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Day Two of my ethics reading. I’ll present the arguments as they are explained in my textbook, and at the end, I’ll provide my personal thoughts on the matter. Interspersed are green words in parentheses that indicate my words, vice the words of the text. Again, the textbook I am taking notes from is as follows:
Mosser, K. (2010). Ethics and Social Responsibility. (E. Evans, Ed.) Retrieved from https://content.ashford.edu/books/
Whether organized prayer should be allowed in public schools, and distinguish between allowing prayer and promoting prayer.
The argument for allowing prayer:
For a religious or spiritual person, the relationship between himself and God is “the most precious relationship of all.” To respect that relationship, our First Amendment prohibits any interference with religion. Prohibiting school prayer is prohibiting the free exercise of one’s religion. (First Amendment: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”) It follows, then, that eliminating prayer from public schools is wrong and unconstitutional.
Many religious values, like honesty, charity, and nonviolent problem solving, are important to society, and public schools should reinforce those virtues. Reinforcing moral lessons can reduce teenage pregnancy, STDs, gang violence, and drug/alcohol use.
The argument is not to force a specific view (which would violate the 1st Amendment and the Establishment Clause), but provide voluntary prayer for those who want to participate. For example, the Golden Rule is found in many religions, in many cultures, and is fundamental to “good” society.
History and current practice are in line with this argument: for 200 years, public schools allowed voluntary prayer. Thomas Jefferson refers to the Creator in the Declaration of Independence (one of my personal, favorite arguments to bring up about whether this country was founded on Christian values). The Senate and the House both maintain a chaplain, who opens sessions with a prayer. Money says “in God we trust”, the Pledge of Allegiance says “one Nation, under God,” and American presidents usually end speeches with “God Bless America.” (Our graduation at boot camp and most major military ceremonies also opened with “Let us pray,” where even if you were not religious, you were still to bow your head for the duration, due to being in military formation) Most (sane) people don’t see these as violations of the First Amendment.
Preventing prayer in public schools (or any other public place for that matter), is to require people to follow the dictates of the non-religious minority (over 70% of Americans claim to be religious). Short prayers at ceremonies or other large get-togethers (football games and assemblies) remind students of moral values and reflect the wishes of a large part of the student body in most public schools. To prevent it is against their wishes, the wishes of their parents, and the Constitution itself. Denying the opportunity for prayer prevents moral lessons from being reinforced in children who need it, ignores our history, and conflicts with a large majority of the population’s desires.
The argument against prayer in public schools:
The United States is very diverse in many ways, including religion. All Americans have a right to religious expression, or no expression for atheists. To impose prayer on those who do not pray is to violate their rights.
Prayer at a ceremony or game may seem innocent, but if the prayer specifies a particular belief of God, it does not fit all religions. On the other hand, if it is vague and general, it doesn’t really serve a purpose, and will still single out some students who do not share that view. If prayer is included at mandatory events, the prayer is not voluntary. Also, students are very much influenced by peer pressure, and may not bring up alternative views for fear of embarrassment. They would rather “belong” than leave a venue due to prayer, so the prayer is not truly voluntary.
Public schools should not impose specific religious values on students. Schools can teach the history of religion, the differences in religion, and its role in society, but may not endorse one over another. Our public school system is failing, and students are achieving less academically than students in other countries, so the time spent in prayer and specific religious viewpoints would be better spent on the educational mission.
Many parents prefer to leave specific religious and moral education off the curriculum. Many religious parents do not want religion taught in public school so that those ideas do not conflict with what they are teaching their children at home and in the church- where religious teachings are appropriate.
“The Constitution does not allow public schools to promote any specific religion or religious viewpoint.” Any prayer in public school would either violate this ideal, or be so vague it is pointless. No view can encompass all religions as well as atheists, and schools have more important things to spend time on. Many parents do not want their religious views conflicted at school, and prayer in public schools cannot be seen as voluntary. Therefore, prayer in public schools should be prohibited.
Application of Theories:
The utilitarian view is “do the greatest good for the greatest number,” but what is the greatest number?
