Q of the Week: Who Would You Commemorate?

Lynne Sladky / AP
Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.

On Wednesday, a Northern Virginia school district shut down for the day after a number of staff members asked for the day off to participate in “A Day Without a Woman,” a protest to highlight the contributions of women to society. A few weeks ago, a number of restaurants and fast-food chains closed down for “A Day Without Immigrants” to spotlight immigrant contributions in the United States.

So this week, we asked Politics & Policy Daily readers to fill in the blank with a group of people that deserves to be commemorated: A Day Without ______. Our first entry comes from Leslie, who recommends holding “A Day Without Daycare” in order to show:

(1) how important daycare services are to productivity
(2) how parents’ need for daycare is critical (so that they can work)
(3) how much families rely on unpaid daycare help from relatives and friends

Similarly, Brooke proposes a “Day Without Caregivers”—of any kind:

Schools would have no after-care and closed daycares would mean many workers would stay home. By doing our own care work, we would all appreciate how much work it is, how lovely it is to be present for each other, and how hard it is to be present for each other.

Once, when I lived in Bangladesh, a friend’s father was hospitalized. We took turns cooking for him (and the rest of the family) because the hospital did not provide food, maintaining his shadow “chart” so that we had a record of everything that happened to him, and sitting with him so that he always knew someone by his side. In a day without caregivers, we would honor caregivers and the relationships of care that are part of individual and social health.

Sally would agree:

The purpose of the commemoration is to highlight a group which is historically underappreciated, substantially underpaid for their labor, and taken for granted, yet would be sorely missed all around the country. Caregivers—for frail and disabled folks—fit. Now that baby boomers are reaching the stage of needing caregivers, we need to shine a light on how necessary they are for the people they serve and their families. The hard part about this choice is that caregivers can’t simply vanish for a day without endangering  people’s lives.

Another reader proposes “A Day Without Cooks” to help recognize their importance in society and in families, adding “In China, there is an idiom: ‘The God of the people is food.’” Emily suggests “A Day Without Working Parents,” and Lynn can’t pick just one group of people; she wants to honor garbage collectors, janitors, teachers, and nurses.

Andrew wonders how Americans would fare for 24 hours without petroleum products:

This would be especially shocking for those on the left and in Congress who like to make the domestic oil and gas industry their perpetual whipping boy—modern healthcare, manufacturing, cheap/safe food, sanitation, all manner of things depend on plastics and petrochemicals.  A similar argument could be made for the financial services industry—both are backbone industries upon which the economy runs, so their success (and their compensation) is a testament to how critical and integral to our daily lives and quality of life they are.

Andrew added:

White males, police officers, doctors and nurses, (even) politicians.

I don’t seriously propose this, but rather point out that we all play a part in society and the economy, and the whole premise of the “day without” is to draw attention to the contributions of certain groups of people. Like a multi-legged stool, if you remove one of the legs, things get a little wobbly. I’m more of an advocate for everyone doing their jobs, doing them well, and letting your accomplishments speak for themselves.

Chris thinks a good group to commemorate might be older, retired Americans who serve as volunteers in museums, hospitals, and schools:

Many people believe retired Americans are just living it up and collecting their social security and Medicare. We are doing some of that; we’ve earned it. But, we’re also contributing every day in many many ways.

Catherine figures a day without her fellow Millennials might be enlightening: “I think that might indicate to our elder detractors how hard and how much we work in our current economy.” Avid question-responder Howard thinks “A Day Without the Mainstream Media” would help put things in perspective:

Without them, we’d be relegated to the likes of Breitbart, Alex Jones’s Infowars, Daily Caller, The Blaze, American Pravda (aka Fox “News” Channel) and their counterparts on the nutty left (although there aren’t nearly as many).

Finally, Joseph Luchok simply hopes for “a day without Twitter.”