Yesterday was Presidents’ Day. A nice day off for most, a long weekend retreat for many others. The Prez himself took the day off. As I considered the holiday, it occurred to me that at its most basic level, it’s a celebration of the service and accomplishments of only one branch of our system of government. What gives?
Well, first of all, I’m wrong. As implemented in 1880, federally, the holiday is officially called Washington’s Birthday, although ironically with later modifications to assure it falls on the third Monday of February, it will always be between the 15th and 21st. Old Boy George’s birthday is on the 22nd. (In researching this I also learned that the Iroquois not so fondly nicknamed him “Town Destroyer” in the French and Indian War.)
While the holiday was solely intended to celebrate Washington’s leadership and role as “Father of our country,” that has not become its popular interpretation. Most state and local governments (not to mention Raymour & Flanigan) favor Presidents’ Day and celebrate more broadly the Office of the Presidency and the men who have held the title. That sounded fine to me at first. After all, as Mel Gibson says to James Coburn in Payback, “One man… you go high enough you always come to one man.”
Then I thought… what about the other branches? This feels like a checks and balances issue. The president already has the nicest mixed-use facility in the world to live and work out of, extensive media coverage, and the best-trained armed guards in the history of the world at his side for the rest of his life. Plus the buck stops with him! The Executive Branch is the easiest to understand! One person handles all the stuff.
Why should he (or she, someday) get a holiday but the Legislative Branch get shafted? Where’s my Congress Day? The two houses of Congress deliberate all year but get no recognition. It’s profoundly challenging to argue incessantly for that long and get nothing done. They deserve to be honored. Congress has a stutteringly abysmal approval rating, averaging about 20%, and measuring as low as 15% in some samples. Even Sarah Palin has higher numbers, and friends, that is saying something.
Come to think of it, how motivated would you be to get stuff done for the people if you knew they hated you? Maybe in order to turn it around, we need to show them the love. A little recognition might be just the jumpstart needed to rouse a euphoric aura of productivity and joint resolutions. Plus, such a day would remind us of laws Congress has enacted that affect our lives for the better, yet we rarely stop to think about: The Clean Air and Water Acts, The Sherman and Clayton Antitrust Acts, The Civil Rights Act of 1964, COBRA Health Insurance, The Americans With Disabilities Act, The Gulf of Tonkin Resolution. Hold up. Scratch that last one; it sounds cool, but it really sucked. Furthermore, Congress Day would also present a platform for elucidating the inner workings of the House and Senate, in turn urging the media to focus on education and history.
While we’re at it, where’s my Court Day? (I thought about going with Judgment Day but that seemed a bit apocalyptic.) The Judicial Branch is far and away the least discussed. For one, I feel like every time the Supreme Court gets caught outside of their building, they scamper away while tossing a 5-4 ruling to distract us. They don’t get nearly enough exposure on days they aren’t dropping bombshell rulings or mouthing not-so-stealthily to themselves at the State of the Union. Moreover, tens of millions of Americans have no idea how the district and appellate courts beneath work, and how they differ from state systems. The masses could use a little brushing up, and the justices could use a little sunlight. While we’re at it, I could use a little sleep before that sunlight shows up.