There is a saying “As long as there are math tests, there will be prayer in school.” This says that individuals cannot be prevented from engaging in private prayer. Such prayer is voluntary. The Supreme Court has also ruled that students may organize voluntary religious clubs, which can include prayer and Bible study, at public schools, like any other club.
This is the difference between allowing prayer and promoting prayer.
In a given school, district, or community, it is likely that a majority of its members belong to a specific faith. The greatest good for the greatest number, then, would be to allow that majority to pray how they wish. To prevent this is to hold the majority hostage to the will of the minority. It is clear that the greatest good for the greatest number means allowing the majority to practice their faith the way they choose.
Not only are the minority’s views being ignored, but many in the majority will be upset with the fact that the minority are not being accounted for. This brings down maximum happiness (or utility), so the greatest good for the greatest number would prevent organized prayer.
Some (Textbook) Conclusions:
Religion is very personal. It is often a cornerstone of a person’s understanding of himself. Because a person can define himself by his religion, that person may feel his rights are restricted when he is not free to express his beliefs when he desires to. It is unlikely, however, that all people, of all faiths, and non-faiths, will be happy with any outcome.
Thinking about the issue legally and generally, people are paying more attention to the “voluntary” part of prayer. Individuals cannot be prevented from praying in public schools. Religious clubs cannot be denied. These are both voluntary acts. However, school-sanctioned events, like football games and graduation, are usually seen as “inappropriate locations” for prayer, because it automatically means the school is endorsing that view. Insisting on general prayers tends to make the prayer pointless to those who feel strongly about their beliefs.
There is no answer that will please everyone, but the two words to really learn from this debate are “sensitivity” and “tolerance.”
What Would You Do?
“You are a high school principal, and some students want to organize a school club devoted to studying and discussing atheism. You are concerned that they may spend some of their time mocking the beliefs of other students. Some of the students in your school have already expressed to you their concern that such an officially recognized student group represents a view that many find offensive.
“Do you allow the students to organize the atheist club? What restrictions, if any, do you impose on what they can do and say? What do you say to parents who call to protest the existence of such a club?”
When I was in school, we had thirty seconds of silence after the Pledge of Allegiance. You could pray, you could study, you could do whatever you wanted, as long as you were quiet. It was a time for reflection, and a pause in the beginning of a hectic day. There was a guy in my first period class who used to say the Pledge with “under Gods.” I think he did it as a joke, but I didn’t take offense to it. There were some who would refuse to say that line altogether. Now, there are some kids who don’t even want to stand or put their hands over their hearts. That’s a different issue for a different day though.
Of course, especially growing up, I didn’t consider myself religious. I knew the thirty seconds was “supposed” to be for prayer, but that didn’t mean I had to pray. I didn’t take offense to it either. Everybody, whether Christian, Muslim, or atheist, can take thirty seconds out of their day to think. I think this is a perfect way to satisfy most people.
I know the text is specifically talking about during ceremonies and such, but why can’t any prayer be replaced by a moment of silence? Those who wish to pray, can. Those who don’t, can just wait. It is respectful to those who wish to pray to stay silent. I think respect is a big piece of the puzzle that seems to be missing in our society today.
If everybody treated everybody else with the respect they expect, I think there would be fewer issues in this world. Christians, or more generally, religious people, are the majority, and for a reason. I am not saying that the rights of minorities should be ignored, but I do not believe that ninety-nine people should be denied their wishes because the one doesn’t like it. I don’t like the minority taking the majority hostage.
In this particular instance, I think a moment of silence is the “right” thing to do.
As for the atheist club, I don’t think it would be appropriate to prevent the club. As far as I am aware, all school-sanctioned clubs had to have a teacher present, though. If they had an instructor, they’d be allowed to have a club, just as a Christian group would, and that is exactly what I’d tell concerned parents. The instructor would be expected to maintain civility and respect in the club, just as any other club would be expected to do. I wouldn’t allow another group to be disrespectful of any other, so this group would be the same. Respect and civility towards all.
The next five weeks of my life will be spent in an Ethics class, and we will be swiftly covering many hot-button topics in politics. What better way to take notes for class and formulate my own ideas than by sharing with all of you?
