CSotD: Happy No Mail and the Bank’s Closed Day

Prickly City (AMS) was my first reminder that the post office and banks will be closed today.

Winslow and Carmen are arguing over what to call the thing, but let’s start by pointing out that most workers — except for letter carriers, teachers and bank tellers — won’t be getting the day off. Not only do Americans have fewer holidays than a lot of other countries, but we don’t observe the ones we’ve got.

I think I could get more energized over what to call it if the bosses took it seriously.

Still, if it were up to me, I’d kick it down the calendar three weeks and call it “Voting Day.”

And then I’d exert pressure on businesses to observe it.

It would only be Presidential Voting Day one year in four, but you could still schedule school board elections and similar balloting for the holiday.

Here in New England, we used to have Town Meeting Day, and everything would shut down so people could go speak their minds and vote on the town budget, line by line. I don’t think there was a rule requiring everyone to shut down, but they did.

And then they didn’t, and Town Meeting had to be held at night, or on weekends, and fewer people showed up.

Maybe the re-scheduled holiday could be called “Give a Damn Day.”


Michael Ramirez (Creators) comes out, I guess, in favor of Columbus Day, or, at least, against Indigenous Peoples Day.

He’s right in that there’s a lot of bad history floating around on this topic, but it’s a double-edged sword.

The Columbus based on Washington Irving’s biography is about as historic as the coin-tossing, tree-chopping George Washington Parson Weems immortalized. Irving got a couple of things right: There was an Italian named Columbus and he sailed to the New World under a Spanish flag. In 1492, over the ocean blue.

The rest is mostly fiction.

And there’s a significant “so what?” factor involved. Europeans were scouring the oceans, and, if it hadn’t been Columbus, it would have been someone else.

There was an inevitability to their eventually wandering in this direction as they searched for new trade routes.

Since I’m a mix of Irish, Danish and Italian, I can bestride the whole issue of who was here first, though Brendan the Navigator smells suspiciously of Sinbad the Sailor and, while Leif Ericson’s voyages did lead to some short-term settlement, it hardly changed the map either for Viking or skraeling.

Obviously, who was here first was those Indigenous Peoples, whether it was Brendan or Leif or Christopher who showed up next.

As for “Sacrificing History,” the real problem is not that Aztecs practiced human sacrifice as part of their religion. It’s that Christopher Columbus practiced slavery, torture and murder as part of his ambition, and that he set up his system in front of witnesses like Bartolome de las Casas and Antonio de Montesinos, clergymen who denounced the cruelty and so, of course, were withdrawn from the New World.

The Spanish heritage in what is now our Southwest is troubling, and the enslavement of native people on the missions’ rancheros proves that not all clergymen were appalled.

The Pueblo Revolt, meanwhile, is stark evidence that native people did not passively submit.

On the other hand, bad history is everywhere, and those who conflate the actual, intentional murders of native people with the deaths caused by exposure to unfamiliar viruses are also wrong-headed.

The death toll from disease was horrific, but, given the state of medical knowledge, it was unavoidable. Native people had no domestic animals except dogs, while Europeans not only had cows, horses, pigs, chickens and others, but shared their living spaces with them, leading to the development of zoonotic diseases with no parallel in this hemisphere.

It was tragic, but it was not intentional murder. No, not even that old chestnut.

However, there was plenty of intentional cruelty, murder and even genocide. You don’t have to build it up to make the point.


Nor should we treat native people as cartoon characters.

Jeff Boyer of the Albany Times-Union notes that New York’s Commissioner of Education has come down on a district that had agreed to drop its “Indians” mascot, then elected a new board that declared they would not.

Rosa threatened them with loss of state funding, which makes up 54% of their budget, if they did not comply with the directive. It’s in the courts, but the outlook isn’t good for the backsliders.


About 25 years ago, I worked with Sid Couchey to collect into a booklet a series of panels he’d done for the local paper in the 60s for the 150th Anniversary of the War of 1812’s Battle of Plattsburgh.

Very few changes needed to be made, mostly sensitivity matters, like changing “savage warfare” to “bloody warfare.”

The booklet went into the paper, but we also had bundles made up for local schools.

Except for one.

I went up to Salmon River Central — whose student body is 63% Mohawk — and showed the preliminaries to the school superintendent, noting that, while Sid had made fun of the Indians, he had also mocked the French, the English and the settlers and it was even-handed.

