The vast majority of the federal workforce has today off for Columbus Day, but Ed O’Keefe at the Post notes that in many other places, the tradition is falling out of favor. Some cities have canceled parades, or given workers a floating holiday in lieu of Columbus day.
It’s not only the perennial controversy over Native Americans’ post-1492 treatment sinking the holiday — cash-strapped California dropped it entirely last year as part of a budget-cutting effort.
O’Keefe’s got a poll that shows respondents are, by a nearly two-to-one margin, against the second Monday in October being a federal holiday. (But I wonder how much of that is actually due to distaste over Christopher Columbus and how much is due to the general feeling that feds have too cushy of a ride.) Some of the WaPo commenters are bantering about replacing the holiday with a day honoring Ben Franklin, Susan B. Anthony, Cesar Chavez, or (heh) Glenn Beck. But if feds need a holiday and Columbus is too toxic, why not give them the day off to honor Gen. Casimir Pulaski?
Who’s that, you ask? Why, the father of American cavalry, of course. Pulaski was a military commander in Poland who was framed for treason in 1771 and exiled to France, where Franklin recruited him to help fight the Revolutionary War. He was a skilled cavalry commander, and led a bold charge at the Battle of Brandywine in 1777 that saved George Washington’s life. Washington promoted him to brigadier general, and Pulaski led American and French cavalry at the siege of Savannah in 1779, where he was mortally wounded and died 231 years ago today.
Pulaski is one of only seven people — alongside Winston Churchill, Mother Teresa and the Marquis de Lafayette — to be made an honorary citizen of the United States. In a letter to Washington, he said, “I came here, where freedom is being defended, to serve it, and to live or die for it.” Quite a guy. Best of all, switching from Columbus Day to General Pulaski Memorial Day — held every Oct. 11 — wouldn’t even upset the holiday schedule.
And hey, it’s already got a song. Here’s indie-folk star Sufjan Stevens singing Casimir Pulaski Day (yes, the song refers to the March holiday celebrated in Illinois and technically has little to do with the general, but it’s close enough):