The text is:
Mosser, K. (2010). Ethics and Social Responsibility. (E. Evans, Ed.) Retrieved from https://content.ashford.edu/books/
The Second Amendment to the Constitution of the United States (part of the Bill of Rights) reads: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” The odd capitalization and punctuation are in the original.
The argument against restrictions:
The Constitution specifically says people have the right to “keep and bear Arms.” This means that there should be few restrictions on what is seen as a constitutionally protected right. We should look at restrictions to this Constitutional right the same way we look at restrictions to free speech, only needing to be limited to guarantee public safety. Just like freedom of speech, the only regulations should be those that have “overriding public interest,” explained to be for the good of the vast majority of the public. However, these restrictions should be “absolutely minimal” and “absolutely necessary.”
Beyond the Constitution, our history also gives good reason to have few restrictions on individuals’ rights to own guns. The Revolutionary War was won by farmers and other civilians who were comfortable enough around, and knowledgeable enough about, guns that they could wield them against the enemy. We may not have to worry about another nation invading us (we hope), but what about home invaders? Americans have the right to defend themselves and their families, as well as their homes.
In addition to self/home defense, many Americans shoot for sport. Target shooting, skeet shooting, hunting, etc., are all lawful ways to use guns. According to the text, Americans own an estimated 250,000,000 guns, and more than 25% of Americans live in a household that possesses a firearm. (My household has five.)
Most people agree about certain restrictions, such as prevention of gun ownership by convicted felons, and those with a documented history of criminal violence. Many will also agree that anyone with documented mental illness that may inhibit the ability to realize when gun use is in appropriate should not have access to deadly weapons. However, many people are wary of giving government too much control, and say that allowing restrictions today means allowing greater restrictions in the future.
Imposing “unjust” restrictions on law-abiding citizens is unconstitutional and only hurts the people who have lawful, legitimate, interest in gun ownership, whether for sport or self-defense. Criminals care about gun laws as much as they care about the other laws they are breaking.
The argument for restrictions:
Sixty-eight percent of the people murdered in America in 2005 were killed with guns. Thirteen people were killed at Columbine with guns. Thirty-two people were killed at Virginia Tech with (a?) gun. Ten people were killed by the DC snipers. Sixteen were killed in Dover, Arkansas. Thirteen were killed in Wilkes-Barre, PA. Eleven, including the killer, were killed in Geneva County, Alabama.
NY Times writer Bob Herbert says: “Since the assassinations of Senator Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1968, more than a million Americans have been killed by guns in the U.S.. That’s more than the total number of U.S. combat deaths in all the wars in American history.”
There are many guns in the U.S., and they are easy to get. In some states, the minimum age is twelve for purchase of a firearm. Background checks and waiting periods don’t work as intended. Easy access to conceal-able weapons has led to a culture in the U.S. that leads the developed world in violent crime and murder. Reasonable restrictions, like substantial background checks, waiting periods, trigger locks, etc., as well as limitations on the kinds of weapons and ammunition available, are necessary to stop this assault. The 1980s and 90s saw an increase in controls on gun ownership, and a corresponding drop in violent crime.
In Miller v. United States (1939), the Supreme Court ruled that the Second Amendment clearly means the right of well-regulated Militias, not individuals. (There is a later conflicting ruling as well.)
“Supporting substantial restrictions should not be regarded as an illegitimate attempt by an oppressive government to seize all guns.” Background checks, trigger locks, and limits on types of weapons and ammunition do not prevent law-abiding citizens from sport shooting, hunting, and self-defense. They do minimize access by criminals, the insane, and “others who should not have access to deadly weapons.”
Utilitarian view (Greatest Good for the Greatest Number):
A fundamental duty of a government is to maintain the security and safety of the governed. Potentially violent intruders and oppressive governments are both threats to that security. The “Greatest Good” is the feeling of security and confidence that is gained from the knowledge that they have a weapon to defend themselves with. Robbers face significantly more risk breaking into an armed home than an unarmed home. If a robber believes you may be armed, and pose a threat to him, he may rob a different house, or give up crime (though that is not incredibly likely). Thus, people with guns, who know how to use them, feel safer in their own homes. If criminals fear home-owners with guns, crime, theoretically, would go down because the benefits of the items stolen would not outweigh the risk of loss of life. Restricting weapons means the risk for robbers drops markedly, and crime would rise. Therefore, the “greatest good for the greatest number” would be minimal restrictions. Following that, restrictions must be proven to increase public safety and security, such as preventing actual criminals and mentally incapable people from owning guns.
