We now have a new national holiday. “Juneteenth,” a celebration of the emancipation of slaves in America that has been celebrated informally or at the state/local level since 1866 , was formalized by the government a few days ago, and we just celebrated the first national “Juneteenth National Independence Day.”

While the Senate voted unanimously to ratify the bill enacting the holiday, a handful of Congressmen voted opposition in the House. Some objected to the name, noting that America already has an Independence Day, that the holiday has traditional names like Jubilee Day and Emancipation Day (I think Emancipation Day would have been a better (and more accurate) name). That said, the reality is that, just as far more of us say “Fourth of July” than “Independence Day” (and we New Yorkers say “Sixth Avenue” instead of “Avenue of the Americas,” “Triboro” instead of “Robert F. Kennedy Bridge”, “Tappan Zee” instead of “Gov. Mario M. Cuomo Bridge,” “Battery Tunnel” instead of “Hugh M. Carey Tunnel”), it’s going to be called “Juneteenth” and that’s that. That also said, politicians putting their quibbles on the record in a quixotic fashion is akin to Supreme Court justices writing dissenting opinions – they put arguable points into the public record, and if a pol voices narrow objection while supporting the broader point (as Thomas Massie and others did) and knows the bill is going to pass no matter how he votes, I’m not going to pick that nit.

The nit I will pick is with the gripers in the political sandbox and social media, including an objection to the chosen date and other variants of “Yes, but…”

This behavior is emblematic of just about every present-day political matter. We have become so tribal and so partisan that too many of us find it impossible to agree with the “other team” on anything, lest we be perceived as consorting with the enemy, giving an inch, or conceding a victory. No matter that a policy or an action is a good one that we’d support were it generated by “our team.”

It’s the modern ping-pong match that has infected our culture. Stoked by those who benefit from strife, conflict, and divisiveness, we now naturally react with “no” when our political “enemies” say “yes.” It has run all the way up the ladder, all the way to the White House, where current policy seems more driven by “whatever Trump did, we must undo,” no matter the individual merits. It pre-dates Trump, being in full force during the Obama years, after gestating in the cauldron of hatred for George W. Bush.

Is it a coincidence that this binary, Manichean good/evil emerged concurrently with the ascendance of social media? AOL chat rooms and other platforms emerged in the late 1990s. Prior to that, our politics were sordid and sniping, but rather constantly so across centuries. Nasty things would be said, but compromises would happen, and many “good ideas” emerged in bipartisan manner. Reagan butted heads with O’Neill, Clinton clashed with Gingrich. Eisenhower, Nixon, Ford, and GHWBush faced Democratic Congresses across their terms, and Truman had to make deals with the Republicans, yet none of those eras evinced the binary recalcitrance we see today. Of course, bad ideas often emerged in similar fashion, and dissenters would always exist, but there’s a pretty wide consensus that divisions today feel starker than they have in any of our memories.

Am I breaking any new ground with this observation?


The Juneteenth dissensions in the civilian population do present a teaching moment, though. We should all be able to look past the agitators, race-baiters, and those who mask their socialist aspirations with race rhetoric, and agree that this is a holiday worth celebrating. Slavery was a scourge, one we fought a horrible war over, and we should not debase ourselves by ‘qualifying’ our support for a celebration of its end. Nor should we concern ourselves with those who’d use it for their low partisan ends – you do the right thing because it’s the right thing.

And, seriously, the actual historical dates, nomenclature, “freebies” for federal employees, and other stuff are of secondary importance. While we celebrate Independence on July 4th, the Declaration was declared on July 2 and signed on August 2, with July 4th being the day that the final language was approved. Heck, even Christmas is not Christ’s actual birthday. The particulars of history matter far less than the recognition and commemoration.

So, stop nitpicking at Juneteenth, and be happy for the celebration. After all, millions of people of the full range of races, ethnicities, and “identities” that existed in America at the time supported and fought for emancipation, ending the fundamental wrong of chattel slavery. It is a commemoration we should all embrace.

Peter Venetoklis

About Peter Venetoklis

I am twice-retired, a former rocket engineer and a former small business owner. At the very least, it makes for interesting party conversation. I'm also a life-long libertarian, I engage in an expanse of entertainments, and I squabble for sport.

Nowadays, I spend a good bit of my time arguing politics and editing this website.

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