Another beer please - Shawn Loughlin editorial
Watching Dazed and Confused, the coming-of-age film set in 1976, the other night, one of the teachers, on the last day of school, issued this warning as the calendar neared July 4 of the United States of America’s bicentennial year: “Okay guys, one more thing, this summer, when you’re being inundated with all this American bicentennial, Fourth of July brouhaha, don’t forget what you’re celebrating, and that’s the fact that a bunch of slave-owning, aristocratic, white males didn’t want to pay their taxes.”
Forgetting, for a moment, that, as the high school students storm out of their last class of the year, the character of Randall “Pink” Floyd shouts an emphatic, “Yeah!”, in response to the history lesson, I got thinking. How many of our holidays have roots that perhaps aren’t as cheery as we’d care to admit?
Of course, there’s Thanksgiving. The debate around the celebration of Thanksgiving has been ongoing for many generations now. What exactly are we celebrating (especially our neighbours to the south) with all that turkey, stuffing and pumpkin pie?
Our Dazed and Confused teacher gave us her take on Independence Day in the U.S., of course, and then there’s Columbus Day, which has steadily fallen out of favour in recent years but is still celebrated by many, despite what Columbus’s “discovery” of America entailed for many Native American populations. For others, Commonwealth Day has reached the end of the road, while others with great admiration for the Royals still celebrate it.
I remember thinking this at the time Cooper was born. He’ll have a birthday right near Family Day. It’s always nice to have a birthday near a long weekend. My birthday is always on the Victoria Day long weekend and Tallulah’s is just a few days before Canada Day. Victoria Day and Canada Day are easy to explain. Family Day might be a little tougher to explain to Cooper when he grows up. “Well, Son, once upon a time, there was this evil man named Dalton McGuinty who was seeking re-election in Ontario in 2007, so he promised to create a new holiday out of thin air if he was elected and that’s why you don’t have to work today.”
(A quick side note that, on the first Family Day, I needed a passport and my father rightly predicted that the notoriously-overrun passport offices would be empty on Family Day with people thinking they’d be closed, but they were open because federal employees had to work and provincial ones didn’t. The person who helped us assured us that would change the following year if the union had anything to say about it. You want to see some grumpy federal employees? Go to a passport office on Family Day. The good news was that we went straight to the desk and our passports were arranged in no time at all.)
The controversy runs even deeper, as I discovered when I began doing research on Family Day for this column. Family Day is observed in Ontario, New Brunswick, British Columbia, Saskatchewan and Alberta. Alberta was the first to create such a holiday back in 1990. The story goes that Alberta Premier Don Getty created the holiday in the wake of a scandal involving his son, Dale, who was arrested in 1988 for trying to sell cocaine to an undercover RCMP officer. In “The True Meaning of Family Day is Cocaine” on Vice, the writer suggests that Don created a holiday so families could spend more time together, a reaction to Don’s own guilt about neglecting his family. (He insists the two are unrelated.)
We celebrate, we drink beer, we barbecue and we set off fireworks. We don’t ask why.