Keep It Wholly

You won’t see the U.S. Postal Service in action today, and you won’t be able to talk to a bank teller, but I doubt you would otherwise be able to tell that our society is observing Columbus Day.  On the face of it, I would say that this is a good thing; American society is pluralistic and accepting of many cultures, and I like it that all sorts of ethnicities and microcultures are free to celebrate their particular holy days and I am equally free either to vicariously share them or to ignore them altogether.

When it comes to Federal holidays, however, the United States comes as close as it dares to prescribing official Days of Rest.  Even this handful of dates is too many for all employers to agree on, and Mammon whips most of us past Washington’s Birthday and (when it falls on a weekday) Veterans Day without a backward glance.  These partial, half-hearted holidays were hard to explain to my French wife; in France (and, I imagine, most other countries lacking a Protestant work ethic) everyone has all holidays off, and they don’t shift them to the nearest Monday to minimize economic disruption.

Altering the calendar of Federal holidays is a delicate matter, not only because every shaman with a congregation of one can make a numbing case for public observance of the Feast of St. Billy-Bob, but also because Federal holidays are written into almost every labor contract in this country and holiday pay is more sacred than Thanksgiving turkey.  Nevertheless, I would make the case for the "demotion" of two Federal holidays and the concommitant "promotion" of two others.

Columbus Day ought to mean something to Italians (although it should really be restricted to Genoese), I suppose, and I can see Spanish (actually Castilians) taking pride in it.  Americans as a whole, however, have very little to do with Spanish imperialism.  We do have something in common with bold exploration, and I would therefore suggest dropping Columbus Day in favor of what I call Tranquility Day.

The U.S. Code calls it Washington’s Birthday and everyone else calls it Presidents Day, but while I find both George Washington and Abraham Lincoln to be admirable historical figures, this holiday still represents hero worship, and both Washington and Lincoln would hastily remind us that the country they fought to create and preserve should revere the law, not men.  No age is safe, but these days in particular we should stop and remember the singular grace of our Constitution.

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