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Monday, February 16, 2009

Us Day

Not too long ago, Presidents' Day was just Washington's Birthday.  That made sense to the Solipsist, who, despite being a mere stripling, even then sensed that there was something special about Washington.  He was the Father of Our Country, after all.  He was kind of a big deal.

So was Lincoln, of course, so celebrating his birthday seemed fair, too.  Indeed, the Solipsist was quite disappointed when the powers that be rescinded Lincoln's Birthday and "moved" it to Washington's.  And no, not just because he lost a day off from school.

Well, OK, yes--just because he lost a day off from school.

At the same time, though, now that he has matured (and despite the fact that he now works somewhere that gives him a separate day off for Lincoln's birthday anyway). the Solipsist finds something troubling in the whole concept of a "Presidents' Day."  It's one thing to honor Washington: He got the country off on the right foot and basically turned down a chance to be "King of America."  Lincoln freed the slaves and preserved the Union.  One could probably make a case for FDR and a handful of others.  But let's face facts: The vast majority of American presidents--like the vast majority of anything--fall into the mediocre middle of the bell curve, at best.

Do we really need a holiday that, at least implicitly, celebrates not only the Roosevelts and Kennedys but also the Hoovers and Fillmores?  Isn't there something vaguely Soviet, cult-of-personality-ish about the whole thing?  What, in fact, ARE we celebrating by celebrating Presidents' Day?

But then again. . . .

One could take the view that what we are celebrating is not our presidents, but our whole system of government.  Of the people, by the people, for the people--all that good stuff.  If our government truly is (or is MEANT to be) of the people, then our presidents are really just. . . us.  And so honoring them is really honoring ourselves.  And that seems as good a reason as any to sleep in and hit the mall for deals.

Happy birthday, everyone!

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