Have you hugged a worker today? You’re supposed to, it’s Labor Day, the day we Americans are supposed to celebrate the triumph and travails of the American worker.
No hugs, huh?
That’s OK, you’re probably not alone. The only other national holiday more removed from our understanding of what it’s supposed to be about is Columbus Day.
We don’t celebrate labor on Labor Day much anymore. Instead we celebrate the last big camping trip weekend of the summer. Or the last summer barbecue by the pool with the kids and clan before the start of school (for most of the country, not here, of course).
It’s just another federally mandated three-day weekend for most of us.
The Labor Movement in America is dead (or mostly dead, as Miracle Max might put it).
It was killed by two things: One, Labor won. Most of the abuses of the Robber Barons and the American Oligarchy of the late 19th and early 20th centuries have been outlawed.
And two, the 60-year struggle against communism taught us to equate the assertions of fair pay, good working conditions and job security as evil anti-capitalism.
The American worker is supposed to be like Third World workers – work long hours for low pay and keep your mouth shut about it. Any complaining by greedy unionized workers is socialist sedition.
Which leaves us with one of those great American contradictions – the law is on the side of the worker but any attempt by the worker to use the law to improve pay or conditions is discouraged as un-American, or even treason.
So Labor Day doesn’t have much to do with Labor anymore. Who wants to celebrate something as un-American as the struggle for worker’s rights?
But if we’re not going to celebrate Labor on Labor Day, why have it as a holiday? Let’s put a stake in the heart of American workers and take their day away from them.
Labor Day is always a week or less before Sept. 11, the most horrific attack on American soil since Pearl Harbor.
Perhaps we should commemorate that day, instead. Call it American Freedom Day, a celebration of our resiliency and refusal to allow our enemies to frighten us into surrendering our freedoms in the name of security.
Labor Day also falls less than two weeks before Sept. 14, the day the Japanese signed the surrender documents formally ending World War II.
We have no holiday for WWII. We should. We used to have a holiday for the Civil War – Memorial Day – but we changed that to commemorate all the American service members killed in war. And we used to have a holiday for the end of World War I – Nov. 11 – but we changed that to celebrate all the millions of Americans who have worn the country’s uniform – Veteran’s Day.
World War II was the most gruesome conflict in human history and the greatest triumph of good over evil. More than 70 million people died worldwide as a result of that war and it would be fitting if we commemorated its end.
Who cares about American workers? Let’s celebrate the triumph of the greatest generation and the defeat of fascism.
Besides, what’s more American than war?