View From a Height
Commentary from the Mile High City
Monday, April 05, 2004

Thoughts on Cesar Chavez Day 

Someone asked me about Cesar Chavez Day, "why?" Well, he tried to organize the farm workers, and was an important figure in the 60s Labor and Civil Rights movements.

Now for the real answer: he was Hispanic, and since Martin Luther King Day is seen not as a "Civil Rights Day," but as a "Black Civil Rights Day," we needed to have something for our now-largest minority group. He was a leftist, which is also why we don't have George Washington Carver Day. (Why else would the official city declaration make the day a "day of struggle?") In the same way, Columbus Day has been adopted as a national Indian Holiday, at least here in Denver, as a means of protest. So we have a Black National Holiday, an Indian National Holiday, and now a Hispanic National Holiday. I supposed someday August 6 will become a Japanese National Holiday. How quaint.

A well-meaning liberal (though not a Leftist) might well ask, what holiday do the Jews have? I would answer: Washington's Birthday, Lincoln's Birthday, Independence Day, Veteran's Day, Memorial Day, Thanksgiving, and, in an impish mood, Labor Day. (Don't be too hard on Labor Day. If there's one day where Jews might be said to have a special connection, it would be Labor Day. And a good thing, too. It was Samuel Gompers who made sure that the early labor movement would be capitalist in mood and not socialist or anarchist. That spelled both doom for socialism here, and success for labor's early goals.)

Do you see the difference? Do you see the need for true national holidays rather than ghetto-izing our calendar? I don't want days on my national calendar to which I have no real connection, to which I am not expected, really, to have any connection. I want days that celebrate what is unique and distinctive about the country as a whole, not about little pieces of it. This is one of the building blocks of a common civil society. This pendulum can't swing back too soon.

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