Reality Adjustments

Happy Law Day, May 1st! (To Non-US Readers: Happy International Workers' Day)

May 01, 2018

To many, May 1st is known as the Beltane, or May Day, the ancient European holiday falling halfway between spring equinox and summer solstice.

In most countries, May 1st is also known as International Labor Day, or International Workers' Day.  A celebration of laborers and the working class. 

May 1st had its origins at the 1885 convention of the American Federation of Labor.  They passed a resolution calling for adoption of the eight hour work day effective May 1, 1886.  The date also honors the bloody Haymarket Affair on May 4, 1886.  The affair began as a peaceful rally in support of workers striking for the eight-hour work day and against the killing of several workers by the police.  An unknown person threw a dynamite bomb at police as they acted to disperse the public meeting. The bomb blast and ensuing gunfire resulted in the deaths of seven police officers and at least four civilians, injuring many others.  Eight anarchists were convicted of conspiracy and four were hung, despite having never identified the bomber.

The United States prefers to ignore most of this.  It is barely mentioned in the history books.  Just a footnote.  And so even though the roots of a May 1st Labor Day came from the United States, the United States officially recognizes May 1st now as Law Day.  You heard it right: Law Day.

Conservative Democratic President Grover Cleveland was concerned that a labor holiday on May 1 would become a commemoration of the Haymarket Affair, so in 1887 he publicly supported a September Labor Day holiday, which was formally adopted as a United States federal holiday in 1894.  In 1958, as the red scare was picking up once again, President Eisenhower then proclaimed May 1 to be Law Day.

Every President since then has issued an annual Law Day Proclamation.  Even criminal presidents.  Even crooked presidents.  Even Barack Obama.  Even Donald Trump.

So the United States lives this farce and delivers a Boy Scout friendly version of history, which leaves so many feeling unheard.  A deep unsettled thing hard to pinpoint as we view a whitewashed history with women, with slavery, with civil rights, with Indigenous Americans, with workers.  It ignores the complicated conditions which created the Haymarket Affair and instead celebrates Law Day.  It prefers to distract, to pacify, to keep the masses down, happy, sedated, calm, in a good shopping mood, content with a few drippings from the ceiling, meanwhile the rich get richer and the planet and society gets sicker, and so the conditions which created the Haymarket Affair pops up again in news ways.  Guns come blasting and terrorists fight out of their idea of love....

Hey but chin up: Today is Law Day.  Happy Law Day.  Don’t be loud.  Stay quiet and just observe the rich and the powerful break the law and then hire good lawyers to escape from it if caught.

If we want to start healing from this madness (perhaps best understood as a lack of critical thinking) one step forward is to put Labor Day to May 1st where it belongs.  Then we can start the good conversations going.  Then we can be honest about our past, present, and future.

The Tilted Glass