The invention of the weekend

Monica Hesse on the invention of the weekend:

Before weekends could be long, they first had to be weekends.

For most of the 19th century and part of the 20th, there were none — there were simply weeks that ended. The working class had Sundays off only. Because of this, many of them would spend the Lord’s day carousing, then call in sick on Mondays. This practice was observed with enough regularity that it was called “Keeping Saint Mondays.” Religious groups hated it, and so did bosses, writes University of Pennsylvania professor Witold Rybczynski in his leisure-time history, “Waiting for the Weekend.” Various special interest groups put their heads together to come up with a solution: Saturdays. Give the people Saturday afternoon off so they have less reason to be plastered Monday morning.

The term “weekend” first shows up in the Oxford English Dictionary in 1879; it wasn’t until the Great Depression that the Saturday-Sunday dynamic duo really became codified in the United States. Shorter hours were seen as a “remedy” for unemployment, Rybczynski writes. “Each person would work less, but more people would have jobs.”

via Giving Thanks — for Long Weekends – The Washington Post.

I think this is a little oversimplified.  Certainly the Biblical sabbath was the source of the practice of a day of rest, a dramatic example of the influence of Christianity on the civilization as a whole.  This account does explain adding Saturday, which, however, was the Jewish day of rest, not to mention Christian Adventist groups.  I wonder if the climate of immigration in the 19th century–all those Jewish immigrants who would not work on Saturday–contributed to the additional day off.

Nevermind that the commandment says “six days shall you labor,” as well as underscoring the one day thou shalt not.  I suppose Saturdays became the day people labored for themselves–fixing things around the house, tinkering with this and that, running errands, “getting things done”–as opposed for laboring for someone else for pay.  That doubtless helped carve out space for the individual and the home.

Thanksgiving’s poll numbers are up

Another study by social scientists that proves  the perfectly obvious:  people like Thanksgiving:

Consensus at last: almost all Americans – from coast to coast and across stiffening party lines – have favorable views of Thanksgiving dinner, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

Overall, 93 percent say they have positive views of the traditional meal, including 77 percent who say so “strongly.”

Not everyone, however, is equally enthusiastic about Thursday’s main event. Fully 89 percent of Republicans have strongly favorable views of Thanksgiving dinner, a number that slides to 77 percent of Democrats and 68 percent of independents.

Across regions, those in the Midwest and South are significantly more positive about the upcoming festivities than are those who live in the Northeast or the West.

According to the accompanying chart, 98% of Republicans have a “strongly favorable” or “favorable” impression of Thanksgiving,  92% of Democrats do, and 91% of Independents; by ethnicity, 95% of Whites, 90% of Hispanics; 86% of African-Americans; by region, 92% of those who live in the Northeast like Thanksgiving, with the Midwest 94%, the South 93%, and the West 91%.  By sex, 93% of both women and men like it, though more women are “strongly favorable” at 78%, compared to men at 74%.

via Rally around Thanksgiving – Behind the Numbers – The Washington Post.

How do you account for the gaps and the differences?  I can see someone who does not have a happy family to go to not liking to have his nose rubbed in it by the holiday.  And I can see someone who does not have very much saddened by the abundance that everyone else is taking for granted.  And I can see someone who is saddled with all of the work in preparing the Thanksgiving feast not thinking it is too much fun.  We should remember people like that and do what we can for them.

But is there anything more to these statistics than that?  Why would one out of ten people in the West not even like Thanksgiving? And what is it with one out of ten Independents scrooging* out on the holiday?

[I may have just invented a new word:  "to scrooge" v.  To actively dislike a holiday.]

Sing “Mary Had a Little Lamb” today

Monica Hesse on why we celebrate Thanksgiving on a Thursday, giving us a really, really long weekend:

The first federally endorsed Thanksgiving holiday was the one proclaimed by George Washington in 1789. More than 70 years later, Abraham Lincoln issued his own proclamation. But between those events were decades of relentless lobbying and letter-writing campaigns by Sarah Josepha Hale, a New Hampshirite who made it her life’s mission to formalize the then-ad hoc holiday. (She also wrote “Mary Had a Little Lamb.”)

In Hale’s mid-19th-century heyday, “the only American holidays were Independence Day and Washington’s birthday,” says Penny Colman, who wrote “Thanksgiving: The True Story.” “And those were both military holidays — full of bombs and explosions.” Hale wanted a holiday that would honor domestic tranquility and not, you know, blowing stuff up. Additionally, she wanted it on a Thursday.

Partly, that was to honor George Washington, whose own proclamation had been Thursday-scheduled. The other part? To honor housewives. “Thursday is the most convenient day of the week for a domestic holiday,” Hale wrote in one of her dozens of Thanksgiving editorials. What with all of the washing on Mondays and ironing on Tuesdays, Thursdays seemed like the best opportunity for a homemaker to prepare a meal and still get to hang out with her visiting family.

Hale’s letters are credited with ultimately bending Lincoln’s ear and prompting him to standardize the Thursday feast. Had she opted for Wednesday or Sunday, the country might not know the joys of awkwardly long family gatherings or waiting in line at 5 a.m. on Black Friday for Best Buy’s deeply discounted television sets.

via Giving Thanks — for Long Weekends – The Washington Post.

The latest GOP debate

You report.  I didn’t watch it.  It does seem like something comes out of each debate, often including another front runner.  So what happened?

