In my parents’ living room in Buenos Aires this morning, I scanned the online version of the Argentine journal La Nación in an effort to determine the justification for the current national holiday. An article proclaiming the 199th anniversary of the Revolución de Mayo in the headline offered no further clarification of the celebration aside from the information that President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner would be celebrating it at the Sheraton Hotel in Iguazú National Park, and that she would prefer not to talk about recent nationalizations by Hugo Chávez of steel companies belonging to Argentine-based multinationals.
According to another article on the site, Chávez’ confiscaciones had already been talked about, and Argentine businessmen had been assured by the Kirchner administration that “no somos Chávez.” The online readership of La Nación did not appear convinced of such distinctions, however, and, of the 6,148 responses that had been registered as of 10 AM to a poll regarding whether the government would defend Argentine business interests in Venezuela, 4.47% were positive.
I eventually resorted to a chart on Wikipedia in order to establish that the May 25 holiday commemorated the Buenos Aires revolution of 1810, milestone in Argentina’s independence from Spain. As for holidays commemorating the milestones of other anti-imperialist revolutions, I had witnessed two in the span of 3 days this past February in Venezuela, where it had been explained to me that excuses like “no somos Chávez” did not apply in the context of forced business closures. The validity of the disclaimer was meanwhile upheld among kirchneristas based on the fact that Argentine citizens were not required to celebrate the anniversaries of Chávez’ inauguration (February 2) or failed coup d’état (February 4), and that La Nación writers were not prevented from writing about the “tropical euphoria” with which the “emir bolivariano” expropriated the savings of retired persons.
Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah had also contributed to the practice of defining things based on what they were not, and had declared at a critical point in Lebanese history that Lebanon was not Somalia, Ukraine, or Georgia. Negative identity nonetheless accrued positive momentum when accompanied by expulsion of the state of Israel from territory not belonging to it—a victory incidentally also commemorated on May 25. Alternate conceptions of territorial integrity were meanwhile honored during Memorial Day festivities in the US, where Barack Obama decreed that the graves at Arlington Cemetery contained those who had “waged war so that we may know peace.”