Sunday, February 15, 2009

And a parade of the gray suited grafters...

I can remember as a kid we had off from school on both Lincoln's Birthday and on Washington's Birthday (we also heard from the sixth graders 'they don't celebrate Lincoln's Birthday in the South because of The War'). Children of the Baby Boom, and part of the cohort that was in the first part of that boom, I'm not sure all my classmates understood which 'the war' the sixth graders were talking about.

We had, after all, learned to duck under our desks and turn away from the windows during the air raid drills we seemed to have on a daily basis. I wasn't that old when something happened in Cuba, or near it, that scared the willies out of the grown-ups and we started having drills at school almost every day. Still, I didn't understand what war "the South" was angry about until catching a TV show (I think on ABC) on Saturday afternoons about the The Civil War. It turned my world upside down.

I think we're all similar in that we are, each, the center of our own universe, and we assume the world as it is, is how it's always been. The idea that some of my classmates in Mrs. Hilge's 3B would have been considered furniture a hundred years earlier struck me as surreal. As I grew older (not matured) and I learned how prevalent and historic the slave trade was, and in some places still is, and how much carnage the so-called Civil War created (fought for many different reasons as I was to learn), the more profound became my admiration for Mr. Lincoln.

Who didn't already admire the Father of Our Country, George Washington (though I never did figure out who the mother is)? The chopping down of the cherry tree, the crossing of the Delaware, "first in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen'. It was amazing to me as a schoolchild to have had two Presidents born in the same month with such a profound impact on our country.

And now, see how we run. We have a Monday holiday to honor all of those who have been President to include Warren Harding and Millard Fillmore and John Calhoun. I'm sure each, well and lesser known, has had a hand in making us who we are today. So far, all we've elected to the Presidency are men, and it was less 120 days ago that we, as a nation, finally broke the color line which is, and was, historical unto itself.

I still believe I live in a country when anyone can grow up to be President and that, more than any specific person who's ever been President, is why I celebrate this holiday. It's not a reason to go to the mall and clean up on the post-Valentine's day stuff at Victoria's Secret (in light of those outfits where would she keep anything secret?). It would be nice to spare a thought for the tens of thousands of our best and brightest young, and not so young, men and women we have across the globe in places that make the news every night (like Iraq and Afghanistan) as well as places whose names we probably struggle to pronounce who protect, among other things, the rights of daydreamers to imagine they, too, could grow up to be President.
-bill kenny

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