60 years after the adoption of the universal declaration of human rights, million of people are still deprived of basic human rights such as food, housing and decent working conditions.
On October 17, 1987, over 100,000 people gathered at the Trocadero in Paris, the site of the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, to protest and draw awareness to the problem of poverty around the globe.
The Declaration covers the basic rights of human beings, from the very broad…
All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood. (Article 1)
to the more specific….
Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services… (Article 24)
For the 5th anniversary of the 1997 demonstration, the United Nations declared October 17 “International Day to Eradicate Poverty.”
Today, while three-quarters of the world’s income is in the hands of the richest 20%, the poorest 40% of the world’s population accounts for just 5% of global income.
October 16th is Dictionary Day in honor of Webster’s birthday.
“On the first of May will be opened…a school, in which children may be instructed, not only in the common arts of reading, writing, and arithmetic, but in any branch of academic literature.
“The little regard that is paid to the literary improvement of females…and the general inattention to the grammatical purity and elegance of our native language, are faults in the education of youth that more gentlemen have taken pains to censure than to correct…”
–Noah Webster, April 16, 1782
Across the Atlantic, the English Parliament was just voting to end the war in America when Noah Webster, a 24 year-old Yale grad and veteran of the Connecticut Militia, posted his notice. He had earned a law degree the year before, but the post-war economy was in such bad shape that no one could afford a lawyer. So he tried his hand at teaching.
His mission to ensure the literacy of Americans became a life-long passion, as did his belief that this new country required its own distinct standards of spelling. He printed his first Speller for children in 1783. The Speller became an irreplaceable teaching tool due to Webster’s keen understanding of how children learned language at different stages.
During his lifetime, he earned far more from the Speller than from his dictionaries. The Speller sold millions of copies, and was acknowledged as a considerable force for maintaining the unity of Americans through language.
His Compendious Dictionary of the English Language was published in 1806. In it, Webster created a uniquely American way of spelling. With words such as center, harbor and program, instead of centre, harbour and programme.
In 1828, at age 70, he published his masterpiece: American Dictionary of the English Language. It contained over 70,000 entries, but sold only 2,500 copies. Webster was forced to mortgage his house to complete the second edition, which was released in 1840.
After his death in 1843, George and Charles Merriam purchased the rights to the dictionary and expanded it. The expanded “Unabridged” dictionary became the undisputed American authority on the English language for over a hundred years.
October 12, 1492. Perhaps no date in Pan-American history is as important or controversial.
By October 11, 1492, Columbus’s crew had had enough. The trip was too long. They had spotted weeds and birds—signs of land—for weeks, but not a hint of soil. And at the rate they were going, many were afraid there would hardly be enough headwind to take them back to Spain.
Each day, Columbus lied to the men about how far they’d traveled, so as not to worry them more about the distance between themselves and civilization.
Finally a sailor aboard the Pinta by the name of Rodrigo de Triana spotted a speck of land on the horizon. On October 12, Columbus disembarked at an island in the Bahamas whose exact location is lost to history, and met with the island’s residents. His first impressions were that the people were young (all under 30), unclothed, painted black or various colors, and were a people who could be easily converted to Christianity, as “it seemed to me they had no religion of their own.”
Also, he noted how when he showed them his sword, they had never seen such a thing. They gripped it by blade and were surprised to find themselves cut. It was a foretelling symbol of the future of the two peoples and their relations.
Throughout much of the Americas, Columbus is derided as the bringer of devastation to two continents and the precursor to the genocide of millions of people.
“When Columbus sent back hundreds of Taino indians to be sold as slaves, Queen Isabella ordered them free and returned to their land. Eventually, the European colonists and sovereigns became so discontent with Columbus’ mismanagement that he was arrested and shipped back to Spain in chains. He spent the rest of his life trying to regain his governorship over Hispaniola.
“The government of Columbus was brutal and violated human dignity and the moral senses of his contemporaries. He was the first to establish institutions of slavery and brutal conquest that would lead to the demise of the nations and people who already called the Western Hemisphere their home.
Historians have still not settled upon a psychological portrait of the man around whom so much of world history hinges upon. Unlike the kings of the day whom history recorded so fastidiously, Columbus was a relative nobody until 1492.
And that may be the root of his popularity in 18th and 19th century United States. Here was a man not descended from royalty, but who attained fame and (supposedly) fortune merely by heading west into the great unknown—a fitting hero in the days of “manifest destiny.”
