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J. Sinopoli, "A Proposal for the Adoption of the Blackout as a Holiday"

A Proposal for the Adoption of the Blackout as a Holiday

J. Sinopoli

Care of The New York Ministry of Unofficial Popular Holidays

In Berlin there is a blown up church you drive by everyday, still
there from World War 2. They kept it there as a reminder of the time
we bombed Berlin. It is a powerful, lucid monument to a complicated
era of history.

The reason we can reach no satisfying solution as to how to
memorialize Ground Zero is because we tore it down already. The
shards were beautiful, like a tree struck by lightning, a natural and
perfect horribly sordid shape. We should have kept it. Had we been
braver, or more honest, we would have. Instead we treated it like
vandalism, and cleaned it off. Any memorial at Ground Zero will never
quite satisfy without it. Anyway, we feel we do not memorialize
enough and it is in this spirit we call to formalize, as a holiday,
the August 14 Blackout.

It could be our version of Carnival, and we could use one. It
requires no municipal support. We as a people could simply do it. A
harmless ritual: You come home from work, or wherever, switch off
your circuit breakers, and that's all, it begins. It is not a
debauchery, not a wild night, but perhaps a free one. Free of the
system, free of the machine, free of the exhaustive burdens of
ambition. Free of electricity, and the 24 hours a day you-don't-stop
that goes with it. There was a time, before electricity, when people
simply retired at night. What else could you do? It was dark. Not
anymore. Progress has its compromise. The blackout took us back to
the basics, of who we are as human beings, with none of this shine
and polish to distract us from the truth.

As with anything good, the blackout as a holiday would be optional;
none of the hospitals must shut down, no vital services would close.
No one must do anything. But for those who can do it, and wish to,
the blackout offers a pre-existing holiday so simple to celebrate
there is almost no reason not to. Every August 14 we could easily
stage a re-enactment of the largest-known naturally-occurring party
in the history of the human race. The city went dark that night and
10 million people did not flip out or riot, or conduct themselves in
any way sinister or foul. Newscasters were amazed at how peaceful it
was. What we did do is get giddily drunk; we danced in the streets,
we opened the hydrants, we made love on rooftops, we handed out sushi
and ice cream. Enterprising restaurants will repeat this last aspect;
bars will sell dollar beers, and those that do will remain beloved
for their unnecessary generosity. Kindness, we have seen, is good
business. The blackout instinctively reminded us, for it was in
living memory, of our city's experience during the weeks following
9/11. Everyone was kind to each other, thoughtful, considerate. You
didn't know which stranger passing by had had someone close to them
die, and all normal modes of self segregation collapsed. With no real
alternative, we were just kind to everyone. We were beautiful. We
were as we would want to be, and as we would want others to be to us,
if there weren't so much wearying over-complicated bullshit to wear
down our decency. We were not competitive; we all pulled together,
looked out for each other, reached out. We held communion. This is a
worthwhile sentiment to exercise, periodically.

And the blackout brought this out it us, instinctively, collectively,
again. Do you remember how it felt? You could see stars in midtown.
It was giddy and magical, like a snow day. It is in remembrance of
this remarkable spirit that we advocate and endorse the unofficial
popular acceptance of August 14 as the purely optional -- but fucking
beautiful -- New York citywide recreational blackout, an unequaled
holiday opportunity. Flip the switch, and enjoy.