Sunday, June 20, 2021

Juneteenth National Independence Day

I know, I know, I should just pass over this one in silence -- but I'm an English teacher, dammit, and I just can't not say something about that name!

No, I don't mean the Juneteenth bit, though lots of people are complaining that it's lazy or illiterate or mushmouthed or whatever. Do I care about this? No, I do not. I'm down with Halloween and workaholic and Frappuccino and all manner of other morphological rannygazoo. If anyone wants to start calling Cinco de Mayo Mayfth, they have my blessing. No, my beef is with the rest of it.

Some variant on Independence Day could have worked. A slave is a dependent, and on June 19, 1865, the last members of this particular class of dependents were emancipated and became personally independent. Personal Independence Day might have been a good name, to distinguish it from the Fourth of July and to connect it to the lives of modern people who have never been slaves. It could be a day to remember and celebrate personal independence, agency, and the responsibility to make one's own decisions and pull one's own weight.

But of course that's just about the last thing They want the holiday to be about, and calling it Racism Is Bad Day would be a bit too obvious.

I'm told that Black Independence Day is one of the holiday's informal names. Since the people who became (personally) independent on that day were black, I suppose that works. But that makes it sound like a holiday for black people, and They want it to be celebrated by everyone, even if they're not black. Especially if they're not black. So I guess that was the "thinking," such as it was, behind the decision to go with National Independence Day instead.

The problem, of course, is that "national independence" doesn't actually mean that.

An independent country isn't a country in which each adult citizen is personally independent; that's called a free country. (National Freedom Day could have worked.) An independent country is a country which is itself independent of other countries, regardless of how free its citizens and subjects peoples may or may not be. North Korea is an independent country. Nazi Germany was an independent country. National independence has absolutely nothing to do with not owning slaves. In fact, national independence -- so that they could continue to own slaves -- is precisely what the Confederacy was fighting for in the American Civil War!

No nation became independent on June 19, 1865. The United States had already been an independent nation for -- well, I guess by then it was fourscore and nine years -- and did not become any more nationally independent when the slaves were freed. I mean, it's not as if the American slaves had belonged to King George or something. Nor did the emancipated slaves gain national independence on that day; they continued to be under the government and sovereignty of the United States of America, as before.

I mentioned North Korea before, and I guess it's a perfect example of the same kind of thing. There are two countries on the Korean Peninsula: the Republic of Korea, and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. Which one is a democratic (as opposed to dictatorial) republic? The one that doesn't have the word democratic in its name.

There are now two Independence Days on the United States calendar: Independence Day, and Juneteenth National Independence Day. Which one is about national (as opposed to personal) independence? The one that doesn't say that on the tin.

The DPRK of holidays.

1 comment:

jorgen said...

It translates to Retard Day when translated into my language.

Another unremarked milestone

According to the latest figures , the pecks have now killed more than two-thirds as many people in Taiwan as the birdemic has, and that rat...