"Hey everybody, gather 'round; I'm here to give you everything you want, I'm the Government Man."
(Sung to the tune of Sammy Davis Jr.'s "The Candy Man":)
"Who can take your money, with a twinkle in their eye; take it all away and give it to some other guy? The government can, the government can.
"Who can give us bailouts, make us all behave; make the Founding Fathers roll over in their grave, the government can ...
"They mix it up with lies and make it all taste good."
Tim Hawkins on YouTube parody sent to me Monday.
So, as President Washington rolls over in his grave, we celebrate Presidents Day, week, and month. Washington's birthday is on Feb. 22; Lincoln's on Feb. 12. No matter, this past Monday, Feb. 20, we took a day off from our education or productive work to go shopping for cars, etc., presumably in their honor.
Now that we have a black president, can we toss him into the Presidents Day mix and forget about Black History Month? Isn't it all the same American history?
For Christmas, my grand-twins gave me an excellent book they were assigned for their Advanced Reading class. "Chains," by Laurie Halse Anderson, is the story of a little girl living in New York City in 1776, witnessing the American Revolution from the vantage point of a child slave.
At first I didn't like the concept, thinking: Can't we teach the children about George Washington and the cherry tree, Paul Revere's ride, and Patrick Henry's "Give me liberty or give me death" speech, before we tell them about the slaves held by freedom-loving patriots?
But bottom line, the book spoke truth, and there's nothing wrong with the truth at any point in the educational experience. Just to ensure balance, I sent them the 1943 children's novel "Johnny Tremain," with a 4-foot sock monkey ($20 at Walgreens!) and a note asking them to read it to him. There will be a quiz.
In the past when I've wondered, "When did it all start to go wrong for America?", I'd think it might have been when we moved the celebration of Washington's birthday from its actual date and lumped all presidents — the Father of Our Country, the Great Society's Lyndon Johnson, William Henry Harrison, etc. — together to make for a long weekend. But I've since learned that in the beginning, the designation was often simply meant to include President Lincoln, not every president.
The federal government still, officially, calls it Washington's Birthday, as does Massachusetts, which honors all our local presidents — John Adams, John Quincy Adams, Calvin Coolidge and John F. Kennedy — with a proclamation on May 29.
Actually, George Washington was born in Virginia on Feb. 11, 1731, according to the Julian calendar in use at the time. In 1752, however, Britain adopted the Gregorian calendar, which placed his birth as Feb. 22, 1732.
The real problem is the "Uniform Holiday Act" that was implemented in 1971, which led to annual fun weekends in place of actually sitting in school learning about the Father of Our Country, Columbus reaching the Americas (notice I didn't say "discovering America"), the battles of Lexington and Concord, and eventually Martin Luther King. At least we've kept July Fourth for Independence Day; Nov. 11 for Veterans Day (whose date made more sense when it was called Armistice Day, marking the official end of World War I at 11 a.m. on the eleventh day of the eleventh month in 1918; and Thanksgiving Thursday, which isn't associated with any particular date.
Some modern patriots are annoyed when Independence Day is referred to as "the Fourth of July," but they had better stop complaining lest it be moved to Monday somewhere around that date.
Yes, those Founding Fathers, including George Washington, probably are rolling over in their graves a lot, and I still think this has something to do with the realization that Americans are more interested in three-day holiday weekends and shopping for cars than commemorating American history.
I couldn't find an American History Month. Did you know that March is Women's History Month, May is Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, September is Hispanic Heritage Month, and November, oddly, is Native American Heritage Month? The Irish, men and women, get one day in March. But we Croation-German-Irish Americans don't get any holiday.
I want a month for Taxpayer Appreciation. April would be good.
But mostly, I imagine the Founders roll because so many of the principles they set forth are regularly being violated by the Government Man. They wouldn't smile at the latest Census figures showing 48.6 percent of us are getting special benefits from the Government Man.
Boston Tea Party leader Christen Varley sent me this as a Washington's Birthday greeting:
"However (political parties) may now and then answer popular ends, they are likely in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government, destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion." That's from George Washington's Sept. 17, 1796, Farewell Address.
My response: Say goodbye, George.
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Barbara Anderson, a Marblehead resident and executive director of Citizens for Limited Taxation, is a regular contributor to the opinion pages.