Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Presidents Day

Today is Presidents Day in America, the familiar name for the Washington’s Birthday federal holiday, commemorating the birthday of America’s first president and Revolutionary War leader. It was always celebrated on February 22 until 1971 when the holiday was shifted to the third Monday in February.

The term “Presidents Day” was promoted by businesses as a way of promoting sales, using images of Washington and Abraham Lincoln (born February 12). Around a dozen states have since renamed their Washington’s Birthday holiday “Presidents Day”, but the federal government hasn’t.

The federal government is closed on federal holidays like today. This means no mail delivery and government offices, Congress and federally chartered banks are all closed—and that’s about it. States and localities and individual businesses are free to do what they want. Many businesses don’t close on the day.

Presidents Day is one of what I call America’s “non-holiday public holidays”: Days that are public holidays, but on which people have to work anyway, as I always did. This list also included Columbus Day and Veterans Day.

It shouldn’t be a surprise that America has public holidays on which, probably, most people have to work. It’s a country where three weeks annual leave is considered a lot, two weeks more common, and other people (including many who work anything less than full-time—even if only by one hour a week) may get none at all.

To me, it’s doubly weird seeing a holiday like this from the other side of the world. Public holidays here are public holidays (except often for retail and food service workers); I’ve certainly never worked on any NZ public holiday. The other reason it’s weird is that US presidents have very little relevance here, as would be expected.

Many bloggers are using Presidents Day to write about George Bush being seen as the worst president ever. As might be expected, the centre and left says he is, the right says he isn’t. Personally, I think he’ll certainly be among the worst, but his sins, sadly, aren’t unique.

GayProf at Center of Gravitas has written an excellent post looking at some of the other contenders for worst president ever, pointing out “these are the folk that Bush now jockeys against for his position in history: A drunken idiot, a vain coward, and a racist maniac.” Great company, to be sure.

GayProf, “a queer assistant professor of Latino Studies,” writes one of the blogs on my must-read list. Calling on his background as an historian, he often talks about historical things in a thoroughly entertaining way (trust me: history can be entertaining). I highly recommend it.

Is George Bush is the worst president ever? If not, it may be only because he has two more years to go as president. Plenty of time to clinch the title.

The image accompanying this post is a Public Domain image from Wikipedia. You can see it, or download your own copy, here.

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