There are a lot of interesting little holidays around the middle of June. June 14th is Flag Day. June 15th is not the Ides of June—that takes place on June 13th, but in ancient Rome June 15th was Quinquartus Minuscalae, when all of Rome’s pipers were supposed to roam around the streets of the city masked and in women’s clothing, singing drunkenly in the Forum, after which they were obliged to clean the Temple of Vesta. It was also the day, in 1215, when King John and the barons reached formal agreement at Runnymede, later recorded in the Magna Carta. June 16th is of course Bloomsday, the day in 1904 that Leopold Bloom spent walking through Dublin in Joyce’s Ulysses. (And the day after the General Slocum disaster in the East River, a fire that claimed 1,000 lives, duly noted by Joyce.)
June 17th is Iceland Independence Day (from Denmark, in 1944, an event that did not garner that much attention at the time), and is also the saint’s day of Nectan, a sixth-century Welsh hermit who was killed by pagans, and then proceeded to walk home half a mile, carrying his head in his hands. It is also the day of revolt of the East German workers against their Soviet imposed government, leading to Brecht’s famous lines “would it not be easier/in that case for the government/to dissolve the people/and elect another,” and was celebrated as the Day of German Unity in West Germany until unification really occurred.
But June 17th should be a holiday not only in Iceland and Germany. June 17th should be celebrated in the United States as Watergate Day, to commemorate that glorious day when in the early morning hours of that day in 1972, security guard Frank Wills twice found a piece of tape on a door in the Watergate Complex in Washington, setting up a chain of events that lead to the eventual resignation of Richard Nixon. Have we forgotten the meaning of Watergate? I think so. Watergate might have helped elect Jimmy Carter, but certainly did not prevent the general swing to the Republicans. And so many scandals have been “gated” that perhaps the impact of the original Watergate has been lost. Perhaps we should have a holiday to return it what is what; the great moment when an evil presidency began to crumble, and when, if only for a moment, citizens were able to paraphrase William F. Buckley, stand thwart the growth of executive power, and say stop. Dick Cheney spent his entire career trying to undo and unravel the consequences of Watergate, to great effect. President Obama, and the rest of us, need to be reminded what Watergate was all about. Happy Watergate Day!!