The Penny Plan for deficit reduction

Florida Republican congressman Connie Mack has put forward an ingenious approach to deficit reduction:  cut one penny (1%) from every dollar spent for six years.  This modest across the board reduction would be in place of the percentage increases every year that have become the norm (so that even talk of reductions are actually reductions in the rate of growth).   Even some liberals are coming out in favor of this option.   One of them, ex-Clinton official Lanny Davis, explains how it would work:

Mr. Mack’s bill, H.R. 1848, would cut one-penny-out-of-every dollar actually spent by the federal government from year-to-year for the next six years, from FY 2012-FY 2017. Beginning in FY 2018, there would be a budget cap of 18% of GDP (the average federal revenue as a percentage of GDP over the past 30 years). And by FY 2019 America would finally have a balanced budget – that is, assuming revenues naturally increase from the current 14.8% of GDP to 18% of GDP by 2019, after which the budget would be in surplus.

There is an automatic spending cut “trigger” under Mr. Mack’s plan – one he came up with well before the trigger used in the recently passed national debt ceiling bill. If congress failed to enact a budget implementing the one-percent-actual-spending cut required under Mr. Mack’s measure, then there would be automatic, across-the-board actual cuts in all federal programs to meet the one percent reduction, and that means all: in defense, Social Security, Medicare, Food Stamps, defense and national security spending, everything.

Mr. Mack’s plan may seem draconian to some. It would cut the accumulated budget deficits by an estimated $7.5 trillion over ten years – more than three times the amount achieved by the debt ceiling deal congress approved last Tuesday. . . .

Democrats need to find a spending cut formula that they can live with. The Mack Penny Plan seems a good place to start — it is simple, it makes common sense, and with some adjustments protecting the poor and the unemployed, it could be seen as fair even to many of the most liberal Democrats.

via Why Rep. Connie Mack’s Penny Plan Is Worth A Second Look | Fox News.

What do you think of this idea?

Legalizing Group Marriage

Elizabeth Marquardt notes that three different strands are coming together to legalize group marriage:  the far left, the far right, and the new reproductive technology:

From the fringy left: Polyamory

Polyamory describes relationships of three or more people — it literally means “many loves.” Polyamorists say they practice “ethical non-monogamy,” or relationships that emphasize open communication, respect, and fair treatment of one another.

The debate about legal recognition of polyamorous relationships is already well underway. A major report issued in 2001 by the Law Commission of Canada asked whether marriages should be “limited to two people.” Its conclusion: probably not. A British law professor wrote in an Oxford-published textbook that the idea that marriage meaning two people is a “traditional” and perhaps outdated way of thinking. Elizabeth Emens of the University of Chicago Law School published a substantial legal defense of polyamory in a legal journal. She suggested that “we view this historical moment, when same-sex couples begin to enter the institution of marriage, as a unique opportunity to question the mandate of compulsory monogamy.”

Mainstream cultural leaders have also hinted at or actively campaigned for polyamory. Roger Rubin, former vice-president of the National Council on Family Relations–one of the main organizations for family therapists and scholars in the United States–believes the debate about same-sex marriage has “set the stage for broader discussion over which relationships should be legally recognized.” The Alternatives to Marriage Project, whose leaders are featured by national news organizations in stories on cohabitation and same-sex marriage, includes polyamory among its important “hot topics” for advocacy. The Unitarian Universalists for Polyamorous Awareness hope to make their faith tradition the first to recognize and bless polyamorous relationships. Meanwhile, a July 2009 Newsweek story estimates that there are more than half a million “open polyamorous families” living in America. Nearly every major city in the U.S. has a polyamory social group of some kind. . . .

From the radical right: Polygamy

Coming from a very different direction, another challenge to the two-person understanding of marriage is resurging–polygamy, a marriage form with deep roots in human history and still in evidence in many parts of the world.

The debut in spring 2006 of HBO’s television series, Big Love, which featured a fictional and in some ways likeable polygamous family in Utah, propelled polygamy to the front pages of American newspapers and put the idea of legalized polygamy “in play” in some surprising quarters. That March, a Newsweek article with the title “Polygamists Unite!” quoted an activist saying, “Polygamy is the next civil rights battle.” “If Heather can have two mommies,” he argued, “she should also be able to have two mommies and a daddy.” That month the New York Times devoted much attention to the subject of polygamy. One economist snickered that polygamy is illegal mainly because it threatens male lawmakers who fear they would not get wives in such a system. In an opinion piece, then-columnist John Tierney argued that “polygamy isn’t necessarily worse than the current American alternative: serial monogamy.” He concluded, “If the specter of legalized polygamy is the best argument against gay marriage, let the wedding bells ring.” . . .

Back home, a pending court case is offering a defense of polygamy, with lead counsel and noted legal scholar Jonathan Turley of George Washington University arguing this summer in the New York Times that the Lawrence vs. Texas Supreme Court decision in 2003 should protect the private choices of polygamists.

From the labs: Three-person reproduction

Another route to legalized group marriage could evolve via new court decisions and expert proposals that recognize group-parenting arrangements. Judges in the U.S. and Canada have already given legal parental status to a sperm donor father whose offspring had two legal mothers — resulting in the first instances ever in which a child has three legal parents. In New Zealand and Australia, commissions have recommended allowing egg and sperm donors to “opt in” as children’s third legal parents. Meanwhile, scientists in the U.K. have received state permission to create embryos that have the DNA of three persons. It will not be long before group marriage proponents ask: How can children with three legal parents be denied the same marriage rights and protections for their families that children with only two parents have?

via Elizabeth Marquardt: Get Ready for Group Marriage.

Do you see any legal obstacles to this, now that the door has been opened to define marriage in any way we want?  (What’s best for children and women won’t carry any weight, if recent rulings are a guide.  It has to be about “rights.”)

HT: Joe Carter