The stage is almost set.

The squirrels have been doing their part for weeks, running nervously across my view through the window behind the desk where I place the laptop, stopping to decide where to bury the acorns they carry or to check if the dog is nearby or perhaps both.

The leaves have been doing their part, though reluctantly and lazily. The tourists are doing their part, embarking from distant parts for bus tours of New England’s autumn foliage.

Friends from Kentucky are among them, but it is not for their sakes only that I hope the leaves get over their laziness, and the summer weather scare of this past week, and show some enthusiasm for turning to eye-catching shades of red, orange and gold.

The retailers have been doing their part, sending out their televised and digitized announcements that great deals will be available on cars and other items during holiday sales next weekend.

All that remains to get ready for the state and national holiday to be observed a week from Monday are the arguments.

You know, the ones about whether the holiday should continue under the name of Columbus Day, commemorating the beginning of European colonization of “the New World” on Oct. 12, 1492, or be changed to something like Indigenous Peoples Day, historically marking the widespread enslavement and abuse of the natives of the New World that began with Columbus’s arrival.

How loud this year’s arguments get remains to be seen.

They could be overshadowed by the arguments about kneeling. All my life I’ve associated kneeling with prayer, wedding proposals, meeting the queen and such; in other words, as a sign of the deepest respect. Now somebody, not to mention the Twitterer In Chief, is rejecting any idea that taking a knee is a most respectful way of registering a protest and any pro football player who does it while the National Anthem plays is an SOB who ought to be fired.

Then again, the kneeling flap could feed into the Indigenous Peoples Day controversy in the same way controversies over the objectionable killings of African American men by police fed into controversies over Confederate statues in the public square and then into the football kneeling fracas.

What America needs at a time like this is … another holiday to argue about.

I’m serious, so serious as to hereby ask the U.S. legislators for my districts — Senators Elizabeth Warren and Edward Markey and U.S. Rep. Joseph Kennedy — to file legislation to create a Day of Unity. Ditto to state Rep. Paul Heroux and whomever is chosen to fill the state Senate seat vacated by James Timilty. A state holiday could get the ball rolling.

My choice for the date of the holiday would be April 9, for the day in 1865 when Robert E. Lee surrendered.

Then again, May 9, would be OK. That was the date in 1865, when President Andrew Johnson declared that the hostility between the North and South was “virtually over.”

And, if you must, Aug. 20 would be acceptable. That was the date in 1866 when Johnson proclaimed the war was over, and not just virtually so.

The menu of potential dates could be even longer — the bloodiest war in U.S. history produced its last battle well after Appomatox and its last surrender months after that. There’s the rub: You can’t say with exactitude when the war ended.

But it did end, didn’t it?

And given the tenor of the public debate of late, when the most powerful man in the free world flirts with turning NASCAR fans against NFL loyalists, a holiday reminding us all that the Civil War did indeed end more than a century and a half ago.

The killing stopped. And the United States of America became once more unified and was set on a path to not only put truth to the Declaration of Independence’s language that “all men are created equal,” but to expand the legal notion of men to include all people.

That’s worth celebrating, even if the observance precipitates arguments about the causes or the dates of the end.

Arguments are aids in the seeking out of truth, healthy as long as they are not punctuated by driving your car into a crowd of protesters or other forms of violence.

MARK FLANAGAN is a retired Sun Chronicle editor. He can be reached at

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