Tag Archives: holiday

Polite Fiction vs. Cynical View

27 Jun

Maybe I’m too cynical, but I’ve found recently that often I can’t take things at face value. I’m always thinking, “What’s the angle?” “What are they trying to push.” This applies to the news, to ads, but most recently, to holidays.

So my city recently celebrated Juneteenth—when the last slaves were informed they were free—which was June 19th, 1865. The City of Phoenix took the day off; Tempe had Juneteenth flags in the streets (alternating with the new Pride flags, for the month of June). I celebrated it by going to two bars, getting drunk, and having great conversations with vets. Now when discussing Juneteenth with my wife, more specifically its place in civil religion (yeah, these are the conversations I have with my lover—you know you want it), she gave a reason for its recognition that I interpreted as “polite.”

She was of the opinion that this, in addition to MLK Day, were two holidays dedicated to civil rights and it shows the shift in our national discourse and what we choose to celebrate. She put it in the lens of “civil religion” (which is often given as a pejorative), the religious-style way that we approach our national identity. We have sacred documents (Constitution, Declaration of Independence), hymns (America the Beautiful, National Anthem), liturgy (“I pledge allegiance to the flag…), and pilgrimage sites (White House, The Mall, Arlington National Cemetery).

But there’s a reason its pejorative; the reason for many of those “sacred” items in our civil religion were done for cynical reasons. The Constitution was a compromise between different political factions. The Pledge of Allegiance was added around WWI to ensure immigrants identified themselves as Americans; “under God” was added in the 1950’s to fight Communist “godless atheism.”

Which leads to holidays. Independence Day should have been June 2nd, when it was signed, but since it was only announced on the 4th, that’s the day that stuck. Columbus Day became a holiday to honor the Columbian Exposition in Chicago around 1892, which celebrates the 500th anniversary of the discovery of the New World. Well, that’s the polite answer. It was really to ensure the loyalty of hundreds of thousands of Italian immigrants and get their vote for McKinley.

Juneteenth might honor the end of slavery in America, but it only became popularized after the Tulsa riots on May 30-June 1, 1921 that destroyed Black Wall Street. (Not our finest hour. Also–came up while drinking in bars on Juneteenth.) We don’t like remembering a disaster, so we remember the positive. But at a time when racial politics are emphasized, it’s a way to ensure the loyalty of millions of African-Americans. Now—does that mean we shouldn’t celebrate it? By no means! We should remember ending slavery. We should remember Tulsa. We should remember Columbus AND the destruction of the native peoples as a result.

But the cynical side of me says to not pretend that this is proof of an evolution of the national consciousness. This is a political move to appeal to areas that have a large African-American population, or in the case of Tempe, people who want that evolution of the national consciousness. But I could be too cynical. Is it all right to do the right thing for the wrong reasons? Or to put a polite fiction over a gritty reality? Let me know in the comments below!

In this moment of remembrance…

1 Jun

Memorial Day has always a special day for me–not just because I’m a Navy brat–but because this was always a big event for me growing up. Doubly so since we didn’t have a ceremony last year, so I had to make sure to get out and celebrate the moment.

In my hometown, Memorial Day involved a whole parade. Since I was in band in middle and high school, we were always marching in the parade, playing roughly the same songs they had done for the past couple decades. In fact, the middle school band had done the same cadence for so long, the high school drummers decided to copy it at the end of the parade, which was freaking hilarious. There was veterans on floats, older veterans in classic cars, and other floats with people lining the streets from downtown out to the ceremony. Then there was a prayer, some speeches, and then two trumpeters played Taps and the Legion honor guard did a 21-gun salute.

Once I moved to the big city, it was a lot harder to find something similar. There’s not always a parade, if there’s a ceremony, it’s harder to find, and you had to struggle to get there. The one in Mesa is really good… but I couldn’t be sure they were actually having it this year. So I went to the one in South Phoenix–and as tends to be my experience–always get lost and arrive five minutes late. But I got there, put on my garrison cap (it’s the same as the American Legion hats, but light blue for the Sons of the AL, which I’m a member of), and sat in the back. Because May 31st is the beginning of Arizona summer, we got to sit under shade, which with a 100-degree heat, is kinda necessary.

