Please allow me to share a few thoughts on a delicate subject on this cloudy and cool morning in Detroit, a city that for many reasons, prides itself in being a blue collar, factory town. It seems that the population here has been convinced that laboring for the aristocracy is a good thing. That sacrificing time, energy, and health for the benefit of those who see you as a commodity, is an heroic endeavor.
Today is Labor Day in America. It is the one day out of every 365 days that we stop and celebrate the achievements of the individuals who make things happen. If this seems a bit out of balance, a bit unfair, a bit condescending, then we have at least something in common.
We live in a country that is afflicted with an extreme case of OCD. We are constantly reminded of tragedy and called to “Never Forget.” In 4 days we will again hear that very mantra on the 19th anniversary of the destruction of the World Trade Center. Today we will be deluged with online reminders, television clips, and every other media to “never forget” the front line workers who are saving innocent victims of the current pandemic.
Let us consider why we are deliberately herded into this thought process to never forget these catastrophic American events, and why they happened. In doing so perhaps it is good to realize that instead of bringing the population together as one force to overcome the disaster, these events have divided the citizens of the USA into two opposing war camps. Distrustful and antagonistic toward one another, the country is literally divided in half, politically, philosophically, economically, and otherwise.
So, what is it that we are not forgetting? Are we to remember that the administration in 2001 was forewarned of an impending attack and did nothing to avoid it. Are we to remember that the current administration dissolved the facilities designed to protect the people from pandemic and then grossly mismanaged the response?
It seems, on the occasions requiring wisdom and strength, we are called to focus on individuals, and faces of hate and fear.
It is good that we focus our appreciation on the firefighters, the medics, and the heroic individuals who save lives and relieve suffering at the cost of their own safety.
Let us “never forget” why their services are required in the first place.
And, while we are never forgetting, perhaps it would serve us to recall what life was like for the factory workers, the farm workers, the coal miners, teachers, journalists, and laborers, before they were unionized. Perhaps we should not forget the violence and murder perpetrated against them by the corporate mercenaries, that accompanied their efforts to bring forth fair wages and safe working conditions. And, while we are remembering all of this, let us understand that it is possible to fall back into those same traps.
Like many Americans, I have worked like a dog for others, I have owned my own successful business, I have now retired into my art. At every point, I have been forced into competition, that is an unavoidable reality in all of nature.
I suggest that while we are celebrating Labor Day this year that we stop for a moment to reflect on the worth and the value of the work that is performed all around us. That we reward the workers, acknowledging those who have devoted their time and discipline to education and experience, those who feed our intelligence instead of feeding upon our emotion, that we may hold them in the highest regards, as we do our athletes, actors, talking heads, and country music luminaries.
It is not necessary to deny anyone the opportunity for success. There is more than enough treasure and resource in this great country and in this beautiful world, so that every person might enjoy a share. Work does not have to be torture, it is not meant to be synonymous with misery. Any task is easier when we all work together.