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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Wednesday, December 26, 2001

Patriotism and loyalty come from within

As we ring in the New Year with "God Bless America" and "Auld Lang Syne," let's salute the armed forces charged with defending democracy in the war against terrorism.

But let's also honor those bold stalwarts who have resisted mindless jingoism at the risk of losing their jobs. Ask Edward George Seidensticker, an internationally renowned scholar of Japanese literature. He was denied a job at the University of Hawai'i in 1990 because he refused to sign the state loyalty oath.

Seidensticker, 80, a World War II veteran famous for his outstanding translations of Japanese classics, just received an honorary doctorate from UH. But as staff writer Walter Wright reports, Seidensticker's proudest achievement in the Islands is that he inspired voters to strike the loyalty oath law from the state Constitution in 1992.

That law was an unpopular holdover from 1941 when the loyalty of Hawai'i residents of Japanese ancestry was under scrutiny. Seidensticker called it demeaning because it "assumes there is a possibility or suggestion of disloyalty."

And other scholars and civil libertarians have felt similarly troubled by the law. In the 1950s, UH professor Bill Davenport refused to sign the loyalty oath and criticized the university administration for caving in to McCarthyite pressure.

Hawai'i's history shows that loyalty oaths pop up during politically shaky times. For example, after the overthrow of Queen Lili'uokalani, the new provisional government forced government employees to sign loyalty oaths.

Today in Hawai'i, only top state officials and appointees, National Guard and law enforcement officers are required to sign the state loyalty oath. That's reasonable. Expanding this requirement to others, however, would be verging on zealotry.

Flag waving, pledges of allegiance and oaths of loyalty are all well and good. But these kinds of gestures must come from the heart, not the law.