There were prayers, speeches, reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, singing the national anthem and God Bless America… what I’ve come to expect for an event. It’s moving, it’s part of the ceremony. There were two things different which really amazed me. One was the rifle-and-helmet memorial; which I had seen the image of many times, but never actually seen performed.

When someone takes a rifle and stabs it into the ground near you (bayonet first), it make an impression. Then placing the boots, hanging the dog tags, and then places the helmet on top. Then came the second unexpected thing; the flyover. There were four antique planes that flew above us, and as they came, they performed the missing man formation–where one of the planes pulls up to symbolize the pilot who is no longer with us. Very cool.

Then I went home, and after some kerfuffle, went to my Legion Post to celebrate. It was a great time hanging with my drinking buddies, met a few more, and watched John Wick 2 on the TV while I drank and smoke. But even there, we had a moment of silence at 3 pm, to remember those who had left. Simple, but very moving.

So it wasn’t my hometown experience, but I’ve found joy in hanging with veterans on this day, and enjoying myself. Do you have a similar story? Is there a national holiday that you find more moving than others? Let me know in the comments below! Then if you’ve got time, check out one of my books. However, if $1.99 is too steep for your wallet, go ahead and download one of my stories for free. You’ll be glad you did.

It’s National _______ Day!

9 May

If you really need an excuse to party, there are several choices every day you can choose from. However, if you declare today National Archery Day (and it is), if no one knows it… does it really matter? What’s the point?!

Of course, in America, today is Mother’s Day–important for little kids’ gifts, the most phone calls made, breakfast in bed–but ever since it was promoted back over a hundred years ago, it’s the flower industry that reminds us of it every year. The archery industry just doesn’t have as much of a marketing budget to overcome that advantage.

For example, National Bowling Day is August 16th this year. I remember I was organizing an event five years ago at a bowling alley and we didn’t know it was a holiday until we arrived. We just planned to bowl regardless. However, we got free t-shirts, and it was nice… but as encouragement to bowl more, it lacked a lot of oomph.

Arbor Day is even having a hard time getting any traction. There’s an entire foundation dedicated to remind people to plant trees. The last I heard about it was when I was in 2nd Grade and we planted a tree as a class… that was the 80’s. It was April 30th this year… which is probably part of the problem. You’re hitting the end of the school year, and you had Earth Day on April 22nd (just the week before), so to have another environmentally-based holiday is rather hard to get excited about.

Despite the rhetoric, every day is NOT Earth Day, because we only have so much give-a-damn in our lives. Unless your cause is the environment, the rest of us have things to do. We’ve got to go to work, and take care of the kids, and feed the pets, and binge watch that Netflix series. Even if you care deeply about the environment, what are you doing daily to save the Earth? Recycling? Maybe that’s enough, but you’re not going to think about it after a while, and maybe you’ll check your coffee is free-trade, but you won’t care as much about your frozen pizza. You can’t pay attention to everything all the time.

Which is why there are holidays in the first place; one day you can remember to do one thing to make things better. But people have to know about it in the first place. Cornelia de Lange Syndrome Awareness Day (today) only works if people have heard about it; maybe shift it to a… not-Mother’s Day date? BTW, it’s a genetic disease that affects kids different ways, reshaping bones, and causing mental disabilities. Important… but shouldn’t it be important enough to put on a different day?

So if you’re going to have a Miniature Golf Day, a Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive Day, or a National Moscato Day realize that the entire point is to advertise that fact, and make sure you get the word out. And maybe not have them on Mother’s Day, because otherwise, no one will hear about it. But I could be getting too crotchety about this. What do you think? Let me know in the comments below! Then since it’s National Buy My Book Day (it’s not), buy one of my books. But if you think that’s a silly holiday, go ahead and download one of my stories for free.

