Thursday, February 14, 2013

The Vague-er Side of Valentine's Day

While we, as romance writers, are certainly familiar with the notion of St. Valentine (one of the three, anyway), and how the romantic holiday has come to be, are you aware that February 14 is also Communist Martyr’s Day, and Statehood Day for both Arizona and Oregon?
No?  Read on.
Sadly, a rather lot of blood-letting seems to have occurred on this day in history.  The most famous atrocity for Americans is the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, in which seven Chicagoland mobster rivals of Al Capone were killed (which is putting it mildly).  But earlier, in 1349, several hundred Jews were burned to death as mobs in Strasbourg forcibly removed the population from their midst.  More recently, in 1998, an oil tanker train collided with a freight train in Cameroon, which would have been bad enough, but one of the workers flicked his cigarette aside, igniting an explosion that killed over a hundred.  Then, in 2005, a series of terrorist attacks in the Philippines killed seven and wounded over one hundred and fifty.
That’s the bad news.  But other, less bloody yet noteworthy things happened as well. In 1849, the first photograph of a sitting president was taken by none other than the incomparable Matthew Brady.  His subject?  James K. Polk, the Great Compromiser.  Alexander Graham Bell filed for a patent on the telephone on Valentine’s Day 1876, and in 1924, Thomas Watson renames his rather forgettable company the International Business Machine Corporation—better known as IBM. 
So what do we glean from this?  That Valentine's Day is a day like any other.  Good and bad happen every day, all around us, and it’s all in what you make it.  If you experience trial or adversity, learn from it and overcome.  If you experience the flush of new love, renewed love, or everlasting love, relish it and pass it along.  And, if you need to believe that February 14 is special, take a prolonged look at the beautiful love letters between Elizabeth Barrrett and Robert Browning, published a year ago today, by Wellesley College and Baylor University.   

Lesson?  Make it a good Valentine's Day!

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