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  • Glenn Sonnenberg

Musings from the Bunker 2/12/21

Good morning! TIME TO REVISIT OUR NATIONAL HOLIDAYS? I miss Abraham Lincoln’s Birthday. Even more than I miss George Washington’s on February 22nd. When I was a kid, we celebrated both and honored these two men on their actual birthdays. Then the “Universal Monday Holiday Act” of 1971 determined that we should seize upon holidays to generate three-day weekends, rather than having the annual calendar leave holidays stranded in the middle of the week. But the vanilla “Presidents Day” just doesn’t have the same ring and certainly doesn’t adequately commemorate these two remarkable men. Does Presidents Day celebrate Millard Fillmore? Or James Tyler? Or Grover Cleveland? In this moment, when we are taking a more critical look at our presidents, it is clear to me that even the inference that we celebrate a few of the failures that held this office would be wrong. Some of them were bad actors (I’m talking to you, John Tyler and Andrew Johnson) or those who kowtowed to the slave south (Franklin Pierce and James Buchanan), or some who are known for some despicable views or just insignificant in their impact. I think we should elevate this holiday by changing the name to Washington and Lincoln Day. And then as I think about this holiday, I’m wondering whether we shouldn’t do an overhaul of our holidays to coincide with the broader swathe of history and more correctly address the history of our country.

  • Presidents Day. Stick with the combination of the two birthdays, but call it Washington and Lincoln Day. Then we are honoring the two presidents who arguably were our greatest and who used to have their own days…

  • MLK Day. Keep it but acknowledge the essential contributions of Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman. I think we do not honor these giants nearly enough. Why not King and Douglass Day?

  • Memorial Day. Expand to include days of great national trauma and those who died in these events (9/11, 1918 Flu Epidemic, 2020 Pandemic). It seems Memorial Day that is limited to war is unnecessarily limited. In light of the traumas that have befallen our country from multiple sources, perhaps a more fitting and general tribute is warranted. There is a separate Veterans’ Day after all for Veterans.

  • Columbus Day. Don’t stick with Columbus and don’t abandon him for “Indigenous Peoples Day.” Instead, perhaps a “Cultural Clash and Understanding Day.” Let’s stop taking sides on everything. Columbus is notable for his landfall in the Western Hemisphere. He is a meaningful part of Italian-American history. The indigenous people suffered from the coming of the Europeans, which likely would have been inevitable regardless of which explorer got here first. Like much of human history, it’s complicated and must be viewed within the context of the times. Cover the meeting of cultures, the successes, the failures and the current striving to get it right.


THE CHANGING CALENDAR



By the way, George Washington’s birthday on February 22nd isn’t technically correct. He was born under the Julian Calendar on February 11th. When the Gregorian Calendar was introduced in 1752 for Britain and its colonies. As confusing as Leap Years and Leap Days can be, imagine the hue and cry when 10 days were subtracted from the calendar! By the way, for those of you marking your calendars, note that 2100 will NOT be a leap year, as years divisible by 100 are not leap years, unless they also are divisible by 400 (like 2000).


Why the shift in calendars? Because the old Julian calendar assumed 365.25 days per solar year (even with the added leap days), but the Julian year actually averaged to 365.24 days, resulting in losses of days over the centuries. This threw off the Spring Equinox, upon which much of the Catholic calendar is based (e.g., Easter and Lent). Pope Gregory XIII decreed this fix, adopted throughout much of the Catholic world in the mid-16th century. In an early foreshadowing of Brexit, the British stuck with their quaint old, inaccurate, calendar for a full two centuries before finally adopting the new calendar. My suspicion is that it may take that long for America to abandon its stubborn adherence to the British weights and measures and finally adopt the metric system!


THINGS WE MISS AND DON’T MISS IN THE GYM


The Wall Street Journal listed five things we miss and five things we don’t miss from the gym. My favorites (you can figure out the categories):

  • Wiping someone else’s copious sweat off the elliptical

  • Chatting with friends and being motivated to finish strong by someone who isn’t paid by Peloton

  • Enjoying access to more machines than the one you can fit in your living room

  • Partaking in steam rooms, saunas and eucalyptus-scented towels

IT’S ALL ABOUT THE BAGEL


Wow, I hadn’t realized the passion and power of the simple bagel, but many of you have opinions. Some of them:

  • Paul Kanin suggests Einstein’s Bagels, as a good solid choice.

  • Mark DiMaria waxes poetic about the Bagel Factory at Robertson and Cadillac

  • Chris Cook remembers fondly both Canter’s and Diamond Bakery (and he loves the salt bagels best)

  • Our kids grew up on Western Bagel, near Harvard-Westlake School

  • Irene Kanowitz tells the story of visiting my parents, bringing with her a suitcase full of onion bagels, fresh from New York. She said it also made it easier to find her luggage in baggage claim!

HOW TO HELP THE HOMELESS


A few ideas that stop short of handing out money:

  • The Millmans carry granola bars and new socks to hand out

  • We used to carry Carl’s Junior gift certificates to hand out

  • Andrea often will give out food. One time, though, she offered a baguette to a homeless person, who responded that he was on a low-carb diet…

This, from Mark Greenfield, is a wonderful perspective on giving to the homeless: “20 years ago I became a friend of Father Maurice Chase. Father Maury was known as Father Dollar and/or Father Dollar Bill. He would go to skid row regularly and hand out dollar bills to the less fortunate living in squalor, upping the ante on special occasions. I once asked Father Maury if he was concerned that the money might be use for alcohol or drugs. He told me “no”; how the money was spent was between the recipient and G-d. What mattered was that the recipients know they were not invisible and loved by G-d.” A beautiful testament to this on Father Maury’s death in 2011 from NPR: https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2011/11/22/142653015/-father-dollar-bill-dies-l-a-priest-handed-out-thousands-to-needy. Warmly, Glenn

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