Calendars are always fluxing. August itself was a whimsical invention. In 46 B.C., as part of a broad calendar change, Julius Caesar added two days to Sextilis, an old 29-day month. In the reign of his successor, Augustus Caesar, the Senate voted to change Sextilis’ name to “Augustus” (as the Senate under Julius Caesar had renamed the month before, “Quintilis,” “Julius”).
August is when the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, when Anne Frank was arrested, when the first income tax was collected, when Elvis Presley and Marilyn Monroe died.
August is the time when thugs and dictators think they can get away with it. World War I started in August 1914. The Nazis and Soviets signed their nonaggression pact in August 1939. Iraq invaded Kuwait Aug. 2, 1990. August is a popular month for coups and violent crime. Why August? Perhaps the villains assume we’ll be too distracted by vacations or humidity to notice.
August is the vast sandy wasteland of American culture. Publishers stop releasing books. Movie theaters are clogged with the egregious action movies that studios wouldn’t dare release in June. Television is all reruns (or worse—new episodes of Sex and the City). The sports pages wither into nothingness.
August was created by politics, and it can be undone by politics. Here is a framework for “August Reform”. Cede the first 10 days of August back to July, thus extending holiday revelry for more than a week. September would have the last 10 days of August, calming the folks who can’t wait to get back to serious work. August itself will keep 10 days. And as for the 31st day, it will be designated a holiday independent from any month. It will fall after the 10th and last day of August, and it will celebrate the end of that most useless month.