The relativist view (people in different cultures view things differently, so what might be wrong to one group may be right to another):
In Nigeria and the Philippines, gun ownership is 1% and 4.5% respectively. In Switzerland (yeah, the “neutral” guys) it is 50%. The United States has the highest rate- 90 guns for every 100 people. Some cultures have few guns because they didn’t play an important part in that culture’s history. (Try taking a samurai sword from a Japanese guy, though… yikes!) Some cultures, like ours, have guns in an important part of our history, like the Revolution and Westward Expansion. Beyond saying “neither is right or wrong,” relativism is fairly useless in solving moral dilemmas.
(At this point, I am surprised that they don’t offer an example of a specific theory of ethics that would be for restrictions…)
When does one person’s right to possess weapons infringe on another person’s right to keep their children safe? Some restrictions are actually relatively popular- like those on fully automatic weaponry and “cop-killer” armor-piercing rounds.
When in doubt, I err on the side of less legislation, less restriction, less government, less interference, more personal responsibility. As a whole, I am against restrictions on gun ownership. I do not personally own a gun, but my father had them growing up, my husband owns several, and my grandfather had a case of hunting rifles in his den. I know how to shoot, and I have been to a gun range to practice on occasion. I think that first and foremost, to own a gun, people should know how to handle it. If I didn’t know how to use a gun, I wouldn’t pick it up (unless it was a life-or-death-armed-robbers-at-my-daughter’s-door sort of situation).
Education is one of the most important aspects of gun ownership. Simple things like always treating a gun like it is loaded, never pointing it at anything you don’t want to kill, and don’t shoot yourself cleaning it (you know who you are…). Obviously you should keep your firearms in a place where children cannot access them, preferably a safe or other secure location. However, this all falls under personal responsibility. If you need the government to tell you not to let your kids play with your guns, you probably shouldn’t have kids in the first place.
Also, just because some yuppie in a New York city apartment feels he doesn’t need a gun doesn’t mean the guy in Alaska or Montana who hunts for food, or doesn’t have a police officer within 15 minutes of his house, doesn’t need one. I do feel safer in my home because I know we have firearms. Guns are the only weapons in the world that favor the victim. It levels the playing field between invader and defender, and it may give someone pause before breaking into your home.
When we lived in Virginia, we lived in a not-so-great neighborhood. My husband used to go target shooting frequently with a rifle on his shoulder, two pistols, and two cases of ammunition. The neighborhood kids referred to him as “the sniper guy.” As soon as you entered the apartment, there were two human targets on the wall- one a close range shotgun blast with the center torn out, the other a long-range rifle target with neat holes in center mass and the head. You can bet if someone was getting robbed in that neighborhood, it wasn’t going to be us.
I agree that people with violent crime or mental illness documented should not have firearms. I also agree that people should not have ready access to, say, bazookas. However, I do believe that you should be able to have a permit for pretty much any type of firearm, if your location supports it. I see no reason why you shouldn’t be able to go out to the middle of the desert and fire off an AK-47. What is it hurting? The dirt? Properly used, properly trained, firearms can be fun. That doesn’t mean killing people. One of my dad’s favorite arguments about gun control is, “It’s already illegal to kill people.” We don’t have to make it “more against the law” to kill people with guns.
WARNING: I found this picture while Googling gun images, and could not pass up the opportunity to spread it further… but if you have a weak stomach, just ate, or get easily disturbed, avert your gaze. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Today is the anniversary of the signing of the Homestead Act by Abraham Lincoln, in 1862. For five years of living on the land, the government gave settlers 160 acres of land. By 1900, 38 years later, 80 million acres were distributed.
