For several years now, I've been noticing a phenomenon in the United States that didn't exist 30 years ago, when the purportedly work-ethic conservatives first got naked power. It's something called Ferragosto in Italy, or the closing down of nearly everything, traditionally in the middle of August, now extended throughout western Europe to the whole month.
One notices it in Washington when Congress gets ready to leave town for the month-long vacation no one else in the USA gets. No one, except the W Administration, of all the administrations I've watched clearly the laziest by far; they were major ferragostans.
Ferragosto comes from Feriae Augusti, or Feast of Augustus, as a fertility season of revelry and rest. It later was christianized to the 15th of August, feast of the Assumption of Mary (Catholic) or Dormition of the Theotokos (Orthodox), a religious holiday celebrated in the Early Church.
This is not merely a Mediterranean custom any more. Germans, the French and the Brits slow down to a crawl and, if they can afford it, fly off to Mayorca and the Spanish Costa del Sol.
Americans always used to work year-round, especially in the cities. New York City not only never sleeps, it never used to stop even in the genteel days without air-conditioning in which John Cheever wrote about life in the city.
No longer. Those who are not busy making or consuming methamphetamine in the once-great breadbasket of the central states -- and there aren't too many left who aren't -- are lazing in the sun or the mountains or in Europe or even unscrewing fire hydrants in the inner city.
Decline, like death, doesn't come with trumpets and the clanging of cymbals but with sopor in summer.