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Goodbye, Columbus (Day)

Joel Fox
Editor of Fox & Hounds and President of the Small Business Action Committee

They say if you keep something around long enough it will come back in use. I’m still holding out hope for my Nehru jacket (a 1960s fashion statement for those who don’t know). But apparently it can be true with political issues and related commentaries – even ones that seem a bit bizarre.

Assemblyman Roger Hernandez announced he wants to establish a new holiday for state workers.  He wants to replace the day once celebrated as Columbus Day with Native American Day. His rational is that Columbus’s voyage to what became known as the New World led to bad times for the indigenous population.

Italian-Americans have already raised a protest against this proposal. The same thing happened in Los Angeles more than a decade ago when the City Council was presented with a proposal to replace Columbus Day with Caesar Chavez Day.

At the time I wrote a little satire on the situation, which contained a solution for the problem of different groups wanting to establish a holiday for one of their heroes. I recycle, er, reprint that piece I wrote in April 2002 below.

 

COLUMBUS DAY, CHAVEZ DAY, AND EVERYBODY’S DAY

By Joel Fox

            “I wish I was a government worker,” said Tom.

“Why’s that?” asked Mary.

“Looks like they’re getting another holiday at Los Angeles City Hall. They use to get Columbus Day, now they want Caesar Chavez day instead.”

“You said instead.”

“Instead — at first. Substitute Chavez Day for Columbus Day temporarily, the City Council decided. But the Italian-Americans aren’t happy. They don’t want to give up the holiday commemorating Columbus and replace it with Caesar Chavez Day. That’s why the Council said it was only a temporary thing. They’re going to reconsider. You know how they’re going to reconsider? They’re going to make BOTH Chavez Day and Columbus Day a holiday. Keeps everybody happy and everybody voting.”

“Will there be enough time for the workers to get their work done?”

“Sure. If they add a third holiday.”

“Hold on, Tom, I don’t get it. How are you going to make up lost time by adding another holiday?”

“Simple. You declare a holiday to honor the famous California tax cutter, Howard Jarvis. But in this holiday, instead of getting time off, the workers spend a Saturday on the job catching up.”

“I don’t think that will work. You know Caesar Chavez was an important person,” Mary said. “A lot of people look up to him.”

“A lot of people look up to Columbus, too. Besides it’s important to honor a guy who makes his reputation by getting someplace he didn’t intend to go. That happens to most of us, I think. We start out with one goal in mind and end up someplace else.”

“So a holiday is added. That’s not a big deal, is it?” said Mary.

“It’s only the beginning. All kinds of interest groups are going to ask for recognition of their hero. Pretty soon they’ll be 200 holidays a year. At the rate we’re going, we’ll fill up a month of holidays instantly.”

“With all those holidays, there will be a lot of squabbling down at City Hall,” said Mary.

“Not if you let everybody have the holiday they want.”

“Are you crazy, then nothing will get done.”

“That may not be all bad. But that’s not the point of my plan.  I didn’t say that everyone should get each holiday off; I said the worker picks the one he or she wants to celebrate. A worker will get only so many holidays off a year so he or she will have to choose ones from the list to take off. The rest of the crew that doesn’t choose that day as a holiday comes to work and the office is open. The office will function like it does when some workers are out sick. I’m sure some holidays will be more popular that others, but that’s okay. Then everybody can honor whom they want and government offices will be open more days.”

“I’d take George Washington’s birthday off,” Mary said.

“You’ll probably be the only one off that day.”

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