In 1879 Washington’s Birthday became a Federal Holiday (at first, only in the District of Columbia) but in 1885, the holiday was expanded to cover the entire nation. Those of us of a certain age can remember that Washington’s Birthday and Lincoln’s Birthday were observed in school classrooms year after year. The holidays were respectful commemorations of our two greatest presidents. In 1968 Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, which moved Washington’s Birthday to the “third Monday in February.” There was talk at the time of renaming the day “Presidents’ Day” thus honoring Lincoln as well, but that never passed Congress. In 1971 America began observing (in the popular mind, at least) “Presidents’ Day” rather than Washington’s Birthday. There is sentiment for honoring all US Presidents on the holiday; but officially, it remains “Washington’s Birthday.”
There is a point to this brief history lesson, because just as Washington’s Birthday evolved into Presidents’ Day – this year, some people gave it another name: “Not My President’s Day,” and yes, you guessed it – those people did not, have not, and probably will not ever accept President Donald Trump as “their” President, so they chose to observe “Not My President’s Day.” We assume that “their President” is Hillary Clinton, who never was President – or Barack Obama, whose term ended on January 21 of this year, so although he served for eight years, he is not President now.
Imagine please the reaction if the people who did not like President Obama’s policies had declared that he was “Not My President.” They would have been called “racists,” for starters, and also “unpatriotic,” “silly,” “intolerant,” and “delusional.” The last four are adjectives that we might apply to the “Not My President” crowd today. We will not call them racists – but they sure would have used that word to describe anyone who did not accept President Obama.
In America, we have freedom, and that includes the freedom to treat our Presidents with indignation or contempt rather than respect; or with resistance rather than support. But the refusal to accept the truth of something doesn’t make that thing false. It won’t cause much harm if the “Not My President” folks pretend that President Trump is not “their” President, but they have taken a twisted path from being “horrified” at the prospect of Donald Trump saying he would not automatically accept the results of an election HE (hypothetically) lost, to refusing to accept the results of an election that THEY lost - and really, not hypothetically, lost. They have traveled many paths in their efforts to thwart the Trump presidency, from the recounts, to suborning electors, to attacking the electoral college, to “slow-walking” his nominees, and the bureaucracy to “slow-walking” his regulatory reforms, to “Not My President’s Day.”
Oh, well, many of the same folks who declared “the President’s family – especially his children – are ‘off-limits’ for public criticism” also have been leading the charge to ridicule, boycott, slander and demean President Trump’s family – but, since they don’t respect him as president, we guess they don’t have to respect his wife, his family or his children either. They aren’t practicing what they preach. People who shout down voices they disagree with might be part of the “resistance,” but they sure aren’t holding true to American ideals of freedom.
All these forms of “resistance” may be upsetting to some of us, but to borrow a phrase from Vice President Pence, “This is what freedom sounds like.” But we hope that the “resistance” will acknowledge that folks also have the freedom to accept the election results. Critics of the President, or of America, can “take a knee” during the national anthem if they choose – but the rest of us have the freedom to stand up, take off our hats, place our hands over our hearts, and sing it proudly.
We hope that next year, ALL of us want to celebrate Presidents’ Day.