Today, May 10, is the anniversary of the death of Paul Revere.
Paul Revere was born in Boston, December of 1734, as Paul Rivoire, to a French Huguenot immigrant. His father was a goldsmith, and Paul was the second of many children, and the oldest surviving son. Paul was 19 when his father died, leaving the family business to him.
In 1756, Revere volunteered to fight the French at Lake George, NY as a 2nd Lt. in the colonial artillery. In August 1757, Revere married Sarah Orne, with whom he had eight children. After Sarah’s death in 1773, he married Rachel Walker, and had eight more children.
Revere was an accomplished goldsmith and silversmith, and his work was highly praised in his lifetime. He worked as a copper plate engraver and illustrator for books, magazines, business cards, political cartoons, bookplates, song books, and bills of fare for taverns during the pre-Revolution economic depression. He was also a dentist from 1768-1775, but never made George Washington’s teeth.
Revere was a member of the Masonic Lodge of St. Andrew, and gathered intelligence by watching the movements of British soldiers. He was a courier for the Boston Committee of Correspondence and the Massachusetts Committee of Safety, riding to the Continental Congress in Philadelphia. He also spread word of the Boston Tea Party to New York and Philadelphia.
At 10 pm, April 18, 1775, Revere was told by Dr. Joseph Warren to ride to Lexington to warn John Hancock and Samuel Adams of the British approach.
Two associates rowed him across the Charles River to Charlestown, where he borrowed a horse from his friend, Deacon John Larkin. While there, he verified that the local Sons of Liberty chapter saw his pre-arranged signal of “Two if by sea”, two lanterns hung in the belltower of Christ Church in Boston. The “by sea” indicated that they would row across Charles River to Cambridge, rather than marching across Boston Neck, by land.
Revere then rode north towards Lexington, stopping at each house to warn the countryside. A sentry near the house where Adams and Hancock were told him to stop making so much noise. His reply? “Noise! You’ll have noise enough before long. The regulars are coming out!”
Two other riders, William Dawes and Dr. Samuel Prescott, on the same mission by another route, met up with Revere. They decided to continue to Concord where weapons and supplies were hidden. All three were arrested by a British patrol, Dawes and Prescott escaped quickly, but Revere was held for a bit longer, then released. Revere returned to Lexington in time to see part of the battle on the Lexington Green.
After the Revolution, he expanded his business, opening a small hardware store until 1789. In 1788, he opened a foundry for shipyards, which created the brass fittings for the USS Constitution, along with bolts, spikes, nails, cannons, and bells. One of his largest bells still hangs in Boston’s Kings Chapel.
In 1801, he opened the first American copper rolling mill to end dependence on British copper. The USS Constitution’s hull was sheeted with Revere’s copper, as well as the Massachusetts State House dome in 1803. “Revereware” copper bottomed pots and pans are now made by another company, but started out from Revere Copper and Brass, Inc., a descendant of Revere’s rolling mill.
Revere died of natural causes May 10, 1818, at the age of 83, leaving his well-established copper business to his sons and grandsons. He is buried in Boston’s Granary Burying Ground.
Where did Mother’s Day come from? Why are carnations the “official flower” of the holiday?
Humans have honored motherhood in ceremony, ritual, and celebration since ancient times. Typically, though, those celebrations were in honor of goddesses and symbols, not actual human mothers.
Egypt: The ancient Egyptians were among the first, that we know of, to celebrate motherhood. Every year, they would hold a festival to honor Isis, the goddess of motherhood, magic, and fertility. She was worshiped as the ideal mother and wife, as well as mother of the pharaohs. One of her stories says that her brother, Seth, murdered her husband/brother, Osiris, so she reassembled her husband and used his body to impregnate herself. She gave birth to Horus (sky god, god of war and protection), and hid him from Seth among the reeds. Horus grew up and defeated Seth to become the first ruler of a unified Egypt. This festival was held at the beginning of winter.
Greece: The Greeks celebrated a number of mother goddesses, depending on the region. Some worshiped Gaia, the Earth Goddess, or Mother Earth. Some worshiped Meteroreie, the Mountain Mother, and some celebrated Rhea, the Mother of the Gods, and mother of Zeus. These celebrations took place near mid-March, likely just as nature was starting to bloom, and usually involved games, parades, and arts and crafts displays.
