Today marks the extended “Labor Day” weekend holiday in the United States, Thursday-Monday. America’s ‘May Day’ is officially Monday but everyone takes the whole long weekend off.
Vacations end, schools reopen, the fall sports season begins, the culture season with operas and symphonies begin in the great cities… Well, not now. Covid continues to wreck havoc on America; only about half the country is fully vaccinated. Some vaccine is going to waste. How could this be? Read more ›
Most younger nations in the world celebrate several independence days: the transfer of power (“Jamhuri Day” in Kenya) and the day self-rule began (“Madaraka Day”). South Africa’s “Freedom Day” marks the transition from post-apartheid rule. The variety of celebrations reflects the complexity of achieving and implementing self-governance.
We don’t like complexity in America, particularly during these Information Wars. Like the old man I am, the simpler my day looks, the better! We celebrate only one day to mark the end of British colonialism, July 4th, the date our bold Declaration of Independence was signed.
We hadn’t expect it to be, but there it is. Today’s a holiday. Because yesterday Biden signed into law our 11th annual federal holiday, Juneteenth… which is actually June 19 but because that’s a Saturday this year, we celebrate it today.
At last. Well, almost “at last.” This week is America’s most universally celebrated holiday, “Thanksgiving.” It normally begins after work last Friday and continues through Sunday evening. The absence from work isn’t universal, but there’s no other holiday week as little worked as this.
And boy, does it ever come at the right time this year!
This place is so broken. Technically today is one of ten federal holidays for which non-essential federal workers get time off with pay. FDR declared “Columbus Day” in 1934 formalizing a New York City tradition first celebrated with a parade in 1792, three hundred years after Christopher Columbus reported landfall in the “New World.”
The holiday is no longer. Fourteen states renamed it “Indigenous Peoples Day” and several more simply don’t celebrate it. Most of the southern States (excluding Alabama) do still rigorously celebrate it, and President Trump just championed it:
The fireworks came early and are sputtering out. “He has put a knife on the things that held us together and we have fallen apart.”
Achebe’s famous quotation is apt but simplistic. We have fallen apart, worldwide. We didn’t collapse on our own. Wedges were thrust into us. But Trump or Bolsonaro or Johnson or Putin – or for that matter, anyone – as the “He” misses the mark.
It’s all of us. We knifed ourselves. And now in America this weekend, we celebrate it all.
I found two things to keep me sane this 4th of July. The European Union’s great CDC site is the first and foremost. It even has better stats and analysis on America than America. Read it if you want to know what’s really happening.
Listen as I always do to NPR’s reading of the Declaration of Independence. This is an anchor in these quasar queer times, a guide for humanity and remarkable for its age. Yes you’ve got to have the courage to step out of our collective narcissism to recognize that the late 18th century didn’t have wifi. And that “timeless” might not be without context but has a dynamic and meaningful compass in it.
The framers of our original America were not perfect men as we aren’t. But my goodness how beautifully they expressed the ideals that all of us, today in today’s age, should embrace. When you do, the fog clears and the faith that we can make things better shines brighter than ever.
In America today we would normally have a holiday called Memorial Day. Instead we have an abnormal holiday called Memorial Day.
The holiday is intended to honor the memories of U.S. soldiers who died in action. But this year it seems meant for honoring anyone who is defiant, suggesting all the American soldiers who died in action weren’t fighting only against an enemy, but against themselves.
What I fear most is that we’ll give up. “A man dies when he refuses to stand up for that which is right. A man dies when he refuses to stand up for justice. A man dies when he refuses to take a stand for that which is true.”
MLK said those exact words at a church in Selma the day after Bloody Sunday, but they’re rarely quoted. Instead a much shorter paraphrased version is attributed to him, even though he didn’t say it: “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”
The long Christmas holiday in America starts soon and goes right through next week because of the day-of-the-week that Christmas lands. It’s one of the biggest end-of-the-year travel periods in decades because of this as well.
But somehow it doesn’t feel like a holiday this year. People are still spending like crazy in an economy that to me is all smoke and mirrors, but all over the world dissatisfaction with their lives is only growing. You know the list. America’s on top.
Today begins the long Thanksgiving holiday in the United States. (Canada celebrates it earlier.) Festivities continue throughout the week with many people not returning to normal work routines until Tuesday or Wednesday next week.
For many Americans this has become a bigger holiday than Christmas and other end-of-the-year celebrations, which are considered more religious than familial. In large part, this is because of BLACK FRIDAY.
Today is controversial: a very revered American holiday that many of us are reluctant to celebrate because we are so ashamed of America’s wars. Yet we can’t ignore the life stories of those who are conflated with them.
During my life time, which began just after World War II, America has fought many wars and not a single one was justified. I hoped Obama would end some of them, but instead he started new ones. Today, it’s terrifying.
The populism which snuck Trump into power will not alter its vehement refusal to engage globally, and that includes warring. So the Trump administration has made almost as many efforts to end America’s fighting abroad as it has to build a wall between Mexico and our southern border. Neither has been successful.
And the efforts have divided America even further and increasingly stressed our government and culture.
Consider this. America for good or bad was instrumental bringing down the Berlin Wall under what had been its most conservative president to date, Ronald Reagan. Trump refused to join the celebrations a few days ago. It’s unclear whether this was his decision or the Germans’. Either way he is clearly not seen or does not want to be known as a peace maker.
His bumbling missteps in the Mideast do not look promising. NATO is in tatters. Defense strategy is non-existent. His attempts to negotiate peace in North Korea have resulted in a dozen new North Korean missiles and his arrogance with Iran have fueled Iranian mischief.
The holiday is intended to honor the memories of U.S. soldiers who died in action. It’s similar to the Remembrance Days celebrated in many parts of Africa, and like in South Africa created primarily to honor the freedom fighters for independence.
But America’s Memorial Day has grown to honor all fallen soldiers not just those who fought in the 18th century revolution. In fact it wasn’t started until after the Civil War when it was first called “Decoration Day,” following a petition by recently freed slaves (most who came from Africa) to honor the Union soldiers who had freed them.
After World War I it was changed to “Memorial Day” and extended as an honor to all soldiers in all conflicts.
As a young boy it was a big red-white-and-blue festival. School got out early Friday so we could decorate our little red wagons and bikes for the big Monday parade, just as we would hardly a month later for the July 4th Independence Day Holiday.
Since then my own personal regards for Memorial Day has diminished. The numerous wars my country began during my life time have mostly been unfair and unjust. The end of conscription — which happened when I was in university — changed the military so radically that it is no longer a people’s army: It no longer represents society as a whole.
Today the military is composed either of young men who can’t get any other kind of job or who need the benefits once their service is finished, or avowed militarists.
I do stop during the day and think of my relatives in the Great Wars. I think of the way the country ultimately came together to fight world tyranny. But in my life time there is little in America’s wars to be proud of. They are mostly memories I wish we didn’t have.