Have we ever had two holidays collide before? I don’t recall any. Fathers Day occurs on the third Sunday of June, and the newly minted Federal holiday, “Juneteenth” is on the 19th. All of the commercial marketing for weeks now has concentrated on the former (gotta move that necktie inventory!) while all the virtue signaling has focused on the latter.
Not only is this a rare holiday collision, it’s also one that involves two dubious holidays, and I’m being nice by putting it that way. Father’s Day was an afterthought, a needless sop to dads on the theory that men felt disrespected because Mothers Day was a big deal. The greetings card lobbyists were also pushing the thing, and it had been promoted and celebrated for 50 years, but it wasn’t until 1970 that Congress passed a joint resolution authorizing the President to designate the third Sunday in June as Father’s Day.
Obviously nobody cared about it much, or Juneteenth would have been shrugged into existence last year with so little resistance. Anyone who could count (or who gave a damn) could figure out that a conflict of holidays was looming.
Juneteenth, if we are honest, was one more bit of white guilt reparations for slavery triggered by the death in Minneapolis of an overdosing black hood who was abused by police officer that should have been canned long before. I keep writing this because it is so transparently absurd, but it is true: if George Floyd hadn’t tried to pass phony bills, or hadn’t had a pharmaceutical potpourri in his bloodstream (plus the Wuhan virus), or hadn’t been huge, or hadn’t resisted arrest, or didn’t have the bad luck to be arrested by Derek Chauvin, we’d be celebrating only one holiday on this June 19th.
That’s one hell of a way to choose national holidays. Moreover, the date itself is contrived. It commemorates the late arrival of the news in Galveston,Texas that the Civil War had ended (more than two months earlier) and that Lincoln had abolished slavery in Texas (and the other Confederate states) two years earlier. This is a holiday about a single state getting its news late.
It is also a tribal, group identification holiday. Before last year, only a small percentage of non-black American had ever heard of Juneteenth; I certainly hadn’t. National holidays should be unifying, not focusing on one ethnic, racial or religious group to the exclusion of others. The various essays about the newest holiday, in contrast, makes it clear that African-American consider Juneteenth “their” holiday. Charles Blow, in a typical column (except that it doesn’t mention Donald Trump), tells us that “Having Juneteenth enshrined as a national holiday makes it more likely that all Americans are taught not only about the day itself but also about the legacy of enslavement, more likely to interrogate the very notion of freedom and examine the imperfections of the emancipation order.” Got it. It’s a day to be critical of the United States. What fun!
The single American whose birthday is a national holiday is a black civil rights leader, but somehow it was necessary to add another holiday to emphasize the importance of conquering slavery and its legacy.
Or perhaps trying to conquer it is more accurate. Ironically one of the most destructive legacies of slavery is the damage it wreaked on the black family. The lack of fathers raising their children in a disproportionate number of of black homes has risen precipitously even since Martin Luther King’s death, and is a major contributor to other pathologies in America’s black culture and communities. It would have been better, healthier and more productive for all concerned if the black community concentrated its attention, self-reflection and teaching on Father’s Day, focusing upon preparing for a better future, rather than papering over that holiday to inflame grievances over the past.