February 15, 1999
The Spirit of the Season
So this is Presidents' Day, somebody's irreverent idea for honoring Lincoln and Washington both at once, so that we all can put in an extra day's work in the dead of February, instead of having two consecutive holidays. It's also Valentine's Day, more or less. And I suppose starting next year they'll introduce a new celebration: Acquittal Day.
I know, let's combine them all into a single 3-day festival: Free Love for Presidents Day. All Presidents get to have sex with impunity during this time, with anyone they choose. Not just the President of the United States, Presidents of anything. The President of IBM gets to have sex with his Executive Assistant without getting sued for harassment, or divorce. The President of the Yacht Club can mess around with the local 7-11 cashier and no one will look down on him. The President of the PTA may seduce the High School principal, during school hours, with the intercom microphone turned on for all to hear, with nary a protest from students or parents.
Think of the commercial possibilities! The advertisements, the sales, the greeting cards, the theme vacations. Images of George Washington out in a woodshed with a slave girl, red hearts floating around their heads, and a scroll with the words NOT GUILTY stamped in red. Huge mattress promotions, with the slogan "Jump in Bed with the President this Weekend: it's practically free!" For the more kinkily inclined, picture novelty items like Monica Manacles and the boardgame "Visit to the Oral Office". Of course, normal workers will just get a few days off, and the chance to pretend that they're President of Something with their husbands or wives, but real company and association Presidents will get to be on the prowl.
The climactic moment of the holiday festivities each year would be the appearance by the President of the United States himslef (or herself). This eagerly anticipated and highly publicized presentation will amount to an annual re-enactment of the Clintonian ritual of denial, confession, and contrition. The questions on the minds of everyone in the media and the public will be: "What did he do this year? And with whom?" The President will step up to the microphone and first issue a righteous denial of all the rumors that will have been floating around for weeks leading up to the holiday: "I did not have sexual relations with the Secretary of Agriculture. I did not touch the White House stenographer in an inappropriate way. I did not peep through a hole in the wall of the women's sauna."
Then, after a pause, he'd look up with a sly grin, and say "But I did . . ." and as all America leaned forward in its chairs, he would reveal this year's illicit tryst. Las Vegas would even offer odds on whom he will choose to offer his favors, in what new, creative manner. Some years it will be a well-known public figure, in others it will be a stranger met along the campaign trail. Naturally, no one will turn down the overture, given the fame and fortune that will flow once the relationship is revealed -- and besides, even rape might be overlooked on this holiday.
Will kids in school still give trite Valentine cards and candies to their classmates, and color in pictures of Lincoln's top hat and Washington's wig? Who knows? Traditions change, just as history rewrites facts into legends, events into impressions, and rumors into common knowledge. The other day someone told me that he read a story about Abe Lincoln, before he was President, soliciting a prostitute, only to learn that he didn't have the $5 she was asking, so he got out of bed: Honest Abe all the way. Do we want to believe this kind of stupid rumor? These days, it fits with the times, as we exhume Thomas Jefferson's extra-marital liaisons, torch Kennedy's Camelot facade, and dump FDR into the trash heap of revisionism.
Should we even have national heroes, given that they're undoubtedly fallible? I just finished reading a science fiction book (Animorphs #25) to my daughter, in which a race of aliens had a habit of assassinating anyone who got promoted to the position of Ruler: they theorized that to be respected, leaders must be perfect, without error, whereas living beings are bound to make mistakes sooner or later. So if you kill your leader before he can make a mistake, then you can always revere his memory.
So maybe we should instead combine the traditional Presidents' Day with the memory of the St. Valentine's Day Massacre, and symbolically blow away our Presidents once a year. That way, we can pretend that they were all perfect. But I think I like Free Love for Presidents Day better. More fun. Oh, did I mention that I'm the President of my own company? And that my birthday's next week, too?
© 1999 David N. Townsend
The New Idiot Box (2/6/99) Sermon (1/31/99) Be thoughtful, or the kid gets it (1/18/99) I've been spending a lot of time watching computer lately. . . . Let's change the subject and talk about something non-controversial: Religion. Do I really need to hear about Dead Babies at six o'clock in the morning?
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