I don't have classes tomorrow.
I get to stay up as late as I want tonight: eat some food, watch some basketball if it is on the telly and find the last episode of Season 1 of The Wire online (you know a piece of entertainment is a masterpiece when it nearly stops your heart-it is just THAT good). Then I will wrap myself in my covers, fall asleep whenever I please and wake up Tuesday morning long after all the morning-birds have either lost their voices or just gotten plain tired from singing. And I imagine that many of my reader's schedules will be the same. For tomorrow is Veteran's Day, a national holiday.
If there is one thing that we Americans are known for (aside from childhood obesity and a true disdain for taxable tea from The Empire) it is our love of holidays. Since this young nation abdicated ourselves from British Rule, we seemingly have added a new Holiday for every week on the calendar. Americans are a naturally festive bunch and are always looking to break the monotony of their hard-working capitalistic existence. Add to that the cultural "melting pot" nature of the country and you have many other ethnic and religious holidays to choose from, and you have a sort of holiday "perfect storm."
But with all those holidays out there, how can one know which are important? Well let me help you out on that one: tomorrow's holiday is pretty damned important.
Tomorrow we honor all the men and women who have took up arms in defense of their nation; gave their lives for it, left a small piece of themselves in a foreign land for it, had their psyche irrevocably changed for it, or even promised to give themselves for it but circumstances didn't require that they need to. Tomorrow is important because it reminds us that brave human beings have endured the unimaginable to ensure the safety and liberty of their families along with millions of other strangers that they don't even know. Tomorrow is important because it reminds us that those self-less human beings still do exist in an age of increasing cynicism and distrust.
And in the great tradition of Democracy tomorrow is a day that you can honor or observe in any way you see fit, that is why you have the day to yourself. In the interest of full disclosure, I should tell you that I probably will not participate in any Veterans Day activities tomorrow. I probably won't march in a parade, or send a veteran flowers, or give a speech at the Athens town hall. Instead tomorrow will be a day of perspective; a day where I remind myself that there is a whole world out there and there are people in it who have done things so monstrous that a whole nation will come to a halt for 24 hours to honor them.
The more I think about it, the more I realize the significance behind the nature of a holiday. In a country where time is money, is there any better way to honor something or someone than just to stop working for a day? America is a competitive country and a country where you must work to survive. We have many holidays, but very few bring a whole nation to a stand-still for a whole day.
Not having to go to class tomorrow reminds me of my frustration a few weeks ago. Before the weekend of the 10th started in mid-October, I started getting excited for my four day weekend (I have no classes on Friday). Monday was Columbus Day! Surely I wouldn't have classes on Columbus Day! But there I was on Columbus day: sitting in a Stats class bored out of my mind. The founder of the most powerful country on the planet can't keep me from going to classes on a week day. But a rag-tag group of soldiers from only around 300 years history of military combat can.
There is a fundamental aspect of human nature that tends to overly lionize one's "heroes." It is easy to fall in line behind an attractive, muscular man with a square jaw who does something historic. It is easy to elect a hero or a leader and to worship him: give him a holiday and take a day off of work in his name. Everyone is susceptible to hero worship and big ideas and Americans are no different. But tomorrow is the day that every year America breaks this human yet unfortunate overgeneralization. Tomorrow we recognize that it isn't one man or woman that makes a country safe, secure and prosperous, but nearly 300 years worths of brave, hard-working, honorable and sadly, anonymous soldiers.
How distinctly American.