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National holidays unite citizens

Monday, July 9, 2007 | 2:00 a.m. CDT; updated 4:13 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008
Stuart Loory, who holds the Lee Hills Chair in Free-Press Studies at the Missouri School of Journalism, is the moderator for the weekly radio program “Global Journalist.” It airs at 6:30 p.m. Thursdays on KBIA/91.3 FM or at www.globaljournalist.org.

Loory: The July 4th parades have passed by, the barbecue fires have gone out, the fireworks are gone, and the Declaration of Independence will not be looked at again for a while by most people. In the United States, Independence Day involves a great outpouring of patriotism, a recommitment to the honor of the nation, a recognition of the joy of family and friends and a holiday of relaxation from the rigors of everyday life. Americans think of Independence Day as a once-a-year happening. However, it is not only a U.S. holiday. Just about every day of the year somewhere on our planet is a day to celebrate a national holiday. National holidays are celebrated for many reasons. Sometimes they mark the achievement of independence, as does July 4th. Sometimes they celebrate the day of a religious figure, as does St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland. Sometimes they mark the birthday of a monarch and sometimes they mark the overthrow of a monarch. It is enlightening to take a look at national holidays around the world. With the U.S. at war in Iraq and Afghanistan, what are the country’s commitments to traditional values on this July 4th?

Marty Justis, director, Americanism Division, American Legion National Headquarters, Indianapolis, Indiana: The U.S. commitment is as strong as it has been over the last 230 years since it gained independence from Great Britain. Looking at what John Adams said about how the July 4 date should be commemorated — he called for parades, bonfires and illuminations — Americans are pretty much doing the same things today with parades, backyard barbecues and community events. The commitment of the American people to America, to its strength and its promises of freedom are as strong today as they ever have been.

Loory: What does the national holiday in Mexico commemorate and when does it occur?

Arturo Rosales, history professor, Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona: Typically nations celebrate independence on the day of its declaration. In Mexico, the declaration was made on Sept. 16, 1810. On that date Father Hidalgo, one of many conspirators in Mexico who wanted independence from Spain, called the parishioners together at about 3 a.m. and declared independence. Although the declaration came in 1810, insurgents fought for Mexico’s independence until 1821 when Spain agreed to independence. Unfortunately, at that point Father Hidalgo was dead and so were most of the other insurgents.

Loory: What should we know about Bastille Day in France?

Amaury Laporte, press officer, Cultural Services of the Embassy of France, New York, New York: The national days of France and the U.S. are linked because of our shared history. France’s revolution occurred soon after the American War of Independence. In many ways, the American war inspired the French to take matters into their own hands. The storming of the Bastille took place on July 14, 1789. The Bastille was a prison used to hold political prisoners, so it was very symbolic when the population of Paris took it over. It was also important that a lot of gun powder was stored in that prison. The people who took over the prison had guns but they didn’t have powder, and the powder was just what they needed to continue the revolution.

Loory: Estonia achieved its independence in 1991. How and why did that happen?

Juri Estam, communications consultant, Tallinn, Estonia: In 1991 Estonia had a return to independence. Estonia’s actual declaration of independence came in 1918 after it miraculously won a war of independence it had been waging against both German and Soviet militaries, a war in which it was aided at critical points by Great Britain. Then during World War II, Hitler and Stalin carved up Europe, and Estonia disappeared off the face of the map. Estonia had about 50 years of Soviet occupation before its return to independence in 1991.

Loory: What does Cameroon’s national day commemorate and how was it achieved?

Nkemayang Paul, publisher, The Star Headlines, Limbe, Cameroon: The National Day in Cameroon began on May 20, 1972. Prior to that, the French and British came together and overthrew the general government that existed in Cameroon and the country was partitioned into two. The French had one part and the English had one part. English Cameroon gained independence from Britain in 1961, which resulted in unification with French Cameroon. We celebrate National Day every May 20 because that is when President Ahmadou Ahidjo dismantled the federal system of government and created a unitary state in 1972.

Loory: The American Legion is an organization of veterans of U.S. foreign wars. Is the Legion still surviving and prospering?

Justis: The American Legion is still flourishing. It’s a community-based organization of veterans who continue to serve America by helping veterans of the wars now, assisting families of those on military duty and assisting children across the nation.

Rosales: Commenting on patriotism, in Mexico citizens celebrate Sept. 16 without question. There is no wavering whether one is from the left or the right. However, in the U.S. in my culture — I’m an academician — it is considered almost right-wing to put a flag up. That doesn’t mean that people aren’t patriotic, but the flag has become the symbol of that. It’s almost ironic and divisive.

Justis: The U.S. flag is a rallying point for people. That was greatly evidenced after 9/11 with the number of flags that flew from buildings and homes. The flag is a symbol of U.S. citizens’ resolve. The term patriotism simply means love of country.

Loory: What is the concept of patriotism in France?

Laporte: It’s very similar. The French don’t have quite as much flag waving but Bastille Day is an important time of year that brings the nation together. Every year the president makes an important speech underlining his goals for the rest of the year.

Loory: Doesn’t the concept of patriotism in Estonia have a great anti-Russian component to it?

Estam: It’s not so much anti-Russianness. For Estonians, the statue symbolized decades of oppression and a Russian public opinion that denied that Estonia was coerced into being part of the USSR. Estonian patriotism doesn’t have a hate component. The key, rather, is love of country.

Loory: From what we have heard today there is a basic unity around the world in how people see independence in their own countries.

Producers of Global Journalist are MU journalism graduate students John Amick, Devin Benton, Hyun-jin Seo and Catherine Wolf.


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