Once again we have another Federal holiday and the newspapers, radio, and television are filled to the brim with advertisements for Presidents’ Day Sales. Will we ever have a holiday that doesn’t involve unbridled avarice? Sure, we’re a capitalist society, but we do we have to change our holidays from times of remembrance and honor to just simply buying the crap out of everything?
Of course, I’m also one of the “old fogeys” who remembers back-in-the-day when we used to celebrate George Washington’s birthday on one date (February 22nd) and Abraham Lincoln’s birthday on another (February 12th). And if you’re reading this and have no idea who either of those people are, then please, in all seriousness, stop reading my blog because you’re just going to embarrass yourself. Our school classrooms were always decorated with silhouettes of Washington and Lincoln and the red-white-and-blue bulletin board borders were strung around the room and decorated each desk. Sometimes there would be contests to see who could dress-up most like either of them and some teachers who only wanted to have to decorate once in the month of February would put the silhouettes of our first and sixteenth presidents (facing each other, usually) inside a large pink heart. That one always confused me.
After the recognition of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Birthday as a Federal holiday, a lot of states stopped celebrating Lincoln’s birthday because they didn’t want to have to give their employees another paid day-off. Some states still celebrate it, however, as a state holiday (Illinois being one of the biggest). But if we had a holiday for every president and event in our country’s history, the government would never be open and all Federal employees would spend most of their time off with pay. Actually, there are some days it seems like they do that anyway. Technically, there is no “Presidents’ Day” or “President’s Day” or “Presidents Day” (depending on your interpretation of punctuation rules). The official designation is Washington’s Birthday and no formal bill has ever changed that. Some have tried — Nixon issued an executive order to celebrate all presidents (including himself, of course) but that didn’t change the holiday. A bill was even introduced in 2001 but it never made it out of the subcommittee trying to present it.
So, the sales we’re having are actually to celebrate Washington’s birthday. But let’s look at the phrasing of what’s printed on most of our calendars because the greeting card industry and all the politically-correct rulesmongers won’t have us ignoring the other 43 presidents we’ve had. Presidents’ Day. A day for all of the presidents.
Now let’s add the commercialization part. Presidents’ Day Sale. A day to sell presidents? We have that every day, don’t we? Look at the current campaigns — it’s a battle for who’s got the most money; who can spend the most in a certain area; and who is going to promise the most going back to the citizens just so long as they donate enough to help them get elected. No one without a huge “war chest” could even dream of becoming president. If you don’t already have your own large amount of money that’s doing nothing but waiting to be spent, a PAC, a Super-PAC, or a Super-Sized-PAC-with-fries-and-a-drink, you don’t stand a chance.
Technically, we buy-and-sell our presidents every day. After one election ends and the inauguration occurs, hopefuls for the next one four years down the road start jockeying for position. And anyone in politics who says they’re not interested in running is probably lying through their teeth. But behind the scenes, where the lobbyists and special-interest groups lurk while pretending they’re not involved, the money gathering begins. If you’ve got the money, we’ve got the candidate for you!
It’s been jokingly suggested that we should make all of our politicians wear uniforms with their “sponsors” logos on them, like the NASCAR drivers do. There’d be some who’d have to change outfits four-or-more times a day just so every donor would get equal “screen time.” Watching them trying to give a speech or meet-and-greet with the public would be hysterical as they try to ensure shaking enough hands while holding a sponsoring beverage in the other. Shoot, the State of the Union address would have everyone sitting and listening to the president while an aide did the old “hat dance” (where the winning driver had to briefly wear a hat from each of the race’s sponsors during the post-race interview) as they sat in the gallery. I’d almost pay to see that!
The current political climate is already bragging and complaining about money raised and spent and who has how much. Sure, they say we have “free” elections — but don’t take that too literally. We’ll pay for it, for good or for bad, one way or another.