Rome: The Romans celebrated the festival of Isis, but commemorated an important battle and the beginning of winter with it. The link to Mother’s Day is seen more in the celebration of Cybele, the Earth Goddess, or Magna Mater (Great Mother). Cybele is the Roman interpretation of the Greek Rhea (the Romans were very unoriginal when it came to religion), and this celebration took place near the Vernal Equinox.
Europe: Early Christians celebrated a holiday on the fourth Sunday of Lent to celebrate the church where they were baptized, or their “Mother Church.” These Christians would decorate their Mother Church with jewels, flowers, and offerings.
Including human mothers: In the 1600s, England broadened the celebration to include human mothers, calling it “Mothering Day.” Working classes especially benefited from this holiday, with servants and trade workers having the opportunity to travel back to their home towns to visit family. Families were also given a one-day “cheat day” during Lent to have a large feast to celebrate Mother, as well as the Virgin Mary.
America: When settlers came to America, Mothering Day was left on the shores of England. However, in 1870, Julia Ward Howe, author of the Battle Hymn of the Republic, was so distressed by the Civil War, that she wrote for mothers to come together to protest such a futile war. Her idea was to have an international Mother’s Day to celebrate peace and motherhood, and to stop American boys from killing each other. She even wanted the celebration to take place on July 4th, to dedicate the United States to peace. It was eventually designated for June 2nd.
In 1873, eighteen North American cities observed Mother’s Day for the first time. Initially, Howe herself funded the celebrations, and many died out once she no longer paid for them. Boston, however, continued to celebrate for another decade.
In West Virginia, Anna Reeves Jarvis started an adaptation of Howe’s Mother’s Day. Her Mother’s Friendship Day was an opportunity for families and neighbors divided by the Civil War to be reunited. After Anna Reeves Jarvis died, her daughter, Anna M. Jarvis, petitioned her mother’s church for the creation of an official Mother’s Day in remembrance of her mother, and in honor of peace. May 10, 1908, the first official Mother’s Day was held at Andrew’s Methodist Church in Grafton, West Virginia, and a church in Philadelphia. Jarvis’ event drew 407 members, and white carnations (her mother’s favorite) were passed to the celebrants. Two carnations were given to every mother. Today, white carnations are used to celebrate the mothers who have passed on, while pink or red carnations are used to celebrate mothers who still live. Andrew’s was incorporated into the International Mother’s Day Shrine in 1962.
In 1908, a Senator from Nebraska, Elmer Burkett, proposed making a national Mother’s Day, as requested by the YMCA. The proposal was defeated, but by the next year, 46 states were holding Mother’s Day services, as well as in parts of Mexico and Canada. Anna Jarvis quit her job and started campaigning for a national Mother’s Day full-time. Finally, in 1912, West Virginia was the first state to officially recognize Mother’s Day, and in 1914, President Woodrow Wilson declared the second Sunday in May to be Mother’s Day.
Jarvis would later try to copyright “Mother’s Day” and stop celebrations because she felt the commercialization was ruining her vision. In 1948, Anna Jarvis passed away, blind, poor, and childless, never knowing that it was The Florist’s Exchange, one company she fought against, that had anonymously paid for her care.
Argentina celebrates Dia de la madre on the second Sunday in October, though most of South America celebrates it in May, presumably because in the southern hemisphere, spring comes at that time of year.
France was inspired by American Doughboys of World War I, and celebrated the first Mother’s Day in 1918. Their La Fete de Meres was made official for December 19, 1920. Upon their repopulation attempts, mothers with four or five children were given a bronze medal. Mothers of six or seven would receive a silver medal, and mothers, like Octo-Mom, with eight children or more would receive a gold medal. This tradition was abandoned in 1945 with the institution of the National Day of Mothers.
India has a westernized Mother’s Day on May 10, but Hindus have long celebrated an October festival called Durga Puja to praise the divine mother, Durga.
