Whilst other nations call it “May Day” and celebrate the rise of the working man America shys away from such egalitarianism.
On May 1st 2012 President Obama brought into law the creation of May 1st as being “Loyalty Day”, a day when Americans are invited to reflect on the good things that make America great, and to celebrate these in appropriate modest sorts of ways. Flags help.
This ignited the blogosphere in a frenzy of Orwellian fear and panic. Surprisingly both the left and the right have turned on the poor boy for this. The left object, because they see in Loyalty Day fascist erosion of rights to dissent against the establishment, and the right object ….well for more or less the same reason. Here is an example of posters by the right against Obama who they see as a Communist.
Perhaps a little history might calm nerves some.
May 1st has been a holiday since God was a boy, and in Europe certainly long before Christianity. Originally a pagan fertility festival, with much dancing round the Maypole, drinking, feasting, riotous behaviour and sex, May Day was always a target for the puritans. The Christian church certainly disapproved but it took until the puritans to clamp down on it in Britain, during the English Civil War. Even so it survived.
In the nineteenth century the puritans in the emerging socialist parties suborned the festival to celebrate the proletariat urban factory worker, and his enduring struggle with his capitalist bosses, thus stealing the festival from his agrarian peasant brother. Since then it has remained a central day in the socialist calendar.
After the triumph of communism in Russia in 1917, the puritans in America, frightened that the contagion would spread, re-invented May Day as Loyalty Day in 1921 where it was became a modest local event held in towns and cities round the country. Much marching up and down the street waving flags and posing for the local newspaper seems to have been the sum of it.
In the days of the McCarthy Communist Panic, the day was further re-invented by President Eisenhower in 1959 and over the years various Presidents of both parties have re-enacted the day as a “Federal day of Observation”.
John Kennedy used Proclamation 3528 in 1963, Gerald Ford tried to cheer a country up with it as Proclamation 4354 in 1975. Jimmy Carter, never one to be left out of a good patriotic shout, did the same with Proclamation 4493 in 1977. Ronny Reagan followed suit with Proclamation 4836 in 1981 and George Bush used Proclamation 5962 in 1989. Finally Bill Clinton used Proclamation 6556 in 1993. So it’s been there forever, even if you and I cannot ever remember hearing of it before.
Perhaps that is because it is on a par with “Federal Lands Clean-up day” or “Leif Erickson Day” a minor “day of observance” parked firmly on the back ring of national consciousness. So unlike some of the more florid blog posts Obama has not made Loyalty Day a Federal Holiday with government offices being closed or anything like it.
Yes it has always been political, even if this year people seem more sensitive than usual. I leave you with this picture from the days of George Bush, where the day was attacked by the left. Picture credit:10,000 monkeys
Copyright David Macadam 2012 & 2014