Excerpts from Bill Fernandez’s Latest Book
Introduction: In the 1920s, when Hawai‘i’s imported plantation workers began striking for living wages and decent living conditions in their camps, the plantation managers responded with violence, including the use of guns.
“Terrorism in Paradise” by Kaua‘i native Bill Fernandez is a historical novel set in the Islands during the tumultuous years of communist labor organizing worldwide. It tells the story of the impact of the 1924 massacre in Hanapëpë on Kaua‘i. The book’s hero, Grant Kingsley (“Cult of Ku” and “Crime & Punishment in Hawaii”), loses his father to an explosion at the plantation owners’ offices — the Hawaiian Sugar Planters Association — in Honolulu. Years earlier, Japanese worker demands had led to dynamiting, death and prison. Were the Japanese behind this attack, as well? Kingsley and Detective Asing are determined to learn the killer’s identity as Honolulu suffers from more explosions. If they fail, thousands of Japanese plantation workers could be rounded up and imprisoned.
Communists gaining control of the Russian government in the early 1900s spurred a worldwide demand by workers for unionization in order to achieve justice and equality, including a living wage earned by working an eight-hour day with time off, decent living conditions in the plantation camps and humane treatment. This was met with violence, including gunfire. The worker was a tool to produce wealth.
In Hawai‘i, where sugar and pineapple plantations had pushed out native Hawaiians and devoured resources such as land and water, working conditions were horrific. The only thing worse were the wages. The workers faced long days of labor enforced by the luna’s whip and no days off — not even if a worker was sick. With no running water in the camps, the nearby river or stream was used for both laundry and cooking.
The plantations understood well how to control the laborers. They imported workers of different ethnic backgrounds so they could not communicate with each other. Japanese, Chinese, Koreans, Filipinos, Portuguese, Pacific Islanders and Europeans — the workforce was a Babylon of languages. Those who complained were expelled. “Divide and conquer” was the rule. — by Judie Fernandez
“TERRORISM IN PARADISE” — Two Excerpts
Introduction: In the 1920s, labor unrest in many parts of the world led to strikes met with violence. Hawaii was no exception: plantations against imported field workers. In this novel, the Kingsley family (brothers David and Grant) loses their father to an explosion. Grant and Detective Asing seek the killer(s). Patterson is a leader in the HSPA, Hawaii Sugar Planters Association.
The roar of an automobile streaking onto the driveway drew their attention. The car came to the stairway and skidded to a halt. Patterson jumped out of the vehicle, stared, then talked to the two men. “Dynamiters,” he yelled, “I want you to make arrests.”
“Arrest who?” Asing answered.
“Isn’t it obvious? Those convicted Japanese Union leaders who dynamited at Olaa Plantation. They are bent on mayhem.”
“It may not be dynamite that caused the two explosions nor any Japanese,” Grant interrupted.
“And you, Mikado lover,” Patterson fumed. “Your continued support of yellow-bellies will cost you. The HSPA will shut your plantations down.”
Grant bottled his rising anger. He knew that fighting fire with fire would only lead to disaster. “Mr. Patterson, we have just started to investigate . . ”
“I’m not going to listen to your claptrap!”
“Sir, please control your temper and listen,” Asing interrupted. “We have been studying both scenes of crime. Any person who hurled an explosive had to throw it more than a hundred and fifty feet each time . . .”
Patterson answered, his face florid with anger. “If you won’t arrest those criminals, the HSPA will ask the Governor to call out the National Guard and declare martial law to protect lives and property.”
“You are proposing a military takeover of the Territory! That is a serious step, something only considered in wartime. The HSPA will go down in history as an undemocratic fascist dictatorship!” Asing countered, his vehemence visibly shaking Patterson . . .
“Please, Mr. Patterson, give Asing and me a chance to find the truth. There is a suspicion that dynamite is not the explosive used. Here is metal we scraped from this wall and an object found in the dirt similar to what struck my father. Because of his death, I have vowed to find the killers no matter the race. If they are Japanese, they must be tried and if guilty, hung. I swear to you I will not stop until I find who did these crimes.”
Patterson hesitated, began to speak, and fell silent, his jaw falling to his chest.
Asing interrupted, “Give the Honolulu Police a chance to investigate these attacks. I remind you we are not ready to accuse anyone. If you proceed without us, and the HSPA is proved wrong in its accusations, you will never recover from the stamp of tyranny which will condemn you and your organization.”
Patterson took a deep breath, exhaled and breathed in again. The crimson in his face subdued to a faint pink. “I have always considered myself as a fair man. I am not a tyrant. Investigate and find the truth. As for you, Kingsley, your father was a good man. He helped the sugar people in the overthrow of the black queen. He helped the HSPA become established. In his memory we will not act against your interests. But both of you remember my patience will wear thin if we do not get results.”
Later in the book . . .
Introduction: As labor organizing efforts continue to the consternation of the plantations, the editor of the newspaper, Hinode Times, Robinson, is speaking at a meeting about organizing. Grant and Asing attend the meeting as part of their investigation into bombings.
“Many of you in this room have suffered from the capitalistic government of Hawaii. There is a growing discontent in these islands because the feudal regime exploits the laborer. These elite few reap from your sweat and gain huge profits. They fail to give back to the working man any of their ill-gotten gains. You have a right under the Constitution to end this evil rule and vote for a new government.”
Robinson went on to talk of the racial apartheid and exploitation that existed in Hawaii. He pointed out that these conditions only served the interests of the Big Five and allowed the companies to monopolize the economy. “They control everything,” Robinson screamed at one point. He argued, “Monopolistic capitalism leads to a society of classes: an elite few, a group in the middle and huge numbers of the working poor. Ownership of private property is the villain. A return to the old Hawaiian system of communal sharing of the land and its products means equality for all, and people will prosper equally.”
Robinson concluded by saying, “The path to equality is not an easy one to follow. There are those who will make the movement to your goal difficult, but battles and conflict always occur when you seek freedom from the oppression of greedy capitalists. Use your right to vote to make change.”
After the applause quieted, Robinson invited questions. “My name is Grant Kingsley. You urge these people to make change by voting, but other than the Hawaiians, none are American citizens. How do you expect to make change? Is the only answer a revolution?”
Robinson smiled. “I expected someone from the ruling class to ask such a question. No, I am not proposing revolution. I am making Asian people aware of their rights in America to register and vote for candidates who will make change.”
The detective stood. “My name is Chang Asing. Asians are prevented by law from voting. They are not allowed to be naturalized. Filipinos are here in Hawaii as nationals, but they are not citizens. How do you then expect them to vote? Isn’t their only option to make change to revolt as Mr. Kingsley says?”
Robinson scoffed. “You are a policeman. Like Mr. Kingsley, you support the ruling elite. That is why you see no alternative to change but violence. I do not speak of immediate action; I speak of long term. Everyone born on American soil is a citizen. The children of the people in this room have a right to vote when they come of age. That is what I am urging, that the Sakadas and the Issei teach their children to exercise their elective power when they are old enough to do so.”
The crowd applauded except for one person in the Filipino section who yelled, “Revolution now!”