If you went to the Post Office today and were greeted by a shuttered window, you learned the hard way today is officially celebrated as Washington’s Birthday thanks to the 1968 adoption of the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, first effective in 1971. This act essentially standardized federal holidays to conform to Monday-only status (enabling three-day weekends).
The day is generally known and recognized by many states as Presidents’ Day. (When you search Wikipedia for the term Presidents’ Day, you’re redirected to the Washington’s Birthday entry.) Some states deem this day a dual holiday, celebrating the births of both Washington and Lincoln. The crazy thing is neither man’s birthday falls on this day, the 17th! Washington’s birthdate is February 22nd, while Lincoln’s is February 12th.
Here in my home state of Arkansas, in addition to its George Washington birthday status, the day is also set aside to commemorate Daisy Gatson Bates, a civil rights activist involved in the 1957 Little Rock integration efforts at Central High School.
Ah, now maybe I didn’t sleep well last night … I don’t know but I’m feeling cranky. My tendency is to think this “day” being set aside is another irritating symptom of weightier issues.
Certainly, as a federal holiday, lots of people enjoy this paid day off and they do so … on the taxpayer’s dime. Those of us who don’t have paid days away from jobs might have a hard time justifying our compulsory generosity. (I recall the US carrying some $17 trillion in debt. How much does each federal holiday cost us?)
Yes, I’m aware this Presidents’ Day is just intended as an observance which means I’m free to commemorate the actual birthdays if I choose and as I see fit. And yes, I understand the Congress − in its creation of the Uniform Monday Holiday Act − was simply trying to introduce some efficiency and uniformity into government operations.
ASIDE: Did I actually write that? Using the words Congress and efficiency in the same sentence? Did anyone else trip over that sentence?
But ignore the costs of “shutting down government” (wasn’t that considered an objectionable thing just last fall?) for this or other federal holidays! Who among us believes that making a holiday for all Presidents … or even some Presidents truly honors them all? In my view, designating one day to honor all dilutes the honor they are due! It’s akin to deciding as a family to incorporate all birthdays into one celebration … yuck! Nobody feels special or appreciated then!
I also have something of a bone to pick with my own state. While I have nothing against honoring Daisy Gatson Bates, I’m bewildered that the date chosen to honor her coincides with Washington’s birthday. There are designated days for memorializing other Arkansas notables, but this one − coupled as it is with our first President’s birthday − puzzles me as a combination. Did the legislators simply pull a date out of a hat?
(If you happen to know the background for this choice, dating from 2001 I think, please let me know!)
I have already acknowledged Abraham Lincoln on this blog here. When our first President’s birthday actually occurs, I expect I’ll have a post about him as well. But my natural contrariness causes me to reject this day, this so-called Presidents’ Day for many reasons beyond what I’ve already mentioned.
As an example of how the silliness of Presidents’ Day has proliferated, today’s local news teased its opening by declaring: It’s Presidents’ Day! And the day wouldn’t be complete without a trip to the Clinton House Museum!
Indeed, I must rush along now! I think the place is only open until 5 p.m.
… Oops! They closed at 4:30 p.m. Maybe next year?