Initially my discussion of the holidays was going to stop at the four I touched on before, but I noticed something when preparing those others. Of the 11 national holidays observed in the United States, 4 of them are directly linked to war (Memorial Day, Juneteenth, Independence Day, and Veterans Day) 4 of them gloss over tragic events or characters (MLK Day, Columbus Day, President’s Day, Thanksgiving) with honorable mention given to Labor Day because so many workers died in the process of building this nation it was only right to celebrate their efforts after exploiting them for so long. This leaves Christmas and New Year’s Day as the only two blood free holidays unless you factor in what Christians did to spread the religion, then we’re just left with New Year’s which is global. What does it say about our society if the bulk of our celebrations have roots in violence and destruction? What does it say about our society that we’ve made these days pretty now.

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Polina Tankilevitch on

Bad Beginnings

Of course, we don’t celebrate the violence directly, that would be a really twisted practice, but we also don’t really think about why we celebrate these holidays anymore; or their origins for that matter. We don’t care what these things mean in any way solely because we choose to see the positive attributes, while downplaying everything else. That is something only achievable with time and biased education as a best-case scenario and a lack of education as a likely scenario. We would rather discuss the triumphant win over the Brits with fireworks to commemorate bombings, than we would the tragedy of losing tens of thousands in battle. We romanticize George Washington as the father of the nation, while ignoring the fact he held 300 plus slaves that he exploited for personal gain. We highlight Martin Luther King’s dream of equality, while ignoring the reality that caused him to dream in the first place. We then ignore his message of equity that ultimately got him killed. 

Why Do It?

It’s not enough to just celebrate any of these holidays, we need to actually understand what we’re celebrating and why. Despite me enjoying the days off, most don’t deserve the commemoration received. I remember as a kid getting Pulaski Day off in Chicago, there’s a Pulaski Road as well. I always assumed he was famous for something, but outside of not going to school that day, I didn’t truly care. Casimir Pulaski is considered a war hero, thus furthering the distinction of honoring violence. It makes sense considering our nation was founded on it, currently profits from it, and uses the threat of violence to maintain world dominance. In contrast, Norway observes 12 national holidays, of which none are war related, 10 are Christian holidays, New Years Day and Labor Day. 

The holiest of holidays are those kept by ourselves in silence and apart; The secret anniversaries of the heart

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

That then begs the question of what a nation should celebrate. I believe people only celebrate what they value. It says a lot that we celebrate war related days and people so often. It says more that all of our major holidays are associated with some form of tragedy, with the exception of the globally recognized New Years Day holiday. Instead of celebrating the tragic, maybe we should celebrate innovation and discovery. Maybe a Louis Pasteur Day for bringing about the pasteurization process which has certainly done more for the entire planet than Casimir Pulaski ever did. How about Selman Waksman Day for discovering the cure for tuberculosis? Maybe we pick a day in September and celebrate fertility seeing as September has 9 of the 10 highest birth dates in the whole year. Those winter boredom babies coming to fruition basically. All of my ideas would be the celebration of life or the celebration of extending life or truly making life better. 

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War is a Symptom of man’s failure as a thinking animal

John Steinbeck
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There is no glory in battle worth the blood it costs

Dwight Eisenhower

Let’s Re-think This

In addition to celebrating life, I think we should stop celebrating the plus side of tragedy. I tend to look on the bright side often, but I’d rather things just be bright so I don’t have to weed through the muck for the pros. Personal celebrations for the anniversary of ones birthday or marriage, or divorce, or whatever makes you happy. Divorces can be tragic or happy events, but in the good case, it’s a celebration. I don’t think there are that many reasons for the nation to celebrate a single event in all honesty. I don’t believe we should celebrate religious holidays nationally either. I’m totally in favor of making personal celebration optional, but respect should be given to all religions, not just Christianity, who we now know, piggybacked on other people’s ideas and practices anyway. 

I guess I just look at our national holidays the same way I look at chitterlings. It takes a whole lot of washing and seasoning to get past all of the shit associated with them. Granted, I don’t eat pork and I’ll never taste another chitterling as long as I have control over myself, there are people who willingly consume them. It’s difficult for me to buy into the practices and celebrations when I can still smell the stench of the origins. Just like, there are better cuts of meat on a pig, there are better milestones that this nation can celebrate. Sure, we have the capabilities to turn a bag of shit and guts into a meal, but why should we? 

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