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News ::
The May Day Blues
15 May 2002
A reflection on the irony of the non-celebration of the May Day Holiday in the US. How progressive French used the day to combat racism and anti-immigrant sentiment contrasted with the expanding racism of US domestic and foreign policy.
The May Day Blues

?M?aidez, m?aidez!?

Once again this strange holiday. It is a worker?s holiday celebrated the world over, accept for in the United States, where we were taught that it was an ?evil commie? day. And yet the rest of the world chooses May to celebrate, as a way of honoring American workers who called a general strike in May of 1890, and who were later attacked throughout the Haymarket affair.

This year in France, people chose the day to mount their biggest show yet of disgust and repudiation against Le Pen and his racist doctrines, as well as to show solidarity with their immigrant population. Imagine if over a million people took to the streets in the United States to take issue with the results of a presidential primary!

When our own pathetic election yielded at first a tentative Gore victory, and then a virtual tie, we waited with suspense for the votes to be sorted and the truth to come out. But instead of the truth, or heaven forbid, a run-off, we were given an opportunistic management of the situation. Instead of the true count we were given a resolution to ?the crisis of the confidence of the presidency.? The disenfranchisement of Black voters in Florida, who are of course citizens and not immigrants, did not seem to matter to those who feel that they own the society and can speak for the rest of us. The Republican Party set out to use every ruse legal or otherwise to install their man. While the Democratic Party decided it was best not to defend un-counted votes by African Americans and others. When their party did not challenge the introduction of faulty military ballots, while assenting to the disregard of other ballots, they demonstrated that some people are worth more than others in their eyes.

Sometimes I wonder how many of Le Pen?s ideas aren?t already tacitly accepted or practiced by the ruling minority of this country. There is quite a strong sense now of Americans before all others. After the September 11th attacks, large numbers of people seemed quite willing to stay on the side-lines while the rights of Middle Eastern residents were abused. Fear has been used to manipulate people, as I understand it both here and in France.

We are not a very charitable people these days. I can only imagine what we look like to the rest of the world, given our ruthless bombardment of Afghanistan, our continued support of Sharon, our influence over the IMF in Argentina, and now our meddling in Venezuela. When will such anti-humanism end, and when will Americans take to the streets against these murderous oil elites now in Washington?

But of course people have been taking to the streets. And here is where ?our? media shows themselves to be the tools of the rich that they are. In France, where people somehow always seem to take to the streets more readily, one senses that the media helps. When a million French take to the streets, even the newspapers act as if ?the people have spoken. Something indeed important has occurred that we must now take note of and try to understand.? Granted we have not had popular uprisings on the same scale, but when a hundred thousand people go to Washington to protest the current policies of war prevailing, the media gives us silence and misdirection. The day after the Washington protests, the New York Times ran their lead story on how Israel now has the broad support of the U.S. Right. Why did the Times think it was so important to announce the point of view of the Right Wing, the day after the most significant anti-war rally in recent years? (A small photo of the protest would only appear in the late edition.)

But getting back to our own sham elections, we can recall that a consortium of newspapers vowed after the supreme court ruling to go to Florida in order to perform their own re-count. Once again we are given this false notion that the press are our essential safe-guarders of democracy. In the end, the consortium had to be cajoled into even printing the results of their study. They first sought a spin that would be the most innocuous to those now in power. That is, a spin that turned an outrageous situation into bland facts and conflicting points of view. Did they lead with the discovery that more than half of the people who voted in Florida had in fact intended to select Gore? Of course not. The emphasis of their story was rather that the supreme court decision had not determined the outcome of the presidency. Also, it was only a few hundred people more who wanted Gore anyway. An insignificant number to these guys, who are also only so few in number, but who control so much more.

When will a million Americans take to the streets to affirm support for our immigrant population and racial minorites, or to demonstrate that we want a democracy and political leadership and media that truly reflects our values? Probably the workers who mobilized in the 1890s, many of whom were also immigrants, would have shouted that these were just more dirty tricks the bosses have just pulled on us, and anyone seeking to enforce such faulty decisions be must be Pinkerton goons.
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