However, the superintendent observed that humor is different when you are at the bottom of the ladder, and that jokes about bagpipes are easily shrugged off by Scots, but that jokes about Indians hurt.

We left it that teachers could request bundles, but we wouldn’t automatically deliver them.

Nobody requested any.

It is an ethnic matter. Columbus Day was promoted to honor both Catholics and Italians at a time they were at the bottom of the ladder. Ditto with St. Patrick’s Day for the Irish.

Note also that Notre Dame, home of the Fighting Irish, is so predominantly Irish-American that I think most of my classmates were either named Michael, Terence or Patrick.

And that Minnesota was settled by Scandinavians, if not precisely by Vikings.


It’s fun to joke about your own people, as George McManus proved.

And as the native crew of “Smoke Signals” confirmed, in a movie with both laughter and tears, perfect to stream on whateverthehell today is:


11 thoughts on “CSotD: Happy No Mail and the Bank’s Closed Day

  1. Add turkey to dog as domesticated, and llama and alpaca in South America. Not that it makes a difference to your main point.

  2. Ah, my North American prejudice is showing — I didn’t know about the turkeys but of course knew about the camelids.

    A lot of amazing stuff happened in Mesoamerica, particularly in the hybridization of corn, which went from a grass to the form we recognize, not naturally but in the hands of people who knew what they were doing.

    I was telling a friend this morning about using a George Catlin painting of Lakota hunting buffalo without horses. (https://s.si.edu/3FA0hTf)

    I noticed what looked like a dogsled in the background, which brought me up short, because I thought dogsleds began north of 60, so I called the tribal historian at Pine Ridge. He said it was called a hauling piece, and I asked if there were a Lakota name. He laughed and said, yes, but it was really long and I didn’t want it.

    But he explained that the lines for the hauling piece were attached at the back of the sled-like object, not the front, because, if it were loaded up, lines at the front would simply pull out.

    This level of technological expertise is in deep contrast to the common image of “savages” who needed European help to work out problems.

    And, BTW, they didn’t have wheels because they didn’t have hard-packed roads. Duh.

  3. The Brendan Voyage (Tim Severin) an attempt to prove that St. Brendan’s account could be accurate, makes a fascinating read.

  4. In what alternate world do teachers get today off ? The union had to fight to get us MLK Day off…the kids had no school but we had “in-service meetings.”
    Did anyone think teachers had St.Patrick;s Day off ?

  5. I seriously doubt that Brendan began to serve mass on an island but discovered it was a giant fish. That’s Sinbad territory! Not to say Irish sailors couldn’t have made it over here, but Brendan is so wrapped up in folklore that it’s hard to define him as an individual.

  6. Yes, in my 30 years in the field of education, we never had off on MLK or Veterans’ Day, Valentine’s Day or St. Pat’s Day or whatever-12-October-is; just the typical holidays of Labor Day (if school had begun), Thanksgiving, Christmas/New Year, Easter, Memorial Day and, for year-round staff, Independence Day.

  7. About the Aztec sacrifice cartoon. If you go back far enough in any people’s history most had appalling things that were done. Most peoples have grown and moved beyond barbaric practices such as human sacrifice, torture or slavery. None should be defined by their peoples past or we would all have to be considered despicable.
    This cartoon is an attempt to show this.

  8. Kelley, there’s some truth to that: As I have noted in the past, a Tuscarora historian noted that, while there was much harshness in the wars of the 17th century here, they happened at the same time as the horrors of the 30 Years War in Europe.

    However, you also have to bear in mind that Columbus was condemned for his cruelty at the time, not 500 years later. His actions were appalling even within the context of a brutal era.

    You cannot use Aztec religious practices as an antidote to Columbus’s astonishing brutality.

  9. I was not in any way excusing any type of brutality only pointing out that it happened(including Columbus), but that no peoples should bear the stigma from what was done many generations past. We grow and become better as a whole with each generation. Sacrificing history was meant to point out that it was not just one people who were barbaric. Most have barbarity in their past and no one peoples should be singled out. I don’t believe you understood this cartoon. For example you assumed the artist was anti-indigenous people, that was not the meaning or the point.
    Thank you for your response.

Comments are closed.