'Intelligent discontent is the mainspring of civilization.' -- Eugene V. Debs

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

May Day 

Hey happy belated May Day everyone. Of the many laudatory things one might say about the immigrant rights movement that has risen up in this country lately, it's nice to see people marching on May Day in America.

Anyway, if anyone's ever heard Chomsky mention May Day, he often speaks of the irony of the turn of events in which May Day, a workers' holiday invented in the US, is not currently celebrated in the US as such. He also often points out that Reagan in 1984 decreed that May 1st should henceforth be known as "Law Day" and should not be about celebrating the socialists, anarchists, and reds that made America what it is today -- at least the good part, specifically May Day itself began as a general strike aimed at securing an 8-hour work day -- but should be about celebrating the, umm, rule of law.

This whole "Law Day" thing, which I had only heard about from Chomsky, always elicited from me a reaction like, "Oh, come on, that can't possibly be true." So I looked into it and, yeah, it's true, but Chomsky got the details wrong.

"Law Day" pre-dates Reagan. It goes back to the red scare, was established by Eisenhower in 1958 to co-opt "the biggest day on the socialist calendar", to quote an editorial in the Times -- and the really crazy thing is that this transparent bit of cold war propaganda is still around (the above linked to NYT article is from yesterday)

The reason Chomsky got it wrong is because when he read an article in 1984 about Reagan proclaiming May 1st as Law Day, it was probably a lot like this proclamation from yesterday:

NOW, THEREFORE, I, GEORGE W. BUSH, President of the United States of America, in accordance with Public Law 87 20, as amended, do hereby proclaim May 1, 2007, as Law Day, U.S.A. I call upon all the people of the United States to observe

So, you know, take that Sacco and Vanzetti... (and you all can make up your own joke about Bush inaugurating festivities celebrating the constitution)

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