May Day

Posted 30 April 2010 by

Whilst a high school junior, one of the assigned books my English class had to read was The Jungle by Upton Sinclair. My teacher for this class was a recent transplant from Chicago, Illinois. She did a very good job filling in the history behind the book for the class.

At one point she pointed out a parallel in the The Jungle to the Haymarket Riots of 1886. This also required telling us about the history of those riots and the struggle to work in safe conditions. For some, the struggle still continues.

Because of what happened in Chicago on 1 May 1886, we all stop on May Day to remember those prayed for the dead and fight like hell for the living.

Oh, wait.

We do not honor labor on May Day in the United States.

Even though there are worldwide May Day demonstrations based on what happened in Chicago, Americans have this fear of being too cuddly with Communism.

I do not understand why anyone is fearful of Communism. It does not work. The Bible tells me so.

It started on the day the church was born:

Awe came upon everyone, because many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles. All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. (Acts 2.43-45 NRSV)

It ended a short time later:

But a man named Ananias, with the consent of his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property; with his wife’s knowledge, he kept back some of the proceeds, and brought only a part and laid it at the apostles’ feet. ‘Ananias,’ Peter asked, ‘why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back part of the proceeds of the land? While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, were not the proceeds at your disposal? How is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You did not lie to us but to God!’ Now when Ananias heard these words, he fell down and died. (Acts 5.1-5 NRSV. Read the complete story, Acts 4.32-5.11)

(Reviving this practice could make church stewardship campaigns more interesting.)

Of course, capitalism does not work either. All the more reason why the struggle continues.

Sometimes this struggle speaks of violence and oppression.

(“The Internationale,” Billy Bragg version.)

Sometimes this struggle speaks of hope and renewal.

(“Jerusalem,” words by William Blake, music by Sir Hubert Parry [and not Emerson, Lake, and Palmer])

We all need to remember to pray for the dead and fight like hell for the living.

Gave of an unknown sailor at Ft. Lawton Cemetery, Seattle, Washington

Unknown Sailor Buried at Ft. Lawton Cemetery in Seattle


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