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Tilly: How to kill Columbus Day

BY ZACH TILLY | OCTOBER 14, 2013 5:00 AM

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It’s Columbus Day, by far the most garbage national holiday of the year, which means two things: (1) the university is open for business and (2) every Enlightened Bro and Broette on campus has taken to a coffee shop to deliver a lecture about smallpox blankets and how, like, archaic and ignorant Columbus Day is.

By now, by book-learning or by osmosis, you are probably familiar with the atrocities committed by the holiday’s namesake upon the indigenous people of our continent and should be upset that we still celebrate him.

But if that’s going to change, we’re going to need a plan. Luckily, that’s just what I’ve got. Here’s how to shake up America’s national holidays in the best possible way.

There are currently 10 national holidays, so if our plan is going to work, we need to keep that number the same. Employers and teachers wouldn’t abide a new holiday; workers and students wouldn’t abide having a holiday taken away. We’ll have to replace Columbus Day with a brand-new holiday.

That holiday will be Election Day, to be celebrated on the first Tuesday after the first Monday of November.

The benefits of an Election Day holiday are myriad. It would alleviate the long early morning and lunch-hour jams at polling places caused by workers trying to squeeze voting into their cramped schedules. A day off to vote would reduce the costs of voting, increase turnout accordingly, and make the process of casting a ballot a little less painful for everybody.

A report from the U.S. Census Bureau on the 2012 electorate found that 19 percent of the people who did not vote in the last election said they didn’t vote because they were “too busy.” Obviously, creating an Election Day holiday wouldn’t free up all of those people, but it could give a substantial number of people the extra time they need to cast a ballot. 

It may be good public policy, but establishing Election Day in November would create a big problem: the new holiday, Veterans Day, and Thanksgiving could cause a three-holidays-in-three-weeks doomsday scenario.

Thanksgiving is obviously untouchable, which means that we’d need to move Veterans Day. As it stands, it’s celebrated every Nov. 11 to commemorate the end of World War I. That’s certainly something worth celebrating, but it’s getting more dated every year. As of 2011, there aren’t any American WWI vets still alive. Regardless of my plan, we ought to change to change the date to better honor our living veterans.

Before we get to my suggestion for the new Veterans Day, I should mention another peculiarity of our national holidays. The longest current gap between holidays comes between Presidents’ Day in mid-February and Memorial Day at the end of May. That’s more than three months without a national holiday, which is a bummer for everybody.

If we were to move Veterans Day to May 8, the day of the Allied victory in Europe in WWII, that’d solve the problem of the outdated Veterans Day and end the springtime holiday drought. 

And there you have it. We’d get a better-balanced set of holidays, Election Days off, and no more Columbus Day. Everybody, save for Christopher Columbus and his supporters, would win.

So, Congress, when you have a moment, consider my proposal to shake up our national holidays.


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