Presidents’ Day: The Melting Pot of America’s Greatest?
America was once known as a melting pot where people from around the world were gradually but steadily assimilated into the great American values that gave birth to our nation. As part of that spirit, the greatest of the great American presidents were honored. Washington’s and Lincoln’s birthdays were remembered because of their unparalleled contributions to the nation. But now Presidents’ Day itself has become the melting pot of America’s presidents. To honor them all, we no longer celebrate the unique contributions of Washington and Lincoln. So when Presidents’ Day comes around in February, I experience a mixture of stunned patriotism and historical despair.
Patriotism is understandable. We remember the elected leaders who have led our nation through tragedy and triumph to the lofty place America occupies among nations. But my patriotism is stunned because of the homogenized way Congress has determined to honor the day by simultaneously celebrating all the presidents, as if all presidents deserve a trophy just for participation!
There was a time when all knew that George Washington was the indispensable and preeminent Founding Father of America. And that Abraham Lincoln preserved the Union as redeemer president assassinated in a divided nation. But now we celebrate America’s worthies along with the less than stellar chief executives of our nation. Clearly not all have distinguished themselves.
My stunned patriotism leads to historical despair. We honor America’s commanders-in-chief when we remember our history and the impact of their administrations. But despair surfaces due to the way Americans have been deprived of our history. Political correctness has rewritten America’s curriculum. Early presidents are deemed dead white men with slaves, not worthies to celebrate. Moreover, socialized education does not strive to foster national identity. Rather, it accents class consciousness and identity politics. Consequently, most presidents are unmentioned, left in the clouds of a racist and excessively nationalistic past.
Remaining presidents are those who can be remembered from the living memory of families, teachers and children. FDR fares well since he established social security and led through WWII. Truman is out due to the atomic bomb. Eisenhower was a great general but not worth thinking about because his Ozzie and Harriett world has long since vanished. JFK is a hero as he was the first Catholic president and his life is ever young having been assassinated in his prime. LBJ, Nixon and Ford are problems due to Viet Nam and Watergate. Jimmy Carter was disgraced by the energy and hostage crises. Although honored by some, Reagan’s the evil actor who foisted Goldwater’s conservative values on America. Besides, those archaic values have again taken root in the disgusting populism of another celebrity currently serving as President, who, by the way, failed to get the popular vote. That leaves, culturally-hip Bill Clinton and first African-American president Barack Obama. Here at last are two presidents for a postmodern, politically correct and multi-cultural society to admire and celebrate.
Nevertheless, regardless of how one feels about Clinton and Obama, in my estimation, they are not in the league of Washington and Lincoln. Considering all the above, despair seems justified. I wish Congress had simply kept Washington’s and Lincoln’s birthdays.
The blender of politically correct history that has served up our Presidents’ Day smoothie may be palatable to a post-American America, but it is simply not potable to those like me who cherish our nation’s founders and heroes. As imperfect as they may have been, Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Madison, Jackson and Lincoln shaped the American spirit and created our essential American documents. They honed the values that have guided us through every national crisis. Thanks to them, our nation still has a chance to survive the onslaught of cultural Marxism, historical revisionism and political correctness.
I recognize Presidents’ Day. But, I cannot be persuaded to honor every president equally with Washington and Lincoln. To my mind, the current favorites, Clinton and Obama, fall far short of their illustrious predecessors. The glory of Washington and Lincoln for far too many is shrouded by the mists of history. They have been nearly forgotten with multi-culturalism. Instead, the melting pot of President’s Day ought to separate the presidential dross from the shining greatness of the ones whose images still adorn American coins.