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NSRC 2020

 
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An examination of the calendar reveals plenty of opportunities to reshape current holidays to support space colonization. (credit: iStockphoto)

Stop giving thanks and start giving forward

Thanksgiving is a time of thanking the Pilgrims and the rest of the hearty bunch that allowed the continuing settlement of the United States. I like Squanto, Governor Bradford, the turkey, and all, but we have been thanking them for hundreds of years. Perhaps it is time to stop thanking them and start giving forward. I propose that we replace Thanksgiving with Colonization Day. Many other holidays are backward looking, which is inferior policy and fails to motivate us to new and more ambitious goals.

Colonization Day would replace Thanksgiving in much the way Passover and Easter incorporate eggs to celebrate fertility near the beginning of spring as had been done for thousands of years. Colonization Day celebrates all the good things that the Pilgrims and the welcoming Native Americans did, while changing the tense of the holiday to the forward tense so we can encourage such bravery and sacrifice directly. Perhaps, though, we can postpone having kids dress up in space suits and as genetically manipulated Mars settlers (See the article special issue of Wired this week “Taming the Red Planet” by Kim Stanley Robinson) for a few years until we can get NASA to distribute new teaching instructions to teachers.

Colonization Day celebrates all the good things that the Pilgrims and the welcoming Native Americans did while changing the tense of the holiday to the forward tense.

On the same tack, it’s probably time to stop thanking Columbus with a Federal holiday after 512 years. How about we change Columbus Day to Exploration Day and celebrate future explorers and current exploration instead? While this probably would not appease the Native Americans who would not see this as much of an improvement, it would focus our nation on looking ahead instead of looking backwards. We probably do not need to thank Isabella and Spain any more than we need to thank Queen Elizabeth and England any more.

Independence Day could become Freedom Day or Founding Day to celebrate the future Iraqs that we liberate and the future Moon and Mars colonies that we will create in our image. By colonizing those celestial bodies, we will be creating a great new opportunity for freedom by establishing a new frontier. I still drink a glass now and then to Sam Adams and some people still get high on Ben Franklin, but after 228 years, perhaps we have thanked them enough. We can keep the fireworks and the hot dogs, but perhaps we can dream up some new lyrics to our national anthem keeping the “rockets red glare” part. How about (with apologies to Francis Scott Key):

And the rockets red glare
And the bombs pushing us there
Gave proof through the night
That our flag’s planted there

I will work on some of the more brutal verses later. Or maybe instead the “Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,” part could be a jumping off point for Conquest Day. As long as we are being vilified for being conquerors, there is no need to be coy about it.

Washington’s Birthday can become Constitution Day to celebrate and encourage our future colonies to uphold the rule of law the way Washington did. Or perhaps Revolution Day to encourage future colonists and patriots to fight for freedom and guarantee it with their blood the way Washington led the Continental Army to do.

Lincoln’s Birthday could also be a good candidate to become Freedom Day to celebrate future emancipation proclamations like the ones for robots, computers, cyborgs, astronauts, space colonists, animals, code, and children that still lie in our future. Or perhaps we can switch Lincoln’s Birthday to In Situ Resource Utilization Day to celebrate the future version of the ingenuity that brought us log cabins. We will probably need a snappier name. Cope Day? Make Do Day? Forage Day? Scrounge Day? Just In Time Day? Prospect Day has a good colonial, frontier flavor even if it would not celebrate all of the same virtues Lincoln had.

NASA should price out a one-way flight to Mars and see if there are qualified candidates who are willing to give up their life to advance science, technology, freedom, and civilization by taking a one-way trip to Mars.

Has anyone noticed that Christmas Day is a federal holiday, but that it is also a religious holiday? That seems to run afoul of separation of church and state to a simple non-lawyer like me. Don’t get me wrong, I love to celebrate Christmas as a national holiday of brotherly love and consumerism (not necessarily in that order), but perhaps we should capture the spirit of Christmas and turn it into a secular holiday before someone decides to mount a court challenge. How about Martyr Day where we celebrate all of the people who will die for good causes? Having our own cadre of astronauts, armed forces and even typical airplane riders who are selflessly able to brave certain death for the greater good would certainly make our own Nation more resilient.

(I was asked if it was perhaps unreasonable to criticize astronauts who want to come back as phoning in their effort in my last column. NASA should price out a one-way flight to Mars and see if there are qualified candidates who are willing to give up their life to advance science, technology, freedom, and civilization by taking a one-way trip to Mars. It should cost less than half as much as a round trip. I would sign up. If you would too, let me know. Let me know if you wouldn’t. If the first 25 astronauts died on Mars before they could set up a permanent settlement, but accelerated the colonization of Mars by two decades and increased the chances of our species becoming immortal by one percent, don’t you think that would be a good trade? I would volunteer my own life even if I don’t get a holiday or a billion dollars.)

Martin Luther King Day could also be combined with Martyr Day or perhaps a new Federal holiday of Opportunity Day could be designated in its place. MLK called for equal opportunity throughout the nation. Looking to the stars for opportunity would be a great expansion of the premise of the holiday, and forward looking instead of backward looking. Maybe we can postpone this changeover a few decades since MLK has not had a holiday for nearly as long as Columbus, Washington, Lincoln, Independence, and Thanksgiving.

Let’s throw in Ascend Day for good measure around Easter time even though Easter is not a Federal holiday. While we are at it, we can revive Moon Day, Mars Day, Mercury Day, Venus Day, Jupiter Day and Saturn Day from their Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday current usages. That certainly seems like a good order to colonize too—although some moons of Jupiter probably should be put ahead of Venus and perhaps Mercury.

The Pilgrims were certainly not the type of people who would want to be glorified for just doing their daily routine. Let us take the spirit of the Pilgrims and look forward instead of backwards and reach for the stars.


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