February 17, 2014
We said “Happy Holidays” in December. Did that include today?
In our generation, a new service became a growth industry. Aggregators (aggregate: a whole formed by combining several disparate elements) don’t create things; they simply bring things created by others together. Their contribution is the energy found in unifying otherwise disconnected pieces.
A task now frequently performed by websites, aggregators lump stuff together…
In the distant past of my childhood, February was a great month for school kids. Super Bowl wasn’t born until I was in high school, and it took awhile to become a “national holiday.” Back then, Christmas was still Christmas, and it stood firmly on a particular date – December 25th – allowing New Year’s Day to occur – like clockwork – one week later. No variance for Leap Year or what-falls-on-Monday issues: you could take it to the bank (which would be closed because of the holidays!).
Ah, February: two days off, always ten days apart: Lincoln’s Birthday, on the 12th; Washington’s Birthday, on the 22nd. Two great presidents; two great days of recognition; everyone agreed… until the aggregators showed up.
Lincoln and Washington have run out of political capital. The modern world has lost its commitment to ancient history (ancient history: anything that happened before the Beatles appearance on Ed Sullivan). They’ve been aggregated into Presidents Day – not an official federal holiday – and their individual birth dates now bow to “the third Monday in February” (by declaration of the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, passed by Congress in 1971 – back when Congress still passed stuff).
It was really critical to get away from these one-day-per-person calendar commitments, to presidents. We needed some free space: without some breathing room, there would be no room for Martin Luther King, Jr. day on the third Monday of January (Reagan signed the bill in 1983), or Cesar Chavez Day on March 31st (a state holiday in California, Texas and Colorado). In 2008, then-Senator Obama called for a national holiday honoring Chavez; in 2011 – as president – he proclaimed March 31st as Cesar Chavez Day (not a national holiday; that takes Congress. Instead, he used his pen).
In 1863, Abraham Lincoln signed a proclamation that was sent to him by the United States Senate, calling for a day to be set-aside for fasting and prayer (click here to read it). The nation was faced with a daunting battle between northern and southern states; hardship marked the daily reality for most Americans. Confronted by conditions that they were unable to resolve through human ingenuity, the Congress and the President – together – recognized the need to seek assistance from God.
The 62nd Annual National Prayer Breakfast was held in Washington two weeks ago, on February 6th. There was a fair amount of praying, a bit of speaking (this year, featured presenter was Rajiv Shah, Administrator of the USAID). Noticeably absent was a call for fasting – demonstrating our culpability before God for violating His principles, and suffering negative consequences as a result – by the President, or any of the Beltway dignitaries in attendance.
Lincoln faced the rage of war, within America’s borders. We face war on a global front, focused on Afghanistan, but subject to random attack anywhere in the world where America’s interests are opposed by terrorists. We hear Climate Change, and are pointed toward carbon footprints rather than toward national moral cancer. Drought, historically, brought farmers to their knees; today, it brings them to their lobbyists as they seek disaster funding from Congress. Economic crises, employment erosion and future shortfalls in entitlements should bring thoughtful people into an appeal for divine intervention; instead, it sets the stage for the 2016 elections.
I wonder: would the 44th American President sign the Proclamation issued by the 16th? And… would Americans be willing to fast and pray, instead of taking the day to ski or surf?