When it comes to fighting for American values, Hawaii is really on a roll.

In February, the state filed a federal lawsuit against the Trump administration, seeking to block the president’s executive order that suspended refugee resettlements and temporarily barred citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States. Then, when Trump issued a revised executive order — which was only marginally different from the first — Hawaii became the first state in the country to challenge it. 

Led by Attorney General Doug Chin, Hawaii argued that Trump’s order is unconstitutional since it targets Muslims and discriminates based on national origin. And on Wednesday, just hours before the revised order was set to go into effect, U.S. District Court Judge Derrick Watson — a federal judge in Honolulu — agreed with Hawaii’s position, temporarily halting the order. 

Hawaii was, once again, punching above its weight, and we are finding ourselves at the center of the national news media for our efforts to stand up to discrimination and prejudice. 

While this is an obvious boon to our reputation as the Aloha state (#boycottHawaii efforts notwithstanding), Hawaii’s victory represents an even bigger and more existential win for U.S. democracy. 

Hawaii, after all, is a small state. We have only four congressional representatives, only four electoral votes, and only 10 other states have populations smaller than ours. Moreover, we sit roughly 5,000 miles away from Washington, D.C. — the epicenter of decision making and power in the free world. 

In any other empire, in any other time in history, there is simply no way a small, distant entity like Hawaii could affect change on a leader like Trump. We are David, he is Goliath; and, thanks to the checks and balances of our democracy, our slingshot hit its mark. 

“The president might make certain decisions,” Chin said last week, “but the way our government works, we also need to be able to take our own stance to check and balance out that whole process.” 

Hawaii proved that, though we be but little, we are fierce — especially when the president insists on making such terrible decisions. 

Politicians like Trump get away with a lot in the name of “security.”

The Trump administration has repeatedly cited security concerns as a reason for the travel ban, arguing that immigrants from those six countries represent terroristic threats. 

“The danger’s clear; the law is clear,” Trump said at a Nashville rally on the same day Judge Watson ruled against him. “The best way to stop radical Islamic terrorists … is to stop them from entering the country in the first place.” 

But documents from the Department of Homeland Security undermine that rationale entirely, saying “country of citizenship is unlikely to be a reliable indicator of potential terrorist activity.”

What’s more, we have good reason to be more wary of our fellow citizens than we do immigrants: A study from New America found that “every jihadist who conducted a lethal attack inside the United States since 9/11 was a citizen or legal resident.” 

“Jihad,” an American born leader of Al Qaeda said in 2010, “is becoming as American as apple pie.” 

Which is precisely why discriminatory actions like Trump’s travel ban are so dangerous. In addition to discriminating against people from Muslim-majority countries, the ban further diminishes America’s moral standing, making it easier and more likely for even more American citizens to become radicalized. 

Politicians like Trump get away with a lot in the name of “security.” They stoke fears of “otherness” — of people who don’t look or act like a certain preconceived notion of what an American is, namely, white and Christian — and they use the threat of danger, no matter how nebulous, to abuse their power and stomp on other people’s rights.

It’s a lesson some of Hawaii’s oldest residents learned firsthand when, 75 years ago, another executive order was enacted with the stated goal of protecting the United States from “spies.” 

In the aftermath of the attacks on Pearl Harbor, President Roosevelt ordered the forcible removal of some 120,000 people — most of them Japanese-American — from their homes and called to incarcerate them in camps. The Honouliuli internment camp, just behind Pearl Harbor, held hundreds of Japanese-Americans and as many as 4,000 prisoners in total. 

That history lesson makes support for the travel ban all the more insulting.

“Hawaii, what do you know?” one #boycottHawaii Tweet reads. “You were 5,000 miles from 9/11. You run your little world and let the grownups run the mainland.”

But Hawaii knows a lot about deadly attacks and counterproductive xenophobia. As one of the most diverse states in the country, and empowered by the checks and balances inherent in U.S. democracy, our little world is capable of having a very big impact.

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