Barry Crimmins

words to live near



May Day Friday, September 15, 2000

Copyright 2000 Barry Crimmins, all rights reserved

May in September

Yesterday was one of those classic Labor Days , which is to say bittersweet.

The holiday is well-placed. The first Tuesday after the first Monday in September is a natural place to pause as summer's frivolity gives way to autumn's finality.

Summer is my favorite. I enjoy living in shorts and tee-shirts. I love gardening, baseball and night air after a warm day. The heat makes some sports-related arthritis less annoying. And I love to walk out the door without having to consult L.L. Bean technicians about how many layers to wear.

But autumn is so beautiful and I do like college football, brisk walks through rustling leaves and not hearing my partner Karen grouse about the heat anymore. She is a redhead, you see, and therefore allergic to her home planet anytime it is hospitable to things like... sunlight. In the summer she comes in from work a rusty magenta and after cooling for a few hours, tones down to bright pink until its time to travel out on the surface again to her air-conditioned office.

Seasonal prejudices aside, what I hate worst about Labor Day is the holiday's name, the political reasons for it and some of the traditions surrounding it.

First, the event is anything but "Labor Day." What it is is the day management gives labor so that that the real worker's holiday- May Day is not celebrated. May Day, you see, is a remembrance of a massacre of workers by management goons in Chicago, Illinois, USA. It 's celebrated all over the world on May 1-- except in the United States, where it began. Here the bosses won't let workers observe such a proletariat- galvanizing occasion so they threw us Labor Day- at the other end of the summer. So now everyone works on May First and they spend Labor Day collecting for and/or donating money to a charity for health care run by an aged and (in spite of himself) well-meaning comedian.

Had they only the good sense to organize as workers in unions that truly represented workers first last and always, laborers wouldn't have to beg anyone for money for medical studies and treatment. If workers stood in solidarity with one another everyone would have health care in this country just like they do in the civilized nations that celebrate May Day. Instead we find ourselves in a situation where we have to collect money all year at jobs for good causes like health care while our tax money goes to things like corporate welfare and obscenely wasteful military programs. But I repeat myself.

So labor day again provided us with televised images of obscenely wealthy CEO's of corporations --that in many cases do not provide workers with living wages or health care -- telling us "And that's why I'm here, Jerry, to present you with this check before any link can be made between what we here at Enormo Corp deposit in our lakes and rivers and this dreaded disease."

Well thanks a lot.

Anyway, yesterday the Labor Day weather was so appropriate it should have been in italics, save for its raininess. In the morning it was warm and muggy but by noon an ominous cold front had arrived, bearing the chilly message: THE FUN IS OVER!

Still there is the natural human urge to resist and deny and so I responded by trying not to give up on summer. I prepared all the usual end-of-summer rationales. There will be plenty of nice fall weekends, we're probably in for a few more hot spells, there's still lots to do in the garden and elsewhere in the yard. Sometimes it stays nice right up until November. Ack!! That's what did it-- thinking of November, not just the gateway to winter but also permanent sanctuary for US elections.

Arggh!! In just a few weeks it will be cold and either Al "my union instructed me two years ago to vote for" Gore or George W(orse) Bush will be elected president. Suddenly the bitterness had no sweet aftertaste. The chill soaked into my bones and I couldn't escape the apt words of Joni Mitchell, "all that stays is dying and all that lives is getting out." Especially true in a country where workers allow sacred days to be stolen, basic human rights like health care denied to millions and the concept of democracy perverted to the point where people actually believe that two men, essentially carrying the same water for the same interests, provide them with a choice.

Button up, it looks be a long winter. But someday things will thaw and it will again be May Day. Of course that day would come sooner if we just hold it in our hearts and honor it. But , you might ask, if we celebrate May Day will we still get Labor day off? You bet your ass we will. The workers will never give back such a perfectly placed holiday.

updated: 14 years ago