Man Without Qualities

Monday, February 18, 2002

Presidents Day

Today is Presidents Day, an official national quasi-holiday on which enough people do not work so that the rather large number of people who do work are wickedly inconvenienced.

But my real quibble with Presidents Day is that George Washington and Abraham Lincoln were not mostly just "Presidents" - they were transcendent universal political geniuses of an order scarcely comprehensible by ordinary people. If they are not political figures worth commemorating individually, then who is?

Presidents Day drives home the fact that one person who should not be individually commemorated is Martin Luther King, Jr. It is not that Martin Luther King, Jr., who did undeniably wonderful things, should not be commemorated. But many things, including Black History Month, remind us that there are a great many other African-Americans whose achievements are at least as significant as Dr. King's, even in his chosen sphere. Further, I cannot agree with singling out a particular ethnic group for implied commemoration, which is what Martin Luther King Day really is. The problem would be made worse by expanding the number of such implied ethnic days.

The appropriate solution is the abolition of Presidents Day and the restoration of Washington's Day and Lincoln's Day (the "birthday" aspect is a little loopy - maybe their inauguration days make more sense). Martin Luther King Day should be desanctified, and a new "Civil Rights Day” or "Bill of Rights Day" established - but not established as a replacement for Martin Luther King Day.

It's just stupid to pretend that Washington and Lincoln were mostly just "Presidents," while Martin Luther King, Jr. was something so special as to warrant a individually named day.

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