got rid of kings (thanks in part to Thomas Jefferson).

So how can we erect a statue to someone whose values were wrong and deeds were evil?

At the risk of sounding like President TrumpDonald TrumpTrump hails Arizona Senate for audit at Phoenix rally, slams governor Arkansas governor says it's 'disappointing' vaccinations have become 'political' Watch live: Trump attends rally in Phoenix MORE: Winners get statues. Losers don’t.

Tribes, nation states, and other groups have always honored those who won military conflicts for them and seized resources that enriched those groups and propelled them into the future — that always included land, wealth, and until very recently, people (slaves). The fact that America has done it too is not abnormal.

Did Julius Caesar get a month named after him because he complained about inclusion in media? Does Genghis Khan have one of the largest statues in the world because he peacefully protested against guns in schools?

We might decry the treatment of North American tribes by European colonists, but — in the scope of history — that treatment was among the kindest possible conquerors have ever afforded.

For examples of less kind treatment, just look to the history of the Spanish and Portuguese conquest of South America. Or indeed, Hawaii. (Was it permissible for Kamehameha to murder and mutilate just because it was not technically racist?)

Progressives may want to rewrite history to be one long string of atrocities by Europeans against indigenous people, but the reality is that — until very recently — everyone did horrible things to each other. Slavery, for example, didn’t start in America. Slavery had been going on for thousands of years before either white or black people ever got here. And Kamehameha killed more island natives than Columbus ever did.

If we’re going to re-evaluate our history, we need to re-evaluate all of it, not just those parts that gratify America-hating progressives’ sense of sanctimony. They sleep under the blanket of prosperity and freedom that America has provided but constantly question the manner in which it was provided.

It reminds of a famous quote from John Adams, which, adapted for the modern day, would go like this: “I study war so my son can study science so my grandson can study art so my great-grandson can complain about me on the internet.”

Either tear down every statue, or shut up and be grateful it’s the 21st century.

Jared Whitley served as associate director in the White House under George W. Bush and as press liaison for Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah).