Anyone who knows me well might have guessed that this post would happen. As I've said before, a writer must create and be a personality that can attract followers with or without any actual writing. Hank Moody from Californication certainly fits the bill and I hope to as well. Part of my personality, then, is that I do not celebrate a number of holidays: my birthday (though I do acknowledge what I call my nameday), Memorial Day, Veterans' Day, Independence Day, Presidents' Day, or any other similar so-called holiday that I may be forgetting.
I don't celebrate my birthday, and try to not even remember it, because John Keats is a jerk. Keats, one of the greatest poets in all of English literature, perhaps one of the greatest poets in all of literature, was famous and dead by the age of 25. Obviously not everyone is going to be like Keats but he sets the bar rather high and I, personally, cannot happily settle for anything below that bar.
The other so-called holidays are more relevant, clearly. Surely some will wonder why I'm writing about this--yet another time, there are some who followed my blog about my bike trip fighting human trafficking that hoped my days of writing about this were over--and what in the world it has to do with my quest to be a writer; how it relates at all to a person's general quest for success. Well, again, you have to carve out your own personality, especially in the midst of a culture of conformity. It would be silly of me to say that American culture is one of conformity when we value individualism so highly. Instead, then, I argue that American culture is one of disguised conformity, where we outwardly expect individual and unique expression but secretly demand allegiance to a collective spirit. Some will succeed by furthering and strengthening the collective spirit, like most ultra-conservative Republicans do, but if you want to truly succeed as a person you must erase the collective spirit from your memory banks and then re-create yourself as your own person.
Yes, part of my refusal to celebrate the American holidays is due to my anarchist and pacifist spirit. Since I don't believe in government and don't believe in violence of any kind, it's hard to celebrate holidays that are marred by violence and overtly fantasize our government.
To some extent we are better off because of our soldiers and our independent government and all that they do for us, but in general civilization has not much improved at all because our hearts and minds are still focused on all the wrong things, individually and collectively. I refer you to my Memorial Day post at 27 Million Revolutions for more. With the lack of any real improvement we've instead been enslaved by the constant social policing, as Foucault would say, that we operate on one another. When soldiers and war are involved the expectations only increase and the enslavement worsens. Like millions of others I can do no other but respect the sacrifice and commitment soldiers and their families embody and exemplify every day. One of my own family recently returned from Afghanistan and I cannot possibly say that he is somehow evil or part of a problem. A special someone in my life has a sister over there as an AF nurse and I must say that I respect her greatly, as I do my cousin. The idea, the principles, the expectations and demands and social policing are the problem. I do not hate the United States or our founding fathers--in fact, our founding fathers are among my life heroes, particularly in their individualistic approach to faith--yet I do purposely carve out my own personality and character and, to do that, I cannot think anything of these holidays.
There is another aspect to my not celebrating these holidays, including my birthday. Too many holidays nowadays, and perhaps throughout all of recorded history, are used not to actually celebrate anything but to party in selfishly silly fashion. Besides, many people who celebrate our American holidays most passionately don't even know much about our history, which I think is hilarious. I am all for spending time with family and friends and having fun--our culture also puts way too much emphasis on working hard. But when our fun means getting drunk, often with no apparent care or relevance to the holiday, then what purpose does the holiday serve other than as an excuse to be childish? I am a man of class and flair, I participate to the full in the most dangerous sport in the world, and Barrie is one of my favorite authors for a reason, but I simply cannot include self-absorbed childishness as part of my elegant personality. Besides, it wouldn't make me very unique then, would it?
Thus, my independence day comes in bouncing off the vast majority of our conformed society and, literally, being independent.