Be not afraid... it's only May Day!

These “may-firsts” come and go in this land of ours as if they didn’t exist; as if they were mere thirteenth-floors in those high-rise hotels whose owners want to make sure that they don’t lose any business because of superstitious guests, no matter how small their number. So in those hotels, the elevator magically goes from twelfth to fourteenth floor. And just as the thirteenth floor “doesn’t exist,” neither does May Day for Americans!

But there is a Thirteenth Floor in those hotels, even if it’s called the Fourteenth Floor! And there is most definitely an International Workers’ Day, even if our Washington leadership gave it its rebirth one year short of a half century ago as Loyalty Day or Law Day. Perhaps at that time it made sense to a government involved in a cold war for mastery of the planet, to cleanse labor of its sweat in the baptismal waters of capitalism.

Let’s face it, in 1958 the word “workers” had a bad connotation, as did “proletariat” and anything resembling labor activism, socialism, communism or anarchism… or even the thought of anything “international.” Not that most Americans had any clue as to what those ideologies or movements stood for; Americans had been simply drilled into thinking that those ideas were foreign and un-American, and that included trade unions.

Americans have been brainwashed or cajoled into thinking how unique, proud and independent they are. We have been repeatedly told that individualism has been the key to our great success. We have no need for a labor movement, or “corrupt” trade unions, which by inference they all seem to be. We are economically self-propelled wizards, Rambos in this capitalistic struggle where supply and demand battle it out for high stakes. And if “a few” lazy bastards happen to fall by the wayside, that’s tough; that’s the price that needs to be paid, those in the know tell us, so that free enterprise can be allowed to do its magic, with its concoction of success only offered to those who deserve it. So Americans must not be exposed to socialistic gobbledygook.

This land remains as the bastion of capitalism, we are being constantly reminded, and all we need to do is look at our consumption level to evidence the mastery of Wall Street and capitalism. That, however, is just a world of fantasy, pure make-believe.

On this one day before May First, my first morning cup of coffee was accompanied by the local newspaper front story with the following headline: “Payrolls grow, but not so the paychecks.” Local Freightliner employees, whose jobs have “disappeared,” by most accounts exported, are now facing new employment opportunities, all paying at best two-thirds of their prior compensation. But, as it is the norm with a government which might as well have been put in charge by a committee of extra-terrestrials, statistics are sure to be spoken in a political language they want us to hear, and that all too often fails to communicate the real truth.

Over two decades of erosion inflicted on American labor have been camouflaged by an increase of household members entering the labor force, and by a monetary policy that also put to work our yet to be born descendants (through borrowing) so that they may also contribute to our household income… and consumption.

But back to the festivities that most nations east or west celebrate on May Day, and something which is presented as verboten to the American way. Why is it that in 2007 we still feel that this type of apartheid is good for us? Are we afraid to be contaminated by people around the world singing “The Internationale”? Heck, they don’t much care if we sing “God Bless America”!

Whatever pagan or religious celebrations antedated May Day, it has now become an international joyful occasion for all social and economic achievements of those who work – working classes at all levels of the spectrum – and find satisfaction in making a better life from the fruit of their labor both as individuals and, just as importantly, as members of a society that requires everyone’s skills; those hands offered to perform the simplest tasks, or those highly trained hands offered by a brain surgeon.

In America, our political leadership has always made sure that the wall of apartheid is in place, and on a day when much of the world rejoices in brotherhood and peace, we hunker down in our bunkers in our own celebration, one that maybe no more than 2 or 3 of 1000 Americans ever heard of: Loyalty Day, our own comedic Festivus Day – of TV Seinfeld fame – for International Workers’ Day.

I know, I know! We have our own Labor Day, and our Canadian neighbors, who seem to suffer from the same political ailment that we do, also have their Labour Day; but let’s be real and stop this apartheid of bad taste. Let us join with the world in a celebration in which we all participate… it’s a start for discussion, peace and brotherhood.

Perhaps the irony of it all is that this International Workers’ Day thing had its birth here, in the United States. It was in Chicago, Illinois back on May 1, 1886 that the Haymarket Riot started, resulting in the imprisonment and execution of the Haymarket martyrs. How can history be so fickle and forget the struggle of these people to achieve an 8-hour work day? Can anyone think of anything more emotive and heroic than having Albert Parsons singing “La Marseillaise” in his cell prior to his trip to the gallows?