Presidents' Day

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According to my calendar, this past Monday we celebrated “Presidents’ Day”. I’m pretty sure the calendar was right because I didn’t get any mail that day and the bank was closed. Still, “Presidents’” day?

I guess the apostrophe at the end makes all the difference. Years ago, we used to celebrate George Washington’s Birthday every February 22 because this was—follow me on this—the day George Washington was born. Two days before Valentine’s Day, we (those of us in school and/or children of students of American history) would do something to honor the memory of Abraham Lincoln.

Now, though, we have one generic “holiday” that honors all Presidents by not delivering the mail on a day that isn’t the birthday of any of the people we’re honoring (unless, maybe, we’re honoring corporate presidents, too). Now, I don’t have a problem honoring all our presidents—even those I wouldn’t have voted for if given a chance or the one whose end-of-term I am counting down the days to—but the result, as a culture, is that we forget that the reason Presidents’ Day was held this past Monday (as opposed to some Thursday in June) was because Washington and Lincoln were such colossal men that they made February the month to think of Presidents.

George, looking back, probably was the best president this country (or any other, for that matter) ever had. His military skill defeated the greatest empire of the day, and then when he could have been made dictator for life, he spent eight years trying to establish the office as that of a citizen executive—beholden to the people and accountable as well. He wasn’t a perfect man (see the whiskey tax fiasco or his own internal battles with slavery), but he was the best. Without him, none of us would be where we are.

And Lincoln? What could I say that hasn’t already been said? His wit, his wisdom, his mole. Another man with flaws, he gave his life in the pursuit of fulfilling that clause about all men being equal.

It’s too bad Abe and George weren’t born in separate months. Rather than just being lumped in with all the other presidents, they each deserve a whole month of their own.