Post-Holiday Relief

23 Dec

There’s nothing like being home for the holidays–not that most of us have a choice in 2020–but as much as we look forward to the holidays, they really are a pain in the rear to actually get there. Dealing with personalities, cooking, cleaning, supplies… is it worth it?

Unlike most of you, I’m already done with my winter holiday. Hanukkah lasts eight nights, but you deliberately try to tone it down compared to Christmas. One, you’ve got more time to get it right, but two, you don’t want to get burned out on latkes and dreidels and jelly donuts too fast, because it’s gotta last a week. This year, we had the challenge that half of the kids’ presents didn’t arrive in time, thanks to the shipping glut that happened due to COVID. However, they’re older now, so when we told them they would get their presents later, they weren’t terribly upset. Besides, they got a pretty good haul so far, so nothing to really complain about.

Then came the perennial problems–not enough candles. This year, we actually got a hanukkiah/menorah for each of us this year, which was a big thing! That way, everyone could light their candles. Each menorah takes 45 candles; start with two, add one every night, and that’s a lot of wax, really darn quick. We actually had a TON of candles leftover from last year, but now we had four menorahs to light. Whoops. By seventh night, we were running out. I ran out to Target and… wouldn’t you know it, they were all sold out, because corporate HQ doesn’t believe there’s enough Jews in Phoenix to send more. However, the nice guy working there pointed me towards some birthday candles which worked just as well (and burned cleaner). We ended up using all but two candles by the last night. Whew!

Of course, I could say this about any holiday. Thanksgiving this year–which I didn’t blog about–was really nice, but my wife and our friends wanted to experiment with a vegan meal. Now, I don’t actually need the turkey or any meat, but there’s a lack of options when you’re being strict about no meat/no dairy.

The sages used to call the month between the High Holidays and Hanukkah the “bad month,” because there was nothing to celebrate. But considering you had to go through three holidays in two weeks, it was good to have four weeks off before the next holiday. Is it worth it? Yes. But just like any vacation, it’s good to recover after you come from the trip. I’ve got vacation coming up next week and I’m hoping to take the kids up to the mountains to see snow, but that’s flexible, based on Mother Nature and the vagaries of timing.

What do you think? Are the holidays worth it? Do you work more trying to relax than you do at your paid work? Let me know about it in the comments below!

The True Spirit of Hanukkah

17 Dec

There’s a war on Christmas, Kwanzaa is commercialized, and Diwali… was last month. However, if you light candles in a menorah this time of year, you could be misled that it’s all about the miracle of the lights. But that’s not the true spirit of Hanukkah.

The first problem with the Jewish holiday is that it’s not in the Torah–this is what is called a “rabbinic holiday.” You light candles, but you don’t have to light them at a certain time. We give gifts because it happens to correspond with Christmas. The dreidel is a memory of a game done to hide the fact that we were studying Torah in secret.

Yours truly with my much-needed gift of beard balm.

At the end of the Talmud, they print an appendix, which includes all the stuff redacted in the Middle Ages (stuff blasting Christians). It also includes a list of all the holidays that were observed during the time of the Hasmonean Dynasty, which includes Hanukkah, Tu B’Shevat (New Year for Trees), and Marriage Day (in Israel, a chance to get young singles together). Those are just the ones that are still observed–the 3rd Celebration of establishing this section of Mishna… not so much.

Okay, I hear you say, what’s your point? This was the first Jewish Independence Day–this is how the Maccabees came to power and became the prince (and later kings) of Israel. If you read 1 Maccabees, there’s no mention of the whole miracle of the lights–it’s all about the overthrow of the Greek and the restoration of Jewish practice.

So why the miracle of lights? It appears in the Talmud because the sages really didn’t like the Maccabees. They were happy at first–after all, the Greeks had tried to eradicate our faith. However, afterwards Judah’s children named themselves kings (they weren’t from the line of David) and high priests (and they weren’t of the Zadok line of kohanim), and then proceeded to crush any opposition to their rule. They didn’t bother to just stop there–they frequently fought each other, because the role of high priest was just as politically powerful as the king, and the king didn’t want to share.