Had Columbus turned back on October 11, the New World would never have been discovered, and the indigenous tribes of the Americas would have lived in peace for hundreds of years. Unlikely. The idea had flourished in Europe that if the world was round a quicker way to the Orient must exist, and had Columbus turned back, it was only a matter of time before others would go the distance. Whether the actions of another discoverer could have stemmed the brutality, slavery and genocide, we will never know.
Today in the United States, over 500 years later, Columbus is one of four individuals honored with a federal holiday. The others are Martin Luther King Jr., George Washington, and Jesus Christ.
Leif Erikson arrived in the New World 500 years before Columbus. But you don’t hear any schoolchildren singing, ‘In 1002, Leif Erikson sailed the ocean blue.’
Leif was the son of Norseman Erik the Red. According to the Norse sagas, Erik’s family had been exiled from Norway because of his father’s part in some killings there.
In Iceland, Erik continued the family tradition by getting exiled from Iceland, after committing two separate murders. (One of the victims was a neighbor who refused to give Erik back his shovel.)
Rather than head east, Erik followed the sun, landing in a frozen wasteland he deceptively named “Greenland” to attract settlers. The ploy worked.
Small Norse settlements on Greenland survived over 400 years, although at no time did the Norse population surpass 5000. The last written record of the Norse settlement’s existence was from a wedding dated 1408.
Leif’s father Erik was a pagan, his mother a Christian. Leif followed his mother’s religion, but carried on the male tradition—not of murder and banishment, but of heading west into the great unknown.
Leif had heard of a land to the west from a trader named Bjarni Herjolfsson, who had been blown off course on his way from Iceland to Greenland. Despite being the first European to site mainland North America, Herjolfsson was too anxious to get to Greenland to even make a pitstop. Had he been more patient, we might be celebrating Bjarni Herjolfsson Day today, but as it was, Bjarni passed word onto Leif, who gathered men to explore.
According to the sagas, Leif and his followers founded three North American settlements: Helluland (land of flat stones), Markland (forest land) and Vinland (meadow land.) But none of the settlements reached the size or longevity of Greenland, and knowledge of the existence of the land disappeared for centuries.
In the 1960s archaeologists excavated the remains of a Norse settlement at L’Anse aux Meadows in Newfoundland, the first conclusive proof of Viking settlement in mainland North America.
In 1963 Congress declared October 9 “Leif Erikson Day,” following the lead of states like Wisconsin and Minnesota. October 9th isn’t actually Leif’s birthday, or the day he discovered North America. Nope, October 9th marks the anniversary of the arrival of the “Sloopers,”–early Norwegian immigrants to the U.S.–in New York Harbor aboard the ship Restauration, in 1825, following in the ancient wake of their daring westbound ancestor.
To all my Norwegian friends, Uff da! This day’s for you.
It seems like just six months ago we were celebrating solstice…
There’s more reason to celebrate this time around, in this seasonally-affected author’s opinion: this solstice marks the longest day of the year rather than the shortest.
The changing of the seasons is due, of course, to the 23.5 degree tilt of the earth’s axis, a tilt which we in our everyday lives take for granted, but which has accounted for the framework in which plant life evolved on our planet, as well as for the traditions, rituals, and way of life of our species until the very recent past.
It’s only in modern times that the solstices completely lost their rep as two of the most badass days of the year. Summer Solstice was called Midsummer’s Day, marking the middle of summer rather than the beginning. Shakespeare’s fantastical Midsummer Night’s Dream alluded to the carefree, hedonistic days of late June and to England’s own not-to-distant pagan past.
In those days, however, the solstice fell on or around June 24 because of an inaccuracy in the Julian calendar. The calendar drifted from the solar year at a rate of about one day per century until the UK adopted the Gregorian calendar in the 1700s. Even today many countries still celebrate Midsummer Day and Night between June 23-25.
Today the sun reaches its northernmost point in the summer sky before beginning its long trip back south. To ancient eyes it appeared the sun was moving, not the earth. The word solstice comes from the Latin words sol and sistere, meaning “sun stands still”, as it appeared the sun, having reached its apogee, stood still for one day.
Superstition has it that whatever you’re doing on New Year’s Day is representative of how you’ll spend the following year, but I disagree, as most people don’t spend the entire year in bed recovering from a hangover.
No, it’s how you spend your solstices that are foretelling of how you’ll spend the next six months.
