I Need a Holiday from Holidays
A guest post by Mark W. Bradley
Under considerable duress (including the enthusiastic exhortations of my wife and three of my grandchildren), I agreed to take part (in a purely passive manner, I assure you) in our yearly neighborhood commemoration of the signing of that antiquated and largely unread (at least in America) document known as the Declaration of Independence. The attendant fireworks display, replete with bombastic martial music courtesy of John Philip Souza, Irving Berlin and Lee Greenwood, went on only slightly longer than the British bombardment of Fort McHenry itself.
Now nothing brings out the inner curmudgeon in me (as opposed to the “outer” curmudgeon, which is on display for friends and family to behold any hour of the day or night in my presence) as predictably as a holiday. Don’t get me wrong; I love the three day weekends that holidays provide -- it’s just the actual “celebration” of those holidays I abhor. Most American holidays, after all, fall into two categories: the “religious” (Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving, Hanukkah) and the “patriotic” (Independence Day, Presidents Day, Memorial Day, Veterans Day). Being an anti-jingoistic atheist, I get about as much enjoyment from these annual celebrations as a vampire gets from the summer solstice.
But such need not be the case. If American religious holidays included any that were non-Judeo-Christian in origin (Osiris’s birthday, say, or “Lao Tzu Enlightenment Day”), I might be more inclined to partake of the festivities with a certain equanimity. Better yet, I’d love to see a few scientific holidays included on the calendar, such as October 28 (Jonas Salk’s Birthday), June 15 (“Benjamin Franklin Kite Flying Day”), and, of course, the most plausible rationale of all for setting fire to unreasonably large caches of dangerous pyrotechnic devices -- “The Big Bangorama” (although nailing down the date of an event predating the geocentric concepts of “day” and “year” by a few billion years might tend to be a bit problematic).
Similarly, we could use holidays to memorialize really pivotal events in American history. For example, the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire of 1911 (in which corporate greed cost the lives of 146 mostly immigrant young women) took place on March 25, so we could call that day “Unfettered Capitalism Day.” October 11, on the other hand, could be designated as “Pre-Columbia Day”, an occasion for us all to dress up as Native Americans, go down to the nearest seashore, and wait for the smallpox virus to arrive.
We might even decide to set aside 9-11 as a national holiday, since that date commemorates two of the most unconscionable terrorist incidents in American history: the “Twin Towers Disaster” of 2001, and Utah’s “Mountain Meadows Massacre” of 1857. I guess that one could be called “Brigham bin Laden Day”, or maybe just “Fundamentafest.”
In any event, until we come up with some holidays that don’t force-feed the overweight psychotic juggernaut of American (and Christian) exceptionalism, I think I’m going to scrub my calendar clean of everything except Mother’s Day, Arbor Day, and the Opening Day of Baseball.