So Jews had independence, but only for about a hundred years, until another civil war brought the Romans in and they ended up occupying the country. They propped up a willing client-king, Antipater, who was the prime minister under the last Hasmonean king, who married a royal daughter and declared himself king. His son became Herod the Great, who even the sages in the Talmud (who hated him) had to admit did two things well: rebuilt the temple and reintroduced a species of bird. After his death, Israel was divided up, and most of Palestine became a Roman province.

The sages realized that people were celebrating Hanukkah, but didn’t want to glorify the Hasmoneans. So the miracle of lights was created. Which hides the true spirit of Hanukkah–Jews kick ass. A guerilla army took down a major occupying force and cleansed the temple of pagan worship. A great story… and one that gets forgotten.

Do you agree? Do you think I’m discounting the miracle too much? Let me know in the comments below!

You Are Completely Unprepared

20 Sep

My family are lazy preppers; we are keenly aware of how thin a thread we hang by in the modern world. However, when it comes to preparing for the unthinkable, we mostly do a head nod. So… how much do I really care about the apocalypse(s)?

Since the Days of Awe ™ are here, guess it’s time to consider how ready I am when the unthinkable occurs.


So when there’s a spiritual revelation and the end of days, I guess it depends which end times we’re talking about. If it’s the beginning of the Messianic Age ™ then the Messiah will be revealed to everyone. There won’t be any question whether or not this is the Chosen One. Rapture is also a good option, because although I won’t be lifted bodily into heaven, I’ll have plenty of time to repent before Judgement Day. Even in the Mormon faith, I still get to go to the Terrestrial Heaven, so I’ll still have to get missionaries in the limbo zone I find myself in.

The Days of Awe are all about examining yourself and determining whether or not God will write you in the Book of Life for another year. Although I take that seriously, just like Earth Day, there’s a reason it comes only once a year. If you had to consider the infinite all the time, you’d either be preaching on the street corner or in a constant state of fear. Either is not acceptable.

I was talking with a fundamentalist Christian once and I said, “Man, if Christ comes again in glory, I’m really screwed.” To which he answered, “There’s grace enough for all.” I found that rather comforting.

Terrorist Attack on Infrastructure

This is the one that’s the most likely and the most damaging. So much of modern life is dependent on electricity. Internet out would suck, and seriously impact my work, but power? Major problem. As I’ve learned modern life will continue on for at least two weeks without power. But more than that? We step into the Mad Max world.

This is why my wife is currently buying beans like there’s no tomorrow. Beans are great because they provide protein, they last a long time, and very portable. Of course, we aren’t storing water, which is a far greater concern in the desert where I live. So we have enough food to last us for a year… if only we get the #*$& out of the Valley of the Sun.

The Second Civil War

This one I’m the least concerned about. Because even with the inevitable riots after the election, people have to be willing to sacrifice their nice comfortable life to fight for their right to party… sorry, a new government. Sure, our system has flaws, but you want to roll the dice on a new government? You want to give up your social media life to pick up a gun and risk your life on the barricade? Sure, you can talk a good game online, but you want to starve and get shot at for years to bring about your utopia? The numbers of would-be freedom fighters drop considerably.

In Belarus, people who protest know they’re risking their lives. If they get imprisoned, they’re going to be tortured. They’re going to be killed. In the States, they’re going to be imprisoned for 48 hours and then released. You might never show up for the court date. Hell, you might never be charged. It’s easy to protest when there are few consequences.

So I’m not very well prepared for this. I don’t even own a shotgun. I’m more concerned about my kids shooting themselves than defending my own home. I can barricade the doors and take out my swords and see what happens.

I’m sure there’s an apocalypse I’m missing. What have you been doing to prepare for whichever apocalypse you have in mind? Did I miss one? Tell me in the comments below!

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