Japanese Christians were celebrating an American-style Mother’s Day since 1913, but during World War II, all western customs were banned. After the war, haha no hi was started to comfort Mothers who had lost their children in the war. By 1949, Mother’s Day was back in force, with celebrations occurring on the second Sunday of May.
Mexicans celebrate Dia de las madres on May 10th, when mothers are treated to serenades.
In the United Kingdom, Mothering Day fell by the wayside in the early 1900s, but inspired by Americans, Mother’s Day took its place after World War II.
In Yugoslavia, three Sundays before Christmas is Children’s Day (Dechiyi Dan). The following Sunday is Mother’s Day (Materitse) and the Sunday after that is Father’s Day (Ochichi). On Children’s Day, children are tied up and not released until they promise to be good. (Maybe we should incorporate this into our celebrations… every day.) On Mother’s Day, mom is tied up until she gives the family treats. Father must promise more lavish gifts, which are usually the family’s Christmas gifts.
Australia (Mother’s Day), Bahrain (Ruz-e Madar), Belgium (Moederdag), Canada (Mother’s Day), China, Denmark (Mors Dag), Ethiopia (Antrosht), Finland (aidipayiva), Hong Kong (mu quin jie), Italy (La Festa della Mamma), Norway (Morsdag), Pakistan and Saudi Arabia (Yaum ul-umm), Serbia, Singapore, South Africa, Sweden, Thailand, and Turkey all celebrate their own versions of Mother’s Day as well.
To all the mothers in the world, Happy Mother’s Day, and to my own mom, I love you!
So what is Cinco de Mayo? Most Americans probably think it is Mexican Independence Day. They would be surprised that not only is it NOT Mexican Independence Day (that would be September 15, 1810), but that it is celebrated more in the United States than in Mexico!
In 1861, Benito Juarez became the president of Mexico, which was in deep debt to France, Britain, and Spain. If you remember from your history classes, the 1860s were not entirely pleasant for the United States either, as we were fighting each other in our bloody Civil War.
Britain and Spain both negotiated with Juarez and left, but France decided to make Mexico an empire dependent on France, and some say France was also attempting to use Mexico to supply the Confederate States in their battle against the Union. Napoleon III was confident in his troops and sent General Charles Latrille de Lorencez out to attack Puebla de Los Angeles (not our L.A.) with 6,000 men. Juarez could only manage 2,000 men in response and placed them under the command of Texas-born General Ignacio Zaragoza.
The Mexicans fortified the town and prepared for the assault. On May 5, 1862, General Lorencez led an assault that lasted from daybreak to early evening. The Mexicans had superior cavalry, and the native Mexicans stirred up stampeding cattle with nothing but machetes to send towards the French, who were tromping through muddy fields after a thunderstorm. When the French retreated, they had lost almost 500 soldiers, compared to fewer than 100 Mexicans killed.
This was a great symbolic, vice strategic, victory for Juarez which bolstered the resistance. Six years later, the United States, finally finished with the Civil War, sent troops to Mexico to assist in tossing the French out under General Phil Sheridan. General Sheridan armed the Mexicans, and many American soldiers joined the Mexican Army. The American Legion of Honor marched in the Victory Parade in Mexico City. The same year, French Emperor of Mexico Archduke Ferdinand Maximilian was captured and executed by Juarez’s forces. Puebla de Los Angeles was renamed after General Zaragoza.
In Mexico today, the majority of celebration takes place in the state of Puebla, where the battle took place. It is not a federal holiday, so everything stays open, and the day passes like any other in the majority of Mexico.
In the United States, however, the day is widely considered a celebration of Mexican culture and heritage, not to mention a great reason to break out the tequila. The largest celebrations take place in Los Angeles, Houston, and Chicago.
The holiday initially was supposed to be identification with a victory of indigenous Mexicans over European invaders, and indeed, that was the last time a European military force ever invaded the Americas. It was a symbol of the United States and Mexico coming together, standing shoulder to shoulder, to fight a mutual enemy.
As border tensions rise between Mexico and the US today, the friendship symbolized in the original celebration seems to be lost, a drunken revelry of Mexican-American heritage taking its place.