August 04, 2021

Van Nostrand: ‘At least the new holiday has a valid purpose’

By John Van Nostrand,

My son’s birthday is near Labor Day, so his big day last year was a welcome distraction.

Having been unemployed for three months by then, and seeing no light at the end of the tunnel for full-time work, it once again bugged me how the country was ready to acknowledge, or celebrate, Labor Day. With the pandemic having gone through the nation’s economy and jobs like a .44 Magnum through a pop can, how can someone who doesn’t have a job get excited about a holiday that celebrates having a job?

For years, I have wanted the country to eliminate Labor Day as a federal holiday and what I experienced last year is just one reason. Jobs have become too much of political and economic football while able and willing people in the labor pool can get trampled on in our free-market enterprise, rather than employed.

Just having too many federal holidays is another reason. Last week the government approved another holiday and it was immediately acted on.

Last Thursday President Joe Biden approved Juneteenth as a federal holiday. Congress had been working on it days prior. Historically, June 19, 1865, is when Union soldiers brought the news of freedom to slaves in Texas about 2 1/2 years after President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation had freed slaves in Southern states.

The holiday went into effect last week, not to begin a year from now.

Knowing it was a federal holiday, some certain public employees were wondering if they got the day off. Some people in some states and offices did. Others did not. The debut should have been in 2022 to give time for labor unions, administration, banks, the post office and the others who typically observe federal holidays to determine how it will look and work with employees.

I am in full agreement for the purpose of the holiday. There is nothing wrong with acknowledging the end of a dark time in American history. Unfortunately, there are other dark times in the country’s past and one may wonder if the victims of those moments think they too deserve a holiday. I also wonder if we have really ended slavery. How many American jobs in at least the past 20 years have been shipped to other countries only for “cheap labor,” which is the fundamental definition of slavery? Companies have created, supported and expanded the foreign jobs only for those produced items to be sold in the U.S.

No, slavery does not look exactly like it did in the 1800s in this country. It looks like we just polished it and do it in other countries.

In recent years, Washington D.C. and certain other places across the country shifted from Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples Day in October. The motive was to take the attention off of Christopher Columbus who is the poster child for European explorers which historians say eventually brought disease, slavery and oppression to the natives in the New World. The first problem is Columbus didn’t deserve a holiday because he really never made it to the actual United States we know of today. He first discovered America’s winter getaway in what we know as the Bahamas.

A problem with replacing Columbus Day is some Italian historian groups feel offended knowing the impact Columbus had finding another continent, or two. Columbus is arguably the most popular global explorer. So in an effort to show more respect to one culture (indigenous Americans) should it be at the expense of offending another culture with the Italians? Do we upset the area that gave the world pizza? Do we somehow make up for it and create an Italian-themed holiday? When do holidays end?

I can even put a dent in the Indigenous Peoples Day intentions. We want to celebrate those people, but we haven’t given the same people back, say the Black Hills in South Dakota, since treaties were made to have that land for them were broken. Some tribes want the land back that was deceptively taken from them, not a day on a calendar.

Even though I have been to some very fun New Year’s Eve parties, I think New Year’s Day doesn’t have to be a federal holiday. It has no historic or cultural importance. Isn’t that the motivation behind creating holidays? It’s the first day of a new year and nothing else - unless you want to watch the big box store employees exchange Christmas decoration displays with Valentine’s Day items.

Consider this. The people who want to recognize the end of slavery in the country with Juneteenth are on the same level as those people who get to sleep off the hangover because they don’t have to work New Year’s Day.

There have been discussions making the election day in November a federal holiday. The intent is to get enough businesses to close to allow employees, and more people in general, to vote. There is no guarantee that will happen.

Juneteenth is the 11th federal holiday, so we almost average one a month during a year. How much more could be done if we had fewer holidays making more people productive, provided they have a job?


An Iowa native, John's newspaper career has mostly been in small-town weeklies from the Rocky Mountains to the Mississippi River. He first stint in Creston was from 2002 to 2005.