I wish I’d thought of this back when I was President, but it was Representative Henry Hyde who came up with the idea in 1997 and got it through Congress and signed by The Right Reverend Seamus Shagnasty there in the White House. The first day of May, officially celebrated in dozens of other countries as International Workers’ Day, was from 1999 forward designated in the United States as “Loyalty Day.”
You see the sheer, vicious, deliberate irony of it, making a boundary-breaking day celebrating the rights of workers across the globe, a day with origins here in the US, into a day of saluting the state and its vehicles. For of course May Day began as an annual remembrance of the striking workers massacred by Chicago police in Haymarket Square on May 4, 1886.
Presidents Clinton, Bush and Obama have issued annual proclamations of Loyalty Day every year since. Here are the ones issued by President Bush; here, the ones by President Obama. They range from militant to mawkish, sometimes both on the same short page.
I don’t remember anyone making much of a fuss about the Loyalty Day-May Day conjunction during the years between 1999 and now. (I spent much of that time memorizing the lyrics to songs from 17 Mekons albums; may have missed some above-ground events. “It looks like an accident/caused by the government/good people with good intent/paving the highway down …”) This year, though, what with the usual energy amplified by the Occupy movement and others, the Loyalty Day proclamation caught someone’s eye and was made widely known.
Great idea, though, isn’t it? While everybody else across the world is celebrating the independence of workers everywhere, we’re proclaiming Loyalty Day. Never mind that perhaps 12 people celebrate it. You can be sure that I would have played it for everything it was worth, however much or little, when these people took over my beloved Mall. They were flying balloons to keep the helicopters at bay. Fucking balloons.
Here in the United States, May Day is celebrated in a more parochial fashion on the first Monday in September. It’s only for us, and for the Canadians if anyone happens to remember them. Given the degree to which labor has fallen from grace, perhaps we’ll see someone move to rename Labor Day as Fealty Day, when the workers gather along the streets in caps and bonnets to doff for the ritual forelock tug as The Owners ride by.
You cannot imagine the beatific smiles in which Wall Street faces were wreathed when the last two years of cascading profits and soaring markets combined with high unemployment to bring home the possibility of a worker-free economy. You cannot imagine. Redundacy Day.