Wednesday, June 19, 2024

"Everything must GO!" and Other Federally Mandated Holiday Sales


Juneteenth is a relatively new holiday, which is something else. My usual experience with holidays is that they just exist and that’s the way it’s always been. Since time immemorial, since the foundation of the world. God said, “Let there be light… and great savings this Memorial Day weekend!!!”. It’s strange to welcome to the fold another day in the calendar year where I can look forward to NOT going to work. The strange countenance of holiday cognizance, one could say! (Maybe. I think that’s how words work…)


Holidays remind me of the Sabbath spoken of in the bible. The concept of the sabbath has it’s own unique meaning in Judeo-Christian tradition, but the cultural milieu of the Ancient Near East helps to further contextualize the kind of mindset someone had when they entered into sabbath with their deity. For Judeo-Christian adherents, it would have been a time of important reflection. To observe with one’s whole being the establishing of God’s order and dominion over the created order, including all the implications that such a thing implies. It meant that one shouldn’t “work”. Why? Because God provides all one needs to sustain life. The profound act that God “rested” on the 7th day of creation meant that, unlike the pantheon of Gods in the Ancient Near East (who constantly meddled with the affairs of Men and wrestled for our affections and allegiances), God’s creation was self-sustaining and self-perpetuating. He didn’t need shit from us.


Contrast this, however, with our holidays that the federal government sprinkles over the calendar year like Salt Bae.


I think we’ve lost sight of the original intention for the “holiday” in the United States. (I can’t speak for other countries, which have their own history and traditions.) It’s an unfortunate consequence of capitalism, which reduces everything to a dollar value. Holidays become sales events and “days off” to disassociate mentally and physically from the rigors of a 40-hour work week. To claw back control over unraveling responsibilities that lie neglected in whatever crevasse we stuffed them into last. We don’t stop to consider that Labor Day was meant to observe the dignity of workers and the organizations they founded to enshrine the things we take for granted, like 8-hour work days and a two-day weekend. We don’t stop to consider the fallen dead on Memorial Day, or stop to thank a member of the military for their service on Veterans Day. (I’m sure it’s on your mind, but for how long. Do you spend an entire day, thinking about it and reflecting on it?)


Juneteenth is significant to me because it’s a new holiday, and its novelty has not yet yielded to indifference, or overexposure. The origin of the day is also incredibly fucked up. (It should be a moniker of shame that it took a whole two and a half years after the initial Emancipation Proclamation for slaves to actually be set free.) Juneteenth is to be a sobering day, and a time for reflection in general. We must come to terms that people who claimed to know the gospel, profit motivated textile and agricultural industries, and elected officials had to be forced by military action to see people as human beings, not as property.


So, in summary, it’s my hope that we can look more critically at holidays and what they stand for. As we await the Star-Trek future of post scarcity, or bide our time until the collapse of civilization in a resource war*, I will try to do this in earnest, at least. These days should be seen as more than just the sum of their promotional sales or a missed opportunity to clean out the garage.


*That is, unless Jesus returns before either of those things to set all things right in his perfect justice and equity.