Unfortunately, I’m at work on a Saturday. But at least I’m blogging instead of doing what I’m supposed to. Maybe that’s indicative of something…
So have yourself a Super Solstice, go to the beach, light a bonfire, roast some marshmallows, kick back a few whatever you like to drink here (Sol cerbeza?), and save one for the author. Catch ya on the next trip around the sun.
3rd Sunday in June
June 19, 2011
June 17, 2012
June 16, 2013
100 years ago the congregation of Williams Memorial Methodist Episcopal Church in Fairmont, West Virginia gathered to pay tribute to the 362 men, many of them fathers, killed at the Monongah Mine disaster of 1907. The victims were largely from poor immigrant families, Italian, Greek, Slav, Polish, and Russian. The accident left 250 women widows and over 1000 children without support.
The July 5 gathering was the suggestion of Fairmont resident Grace Golden Clayton. Clayton had been partly inspired by the first “Mother’s Day” celebration in nearby Grafton, West Virginia. But Clayton is not considered the mother of Father’s Day.
That title went to Sonora Smart Dodd, 3000 miles away in Spokane, Washington. As a teenager Sonora lost her mother who died in childbirth, leaving Sonora’s father to raise Sonora and her 5 brothers.
Sonora reflected on the role of fathers in the family during a Mother’s Day sermon in 1909. Thanks to Sonora’s efforts the governor of Washington declared July 19, 1910 the first Father’s Day.
However, unlike Mother’s Day, which went from a single West Virginia observance in 1907 to a national holiday in 1914, Father’s Day had a much harder uphill battle. The idea of Father’s Day was even mocked. In 1914 one New York Times reader wrote:
“Your correspondent of yesterday is quite right in his contention that the establishment of Mother’s Day argues for the appointment of Father’s day as well. It seems to me, however that he does not go far enough. I would suggest the following calendar:
Jan. 19,Brother’s Day
Feb. 3,Sister’s Day
Mar. 10Grandpa’s Day
Apr. 12Grandma’s Day
May 24Mother’s Day
June 13Uncle’s Day
July 21Maiden Aunty’s Day
Aug. 6Cousin’s Day
Sep. 20Father’s Day
Oct. 30Baby’s Day
Nov. 4Household Pet Day
Dec. 31 Slush Day
The Father’s Day movement met with support during the Depression, when businesses hoped to foster a minor Christmas during the summer with a gift-giving holiday devoted to Dad. The support and observance of Father’s Day was augmented during WWII in honor of the fathers in the Armed Forces.
Two early proponents for the establishment of an annual Father’s Day were the National Father’s Day Committee in New York City, founded in 1926, and Harry Meek, of the Chicago Lions Club. Meek spoke around the country in support of the holiday, and suggested the date of June 20, his birthday, to observe it.
There was also a movement to call Mother’s Day “Parents’ Day”. This lost steam in the 1940s when
In 1924 President Calvin Coolidge proclaimed the first national Father’s Day, to “establish more intimate relations between fathers and their children and to impress upon fathers the full measure of their obligations.”
In 1956 a joint resolution of Congress recognized Father’s Day. President Lyndon Johnson signed a President proclamation to the effect a decade later. But it wasn’t until 1972 that President Richard Nixon established a permanent Father’s Day holiday on the third Sunday in June.
+ + +
Incidentally, most of the N.Y. Times’ reader’s holiday suggestions did come to pass, and more, though not all dates are agreed upon:
Grandparents’ Day: 1st Sunday after Labor Day (US); February 8 (International); 1st Sunday in October (UK); January 21 & 22 (Poland)
Sister’s Day: 1st Sunday in August
Brothers and Sisters’ Day: May 2
Siblings Day: April 10
Aunt’s Day: March 8; 1st Sunday in June
Aunts and Uncles’ Day: July 26;
Cousins’ Day: July 24
National Pet Day: April 10
Love Your Pet Day: February 20
Kids and Pets Day: April 26 (Why do kids and pets have to share a day?)
No “Slush Day” yet, but July 11 is “Free Slushie Day” at 7-11!
June 16 is Bloomsday (also Blooms Day) in Dublin, but it’s not a spring or solstice festival and it has nothing to do with Irish wildflowers.
No, Bloomsday honours Leopold Bloom, who spent a day traipsing through the streets of Dublin on June 16, 1904—in James Joyce’s classic novel Ulysses.
