I’m not too interested, frankly, in how you’re going to spend your Fourth. I’m more curious about how you spent your third, and your second.
If you’re like many other working people, you spent them cramming. You spent them hustling to do the work you’d ordinarily have done on Friday the 4th, and you did it so you could take Friday the 4th as a holiday.
Some holiday. More like a day to rest up from all the extra hours you had to work to take the day off. The workweek is shorter but the workload doesn’t get smaller.
Holidays are turning into a sucker’s game. They’re worthy, some are patriotic, but apart from some civic ceremonials, they’ve come unmoored from their original intent as far as much of the public seems to be concerned.
You can tell which are our most solid holidays: they're the days most retailers actually close – Christmas, New Year’s and Thanksgiving – and we’re fighting a rear-guard action against commerce-creep on those.
As for the 4th, Labor Day, Presidents and Veterans and Memorial Day, they get turned into buying and selling opportunities which, face it, are regarded as almost as patriotic as fireworks these days. Kids used to recite the Declaration of Independence at the bandshell; now mattress companies declare independence from high prices.
The U.S. is the “no-vacation nation,” the only advanced economy with no required paid time off, and the average paid time off workers do get doesn’t even come close to the minimum time off that’s required in 19 other rich nations.
And a lot of us are so afraid for our jobs we don’t even take all of the meager vacation time we DO get.
In French, the word for vacation is, revealingly, a plural – les vacances. Go ahead and make your jokes in Pepe Le Pew accents, but I will bet you croissants to cronuts the French don’t keel over dead at their laptops – they die face-down in a plate of Epoisses cheese, or in the sack. Lucky them.
Thanksgiving itself was moved in 1941 to nudge along an earlier holiday shopping season. And John Adams thought the nation should celebrate July 2, the day the Congress actually declared independence by a voice vote (the document was approved July 4 and not signed until August). So Independence Day, like the document it marked, was subject to revision.
If more businesses let their employees take the 4th as a floating day too, we'd be able to create another three-day weekend for vacation-starved Americans, and perhaps more meaningful time off.
Some of them might still choose to mark the 4th on the 4th. And the liberty to move that holiday might make the abundance and celebration of this country less a work burden and more a vacation blessing – and that is certainly something to celebrate.
Follow Patt Morrison on Twitter @pattmlatimes