The Thing About Today – October 12

October 12, 2020
Day 286 of 366

October 12th is the 286th day of the year. It is Freethought Day, an annual observance by freethinkers and secularists of the anniversary of the effective end of the Salem Witch Trials.

In the United States, today is “celebrated” as National Savings Day, National Vermont Day, National Farmer’s Day, National Gumbo Day, National Online Bank Day (typically observed on the second Monday in October), and National Kick Butt Day (typically observed on the second Monday in October).

Historical items of note:

  • In 1692, the Salem witch trials were ended by a letter from Province of Massachusetts Bay Governor William Phips.
  • In 1773, Eastern State Hospital opened in Williamsburg, Virginia. It was the first psychiatric hospital in what would become the United States.
  • In 1799, Jeanne Geneviève Labrosse became the first woman to jump from a balloon with a parachute.
  • In 1810, the citizens of Munich held the first Oktoberfest.
  • In 1847, Werner von Siemens founded Siemens & Halske, which later became Siemens AG.
  • In 1901, President Theodore Roosevelt officially renamed the “Executive Mansion” to the White House.
  • In 1928, an iron lung respirator was used for the first time at Boston Children’s Hospital.
  • In 1933, the military Alcatraz Citadel became the civilian Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary.
  • In 1945, Desmond Doss became the first conscientious objector to receive the United States Medal of Honor.
  • In 1964, the Soviet Union launched the Voskhod 1 spacecraft into Earth orbit. It was the first spacecraft with a multi-person crew, and the first flight without pressure suits.
  • In 1968, Australian actor, singer, and producer Hugh Jackman was born.
  • In 1971, the 2,500 year celebration of the Persian Empire began.
  • In 1984, the Provisional Irish Republican Army attempted and failed to assassinate Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and her cabinet. The bomb killed five people and wounded 31.
  • In 1992, actor Josh Hutcherson was born.
  • In 1994, the Magellan spacecraft burned up in the atmosphere of Venus.
  • In 2000, the USS Cole (DDG-67), a United States Navy destroyer, was badly damaged by two suicide bombers. Seventeen crew members were killed and thirty-nine were wounded.
  • In 2005, the second Chinese human spaceflight, Shenzhou 6, was launched. It carried two cosmonauts in orbit for five days.

The second Monday in October is observed as Indigenous Peoples’ Day, a holiday that celebrates and honors Native American peoples and commemorates their histories and cultures.

An official city and state holiday in various localities, it began as a counter-celebration held on the same day as the United States federal holiday of Columbus Day, which honors Italian explorer Christopher Columbus. Many reject celebrating him, saying that he represents “the violent history of the colonization in the Western Hemisphere”, and that Columbus Day is a sanitation or covering-up of Christopher Columbus’ actions such as enslaving Native Americans.

Indigenous Peoples’ Day began in 1989 in South Dakota, where Lynn Hart and then Governor Mr. George S. Mickelson backed a resolution to celebrate Native American day on the second Monday of October, marking the beginning of the year of reconciliation in 1990. It was instituted in Berkeley, California, in 1992, to coincide with the 500th anniversary of the arrival of Christopher Columbus in the Americas. Two years later, Santa Cruz, California, instituted the holiday, and in the 2010s, various other cities and states took it up as well.

The Thing About Today is an effort to look at each day of 2020 with respect to its historical context.

For more creativity with a critical eye, visit Creative Criticality.


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