Each year on Bloomsday, Joyce lovers retrace the steps of the fictional characters Leopold Bloom and Stephen Dedalus. Many old landmarks remain, though their functions may have changed:
“The house at 7 Eccles Street [Bloom’s home] now serves as home to part of the Mater Hospital Private Clinic… All Hollows Church, now Saint Andrews Church, still stands, as does the chemist shop where Bloom purchased a bar of lemon soap… Bella Cohen’s brothel now serves as a retreat house for Sisters of Our Lady of Charity.”
Martello tower in Sandycove now hosts the James Joyce Museum. Here, and along O’Connell Street, aficionados begin Bloomsday by enjoying a hearty breakfast, emulating that of Leopold Bloom…although many choose to skip the “grilled mutton kidneys which gave to his palate a fine tang of faintly scented urine” in favor of extra sausages and Guinness.
First published in its entirety in 1922, most of Ulysses had been serialized in Margaret Anderson’s The Little Review from 1918 until 1920, the year it was banned in the U.S. due to frank descriptions of bodily functions and sexuality, as well as its commentary on organized religion and social mores.
In the 1933 New York Court case United States v. One Book Called Ulysses, Judge John Woolsey overturned the ban, declaring that the story:
“did not tend to excite sexual impulses or lustful thoughts but that its net effect on [my colleagues] was only that of a somewhat tragic and very powerful commentary on the inner lives of men and women.”
Ulysses was the original ‘24‘, and Bloom its Jack Bauer. Each of its 18 chapters documents approximately one hour in the life of Leopold Bloom (though the first few chapters follow Stephen Dedalus). The entire novel takes place in under 24 hours, beginning around 8:00 am on Thursday, June 16, 1904, and ending before dawn the next day.
With its stream-of-consciousness narrative, Ulysses was both a watershed moment in 20th century literature and the bane of English students for generations to come.
Joyce’s title juxtaposes the mundane experiences of Bloom’s romp through Dublin with the grandiose adventures of the ancient Greek hero Odysseus (Ulysses). Bloom’s wife Molly represents Penelope, and Stephen Dedalus (Joyce’s alter-ego from A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man) mirrors Telemachus.
For all the immortalizing Joyce did for the city of Dublin, the author supposedly never set foot in the town after 1912. He spent the last two decades of his life in Paris and Switzerland, and died in 1941 in Zurich after an ulcer operation.
And as for the date, June 16, 1904—that was the day of Joyce’s first date with his wife-to-be Nora.
— God, he said quietly. Isn’t the sea what Algy calls it: a great sweet mother? The snotgreen sea. The scrotumtightening sea. Epi oinopa ponton. Ah, Dedalus, the Greeks. I must teach you. You must read them in the original.
With the coming of summer, many students are struck with a debilitating illness known as cantgotoschoolitis. Symptoms may include inability to pay attention in class, wandering eyes, and an overactive imagination.
With students yearning so badly to get out of class, it’s hard to believe that on this day in 1976, many young students gave their lives fighting just to receive a fair and equal education.
In 1953, the white Apartheid government of South Africa passed the Bantu Education Act, which created a curriculum intended to reduce the aspirations and self-worth of the country’s black students.
As the Minister of Native Affairs and future Prime Minister Hendrik Verwoerd explained,
“When I have control of native education I will reform it so that Natives will be taught from childhood to realise that equality with Europeans is not for them…” (Apartheid South Africa, John Allen)
The supposed benefit of the Act was that it increased the number of black students able to attend school; the reality was that it provided no additional resources for the expansion. As a result, by 1975 the government was spending R644 per white student and R42 per black student.
The final straw came in the 1970s when the Apartheid government announced instruction would no longer take place in South Africa’s many native languages, but only in English and Afrikaans.
As one student editorial proclaimed:
“Our parents are prepared to suffer under the white man’s rule. They have been living for years under these laws and they have become immune to them. But we strongly refuse to swallow an education that is designed to make us slaves in the country of our birth.” (South Africa in Contemporary Times)
The conflict came to a head on June 16, 1976 when a group of students held a protest against the educational system in Soweto. When students refused to disperse, police unleashed tear gas. Students responded by throwing rocks; police, by firing bullets. At least 27 students were killed in the massacre, including a 12 year-old boy named Hector Pieterson.
A string of protests and riots engulfed the region. June 1976 is considered one of the most divisive and tragic months in South African history.
After the fall of the Apartheid government in the 1990s, South Africa chose to dedicate June 16 as Youth Day, in memory of those who died in the Soweto Riots, and those who devoted their lives to the long struggle for equal education and the abolition of apartheid.