John W. Eyster: Two holidays ripe for change


I have appreciated the face-to-face inquiries asking, “Where have YOU been?” and “Are YOU still posting on YOUR 'We the People' blog?” I realize that I have NOT posted on my WE THE PEOPLE community blog since September 3 when I expressed concern about a “Father's fight against heroin hits home.” Yikes, that was a month ago. Time flies tooooo fast!

I confess that since then, I have started drafting numerous posts for WE THE PEOPLE as we've been living with a very, very active political dynamic. I have NOT chosen to make the time to develop any of those to actually send in for posting online. WHY?

It is really an issue of PRIORITIES! I am trapped in the 24/7 reality on time as are we all. IF you have negotiated with the Creator for MORE than 24/7, please let me know! I want and need more than 24/7!

I have personal commitments to my spouse and my 2 adult children and my 5 grandsons which are TOP priority.

I have teaching commitments, which I consider very significant with a high level of accountability to my STUDENTS as well as the universities for which I am teaching:

Viterbo University, LaCrosse—online section of the required Unified Mission Seminar for all students in the adult education program studying for a 4-year degree. These are non-traditional students who have a 2-year degree or professional certification with very intense schedules. The seminar is very satisfying for me since it brings together philosophy/theology, ethics, diversity in our American culture, current events and service-learning.

University of Wisconsin—Whitewater—VERY happy to have been teaching Political Science at my alma mater (Master of Arts in Teaching) for the past several years. My courses have been “American Government & Politics” and “Ethnic Politics.” This semester I'm teaching 2 sections of “Ethnic Politics” which is diversity course dealing with the issues related to race and ethnicity in our American political culture. Day-by-day the news is permeated by diversity issues.

I used Episode 1, “The Difference Between Us” from the Public Broadcasting System's series, “Power of an Illusion: Race” to launch the study of diversity in my “Ethnic Politics” classes. I urge YOU to find out more about this incisive and very significant video. You can read a summary of the series here. You can watch the trailer on YouTube, “Race—the Power of an Illusion,” here.

After viewing the video and sharing discussion in class, the students had one of the Informal Writing Assignments with the following questions based on the video and our textbook: What is the meaning of “race”? What are the factors in identifying “race”? Is “race” biological? Is “race” social? WHO identifies “race”? These are very challenging questions which generated poignant responses from my “Ethnic Politics” students.

We are approaching two (2) special days—October 9 and 12. Both are LEGALLY required to be OBSERVED by all K-12 public schools in Wisconsin. If you want to review the full list of 21 special observance days in WI state law, the Department of Public Instruction has the full list online: “Wisconsin Public School Observance Days: 2014-15 School Year Observance Days.”

October 9—next Thursday—is Leif Erikson Day. I object to the change in spelling to Ericson from Erikson. This is a proper name and SHOULD NOT BE ANGLICIZED! Norwegian uses, “k”! He is the Viking who discovered North America around 1000 CE. The FIRST European! Leif Erikson Day is proclaimed annually by the President of the U.S., but it is NOT a National Holiday. WHY NOT?

October 12—Sunday with the NATIONAL HOLIDAY on Monday, October 13. The DPI description reports, “In 1492, the first expedition led by Christopher Columbus sighted land somewhere in the Bahamas. Columbus' voyages are recognized as the start of sustained contact between peoples in the eastern and western hemispheres. The process of colonization that he began brought new forms of wealth to Europe, expanded the market for African slaves, and led to loss of land and lifeways for the indigenous peoples of the Americas.” WHY is COLUMBUS DAY a NATIONAL HOLIDAY? I think it should be changed to one of two alternative holidays: “Indigenous Peoples' Day” or “Explorers' Day.” I prefer the emphasis on INDIGENOUS PEOPLES' DAY. One of the informative sources for information is the Unitarian-Universalist Association's “Indigenous Peoples Day.”

I hope YOU will read and consider this idea. You may want to watch the YouTube video, “Reconsider Columbus Day.” I hope YOU will comment. I'll be reading. My students will be considering this issue and respond to a survey. I'll share the results of that survey after I have the tally.

I am blessed in many, many ways with the love of my family, good health and meaningful opportunities for involvement in LIFE! I am GRATEFUL for God's blessings! I'm enthusiastically anticipating OCTOBER as we move into the first full week of October, are YOU? Comment?